Munnar – What a Relief

MunnarWe survived another night of mosquito attacks but this time did much better. There are a few tricks we learned from Meena, our very friendly neighbor: first, put the big water buckets on the drains in the bathroom because that’s where the mosquitoes creep in, second, buy some of the oil thingies that plug into the outlet and kill the bastards and third and most importantly, she lent us a very handy tool a rechargeable, electric mosquito zapper that looks like a tennis racket. You touch a mosquito and it zaps – very handy as you can wave it around frantically and hear it go zap –zap- zap as the mosquitoes get blasted.

Max didn’t want to let go of it but Uli was equally fascinated so there was a bit of father-son strife over who would get it first, for how long and how many mosquitoes got finished off in the process. Due to the jet-lag we got up at 2:30 am again – and then couldn’t go back to sleep anymore – sleep-wise so far this trip has been sort of like working in investment banking between my first and second year at B-school. There we wouldn’t get up at 2:30 am but work until then or later just to be back in the office by 8 am.

At 9 am our driver showed up, the luggage was put on the roof and off we were to Munnar Hill Station. Max was disappointed that it wasn’t a rickshaw like the one we had taken to the main road of Ernakulam the night before. He loved the ride in that funny motorcycle tricycle and couldn’t get enough of it.

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First welcome sight of the tea plantations near Gunnar
(c) Tina Baumgartner

Kerala is densely populated, all along the road were houses. In that sense it is similar to Silicon Valley – you really don’t know where one town ends and the next starts. Only when we got to the foothills did it get a bit less and it started to cool down a bit. A surprising fact was the number of catholic churches and convents along the way. There must have been yet another St. Mary’s convent and St. Joseph’s church every few minutes. I didn’t see anywhere enough people to fill all those churches. Plus the few mosques and – I assume the odd temple here or there. We were driving at a very moderate speed watching Kerala life move by from the comfort of our air-conditioned car – if you had told me 20 years ago that I would be traveling that way, rather than by local bus I would have laughed you out of the room.

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Seen on the way: the Bavarians or Austrians are here!
(c) Tina Baumgartner

We reached our destination – Copper Castle Hotel near Munnar – after 4 hours or so, the last stretch we were winding our way up through tea plantations which I am eager to photograph. On the trip Max threw up all the peanuts and grape juice he had stuffed himself with – just to make life a little more interesting.

Munnar itself is a few kilometers away so we took another rickshaw into town much to Max’s delight. The first thing we saw was a baby-blue church on a little hill. Max saw it first and with his piercing voice yelled “Look, an iglesia. I want to go there.” Ever since I let him light candles in churches last year in Europe he has a thing for “iglesias” – he can hardly pass them by. This one, unfortunately, was of the bring-your-own-candle type and so he lost interest immediately since his inconsiderate mother and father are not carrying stacks of candles around just in case we run into an BYOC iglesia. Right across the little valley was the mosque and no sooner did the church bells chime, or rather a recording of a chime was blasted out via loudspeaker, did the muezzin – or likely a muezzin recording- start blasting on the other side. The whole thing felt surreal.

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Max in Munnar in front of the BYOC iglesias
(c) Tina Baumgartner

Munnar itself is a bustling little mountain town and obviously a starting point for a few touristy endeavors such as visiting the waterfall or being driven up to the Top Station or taking a hike into the mountains. We got there just before nightfall and the whole town was a bee-hive of activity. Stalls with food of all descriptions, fruit and veggie stands, tea and spice shops, sari and other fabrics stores, stores where one buys pipes, or pots, or gold jewelry, or lottery tickets or packets of potato chips. I went into a bit of a shopping frenzy over pashimas -but they really make excellent gifts – or so the excuse goes. I could have bought a lot more but Max was at his worst behavior again he is still pretty badly jet-lagged and was very tired, but frankly so are we and this whole screaming and defiance business is rather annoying to two sleep deprived grown-ups. We’ll have to go back, or at least I will have to go back and give it another thorough look.

My 50 cent room order of tea arrived – it’s from Assam, not quite clear to me why they wouldn’t just use the local product but whatever. I’ll have a cup and then go up to the business center and see whether I can upload this somehow. Wish me luck.

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