Sunday, January 07, 2007

Picking Cardamom from Munnar Plantation

On first sight it seems tea is the only crop at Munnar. But there are several other crops including cardamom, strawberry and several rare fruits. There are also several locations in Munnar that are not actively promoted as tourist spots. Having an insider friend at places like Munnar Hill Station helps, because we were able to see places that will otherwise be shut before us and enjoy doing things about which we are completely ignorant.

On this trip we were taken to a cardamom plantation, right at the harvesting days. The women who were at work at the cardamom plantation told us how to identify ripe and unripe fruits and methods of collecting them. The inflorescence appears towards the base of the plants and one has to sit down to collect the fruits.

Though not a highly skilled of challenging task, being able to actually collect 'queen of spices' is a real experience that a visitor like me would never like to forget.

Drying plucked cardamom in special chamber is another technology. Firewood is burned outside a chamber and heat transmitted to inside the chamber with the help of big perforated iron pipes.

Just one instance, there are also several fruits like 'seemakathiri', which has seeds like that of passion fruit and tastes great, but not like any other fruit I have eaten till date. When plucked from tree, it feels like straight out of refrigerator. I think people here hardly require fridge or other items, except maybe to prepare ice-cream.

This is also place to find great strawberry. Strawberry juice, they say is ideal combination for booze.

Munnar, the Misty Hill Station of Kerala

Stumbling across a post at Kerala Journal, I thought I should rekindle my lovely blog that I call Kerala Traveler.

I will post about my second trip to Munnar hill station Kerala. It happened a few months back in September, 2006. My diary was lost on the return journey, which had many significant names.

I think Munnar Hill Station is the only hill station in Kerala that can be said to be a misty hill station. There is a hill station in Thiruvananthapuram (Ponmudi Hill Station), which can't be termed misty.

Yeah, I like mist. The mist that covers the whole area and leaves us chilled.

A few of my friends and I decided to celebrate Onam at Munnar, with our close friend Sekar, whose house is adjacent to a tea estate owned by TATA Tea. We have several friends from Munnar. These are guys and gals who come to different colleges in Thiruvanthapuram for higher studies.

The main aim of this trip was to see NEELAKURINJI, a special flower that blooms once in 12 years. It is a wonderful sight to see whole hills turning purple. The flowers bloom in abundance. On a distant look one will feel the hill is covered with a purple blue blanket.

It was real great to see the flowers, but we were devoid of a standard camera to arrest all the beauty of this flower.

Raja Malai, the place of Eravikulam National Park is the place to watch Neelakurinji. People visiting Munnar this season are double-lucky. They can see at hands reach the famous Neelakurinji flowers and Nilgiri Tahr, a very rare species of antelope.

Almost all the visitors to Munnar Hill Station are people from Kerala itself. We failed to find any one from outside the state to this picturesque and most pleasant hill station in central Kerala.

The aim of my first visit was to see Nilgiri Tahr, second one to see Neelakurinji. It was really not a pleasure seeing neelakurinji close. It was like a relief. I took the decision to once see neelakurinji in bloom when it last bloomed while I was a school kid. Yeah, I took the decision to visit Munnar when the blue flower is in full bloom while I was 12 years old.

On seeing the flowers and being able to touch the flowers and to smell the scent-less flower (or was it nausea), I felt like I have achieved something. At the moment I also have got the strong feeling that everything I dreamt of is achievable in my life. My visit to Munnar Hill Station took a metaphysical turn. It always will be.

Just like our first visit to this place, this time too we got accommodation (and food) at my friend Sekar's home. Thank you Sekar, your papa and sis. Tell your mamma I missed her.
Having a friend at a place like Munnar Hill Station has many other advantages too. I will write about the adventures at Munnar on another post.