Munnar and the treehouse
After our time in Kerala, Chloe, Tim and I left the girls Chloe was travelling with, and headed to Munnar, a bumpy but extremely beautiful ride through the lush, forested mountains. We finally arrived at the remote hill station of Munnar, which we used as a base for 2 wonderful trips. I also sampled the tastiest Indian food I have ever had; mouth-watering vegetable butter masala, coconut vegetable curry and barota bread - a delicious, buttery pastry-like dough that simply melts in the mouth. We became regular patrons of the Bamboo Shack Restaurant which served up these delights, and was owned by a friendly Indian sculptor called Isaac.
Chloe and I also got locked out of a hotel (they could have told us about the curfew!!) and shouts to Tim proved in vain, as did our hopeful phonecalls to the hotel. I managed to break in by climbing through a downstairs window, while Chloe acted as lookout!
We hired a driver for a morning, and went on an incredible tuk tuk ride. We drove along steep, mountain roads, with stunning vistas across almost vertical valleys to the cloud-tickled mountains on the other side. The ride at times was pretty terrifying, as the tuk tuk driver apparently had no regard for any oncoming traffic as he approached the hair-pin bends on the wrong side of the road. We had several close shaves with large buses and 4 by 4s, who spared no thought for any lesser vehicle they may crush.
We drove past miles of tree plantations, which gave the mountains a very neat, manicured look. We saw tea pickers at work in the height of the midday sun, and when they saw us, many would smile, despite the fact they earn less than £1 per day.The tidy plantations contrasted with the tropical jungles and craggy summits surrounding them. At times, the driver would turn of the engine of the tuk tuk and coast downhill. It felt like we were flying, and we could hear the tropical birdsong and cicadas in the undergrowth.
The tea pickers would comb the tops of the tea bushes with a bag that appeared to have a razor on its edge, so they shaved off the tender leaves. The leaves were then carried in enormous bags on their heads along the roads to pick up points, from where they would be taken to tea factories. We tried some local Indian tea and found it to be delicious! We made sure we bought some to take home.
The driver took us to admire one of the best views in the Keralan mountains, which included seeing the highest tea plantation in the world. We also saw a small tribal village nestled several hundred metres down in the valley below.
We treated ourselves to a night in a tree house in the depths of the jungle. We took a tuk tuk deep into the mountains, where the tea plantations gave way to tropical forest, home to tigers, leopard and elephants, among other creatures. We ventured with a guide into the jungle, along a river where we walked past water buffalo cooling themselves in the water. The jungle was full of beautiful butterflies.
After 3 km, we arrived at the tree house - a rustic affair reached by a rope ladder and then a climb up a rather precarious ladder of sticks! We had a lovely view from the top, through the canopy to the mountains beyond.
We bathed in the shallow river to cool ourselves after the walk, and enjoyed a gorgeous meal of different vegetable curries and chapattis by the fire for supper. We then clambered onto a rock in the middle of the river to look for shooting stars. Soon after 9pm the guides informed us we must climb up into the treehouse, as it would be dangerous if we stayed on the forest floor, because of the elephants that come to the river to drink at night!! We unfortunately did not see any exotic wildlife as we were not on a proper trek, but it was fun and exciting sleeping in the trees.