Hill Stations and Tea Plantations

Trip Start Aug 22, 2005
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15
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Trip End Feb 06, 2006


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Thursday, September 22, 2005

I had started to worry that I had stopped noticing all the little differences around the world, mainly the scenery. I was anxious that I wasn't appreciating it as much as I should. Now I realise that I was wrong and that I shouldn't worry about being jaded; the little things are still taking my breath away.

Munnar was the best few days of the trip so far. There are quite a few hill stations in South India, but we went for one that was hard to reach in the hope of fewer tourists. The bus ride into the mountains was bone shattering! Thank god for Marcus's ipod, which stopped me from puking out the bus window (ahem!). We could see waterfalls and dense jungle, which reminded me of Belize and put a grin on my face that still has not left me! I don't think I've ever been so aware of my sense of smell. The air is cooler at altitude and had a typical rainforest smell; damp and earthy, musty but not stale with an overtone of animal... skunk or wild pig maybe. If I could bottle it, I would.

We hired a rickshaw for 5 pounds and pootled off into the hills for the day. I love long rickshaw rides, as the ground speeds just beneath your feet and the air hits you full on in the face. We stopped numerous times to take photos of people picking tea in the most incredible fields... Acres and acres of tea bushes, up and down the mountains, growing in precarious positions. The bushes are about thigh height and grow in strange patterns, looking at a field of them is like looking at a maze for gnomes.

The smells were incredible, the tea smell being strongest near the processing plants. There was a man walking round with little bottles of pure eucalyptus, nutmeg and lemongrass oil, as well as a whole host of other varieties which seemed unreal. I would have bought his whole stock if I was coming home anytime soon!

We stopped to spot some wild elephant, which got the adrenalin pumping, as they can be quite unpredictable. But the excitement didn't stop there.. Oh no.. I noticed blood on my toe and thought I had scratched myself. When the rickshaw driver said 'leech' I almost started screaming. They are the only creature capable of reducing me into a quivering wreck. Marcus was chuckling away, obviously highly amused that I was on the verge of breaking down!! Although the revolting little maggot had already sucked my blood and dropped off I was still quite irrational (the definition of phobia I suppose) and there is no doubt I would have bawled my eyes out if they had to pull it off me. It was really quite a strange feeling as I had absolutely no control whatsoever of my reaction, which is disconcerting!

We went to a few more waterfalls - each more beautiful than the last. The most impressive sight was Mount Anamundi, the highest peak in South India. It was shrouded in cloud but we could make out a few of the thousand Nilgiri Tahr (mountain goat) on its slopes. I actually found myself dripping wet from walking through the cloud cover and out of breath from the lack of oxygen. The views of the Western Ghats and Tamil Nadu just made me gasp and left me wondering what New Zealand will be like!
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