A long drive for a cup of tea. Munnar, India

Having decided on a holiday in Kerala we decided to venture further than the coast and go inland to the Western Ghats. Looking at a map we found Munnar. Then we did some research. Munnar is a picturesque town that was once the summer escape for the British.
It is a centre for tea and spice plantations. And the weather is unusually mild for India.

Sounded really pretty.
On looking for accommodation we found that a lot of the old tea plantations had converted their manager's homes into self-contained tourist accommodation, complete with staff. We chose the aptly named Silent Valley Bungalow. Munnar is only 130 km from Kochin
but the road is blind in some places and the  trucks and buses drive as if they own the road.

The road is narrow, twisty and curvy. You have to just shut your eyes as buses over-take you on the tight corners. The drive was interesting as we got to see  the fabulously coloured houses that seem to be the norm in Kerala. Kerela is so different from the rest of India.
It is very clean and there seems to be a real pride in the environment.





About a quarter of the population is Christian. It was brought to Kerala by the Apostle St Thomas and there are more symbols of Christianity here than I have seen in any other area in India.



After a very tense and hairy four hour drive we finally pulled into Munnar where we were checked in and given the details of the Silent Valley Bungalow. We transferred from the very comfortable town car to a  beaten-up, run-down jeep for another hour driving along even worse roads.



By now my usual sense of humour had vanished and I was ready to kill. My husband tried to jolly me up by telling me how wonderfully quiet and romantic it was going to be and how interesting the landscape was.



We finally arrived and the place did look great. We were warmly greeted by the staff and shown through into our room. It was then that I discovered that although we were told the bungalow was to be ours alone we were sharing with a family with two noisy young children
and they had taken over all the living areas of the bungalow. Ahhhhhh!!!!!!!!! We were asked if we would join them for dinner. NO.


The next day we were given the good news that the family was checking out that day and the place was to be ours for the rest of the week. Bliss. I started talking to my husband again.


From material supplied from the bungalow.
....."Silent Valley as the name suggests is one of the most peaceful valleys where tea estates seem to be in constant slumber. Cuddled in the light embrace of gigantic eucalyptus trees, this bungalow offers what very few other places in the world could offer - the inner you.
You will be gently woken by the butler with a piping hot cup of tea or coffee with biscuits at the time you have informed him the previous day. The butler will be more than happy to arrange for a morning walk in the tea gardens and workers lines.

Breakfast will be served on the lawns or on the dining table.

Now you are master for the day with an array of programmes to chose from or prefer to hang around and discover yourself over a book, a drawing board or over a cup of tea.

Lunch will be served at the lunch room.

You are in the bungalow enjoying yourself; don't forget the Hi tea with special snacks gracefully served on the lawns.

Dinner will be served to you on the lawns or inside near to a fire place.

The night sets in with a warm cup of tea and a night cap and a warm glowing fireplace to embrace you into a cosy, blissful sleep.
Please inform your butler on timings for fire place to be lit, hot water bags to be kept under blankets and wake-up call with bed tea."


I had visions of Upstairs, Downstairs with formal maids, cooks and butlers. And of someone creeping into the room and waking me up with a tap on the shoulder with a cup of tea. Instead we were looked after by a charming family from the local village. The food was very authentic, and it seemed, never ending.


The first day we walked around the estate. It is heaven on earth.


The next day we had to drive back into Munnar as we needed stuff for the computers. Now we had time to look around. Because of it's mild temperature Munnar is a popular tourist destination for visitors from Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The town is very busy with markets restaurants and hotels.







On the way back to Silent Valley we stopped off at the Munnar Botanical Gardens. It is a delightful over-grown riot of colour with seats and bandstands falling into decay and slowly being taken over by vegetation.





After another two hours of long and winding roads I vowed not to leave the estate until we were to go back to the coast. Anyway there were plenty of walks to take, books to read and cups of tea on the lawn to be drunk.


Throughout the estate are small churches and odd Christian icons.


 It was very peaceful and the tea plantations are eye-poppingly green.



My husband took advantage of early mornings walks and encountered many locals.


He was taken on the walks by our "butler" who also turned out to be a guide and tour organizer. And he did knock on the door every morning with a pot of tea.



The estate workers live around the plantation in small villages. The villages are immaculately clean. This is the second time I've mentioned 'clean'. I have traveled a lot in India and my experience has been of rubbish and trash every where. I can only think that because the caste
system is very weak in Kerala the community takes collective responsibility for each other and the environment.


Another thing about Kerala is that it is based on a matrilineal family system. Inheritance is determined through the female line with children taking their mothers name. It is believed to have begun in the 10th century when the men would go off to war.

They wanted to ensure that their wives' and children's futures were safe. In Kerala there is also a prevalent cult of the mother goddess.


On one particularly lazy day I just walked around photographing the garden of the bungalow and drinking copious amounts of tea.





The weeds between the tea plants are kept under control by the local wildlife.



Much to our surprise the nights were very chilly and the fire and hot water bottles were very welcome.




It was finally time to pack up and get ready for another terrible five hours on the road to Kottayam where we were to board a house boat.





I just love the signage on Indian transport so I was able to keep myself amused along the trip.



We finally arrived at the Taj Garden Resort to catch our boat back to Kochin.

But that's another story.


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