Munnar to Thekkady. A journey worth making.
Traveling from Munnar to Thekkady by road is an exhilarating experience.
On our last holiday in Kerala, we travelled the distance between Munnar and Thekkady, starting the journey in the plains and going up into the hills to Thekkady and ending up in Munnar.
The drive between Munnar and Thekkady is really beautiful. You can see the change in landscape as you move from Munnar, which is covered with Tea plantations, to Thekkady, which is a National Forest Reserve where the landscape reflects wild, untamed forests.
Munnar is a town that grew in popularity due to the British Tea plantations that were set up there in the late 19th Century.
Presently, the plantation is run by the Tata Group, which has even set up a Tea Museum there.
If you’re visiting, make sure to visit this museum, to understand some interesting facts about the history of Munnar and the process of manufacturing tea.
The entire museum tour ends with a visit to the factory outlet on the premises and, if you like tea, this is a great place to pick up some interesting blends and different types of tea, at very affordable prices.
As you drive out of Munnar, to head either to the plains or to Thekkady, you can actually see the landscape change before your eyes.
We were lucky, because our driver decided to take a less used route to travel, so while the road was not as well surfaced as the main highway (if you could call it that), it was pretty much deserted, so we made good time and also had access to better views along the route.
The distance covered in the drive from Munnar to Thekkady (which hosts the Periyar National reserve) is around 90 kilometers (55 miles).
But it still takes around 3 hours to traverse the distance. Even if you have travelled extensively in the mountains of North India, the first thing that will hit you is how tight the curved roads are.
The climbs are shorter and steeper than in the Himalayas in the North of India.
Also, the roads are so narrow and there’s absolutely no scope for putting a foot wrong. We had more than one close shave while traveling up to and down from Munnar, with overtaking cars driving in the opposite direction landing up in ‘front of our noses’ before our driver and the guy in the front pulled off some form of a miracle and missed a head on collision by inches.
Action packed? Yes. Enjoyable? Absolutely not!
If you’re looking for a leisurely drive up the hills, drive your own car. Every private taxi or vehicle seems to suffer from the same ‘Brake? What’s that?’ syndrome.
Also, if you’re prone to get car sick, I can guarantee you’re going to have a really hard time on these hilly roads. With the constant movement from the left to the right due to the tight curves, it is normal for one prone to motion sickness to feel overwhelmed. Pop the pill if you can… Avomil is a good medicine to take, available OTC at any medical store in India.
Nearing Thekkady, you’d notice how the landscape has completely transformed in front of your eyes.
Gone are the rolling manicured hillocks, which are replaced, first by spice plantations, and then untamed forests.
As you move from the hills to the Ghats, the topography also changes from smooth gently sloped hills to ragged cliffs and mountains carpeted with wild shrubbery and tree cover.
Once you reach Thekkady, you would obviously plan to make a visit to the famous (though a bit overhyped) Periyar lake, which resides in the middle of the Periyar Tiger Reserve.
On taking a boat ride through the lake, if you’re lucky, you could catch a glimpse of wildlife at the shores of the lake, which includes wild elephants, deer and an occasional leopard. Tiger sightings are extremely rare and I’m yet to meet someone who has seen a tiger there. The cooler months of the year are better for wildlife sightings, so any time between mid October and Early March are ideal.
If you aren’t lucky to spot any wildlife on your boat ride, the landscape is still stunning enough to be thoroughly enjoyable.
Despite the image of Kerala being a place you visit for Ayurvedic massages, Houseboat rides and calm, serene backwaters, Munnar and Thekkady offer a very different experience for those who like the hills, mountains and wildlife.
Both are must visit destinations if you’re planning a holiday in Kerala. And driving from Munnar to Thekkady, is as much about the journey as it is about the destination.
Images © Digital Banjara Media Pvt. Ltd.
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