We spent the last few days of 2011 staying in an old British tea estate in Munnar. Some of our adventures were just published on Huffington Post. I’ve been fascinated with Munnar ever since I saw it captured in the movie Before The Rains. Given the expectations I had built, I was worried that the real thing would dissapoint.
The trip was a gift from Sandeep’s brother, who generously hosted us for his own 30th birthday. Munnar is far removed from everything, and staying on a private plantation meant away from any modern conveniences. With time on our side, the kids were able to enjoy animated stories from their uncle, who works at Cartoon Network and came with plenty of supplies. A focus group was held on the spot.
The bungalow we stayed in was fully staffed and houseman, Silverraj, doubled as cook, guide, waiter and horse. Ava perched comfortably on his shoulder during a 3 hour trek one afternoon. As we strolled rolling hills of tea, I heard Silverraj wincing ever so quietly. Silverraj always has a bright smile on his face, so I turned around to see what was going on and found Ava diligently plucking his hair. I suppose she doesn’t find herself on top of a full head of hair very often.
We ambled across the only village within several kilometers and into the only tea shop in town. The tea maker was a colorful man in looks but somber in action. Any animation on his part was focused on churning out meter tea. The traditional cool tea in India is to employ a physics defying process of rapidly pouring the tea from a great height (approximately one meter) in one hand into the waiting tea cup in the other. Surprisingly, tea drops don’t splash about during the process.
There have been a few times on this trip where I have found myself mesmerized. Sometimes it is an experience – like seeing 12,600 monks recieving alms. Other times it is a moment that catches me off guard, like when I found Ava and Kayan asleep holding hands across a bed in Penang. In Munnar it was nature – open, rolling hills of green, lots of fresh air and the perfect afternoons for freshly brewed tea.