Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Marvellous Munnar

The rolling hills of covered in deep green tea plants, cool atmosphere (awww felt so good, finally cold air!) and tranquil surroundings made Munnar the sweetest treat. We stayed at a humble, adorable guest house named Zina Cottages. The host Velu was never seen without a smile. We tested that theory when we unexpectedly extended our stay there another night after he had already booked people to take our room.
The 3 days there were spent enjoying the natural beauty that surrounded us from every angle. After Mani, the auto-rickshaw driver, dropped us off at our guesthouse the first day, we decided to ask him to be our guide for the whole trip. So each morning he would meet us at the guest house and drive us to somewhere new.
The first day we visited the Floriculture center with gorgeous flowers, stopped by this tree that had heaps of bee hives hanging from it and drove around the mountainous town. We kept asking him to stop so we could take pictures and absorb the beautiful surroundings. I know I do have a photo taking addiction ha, but Munnar truly is one of the most stunning places I’ve visited. My jaw was dropped when the bus was approaching Munnar…I mean I killed my camera battery just on the bus ride. Made selecting pictures to post here challenging!

Lotus flowers in this pretty pond.
So many beehives!
So I asked this guy how he extrapolated the honey and collected the honey comb...he smokes a joint around them, bees go to sleep and then he climbs the tree. 
The most special part of the day, however, was the walk we did in a local valley village. We spent 45 minutes walking through a random village near Kundale Lake and enjoyed the tranquility – a rare find in India.

Roadside masala chai tea stop.
Mani our awesome rickshaw driver!
What a way to seal the day.
Day two was spent trekking in the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary. We hiked 3 km in the heat to thoovanam waterfall. Nobody else was around so we treated ourselves to a cold dip in the water; made the trek completely worth it. We saw an insect similar to a sacaida and heard its loud shriek (reminded me of my YTT in Costa Rica). Later we found a dead one on the floor and admired the beauty of its wings. Mother nature at its finest.
Munnar has the stunning Eucalyptus forest in town. Funny thing is how the seeds were smuggled in the mayor's wifes pantyhouse from Australia. Random fact I learned haha.

In heaven.

Our final day in Munnar, or extra day, was spent at Cinnamon Garden learning about different plants and trees. We saw how cardamom, pepper, curry leaves, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, turmeric, allspice, and cacao grow. The most amazing was cardamom as we learned it grows pods next to the stalk and leaves of its own plant. Another interesting one was all spice – had no idea that it actually is one leave that tastes like many spices. I always assumed it was just a mix of spices. 
Figs grow from the bottom up. intersting.
Cobra head orchid

Cardamom pods
The second half of our last day was spent at the “Tea Museum”. We were very lucky to have the process explained to us by one of the employees. Without that opportunity we wouldn’t have learned anything. Unfortunately the museum is barely related to tea and much more focused on the company’s manufacturing tea and the history of Munnar. Tea was first planted in Munnar in 1880 as the conditions are perfect for growing tea; 3,000 – 7,000 elevation and slopes of 35 – 45 degrees. The lifetime of a tea plant is forever, literally…oldest plant in China is 400 years. They also grow very quickly and are cut from the top every 7 days for CTC (aka commercial black tea bags).
I was completely fascinated when I learned that white tea, green tea and black tea all come from the same plant. What makes the difference is how the tea is processed whether it’s just dried, oxidizes, fermented etc. White tea is very expensive as it has to be hand-picked every 10 days and is just the tip of the bud. White tea is only dried in the sun. I lost my notes on the detailed process for all the other types of tea but I did take lots of photographs J

White Tea is just this little bud and as I mentioned before just this little part is plucked for white tea. I forgot the exact statistic, but I believe it takes a picker a while day to pick just 1 kg of white tea. Makes sense why it is so pricy!
Green Tea is the white tea bud and the leave closest to the bud.
Black Tea.
CTC or Commercial black tea bag uses all of the leaves.The women cutting in the photo above were harvesting CTC.
I’m still dreaming of the magic of Munnar. Munnar even has “light bees” or as we would call them fireflies. Here’s a few parting shots that make me smile even now, I will return someday I know it.

MASSIVE dosa. That kid is ecstatic!

Kerala Parotta obsession continues. So tasty!
Views from our guesthouse. Epic right?
Rooftop yoga practice, not a bad view right?
Dang we have a lot of shiz! I miss you 3 ladies, we had such a good time!!
Toms soul sisters! So random - each of us were traveling with a pair of black toms , but with our own unique style.

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