Munnar is a hill that has been re-greened by tea gardens. Back in 1887, Munnar (pronounced moonnaar) and surrounding hills were dense forests. In that year, the Englishman J D Murrow purchased the land from the ruler of Travancore. He cleared the forests and planted tea gardens in the clearings.
Munnar is now a small town nestling among the hills of the mountain range forming the eastern boundary of Kerala. Munnar and surrounding hills are practically covered fully with tea plantations. The hills range in height from 4000 feet above sea level to 6000 feet. There are tea plantations even at 7000 feet.
There is a tea museum at the town center, set up by the Kanan Devan Hill Produce Company Ltd, who owns most of the tea gardens. The name Kanan Devan is derived from the name of an early tribal ruler of the hills, Kannan Thevan.
Tea buds are plucked by hand from tea bushes (pic left) and transported to factories. The leaves are processed in the factories to produce different varieties of tea - in the form of processed leaves or powdered dust.
While tea gardens dominate the landscape, the area does have other attractions. There is a cardamom hill in Munnar itself (pic to the right shows cardamom plants - the source of the famed spice, cardamom). You might find rain clouds hovering over your head. The journey among the hills, along bend after bend of the ascending mountain roads, is itself a great experience.
A mountain stream runs right across middle of the town. At places, the stream is more rock than water. However, at other places, it becomes a true stream, and the view across is captivating.
The trip to Munnar is also a wonderful experience. As you travel from the coast and midlands towards the mountains, you find the landscape becoming forest-like. Even the homesteads with cultivated crops resemble forests.
Then there are the "pure" forests, under the guard of a Forest Force. Bamboo, teak and numerous other kinds of wild (and not so wild) trees, plants, creepers and climbers populate these dense forests, on both sides of the road. On one side of the mountain road, you would find blue hills and on the other, deep gorges, bounded by more hills in the distance.
Among these greenery and blue hills run the mountain road, with few vehicles and no human or animal in sight for long stretches. The weather also begins to get cooler and your ears might even begin to sense the low pressure. A far cry from the traffic jams and congested roads of the urban areas.
A trip to Munnar is a definite must for tourists.
All the photographs and content of this Web site are Copyright © T. Gopinathan.