Munnar: Tea and that

My stay in Munnar would be a short one. The bus ride from Kumily to Munnar took the bus up over and around the mountains and through the perfectly manicured tea and spice plantations. The views from my run down Government bus were unreal. An abundance of beauty. I sat and stared out of the window, gasping at the height we’d climbed and the skill of the bus driver who navigated us around many hairpin corners with little protection from the shear drop to a certain death. On journeys like this, you must have faith in the driving ability of your driver or you’ll suffer from panic attacks and anxiety. I trusted him, naively. This four hour ride was a roller coaster. Holding onto the bar on the seat in front kept me in my seat and stopped me from rolling off or hitting the ceiling, just. I met an Aussie fella called, Mike. We talked about back packer stuff. He was almost as cool as me.
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The first thing I noticed about Munnar was the decrease in temperature. We were high up in the mountains now. Munnar is a small town, has limited Internet speeds, lots of fruit stalls and one restaurant. Prices for hotels in town were high and surrounding areas were mainly catering for the rich package holiday tourist. After all, it is pretty nice there. The sign below caught my attention. Anyone up for a ‘toiler urine bath’? Yum.

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We checked out a dodgy and over priced hostel. No chance. We then headed out of town in search of a hostel that had been recommended to me by Biju from Cochin. Vedanta Hostel proved to be a perfect resting place for my short stint in Munnar. Comfy dorm beds and towels with wifi that didn’t work. Brucie.

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We dumped our bags and trekked up into the mountains, soaking up the views of the spice and tea plantations. It was pretty lush. We got our sweat on. Mike was alright, for an Aussie. And he kept up the pace with the old man.

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The following day we went to pick up two scooters. They had bald tyres, mine cut out when the throttle was not applied and from its beaten up panels, it had obviously been in many previous crashes. We were dubious about taking them but we also realised that we had no other choice, scooter hire is near on impossible in Munnar and there were no other scooters in the area. If we refused them, our day would have been a lot less…. lets say, entertaining.

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After driving past a few plantations sweeping through the valleys, the first bike broke down 30km away from Munnar. We were shortly rescued by a 10 year old boy sent by the bikes owner. Mike jumped on the back of my battered beast but she also broke down up a huge mountain on the way back from the view point station. The temperature had dropped and so had the sun. Not a happy moment. Mike and I kept each other going until we were rescued an hour later. This is common in India, things break down, products not being as they are described so it was only right that the second bike was to break down too. Expect the worse and occasionally you get surprised.

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Upon returning to the ever so lovely bike rental man (cue sarcastic tone), who run his bike business from his restaurant, he tried to charge us extra money for the rescue service. He said that as someone had to come and rescue us from the mountain, we needed to pay extra petrol money back to him. That’s right, we needed to pay him money. What a muppet. Surely this tight fisted penny pinching wrongun of a business man should be dealing us some compensation for our troubles. However, he soon realised that picking a fight with two 6ft plus backpackers was a bad idea. Mike and I told him exactly what we thought, firmly, like in his frickin’ face firmly and the small fat Indian man backed down, looking down at the floor ashamed when Mike questioned his Christian faith. His bikes were crap and left us stranded twice and we made him look as small as he was in front of his friends hanging around outside his restaurant. Twat. Although we are tourists, we know the score now, we are neither polite nor a walk over. In India, sometimes, you have to fight for everything.

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However, lets not get distracted here, the mountains and lakes were stunning and driving a bike with bald tyres, that couldn’t quite make it up the hills with two people on, was actually quite fun. The view point was so high that the temperature had dropped dramatically. As we descended the winding mountain road, our poor little knees were trembling in the cold wind. Fun was had.

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The drive was amazing, the sights were beautiful and the bizarre functionality of the bikes and it’s rental companies customer service added another truly unique moment to this blog. You had to be there. This is why I came to India.

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We both retired to our usual Rapsy Restaurant for a cheap dinner and chai, exhausted but smiling, for mostly the right reasons. While in the Rapsy Restaurant, eating my parotta and vegetable masala, I noticed lots of signs, written by tourists. These signs were in various different languages. The one that was next to our table, so happened to be one wrote by a Dane. I was mega chuffed I could actually read it. I was also mega chuffed that it was signed by my fellow Indian traveler buddies Simon and Kasper. Small world, big coincidence. FIL206

As darkness fell and so did another power cut, we hitched a ride back to the hostel where we met fellow travelers for good banter and story swapping. I have less than two days to get to Chennai for my flight to Thailand. Sad that my India experience is coming to an end. I’ve fallen in love with Kerela, I’ll have to come back to experience all its treasures.

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Tomorrow morning I get a Government bus over the mountains to Madurai in Tamil Nadu, before completing a 13 hour train journey to Chennai. Hardcore. I love it.

Moan of the Week:

Why is chai worse tasting in the south? Munnar has thousands of tea plantations surely they must be the experts in the art of creating the perfect Indian delicacy, chai? Anywhere north of Mumbai serve a deliciously sweet chai for as little as 3R, average cost will be 5R, tourist price sometimes 7R, and it’s available on every street corner. The masala chai is even tastier. They use strong spices, real milk and a decent dose of ginger and sugar. However, in the south the price is higher and the taste is bland. Assuming that kebabs taste better in Turkey and Morocco, surely chai should taste its best in the tea growing regions. Just a thought. It’s off my chest.

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South India, sort the chai situation our please. I will be back.

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