Munnar Hill Station and Final Thoughts: India Travels Part 5

January 7-9. I spent my last weekend in India near the Munnar hill station in the Western Gats of Kerala. We were grateful for the calm and welcoming presence of our hosts at @mistletoehomestay.

View from our room at Mistletoe Homestay
Ayurvedic tourism is very big in this part of India. All along the road to Munnar are places to stop where you can learn about, and of course buy, ayurvedic remedies. We were warned that these stops can be the province of hucksters, but that didn’t stop me from buying face cream

Here the mountain slopes are sculpted with the undulating hectares of tea trees, painstakingly pruned like bonsai.

We visited a tea factory that looked as if it hadn’t changed much since the British Empire (which, we learned brought tea to India, not the other way around, much to my surprise).

A machine for grinding up the tea leaves
tea leaves waiting to be sorted and ground

We were thoroughly entertained by an evening performance of Kathakali dance, an incredibly colorful and dizzying form of Indian classical dance, native to Kerala. The dancers were clearly playing out a story involving gods and people but, sadly, there was no explanation in English so we just enjoyed the colors and music and movement. Everyone else seemed to understand what was going on!

Kathakali dance in Munnar

We hiked with a guide and a cheerful group of young backpackers to 5700 feet-to Cross Mountain, named for the 14 crosses that dot it and are a pilgrimage site on Good Friday (lots of Christians in Kerala) and to Lakshmi Hill.

making our way up the mountain
Me at the top of Lakshmi Mountain
our guide showing us some native plants

To get to Munnar, we had hired a driver named Josey, who took us from Kochi on a Saturday morning, stayed throughout the weekend, taking us whereever we wanted to go, and dropped us off at the Kochi Airport on Monday. All of this cost $100. When we asked him where he was planning to sleep, he replied “in my car”. All along the road to Munnar were signs advertising rooms for $5.00. We had thought he would stay in one of those, but perhaps he wanted to save the $10. This was strangely unsettling to us, and a reminder of our privilege. But everywhere we went we saw drivers, in their clean pressed white shirts and impeccable cars, congregating, waiting to serve. This is part of my adjustment to India.

Drivers waiting near Munnar
Drivers waiting outside a restaurant in Kothamangalam

In my last few hours in India, Josey took us to a local restaurant where we were the only non-Indians eating. I finally learned to eat with my fingers, which is the custom. Food was served on a large banana leaf and was, as almost everything we ate in India, delicious

Naomi had no problems learning to eat without forks

Just before we got to the Kochi Airport, Josey took us to a Hindu temple in Kalady devoted to Adi Shankara, a very important 8th century Vedic scholar and teacher. Some pilgrims had just arrived, carrying their belongings on their heads and backs.

India is a magnificently and confoundingly complex country, whose surface I barely scratched. I can think of few places which have affected me so profoundly and to which I hope to return soon. India challenges your American/Western concepts of progress and modernity look forward to returning. It is a ravishing feast of, or assault on, the sense, occaisionally at the same time. #kerala #indiatravel #keralagram #travel #happytobehere

9 Replies to “Munnar Hill Station and Final Thoughts: India Travels Part 5”

  1. What a great adventure. I love that you did some of it by bicycle, adding to your whole body impressions of the country. I doubt I’ll ever get there, but it’s good to see through your eyes (and nose and ears).


    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment. India was by far one of the most fascinating places I’ve ever been. I hope you get to go some day.

      Liked by 1 person

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