January 30, 2015
For our one day in Munnar we opted for the 5-7 hour guided mountain trek.
Offered by Kaivalyam Retreat, it originates near the retreat and climbs the mountaintop above Munnar town. Our guide, Ramesh, was friendly but his English was somewhat lacking making details and finer points of communication sketchy. We were two couples, us and a young Indian couple from Hyderabad.
The trek starts with a fairly steep climb up the mountain side, first through a tea plantation – not the prettiest section of tea garden – followed by a hill covered with lemon grass among others. Nearing the top we enter a forest that was formerly a coffee and cardamom plantation.
Ramesh shows us the cardamom flowers at the base of the plant and finds a seed pod for us to taste.
As we reach the top the clouds roll in and mask our view of the valleys below for most of the rest of the hike.
Every once in a while the clouds part and we can see the town and the green tea plantations below.
Along the road near the top is a hill top hotel where we stop and have tea and few snacks. The guide has brought bananas, the Indian couple a plum cake and us some biscuits purchased at the hotel. We drink cardamom tea – my new favorite, and chat with our young Indian friends.
Just past the hotel is a pretty tea valley. We stop for a photo op and then continue up the foggy mountain ridge.
From here we follow a local pilgrimage walk along a route with stops representing each of the 14 stations of the cross and which follows the mountain ridge to the cross that can be seen from the road below.
Past the cross we continue up and down along the ridge and dip back down on the backside of the mountain through another tea plantation. A pretty section with no buildings to mar the views.
We climb back up the mountain ridge to the last peak and then down through the grasslands to a tea plantation just outside of Munnar.
Here there are many more buildings and power lines. After a short walk back to town we have lunch at a not great local restaurant and take a tuk-tuk back to the hotel.
For those that are used to trekking, this is not a difficult nor long hike. The 460 meter climb could easily be done in much less time that the projected 5 hours. We hiked rather slowly with a long tea break and frequent stops for photo ops and to see what we could of the valley below and still finished in 4 and half hours.
The view from the top could be impressive in clear weather. In foggy conditions, which I imagine are frequent, it’s an interesting hike with some nice sections of tea plantation but not a stunner.