Everybody says that if one has to visit Munnar, it must be in the winters. After all, it is a hill town and the best experience of the mountains comes from the chilly weather, the piping hot teas fresh off the plantations, and the bonfires.
But I say, if someone wants to feel the real magic of Munnar, no time is better than the springtime! This is when nature opens up in full bloom and paints the town blue and green in their best saturation. With this visual in my mind, my husband and I headed to Munnar a couple of weeks ago. We were traveling from Kochi and assumed that the Kochi to Munnar taxi fare would be economical. The local taxis turned out to be quite steep until we found a reliable car rental with a very good driver as our guide.
It was almost a four-hour drive from Kochi town to Munnar via NH 85. The road that leads to Munnar from Kothamangalam was an experience in itself. The roads were impeccably clean and smooth, other than their winding nature that cut through the forests and the hills. The winter chills were long gone and the spring air had a touch of humidity. But the dense foliage kept the roads shaded and cool enough. The air was filled with a heady blend of tea, spices, and the morning dew. With the rolling hills merging with the lush plantations and the sky as clear as freshly washed linen, it was a sensory delight that I could not savor enough.
The temperature in Munnar at this time of the year is as perfect as it can get. Throughout the day, the mercury would hover between 20 and 22 (at noon) degrees and at night it would be drop to minimum 16. What more could I ask for, as someone coming from the sweltering heat Chennai?
We had booked a home stay, which was a little away from the main town, where most tourists swarm in this season. Tucked away in the greenery of this cool yet sunny paradise, the heritage bungalow sat on three levels cut out on the hills, almost like a castle.
The town of Munnar was discovered by Scottish planters even before the British established their settlements here. And I soon learned that there are still some traces of the ancient Scotts spread across the town. So, I made arrangements with my driver to stay on and help me explore Munnar. I was glad we could book a reliable and affordable cab from Kochi which gave me this kind of instant service.
This was another benefit of traveling to Munnar in this season. With the pleasant weather and ample sunshine, it was easier to drive or walk around anywhere without the fear of rain or slushy roads.
Magical Flowers in Bloom
Our host suggested that we should go for a drive towards Marayur, without mentioning any particular reason. So off we went in our rental car northwards from the town.
As we left the highway, I could see the landscape had remarkably changed and turned a shade of purple. My driver immediately recognized and said that it must be the ‘Neela Vaka’ in bloom. The closer we went, these trees appeared in more numbers, until the roadsides were filled with these violet blossoms. I vaguely recognized these flowers and thanks to a new app on my phone, I figured these are Jacarandas.
Locals call them alien flowers since they are not endemic to the region and were planted by British planters when they established their settlements here.
This exotic tropical flower appears in abundance in these spring and quickly disappear before the sun gets stronger in summer. But as long as they bloom, they turn the landscape into an overwhelming artwork of nature. I had to stop and see them up close. Walking through lines of violet blossoms and the green hills in the background, was no less than walking through a fairyland.
More about Marayur
Since we were already near Marayur, I asked my driver about more places to stop by. Then he mentioned this ‘ancient burial site’ off the highway. I expected a cemetery or famous tombstones of some sort. But these turned out to be megaliths. Also called Dolmens, this was a site of ancient Celtic burials, where the actual grave is surrounded by huge stone slabs. Otherwise unassuming, these stones lined acres of area and have stood there since ages. Like I said before, there were a lot of Scottish settlers much before the British invasion. They were traditionally Celtic people and these burials reflected the ancient Celtic culture, among other things that can still be found in spurts across Munnar.
The jacarandas, the sun-kissed hills, and the peaceful site of dolmens transported me into a time and place which was far, far away from the present. Somewhere in a distance, I could hear music in the air, or was it just the divine feeling one gets when you are in heaven?
All pictures, courtesy: Pixabay