Sunday, November 19, 2006

Magical Munnar

Tea Lady in Clouds Munnar
Originally uploaded by kathrynparry41.
Sometimes the destination doesn't even matter.

On arrival at the bus station I was shocked to be shown to the bus that would be taking me to Munnar, a hill station about 4 hours from Cochin. The bus was ancient, older than I am without windows and looked like it was about to fall apart. It was red in colour, with piles of paint peeling off and filled with local people doing their local thing.

As I fought with my luggage to negotiate the doors, eventually I made my way in and sat behind a lovely Swedish/Norwegian couple. The bus started to fill up but no one came near me and I sat in pleasure reading Shantaram and thinking about all the moments I have had in India that had lead me to this.

The seat was old and had no padding but it seemed to evoke a romanticism within me and I looked out the window and smiled. I was amazed that the journey had brought me to this point and that in 10 short days my European romp would begin in earnest.

There are so many things about India that I love; the people; the expressions and the scenery are amazing.

I remembered back to the first time in Varanasi I heard a homeless kid tell me

'No Chai you die'

'No hurry, no worry, no chicken, no curry'

'No water, No shower, full power 24 hour'

and laughed out loud at the turn of phrase that is now synomous with India for me.

I remebered back to my first day in Delhi when shopping got the better of me and I burst into tears just by going to the bazaar. How much India has changed- or is it me that has changed?

I also recalled the first conversation I had with someone that involved the questions I can now predcict at 50 paces. The conversation I have had more times than I can count.

Indian: Tell me, what is your good name?


I: Where are you from?

KP: Australia

I: Ricky Ponting?he's a good player yes?

KP: Yes

I: And tell me are you married?

KP: Yes (gesturing to my pretend wedding ring) my husband is in Australia

I: And why he leave you so beautuful to be in India alone?

KP:He has to work and he has been here before?

I:And tell me do you like India?

KP:yes? (turning to leave)

After 3 and half hours of thoughts interupted by loud honking and treacherous corners the road trip became amazing. This time when the driver sped around corners they reveled magical vistas and a fairy tale landscape rich with the lushest greens that previously I thought you could only imagine.

Munnar is a tea town and it is surrounded by tea stations and post card panoramas. The city itself is fairly drab with ramshackle roads and the usual touts, scouts and bazaars but is charming in its own way, spectacularly positioned above the clouds.

The tea stations are high and set at above 2500 meters, the next day when I hired a rickshaw I felt superhuman wandering along roads and watching the clouds weave their way around me.

When I was walking through the ambient surrounds I delighted in spotting a heard of wild elephants with their babies in the distance and realised that Munnar could be as close to heaven as I ever get. I felt completely inspired being there.

Later on at my favourite meeting place (the net cafe) I met 2 English med students called James and Ed. They were in India working in a hospital. On the discovery of their training, Ed tened to my leech bite and reassured me that I was not going to die.

Immediately, I liked them both and arranged to go out drinking with them later that night.

After drinking more than my share in a bar where I was the only women and perhaps the only women that had ever been there I headed home.

The next day I went back to the bus station and got back on the local bus to Cochin to make my way to Varkala. I was interupted by two girls in school uniforms that asked where I was from- Australia, I replied and they skipped away giggling, their long plaits waving behind them.

The trip was pleasant but the thought of travelling back to where I'd been didn't imbue the same type of magic it had when I was on the bus the first time, destination unseen. And then a little more of India's magic hit me and I relaised that it is when we feel we are moving forward that we can really understand the past and everything that happened until that point.

The trip back to Cochin seemed to take forever and I also understood that sometimes it is the destination that matters.

Epilogue- After 6 weeks in India, I fear I may be suffering from enlightenment syndrome, a condition usually effecting rainbow tourists who come to India with the mission to find themselves. It can occasionally mildly effect other more cynical travellers (like myself) who doubt it's existence and it's symptoms include to writing flowery and poetically as though the sufferer is possessed with love and inner peace.

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