As had become our protocol now, the first thing we would visit in a tourist town was to visit the Tourist Information Center. Bought a map from the TIC, and found these helpful routes painted on the outer wall of the same building.
While having breakfast, we consulted the routes and the map, and deduced that we would limit ourselves to the Coimbatore route. We would ride the Cochin route tomorrow, while going there. And the name ‘Top Station’ was enough to bring up painful memories, so that Mattupatty route too was out of thoughts. Thus, we decided for the Coimbatore route and moved on.
The first halt was at Kanan Devan tea factory. I kept on checking whether we were at the original factory, or is it some local copy. Because I was clearly remembering that the name was Tata tea factory. They have a steep charge to enter the premises. We saw a documentary movie that was shown on a projector, which mentioned that the Tata factory was sold to Kanan in about 2006. This explained the name difference, and satisfied my curiosity.
Later, we were directed to the upper floor, to hear a brief explanation about how tea is made. It is an interesting process. First the leaf, then the drying by blowing air, then something, then something else… I lost track at blowing air. But heard some interesting things. That tea crop is called a cash crop, because one plant can be plucked every 10 days. Also, the reason that the eucalyptus trees are in abundance is, the trees are fast growing, and hence can be used for burning as fuel. The original Eucalyptus seeds were smuggled in an officer’s wife’s stockings from Australia! Also learnt a proper way of making tea. What we usually do is to put the tea powder in water and then boil it alive. But this adds up to nicotine content in tea. The proper way is, first you heat the water with sugar to the boiling point. Once you see the bubbles, you pour the steaming hot water ON the tea powder kept in a pot, and then you cover the pot and wait for 5 minutes. This way the tea’s original taste remains unchanged.
Came down to see demo machines working on demo tea powder. For some reason, there was ‘no photography’ board, and as expected, people were frantically taking shots. I couldn’t find anything photogenic there, so did not think of overruling the board.
After a customary tea – sadly a machine produced one, not prepared one – we left the factory, me wondering why was I charged so much and how much did that cup of tea costed. We continued on the Coimbatore road. Looking at the list of spots on the route, we did not have any hopes to see anything great in particular. But the ride is amazing with capital letters. You ride on and on, not wanting to stop at anything. There is so much beauty around you, after each turn, each dip in the road, you are in awe.
The waterfalls were supposed to be on this route, but as expected they were dried up.
We travelled a good distance, and finally crossed a hill and continued on the other side. Here the tea plantations were sparse, and a taxi driver told us that the next spot was some 30 kilometers ahead. Not wanting to go that far, we turned back.
After lunch and rest, it was 4.00 P.M., and we were roaring to go. Travelling up in the hills with the tea gardens rolling past you is an experience to behold. We chose to go to top station road now, to at least see from where we would pop out had we taken that route.
There are many spots on this route. If you have very limited time, then do this route first, as it has the main spots that Munnar is famous for. We first halted on the Mattupetty damn. The view on the river side is very calm, with the peaceful water reflecting the hills, but on the opposite side, it’s a different story.
The opposite side of the dam had a door opened for some purpose. Water was rushing out of it at such force, that it was getting sprayed at least a 100 meter far, if not more. The sight was jaw dropping and terrifying at the same time. I couldn’t imagine travelling down that little road at right when the water is on its way out.
There was a spot named ‘Elephant arrival point’, where there as an old elephant standing quietly, perhaps reminiscing about its past days.
We moved on to Echo point. Usually the echo points are on a mountain top, where you hear your voice echoed in mountains. At this point, you can hear the echo from the trees on the opposite side of the river. I was testing this phenomenon perhaps a bit too loudly, because Nandinee was distancing herself from me the whole time we were there.
Next came Kundaly lake. You travel on some real bad road seen around Munnar to reach this lake. There are boats and horses available for respective hobby seekers. We satisfied ourselves on photos, and moved on.
The tourist bus trip ends here, and heads back to Munnar. But we wanted to see Top station, so we continued the journey. The roads slowly started inclining upwards, and at about total 30 kilometers from our hotel, we saw the board for Top Station. I continued on the road, but it was too silent with no sound whatsoever. Nandinee started to urge me to move back, so we decided to give one more kilometer to the search, and if we don’t see any habitat within 1 kilometer, we would head back. Then we saw the forest check point at Top station. The persons at the check point seemed surprised to see a motorcycling couple, that too at this late in evening. I saw the road that comes from Kodaikanal, and my heart skipped a few bits.
The road seems like it was done and attended to years ago, and is now being claimed by nature. At the start of Top station we felt eerie and fearful. We couldn’t imagine what it would be to travel by this route. That too, we left Kodaikanal yesterday at 3 P.M., so it would definitely had turned dark before we reached. The imagination was enough to send a chill down our spine. From time to time, there are news that some biker either in group or solo has travelled through this route, and I have a huge respect for them. Travelling on these roads would require not only stamina or determination, but sheer madness.
It was already past sunset, and the light was getting dimmer by the minute. The return journey was fast, yet memorable. The total journey of today was above 100 kilometers. 100 clicks of random travelling, just for the joy of it. This was my last ride in the tea estates on this trip, and I would miss it a lot. Truly, Kerala folks are lucky to have beach, hill stations and backwater in one place.