Kodaikanal and Munnar, the side of India I didn’t expect

I didn’t plan to visit Kodaikanal initially, but D, a cooking school mate whom I hadn’t seen for years, happened to be in India at the same time as me, and since he was there, I decided to make a short stopover to try and catch up with him. Sadly, our paths didn’t cross, but it sure was a great escape from the heat!

Our bus from Madurai arrived right on time, and the skies opened just as we were getting off the bus. J insisted on taking a cab to Greenlands Youth Hostel, though it was less than 1km away, and since his whinging was getting on my nerves, he paid for it. It was the first hostel I came across in India, and the views from the balcony were awesome! There was no one else in our room, so we practically had the whole place to ourselves. The passing shower moved on quickly, so we took a walk to what google map deemed a viewing point. After a 2 hour uphill walk, it was a little disappointing, as the huge lake was obscured by many trees. Still, it was so pleasant to walk in 18 degrees weather!

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On the way back, we decided to go through the famous Coaker’s Walk, which was just 5 minutes from our hostel, and I felt extremely happy to be in India at that point of time. The crowded and noisy cities seemed so far away, and I was in bliss in Mother Nature’s arms. If only there was some way to climb those mountains in the background..

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The next morning, I woke up early to catch sunrise, and sacrificing that one hour of sleep was well worth it! To be among the clouds and watch the sun slowly climb its way above them was pure heaven for me.

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We went on a 10km trekking route, which passed several viewpoints, but it was a really foggy day so all we saw were clouds. Still, the mist created a mysterious effect in the pine forest filled with trees that had bigger roots than branches, and it looked like a scene straight out of a horror movie, in a good way.

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Another thing that I didn’t expect from the hill stations is that they grow cocoa here! There are countless shops selling homemade chocolate, which is a little less rich than the typical European chocolate.

Before we left the next day, I was treated to yet another amazing sunrise. This time, I was accompanied by a French guy, who was a great prop for my photo. It wasn’t too difficult a departure, as we were heading to yet another hill station – Munnar.

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So we went down the mountains, stopped at a little city for a bus change, and got on another bus to head up a different mountain range. As we slowly made up way up the western ghats into Kerala, the scenery changed to include more tea plantations. I felt like i was back in Sri Lanka.

Munnar was the most well developed in terms of tourism  among all the cities we’ve been to, and it was nice to see a few supermarkets, more restaurant and accomodation choices, and a sort-of bustling street market! We stayed at a little hotel for 400 rupees a night, the cheapest place thus far. It was largely run by a 15 year old kid who had large puppy eyes and was quite adept at coaxing western tourists to donating some money to his school fees.

J had some issues with the food, after choosing not to heed my advice of avoiding the meat. So after a short trek in the morning together, I was left to my own devices. With so many tea plantations to hike around, I could go on for days. The scenery was really stunning, and it’s amazing how the most beautiful fields were just behind a hospital less than 1km from the city.

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I couldn’t get enough of the endless tea plantations, so the next day, we took a public bus to Top Station, supposedly the most beautiful of them all. It was quite a surreal experience having a cup of chai while being surrounded by tea shrubs.

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Another unexpected vegetable that they grow here is carrots! You could see people  chewing carrots along the streets like horses, and we decided to try them from an old lady selling some fruit at the top of the mountain. All hygiene protocol went out of the window as we ate our unwashed carrots from a street vendor. The much needed Vitamin C must have killed any bacteria.

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The kind lady also treated us to some passion fruit, tomatoes and mangoes. I suspected she over charged us for the carrots but then felt bad and gave us the free fruit lol.

Along the way, we also stopped at the Matupetty dam, where we wanted to row a pedal boat around the lake. Unfortunately, as it was off peak tourism season, no one was renting the boats out. Still, it was a beautiful walk around the lake.

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The next day, we reluctantly got ready to leave the cool mountain air. Just 10 minutes into our bus ride, the bus broke down, and before the next came to take us onboard, I was actually glad for this stop as it happened at a very scenic spot. I just can’t get enough of mountains.

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On the bus, we met a Berliner who was heading to Alleppey, together with us. At this point of time, J was really starting to get on my nerves, with his intolerance for Indian food, constant complaining about hygiene and his unwillingness to turn on the fan at night. I was this close to dumping him and continuing my trip with the sexy Berliner who reminded me of Mr R. On hindsight, I probably should have done that, and maybe, just maybe, I might still be in India.

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