Rolling down the window, you see an unending swathe of lush green tea plantations hugging the gentle Munnar slopes. Thick storm clouds, ready to burst open and unleash yet another deluge, playfully tease the mountain tops. A transient waterfall gushes in the distance and you can hear a rumble from deep within the skies. Suddenly, unexpectedly, a sliver of sunshine darts through the dark canopy of clouds and the delicate arch of a giant rainbow momentarily graces the valley, turning the scene from ominous to surreal, just like that.
In a country of one billion people, it’s hard to find a moment for solitude. On a meticulously planned vacation, being forced to endure a long queue or dodging selfie sticks to enjoy the view is not what we signed up for. Which brings me to my suggestion – plan for rain.
If what you’re after is a peek of Munnar’s untamed beauty, I suggest an early morning detour towards Kolukkumalai Tea Estate.
Monsoon is not the preferred time for hill station travellers, let alone in a state where rainfall is deliriously off the charts. But here is my case for visiting Munnar in the pouring rains – one, there’s little crowd. Two, the soul-awakening view of rain-soaked hills and tea plantations. If you’re willing to put up with the minor discomfort of getting a wee bit wet (ok, soaked), it’s a great time to put on that explorer hat and set out to see the usual in a completely new light.
Whether you choose to amble along Mattupetty dam or stop to admire the symmetry of silver oaks at Photo Point (unimaginatively named, alas), Munnar’s effortless splendor is elevated ten fold during the monsoon. If what you’re after is a peek of Munnar’s untamed beauty, I suggest an early morning detour towards Kolukkumalai Tea Estate.
You’re transported to an earlier era, a simpler time where ills of modernisation hadn’t jaded the joy of being in nature.
At 8000 ft., it is not only the world’s highest orthodox tea plantation, but also home to breathtaking views of spectacularly jagged mountains on the Kerala-Tamilnadu border. The vista makes it well worth the arduous journey it takes to reach the estate. Here, tea leaves are still processed relying on human expertise, eschewing automated machinery of the CTC (Crush-Tear-Curl) process to bring out the best of teas. No surprise then that orthodox teas are highly valued in the market.
Housed in an old-world wooden building wearing white and green paint, Kolukkumalai Tea Estate doubles up as a time machine. No Doctor needed. You’re transported to an earlier era, a simpler time where ills of modernisation haven’t jaded the joy of being in nature. Sampling fresh tea surrounded by the cold monsoon air feels is what you need to soothe a city stricken soul. In fact one of the more interesting things to do around here is to keep an eye on sign boards within the plantation. You might just stumble on a piece of history. “First planted in 1902” a label might read, next to an unassuming tea bush that might seem all too ordinary but has been in existence for more than a century now.
There’s little in Munnar that monsoon doesn’t make better
However, it bears to mention that Munnar isn’t all about tea gardens. From gushing waterfalls that come alive with the rains to natural sandalwood groves, Munnar is a place of many delights. Even the water-guzzler Eucalyptus that’s an eyesore in the dry summers becomes a sight for sore eyes during the monsoon, cloaked in a veil of nebulous mist. Whether it’s a lovely hike on an off the beaten path to Devi Kulam lake or a date with the thousand-year-old dolmens (megalithic stone tombs) of Marayoor, there’s little in Munnar that monsoon doesn’t make better.
Neelima Vallangi is freelance travel writer and photographer specialising in offbeat and adventure travel features.