Wanderlust is a love for exploring, for learning, for seeing what you have never seen before. Have you ever gone to Kerala? If not, let me tell you a little something about this place. Kerala is known as god’s own country. I discovered that not only is this true, but that it even has its own heaven! And it was my good luck to visit this ‘heaven’ that is, our one and only MUNNAR!

It was dawn. I got up and got ready today. Unlike school days when I took hours of cajoling to open my one eye alone, today I had jumped out of bed just on hearing my mom’s first call.  Today was the big day when we were finally going to Munnar! I hopped into the car, all set to go, impatient and eager while the family took ages to come.

 

It was still dark when we set off and in no time, something in the pit of my stomach started rolling and I could begin to feel an old, familiar sensation of wanting to throw up. Oh no, my travel sickness had hit, and now all I could think of was getting off the car. Everybody began to offer help. The window glass was rolled down for me to breathe in fresh air. When that did not help, we halted to buy some lime, which I was given to sniff. I took the chance to also grab some Pepsi and my favorite chewing gum, and no one refused it for once, for they wanted the journey to continue smoothly. I sat enjoying the gum for a while, reluctantly allowing my brother to take a few tiny sips from my Pepsi as he sat there sadly, wishing he had travel sickness too. But the car seemed to pull along inch by inch, on an unending road. After what seemed to be an eternity, my father announced that we had reached Munnar. I could see a huge gate, pale blue in colour, paint peeling off and I could just about make out the letters Munnar written on it, much faded. As we entered the gate, I expected to see something magical as I had heard, but as I sat squeezed at the back, I could not see much, so I pushed my way through to see the magical sight that I expected, but alas, what should I see but a dirty muddy path leading to ………um………heaven?

Now everyone began to doubt if we were on the right road, and amidst groans and sighs, we all began poring over the map and trying to locate the accurate way. On checking and rechecking, and finding to our great relief that it was indeed the right way, we went on driving looking out for every signboard and landmark that will tell us heaven was near! Suddenly we realized that the air had become cooler and that we had somehow become more relaxed. But why was the car going so slow? We were repeatedly asking our cousin, who was at the wheel, to speed up, but he told us that we were now climbing the hills and that Munnar being on the hilltop was the reason that it was cool all round the year. I was so surprised to hear that. How wonderful not to have to face the grimy heat of Mumbai or the scorching summer of Kerala even though one was in Kerala! By now, we all were quite hungry and we all started to look out for any good hotel in which we could eat something and rest our legs awhile. After sometime, some small stalls came into view. Soon they started appearing on both the sides of the road and they kept on getting bigger now there were several pairs of eyes peering out on each side of the road. So when a big hotel finally came in sight, it was like we had come upon some treasure, and greatly relieved, we all jumped out of the car, leaving our poor cousin to find a parking place for the car.

 

The hotel was perched on a rock jutting out from the hillside so that it gave a strange feeling of being out there in the air, with nothing below. And deep down were the little houses that we had left behind. The view was so spectacular that the hotelier had actually kept a price for anyone who wanted to go into the little balcony and experience the height and see the breathtaking view. And everyone paid happily. The hotel had some of the best local chocolates, both vanilla flavored, my favorite, and chocolate, my brother’s favourite. The breakfast was not so great, but having washed ourselves with cool hillside water in the taps, we felt refreshed and all our exhaustion fell away from us. The air was really cold now and we began to draw our jackets closer to ourselves, and putting on our caps and shawls. As we stepped out of the hotel, we noticed a crowd of tourists. We tried to find out the reason and were equally excited to find monkeys lined up on a low wall along the hotel’s exterior. Many tourists were buying grams and peanuts to especially offer them to the monkeys, who greedily grabbed everything and swallowed them. We could see the peanut shaped and gram shaped lumps below their cheeks, where they stored the food to chew on it later. But we were really amused to see a chocolate shaped lump when a little monkey swallowed a piece offered by my brother.

 

My aunt, whom we call Inja, is the mother of two married children, but she was our favourite because she liked to try out everything that our parents told us not to! So with her we could eat the raw juicy mangoes that were being sold in baskets, sliced fresh and sprinkled with salt and red pepper powder, fresh startlingly orange carrots fresh from the hills that were so crunchy and crisp and sweet, sliced starfruit that is so typical of Kerala, fresh roasted corn and chikkis. Soon we were in the car driving off. After a while I saw some great big shadows looming overhead that is when I realized those were mountains! But none of us had expected the view that was ahead of us. Now, half an hour later, just when we were getting to get a bit bored, suddenly,  without any warning,  the landscape began to change! At first the land became soft and fertile, and then we saw some plants, and soon there was an ocean of those plants. Blankets of green velvet covered the entire hillside. I had never seen such smooth velvety green grass ever before. I felt not even in my painting could I ever make such a beautifully smooth green hillside.   When I asked which plant it was, I was told these were the famous tea estates of Munnar. The hills were tea plantations. We stopped and  got down from the car to enjoy the view . There was a cold wind blowing and though back home in the village, the weather had been extremely hot, just four hour drive uphill had us shivering in cold and rain. We bought some warm roasted corn, thanks to Inja and looked around to find several men with cameras offering to click our photos. I wanted to give it a try. I was given a scarf to wear around my head that made me look like a tea picker . I laughed to see my photographs. I looked like a real tea picker from the hills. Then somebody told us that at a ten minutes’ distance, there was an echo point with horse riding, too. My brother and I were very excited. We started to run the moment we heard that. We reached quite soon, but the rest of the family came plodding behind. First, we went to the Echo point. Once we all were together, we all had a go at shouting out our names as loud as we could and hear it echo. Then we went for the horse riding.  I was so excited that I did not notice the extremely strong foul smell until my brother told me. Then I noticed that indeed a strong smell seemed to be coming out of the ground. I looked around puzzled and then realized that I was about to stamp in a huge puddle of horse poo. And there was an awful lot of it. We giggled and pinched our noses, as the stench was unbearable. But we still queued up to ride the horses. When it was our turn, my brother suddenly became scared and though I was scared too, I had to pretend to be brave so that we could get to ride the horse. As we both sat trembling on the horseback, my brother held me so tightly I could hardly breathe. But seeing that the horse was being led by a boy almost our age, we felt encouraged and began to enjoy the ride. Soon we had forgotten about the smell and by the time the horse turned back, we pleaded to be allowed to take one more round.

 

It was now getting dark and the family decided that we must turn back before it became too dark to see our way, for the hills are covered in deep darkness once evening falls. So we made our way back to the car and instantly dozed off, so tired we had been. But when I heard a loud honking of a truck, I woke up with a start and asked if we had come to the waterfall that I had missed in the morning. The family laughed and said that I will certainly see it. I kept waiting and asking every so often that everyone was fed up, but I really did not want to miss the magnificent waterfall everyone had been talking about when I had dozed off in the morning. When I felt that I no longer would see it, my cousin pulled up the car and I heard a deafening noise in the darkness. I jumped up with joy, realizing that it was the big waterfall. But there was only an inky darkness outside and we could not even see each other, leave alone seeing the waterfall down a mountain. But slowly, as we inched closer to the spot, we heard voices and then some mobiles and then, a car passed and everybody cried out together in astonishment as the waterfall shone marvelously in the headlight of the car. Then my cousin put on our car’s headlights too and I saw the most amazing and majestic waterfall come thundering down the mountains. Now I was fully satisfied and came back to the car and slept soundly, happy to reach home.

 

Niharika Rajesh

Std V B

AVM Juhu