By Friday morning we once again packed up and the driver that we had hired here in Kochi drove us to our last destination of Munnar, about 130 kilometres away. I felt kind of sad to leave our hotel in Kochi as it definitely stood out for me as the best location of the trip. The hotel staff were really warm and helpful and the whole ambiance of the hotel and the neighbourhood around the hotel really struck a chord with me.
I wasn’t looking forward to another long car ride but this is what it took for us to get to Munnar. Although it was only about 130 kilometres away from Kochi, most of the drive was along twisting mountain roads with lots of slow moving vehicles on the road so we weren’t able to make great time and the drive took over 3 hours to get us to our destination.
On the drive to Munnar through all of the towns along the way, we noticed that all of the banks had lineups of hundreds of people going out into the streets. We later discovered that in the past few days the Indian government had made huge changes to the Indian currency, forcing people to exchange much of their old paper currency for new ones. Since this affects the Indian rupees that we have in our possesion, it looks like we’ll forced to spend tomorrow morning at the bank getting new bank notes. 🙁
Currency issues aside, the focus for us while here in Munnar will be to visit some of the tea plantations that this area is famous for.
Money and Tea
It’s Saturday night now and we’ve just finished the first full day here in Munnar. Our big accomplishment for the day was spending about 2 hours in line at the bank with hundreds of other local people changing our old currency for the new ones. The lineups at the banks that we went to were fairly civil but we did read that several people died in lineups at various banks across the country.
We noticed that at the first bank that we went to there were separate lineups for men and women, something that we had seen many times throughout India at various places such as going through airport security. Since the women’s lineup at the bank had about 20 people and the men’s about 200, Barb lucked out and was able to get into the bank to change her money with only a 90 minute wait.
I ended up going to a different bank across the street and there was only about 50 people in front of me. The lineup was jammed packed and we were pressed together for the entire time that the line was moving forward. I found it interesting that despite the huge hassle of having to spend hours in line at a bank to convert their money, most of the Indians appeared to be relatively good-natured about the whole ordeal. I didn’t see anyone shouting or complaining at least not at the bank that I was at.
I guess I should mention that in addition to standing in lineups at the bank we did manage to get some driving in the area exploring many of the local tea hills. We also did a tour of the local tea museum and ended up buying a suitcase-busting amount of local tea in various size packages.
As we drove through the tea hills we passed a seeming endless number of team plantations and I had our driver stop at least 10 times as I jumped out to take photos. The different shades of green of the tea plantations were simply stunning and I’ve waited the entire trip to get a chance to see this part of India.
We had one last full day here in Munnar before we leave tomorrow. At the suggestion of our driver he said that there were many 4×4 Jeep companies that did tours of the back roads and highly recommended it. Personally I though that this was not going to be money and time well spent and my first reaction was to not do this. In hindsight I was glad that we did.
The car that they were offering to as a 4×4 “Jeep” was in fact made by the Indian car company Mahindra. This was a hard core off road vehicle with what felt like a solid suspension and was able to get over the worst possible roads, Barb and I holiding on for dear life throughout most of it. However the rough ride was all worth it as we were taken to many places that were just not possible to reach by a regular car such as several lakes and lookout points out in the back country. The drive offered many great opportunities to take some fantastic photos over the course of the three hour excursion.
One of the things that I forgot to mention was the change in climate since we arrived in Munnar a few days ago. Since our hotel here is at an elevation of about 1200 metres and even though it’s in close proximity to Kochi, the crushing humidity of Kochi is all but gone. It’s been a pleasant 21-23 degrees here with virtually no humidity at this altitude.
It’s Sunday night as I’m writing this final section of our Indian Adventure. Tomorrow we will be flying from Kochi to Bangalore where we will overnight and catch and early morning flight out of India and eventually back home in Vancouver.
By now I’ve uploaded pretty much all of my photos. Have a look at some of the new ones; I’ve got to say that the photos of the tea hills in Munnar are some of my favourite photos from any trip that we’ve been on.
We’ve covered a lot of ground on this trip, seeing many different parts of India over our 18 days here. We could easily say that we covered too much ground, being a bit optimistic about how much time we would spend travelling from one region to another.
India is a unique country and we’re glad that we’ve had a chance to experience a cross section of it. A couple of days ago Barb and I talked about what the highlights of the trip were for us. We both agreed that experiencing Diwali at the Golden Temple in Amritsar stood out for us. Spending the afternoon in the village of our driver and having lunch with his family was also was a great and rare experience for us. For me personally, the three day stay in Fort Kochi and seeing the tea hills in Munnar are going to be really good memories for me.
We both agreed that in hindsight we would completely remove Jaipur from our agenda. It might have been that we both stared to get sick in Jaipur so our judgement might be a bit jaded and by that point we were a somewhat overloaded seeing site after site since we arrived in Delhi the week before.
Sidebar: Barb and I are mostly over our colds. We’re both still coughing a bit but the worst passed quite a few days ago.
In Part 1 of this series, I asked the question if we would want to return to India or not and that we would know by the end of the trip. We actually knew long before now that we would definitely return to India.
India is a country of contrasts. There’s incredible poverty and it seems that there’s garbage on the streets in many of the places that we’ve been to. The traffic in the larger cities is something that I’m not sure that I could ever get used to. Nonetheless, there’s so much stunning beauty in this country and the people that we’ve met in so many places have been the friendliest that we’ve ever experienced. And the food, wow!
It’s impossible to only take the good parts of India without taking all of it. But when I look at all of the pros and cons, I have to say that India comes up very favourably.
It will always be a challenge to travel to India from Vancouver but I can definitely see that one day in the future we’ll be returning here to experience some of the same and some things that we didn’t get to see on this trip. I feel fortunate having had a chance to see many parts of this country. It’s something that Barb and I have wanted to do for years and we will now be much more comfortable planning a return trip to India one day in the future.
I hope you enjoyed following along with us on this trip through India. Barb and I are already talking about some destinations for 2017 and I’m sure that I’ll be bringing the laptop on any new destinations.