Greater Heights (#munnardiaries)

We started off the next day, bright and early, with a number of places visit on our itinerary.

First stop – Mattupetty Dam. The infamous dam is known for being one of the most essential sources of power for the state of Kerala through its conservation of water for hydroelectricity. The tiny travel pamphlet I had on me also stated that it was a common visiting ground for elephants. Unfortunately, we didn’t bump into any at our time there but again, the view of the landscape and the large body of water proved its magnificence.

Next up was Top Station! The drive to the highest point on Munnar took a while but the cool air coupled with the nature that surrounded us made it a beautiful journey. Luckily for us, despite the telltale signs of rainfall in the sky, the view waiting for us at Top Point was not at all shrouded by the clouds.

1700 meters high, it felt close enough to touch the heavens. Sometimes, you visit places and see things that’ll never quite leave you. That’s what Top Station was like. It wasn’t just the spectacular view that etched a permanent picture in my mind but that feeling of being so faraway from…everything, far enough to liberate me from everything that was waiting down on Earth.

Mom, dad and I spent a good hour there before the growling of our stomachs got the better of us and we decided to head back to town to grab lunch.

On our way back, we made a brief stop at the infamous Echo Point. As its name would suggest, the river bank carries with it the natural phenomenon of an echo coming back to those who shout their lungs out at the spot. There was an abundance of greenery, as expected, with the lake in the middle and tall trees surrounding the forest on the other side.

It was crowded too, with families and kids standing near the edge of the bank and screaming their names, waiting with bated breath to hear their voice echo back to them. I wish I could say I’d shouted something too but I had settled for watching the others do it with a smile on my face.

And of course, without fail, we took a few more pictures there too.

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I think what I took away most from that day wasn’t just the hundreds of photographs or the aesthetic pleasure of witnessing nature at its finest. But the weightlessness of just being.

Living in the city, amidst the rush of life as a university student and surrounded by throngs of people that all have an agenda of their own, I am forced to move along with the crowd and toward a future that I am both excited and scared for. But at that moment, I didn’t feel any of that.

All I did was simply…exist. And sometimes, we need to take a step back and realize what a blessing that is in and of itself.

Kissed by Nature and God’s Mockery (#munnardiaries)

The climb to Munnar was surely a memorable one but what followed afterword was worth all the excitement that had built up. After checking into a hotel and freshening up real quick, we hit the road again. The first place on our itinerary (which was really just a list I’d made on my phone) was Hydel Park.

Hydel Park, often referred to as Blossom Park, was hosting a flower show during our visit. We saw boards advertising the show all over the place and thought it would be good to check it out earlier in the day. Having arrived at Munar around noon, it was the perfect time to soak up the promise of nature’s beauty.

The park, in itself, was rather small compared to Bangalore’s Lalbagh but beautiful nonetheless. We didn’t go on the boating ride or visit the aquarium (having seen our fair share of fish at the Isle of Wight) but we did have a look around at the flower show. It was probably our timing to visit Munnar, and the fact that it was raining on top of that once we got to the park, but the flower show wasn’t as spectacular as everyone had hyped it to be (and by everyone, I mean the Internet). In spite of that, I enjoyed myself there and made sure to take a lot of photos with my parents.

(And here, we have an elephant leaf-sculpture [my English is so pro today]. There’s not one flower show I’ve seen in India without one.)

An hour and couple ice-cream cones later, we were on our merry way to Pothamedu View Point – a super high point on Munnar that has an amazing view of the surrounding hills. However, fate was not on our side. Although it had stopped drizzling, the rain had brought in thick clouds of fog. By the time we got to the place, the entire view which many people had travelled to see (there were rows of cars parked together) was completely covered.

My mom, although she wouldn’t admit to it if you asked her, seemed somewhat relieved. She doesn’t fear heights but the various view points Munnar has to offer certainly didn’t bode well with her – causing a wave of dizziness, and a severe case of frowning. I couldn’t blame her – it was rather scary but for me, fascination took the place for fear. I mean even with the fog blocking the entire view and all.

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Here we have a lone tree, basking in the glory of mist.

None of the photos we took there turned out really well. But I did have a nice steaming cup of cardamom chai. The kind that makes you feel all fuzzy and warm on the inside. It was worth climbing the hill for the fog-view.

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped to see a waterfall…with no water in it. At this point, I was laughing. The pictures I’d seen on the Internet showcasing the majestic cascade of water flowing down the jutting rocks were imprinted in my mind when I stepped forward to the barren landmark. It was like the universe was mocking me.

You climbed a hill, had this whole movie-worthy monologue about beauty in the broken, only to see a barren waterfall that is basically symbolism for your dead social life at the moment. LAWL. ~ God

Thanks, God. I found it funny too. But of course, we took a few photos in front of it anyway.

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So hooray for empty waterfalls! May the monsoon bless you after our visit. Could you pass a few prayers on for my social life as well? I’m kidding (but not really).

The Climb (#munnardiaries)

When my parents said we’d be going to Munnar, a hill-station located in Kerala and only about four and a half hours away from home, I immediately thought of Kodaikanal – the first and only other hill-station I’d been to before. Boy, was I wrong to have expected it to be the same.

We started early in the morning with packed bags for a three day stay and anticipation for the much needed cool weather we were promised. Madurai was scorching, hitting above 40 degrees, and an escape from the heat was exactly the kind of release I needed. The hunger for breakfast I felt gnawing at the pits of my stomach was washed away by the excitement I felt to visit a new place. I couldn’t remember the last time we’d gone on a trip like this. It wasn’t just an escape from the heat, but a journey to a new setting I’d long desired.

And so it begun. Three hours were spent reaching the base of the mountain, most of which I spent singing along to music playing off my phone, jotting down bursts of inspiration and daydreaming for a good half of it. But the best part was when the ascent begun. I immediately realised Munnar was going to be nothing like Kodaikanal.

For one, the roads were incredibly narrow. Secondly, we weren’t just climbing one tall as heck mountain but several. As a result, the road went around in loops across several connected hills – the kinds that reminded me of a Snakes and Ladder game I used to play as a kid. I found myself rolling back and forth in my seat like an aimless potato with every twist and turn, nevertheless enjoying the view outside my window. And what a breath-taking view it was.

The higher up we went ventured, the chillier and, better yet, cleaner the air became. I could practically feel the air strip itself free from the dark, toxic particles of pollution and turn pure. For someone who has breathing problems, I relished the clean air I started to breathe in. Of course, Munnar remained true to its reputation and as we got closer and closer, the scent of tea leaves mingled in as well.

(Naturally, I had to take a picture amidst the tea leaves.)

As someone who loves her cup of steaming hot chai, I was enchanted by the thousands (I’m not kidding) of tea bushes that surrounded us  I could see women with baskets strapped to their backs, picking with skilled, nimble fingers at the leaves they knew would concoct that ideal cup of nature’s goodness and tossing it into their day’s collection. The people’s love for their land’s fruition was proven further by the several specialist shops we passed by selling all assortments of tea – cinnamon, ginger, mint, jasmine, chocolate (apparently that’s a thing?)

Everything about the climb up to our destination was enchanting – the chilly breeze blowing my hair back, the beautiful landscapes surrounding us, and of course, the company of my wonderful parents to share this journey with me. I started to tune out the music playing in the background as my mind wandered, as it often does at times like these.

The world is filled with so much ugliness, enough to taint us and make us feel smaller than we really are. But there are places like these too, fleeting moments we experience that show us that there is beauty in the broken.

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The climb showed me that if we choose to look up instead of down at the world around us, there just might be something worth living for.