Sunrise Over Tea Estates in God’s Own Country

In November 2016, our trip to Kerala was a wonderful distraction from a series of major events that took place that month — we were witness to the initial chaos caused by demonetisation that had just been announced in India, were asked to comment on the “surprising” U.S. election results (that were announced on the same day as demonetisation), and experienced first hand Delhi’s deteriorating air quality amidst the worst air pollution in its history caused by burning of crops in neighboring states.

Empty Agra Expressway and toll booth in the initial days of demonetisation — I have never seen an empty road in India…let alone a highway that connects the Capital to one of the seven wonders of the world!

Kerala was a wonderful experience — we visited Munnar and its beautiful tea plantations, took an elephant ride and tour of the spice gardens, enjoyed a Kathakali classical dance performance, cruised on the famed backwaters of Kumarakom, lay on hammocks to catch the beautiful dawns and dusks, and swam in clear, meandering pools to shake off the heat.

My favorite part of the trip was a jeep safari to the top of a mountain in Munnar, that only my husband and I went on, to catch the sunrise over the tea plantations. The best (and the worst) events in life are rarely planned – they mostly catch you unawares. And so my husband and I sat in the jeep at 4am to start our 1.5 hour journey towards Kolukkumalai, the highest tea estate in the world, not knowing that there was practically no road, and it would be a 1.5 hours of rickety, bum and back shattering ride to the top!

But we made it, and watching the sun come up above the horizon, over the tea plantation, above cloud level, remains one of the most beautiful travel experiences of my life.

Tea estates of Munnar from Kolukkumalai

We spent a good amount of time on top of the tea estate clicking pictures and were about to head back, when we ran into a group of young folks, probably in their twenties, heading over with their guide/driver from the other side of the mountain. They urged us excitedly to head in the direction they had come from and to not miss seeing the tiger’s head before we left. So we told our guide that we wanted to see it too. He took us there but wasn’t too thrilled about this idea and we could soon see why. Viewing the “tiger’s head” , essentially a rock carved as the head of a tiger, involved dangerous navigation through narrow ledges and steep rocks and the actual tiger’s head, while gorgeous, was a straight fall down the mountain incase of any mishap.

Tiger’s Head at sunrise in Munnar, Kerala

We made it back safely, and were glad to experience this beautiful sight, but in hindsight I feel that the walk to see the tiger’s head was an unnecessary risk that we took — just the gorgeous sunrise over the tea estate was sufficiently worth our early morning tortuous ride.

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