So, we arranged a car to Goa airport (in good time, this is me we’re talking about after all) for our flight to Fort Kochi. The security people rather annoyingly decided to confiscate my camping lighter which was rather annoying – in fact that reminds me, I need to buy a replacement…
Our Flight took a slightly circuitous route via Chennai, so essentially we went all the way across India to the east side, so we could then head back across to the west coast. For some reason this was the cheapest way to do it.
On a a note about Chennai airport, quite nice and has western amenities (if you suddenly have a craving for chips) and it also seemed that we’d timed it quite well – a day or so after we were there the whole place was flooded and the airport was shut.
We got to Kochi airport late in the evening and were picked up by a car from the hotel that we’d pre-booked. We’d known that it was going to be a long day and that we’d be heading up to the hills and some potentially interesting accommodation so we thought we’d go somewhere we knew would be nice.
Hence the Courtyard Kochi Airport Hotel – a Marriott that was absolutely lovely, an oasis of order and calm in the face of India’s general chaos. We had a massive room with a shower larger than some whole hotel rooms I’ve stayed in in the UK and a bed you could lose a family in, all for about 60 quid a night. Also it was literally 100m from the airport so very handy. Katy had food poisoning so it was straight to bed in preparation for the next day.
I got up and took advantage of the free big breakfast (katy was still off colour) and then repacked everything in preparation for the next few days.
We were off to the tea plantations in Munnar, up in the hills of the Western Ghats, a drive of about 3 hours for which we’d arranged a car to pick us up from the hotel first thing in the morning. We ended up paying 50 quid for both ways (with a few days between) which was reasonable, but you could get a better deal by haggling as we later found out.
We stayed in a place called Eco Tones Munnar, a really green and eco friendly set of huts/chalets in the forest with an attached restaurant/canteen place. You really are in the middle of the forest.
It’s a really nice place where the staff are really friendly, the rooms are really good (though with no A/C, but you don’t really need it in the hills) and part of the costs include dinner and breakfast in a buffet style (including all the Tea you could want, even though it’s generally Masala tea..) all authentic Keralan cuisine which is, shall we say, varied – as in some of it is delicious and some of it is bizarre. Try it all though.
All the rooms are named after birds, ours was the Malabar Trogon.
On the afternoon that we arrived we went on a walking tour around the area, had a little paddle in a nearby pond, saw some horrifying spiders and got some leeches attached to us – but it was beautiful!
The following day we had a full day tour around the area in 4x4s taking in the amazing scenery, it really does look as mad as it does in the pictures, sweeping green mountains and hills, precipitous cliffs and narrow roads.
You can be driving along the road with perfect visibility and then you go around a corner and climb 10 metres and you’re all of a sudden in fog so dense you can’t see more than 15 feet and the temperature drops by 10 degrees. Then you either climb out of it into the sun or drop back out of it, it’s kind of surreal.
We finished the day off at the Munnar tea museum where you see all about how it is turned from leaves into the Tea we all know about from Tescos – even PG tips generally comes from here.
There was a national park nearby which held a lot of local wildlife, we arranged a trip there from Munnar. It was a bit of a drive, but worthwhile.
We were assigned a guide (who from the smell of his breath had already partaken of his morning whisky) to walk us around the park. We saw a bunch of wildlife, including wild elephants in the distance but not up close unfortunately.
After a chilled evening, we arranged our car back to Fort Kochi itself.