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The Munnar diary


Reached Munnar by 3 pm on Monday June 13th from Bangalore.

Made rice and ate with the Jersey curd packet that we brought with us. Also ate the two dosas that were left after we gave six dosas to our Mango boys. The resort is beautiful and Munnar is beautiful … the tea gardens just look awesome, green and so pleasing to the eye.

Slept early since the drive was long.

Read about the drive on my blog – Underestimation of effort – Bangalore to Munnar

June 14, 2016 – Settling in

Breakfast – Mango juice and Top Tip Bhelpuri. We will be drinking mango juice or eating mangoes for a few days now because we bought a lot of them at Tungturu and at Bangalore from our favorite Mango boys.

Went out for a walk and bought some vegetables at a store just around the corner from the Club Mahindra resort. We bought some milk and curd as well. Had forgotten to bring “tamarind” so bought 100gms of that. The vegetables aren’t very fresh like we saw in the town of Munnar and hardly any fruits are available. We used the shuttle to get down to the Lake View property and then walked around. On the way back, we got Amma into the shuttle and Krishnan and I walked up to Mount Serene. A 1.5 kilometre trek that is a good climb, the incline is steep. Very happy with that walk.

The Club Mahindra property does not have any store where you can buy some provisions. The studio rooms at Mount Serene have a microwave and some cutlery. The rooms are equipped with a heater and a sofa-cum-bed. The interesting feature is the TV stand that rotates fully to either side, very convenient to watch programs from the bed or the sofa.

Lunch – Amma made drumstick sambar and I made the Bhindi subzi.

I used the milk we bought to make coffee and realized that the milk was really thick. Have to add some water to get the consistency right for coffee. This is “Cavin” milk, toned. Krishnan spent the better part of an hour getting the gaps in our booking filled at various Club Mahindra properties over the next three weeks. The challenge of booking online is you get four days of booking and then there is no booking for two days, then you get three days. Our plan originally was to use the gap days to go to Coimbatore, but the 95 kms drive from Udumalpet till the Club Mahindra resort is a 2.5 hour drive and very inconvenient, so we decided to try and stay back at Munnar.

In the evening we went to the restaurant just adjacent to the reception to use the Wi-fi. It works well at the restaurant. Neither Airtel nor Vodafone 3g works consistently in the room. The datacards also don’t seem to connect, especially the Reliance datacard. So we have to manage with the Club Mahindra wi-fi.

I made Tomato soup on the Phillips soup maker (will recommend this for anyone who likes soups), a little late at night because Krishnan and I started feeling hungry. My mom complained that there were no fried bread pieces in the soup … her fixation with all things fried is legendary !

June 15, 2016 – Wild “Sundakkai” and an easy day

We went for a walk early today. Met Manoj the cab driver whom we had met yesterday and we shared our plans to meet with the Tea pickers families and gave some details about ShikshaDaan. He said he will speak to some people and then also take us around for some sight seeing.

We walked down to the Lake View property rather than taking the shuttle and then turned right to walk another kilometer or so. Mom and I picked green “Sundakkai” that grows wild on the roadside. The winds were howling today and we captured the sound on short videos.

We went back to the store where we bought vegetables yesterday, but unfortunately he had not got new stocks. We bought some “podalangkkai” (snake gourd) for lunch and got back. Took the shuttle on the way up since we got late (9 pm) and had not eaten anything.

Breakfast – Mangoes !! Ragi and Rice flour Morkazhi.

After breakfast we took bath and went to work at the FunZone. The wi-fi here was much faster since the router is kept here. Managed to post a few blogs and complete one of my assignments for the coach certification program.

Got back and had lunch.

Lunch – Drumstick sambar from yesterday and the snake gourd subzi made by mom. Amma is becoming a pro at using the induction stove and that’s a really good thing. For someone who had never used any electrical appliances, she is having fun with it.

We thought we would take a nap and then start working but slept for a couple of hours ! Anyway will stay up late and complete all that we have to. Tomorrow the plan is to do a 3 hour sight seeing trip starting at 11.30.

Am reading “Seven years in Tibet” by Heinrich Harrer. It’s a fascinating book.. while I have watched the movie based on this book, somehow reading the everyday account makes it come alive. Its also how a culture is viewed by an outsider.

June 16, 2016 – Busy “spicy” day 

9.54 am

Woke up at 5 am today, as we have a busy day ahead. I have a coaching call at 10 am and then we have fixed up for a 3 hour sight seeing tour with Manoj starting at 11.30. By the time we did our exercise and had tea it was raining, and according to my mom that’s probably a reaction to my trying to complete work ahead of time. Moms !!

Krishnan and I walked the corridor about 30 times and that was nearly 2 kms. Basically if one wants to exercise, one finds a way, and if one wants to find an excuse, one finds an excuse.

Breakfast – one banana each, Poha. Giving mangoes a break for a day.

Its raining still but we have all gotten ready, just incase it clears up and we are able to go for our sight seeing trip.

Went for the sight seeing trip – the highlight was the tour of a spice garden. Many plants that we hadn’t seen before, the cardamom plant, the asafoetida tree (from which the gum is taken), many different herbs, and the “rudraksh” tree. It was drizzling non-stop but we still managed to walk around the spice garden. Then we bought some spices and got back to Club Mahindra.

A photograph at the viewpoint just before the Tata tea factory. The Club Mahindra resort is in the background, but the overcast skies don't let that be seen

A photograph at the viewpoint just before the Tata tea factory. The Club Mahindra resort is in the background, but the overcast skies don’t let that be seen

The Anairangal dam. Beautiful water body.

The Anairangal dam. Beautiful water body.

The Cardamom plant at the Spice Garden

The Cardamom plant at the Spice Garden

Asafoetida or hing, the gum that is part of everyday Indian cooking. This gum is collected and mixed with maida to make the hing powder.

Asafoetida or hing, the gum that is part of everyday Indian cooking. This gum is collected and mixed with maida to make the hing powder.

The Spice Garden.

The Spice Garden.

On the way back we bought some vegetables near the Tata tea factory. We managed to get fresher vegetables there than the shop near Club Mahindra. Also the vegetable market is setup on Thursdays at Munnar so you apparently get fresh stocks on that day at Chinnakanal.

Mom decided to eat lunch in the room while Krishnan and I planned to eat at Thomas’ restaurant, and are we glad that we took that decision. Manoj came at 4 to pick us up and take us to the restaurant – the food was outstanding. He makes “parotta” with whole wheat rather than refined flour and the “puttu” was just mind blowing. The place is half a kilometer from the Fort Munnar hotel. Its squeaky clean and costs just nothing.

Lunch – puttu, kadala curry and parotta.

Thomas' restaurant. A must eat place.

Thomas’ restaurant. A must eat place.

We then caught a show at Punarava – Kathakali and Kalaripayatu. Awesome presentations, just need a better emcee. The Malayali accent is too thick and difficult to understand. The show at Punarava is definitely recommended. The performers are awesome and what an amazing art form Kathakali is. Some of the sequences in Kalaripayatu are stunning for their speed and precision. A martial arts form that should become more popular. While we were at the theatre, it was pouring and strong winds were blowing. We watched both the shows and got back to the resort by 7.20 pm.

Krishnan and I with the Kathakali Stars

Krishnan and I with the Kathakali Stars

June 17, 2016 – Stay in day 

We decided to keep this day for completing all our assignments for our coach certification program and other pending work.

Breakfast – Mangoes, Bansi Rawa upma with senai kizhangu (Yam) sambar. We decided to have the same upma for lunch too since there was lots of it and Amma didn’t have to cook twice. She did try and angle for rice but we vetoed her.

The wi-fi is only available at the Fun Zone so we went there early. Completed all our assignments by 3 pm. The most exciting thing was coordinating the purchase of a couple of saris for Swati on Cooptex. Kumaresan helped as always and the saris are on their way to Swati.

We have the full day sight seeing tomorrow starting at 8.30 am so slept early today.

June 18, 2016 – A day full of sights

Manoj’s brother-in-law Lingaraj came today for the sight seeing tour. It was not raining when we started but we still took the three umbrellas that we had brought along with us. These umbrellas are the ones we bought at Sikkim in 2006 when we went there from Nepal with Amma and Appa.

The first stop was at the waterfall Periakanal – we just drove past and then stopped at the viewpoint.

This is the gap road point but the mist doesn't let you see anything much.

This is the gap road view point but the mist doesn’t let you see anything much.

Then as we explained the ShikshaDaan agenda to Lingaraj, he took us to the manager of the Goenka owned Harrison Malayalam Lockhart tea factory first before going to Munnar for breakfast. We met with Mr. Prabhakar at the Lockhart tea factory and explained what we do at ShikshaDaan. Some good news that we picked up is the tea pickers earn better money than before, so they are atleast able to take care of their basic needs. The companies provide housing and some basic medical facilities. There are still a few children who are unable to afford higher education since they are either single parent children or orphans. We also wanted to meet with a group of tea pickers to also share our perspectives on career options and education options for their children. Mr. Prabhakar will organise a meeting after speaking to his manager sometime in the first week of July.

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We then went to Hotel Saravana Bhavan in Munnar, a pure vegetarian restaurant. They make appams only during the season so we had to eat the regular idli-dosa. The food is top class and this restaurant is certainly recommended. It was constantly drizzling and we realised that one of the umbrellas is broken. Not sure if we can fix it.

After breakfast we went to the flower garden. My suggestion is to not visit this place during peak season !! Its beautifully arranged and the plants are all labeled etc but the lanes are tiny and super crowded. You can’t get a single picture without somebody else in the frame and you are constantly adjusting to let someone pass. The maintenance folk started cleaning the exit steps while it was raining …. pouring more water just when people were trying to exit and adding to the confusion. I wish this garden can be spread out over a bigger area and people can enjoy the beautiful flowers.

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A heart shaped container for the vine to spread.. it was hanging so you don't see people in the picture :)

A heart shaped frame for the vine to spread.. it was hanging so you don’t see people in the picture 🙂

From the flower garden we went to the Mattupatti dam which is smaller than the Anai Erangal dam. The location is prettier. We got a few pictures here and then went over to the Echo point. Shops crowd this place and its again a touristy spot. Guess we are uncomfortable with crowds … and touristy places :).

The Mattupatti dam in the background

The Mattupatti dam in the background

Krishnan echoing at the "echo point"

Krishnan echoing at the “echo point”

On the way to the Mattupatti dam there is an elephant park where you can take a trip atop the pachyderm. We refused, so just drove past the entrance. Just after the elephant park Tata’s have built a beautiful school for their plantation workers’ children.

The Tata's school for their workers

The Tata’s school for their workers

On the way back we stopped at Munnar and bought some fruits and vegetables. A funny thing is most shops stock sweet bread but regular bread is not so common. We returned to the Lockhart tea garden to do the visit there. We saw how tea is processed and bought some white tea and their best quality leaf tea. The entire production of the Lockhart tea garden is exported, not sold in the domestic market.

We waited for Mr. Prabhakar who got stuck in a traffic jam due to some landslide. He did reach just when we were leaving and we again spent some time talking to him. We reached Club Mahindra by 4 p.m.

Lunch – Mom made raw banana curry and we ate rice with some leftover Yam sambar.

June 19, 2016 – Another stay in day

Breakfast today was bread sandwich which mom tried to wriggle out of :):) She finally ate after she saw the dollop of butter. I made some instant chutney with fresh coriander leaves, curry leaves, some sweet chutney and green chillies. We had cucumbers that were almost dry !! For fruit juice we had bought pineapples yesterday at Munnar and they were heavenly. So sweet and succulent.

After breakfast Krishnan and I went to spend time on Wi-fi, writing blogs and working on ShikshaDaan. We also prepped and got things ready for our trip to Coimbatore tomorrow. Krishnan reminded Lingaraj in the evening once so that he comes by 5.30 am.

For lunch we had Sepankizhangu (colocasia roots) subzi and rice with Andhra “Parpu podi”. Awesome combo.

Slept early since we had to wake up at 4 the next morning.

June 20, 2016 – Munnar – Coimbatore – Munnar 

Woke up as planned by 4 and we were ready to leave by 5.30 for Coimbatore. Lingaraj came as planned. We managed to get some amazing photographs of daybreak on the way, but it kept raining all along, till we got down to Udumalpet.

Daybreak near Munnar... stunning skies :)

Daybreak near Munnar… stunning skies 🙂

Beautiful tea gardens of Munnar at daybreak

Beautiful tea gardens of Munnar at daybreak

The gap road viewpoint - a panoramic shot. Love this particular picture !

The gap road viewpoint – a panoramic shot. Love this particular picture !

We stopped at Marayur for breakfast at a small restaurant. They had the most amazing appams and kadala curry. Mom had idlis, that were really super soft and moist. This place is on the right hand side of the road, and named “Vairath”.

A little further into the forest after Marayur, we found a dancing peacock.

Beautiful dancing peacock...am sure the peahens were mighty impressed

Beautiful dancing peacock…am sure the peahens were mighty impressed

We had to take a detour near Udumalpet due to some protest against a liquor shop. The roads inside TamilNadu villages are also well laid and easy to drive on. The road from Palladam to Coimbatore goes through Sulur Air force station and we reminisced about Amma Appa’s time there. We managed to reach the SVP International school of textiles and management by 11 am and started our meeting ahead of schedule. Amma went to Rohini’s house. After our meeting we also went to Rohini’s place and had lunch there. Started from Rohini’s place by 3.15 pm to get back to Munnar.

On the way back we got to see big families of langurs in the same area that we saw the peacock dancing in the morning.

A large family of langurs !

A large family of langurs !

We stopped at a cooperative store in Marayur and bought some “Matta” rice and the famous Marayur jaggery. It started to rain again, but we still managed to reach Club Mahindra, Mount Serene by 8 pm. The beautiful full moon was out just when we reached the room … enchanting.

Enchanting full moon on June 20th...

Enchanting full moon on June 20th…

On the 21st we left from Munnar for Allepey.

 

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