Trekking for Tuition
As the bus pulls through another winding corner you can see the hills rise up into the sky. The lush green of the slopes is breathtaking, and each perfectly manicured tea tree is part of the jigsaw that provides this part of the world not only with its beauty, but its livelihood.
We have ascended into the hills of Munnar! After spending the last 8 or so hours travelling on a bus we are relieved and excited to get here. The journey up is both a wonderful and stomach churning experience (depending on the curry you had last night).
So far we have stopped for a traditional Keralan breakfast of Chai and Dosa. Everyone is still a little sleepy here and our usual energetic team is looking a little lethargic. A few pics of the giant paper thin pancake and of course stuffing it all down with a glass of Chai were off again.
Passing past waterfalls and dodging the oncoming traffic by mere cm’s is all part of the journey. A stop for lunch in Munnar town and of courses some of its legendary homemade chocolate. We then find ourselves at a Dye making factory which employs and trains disabled people in the art of dying and printing garments. Silk scarf’s, shawls, dresses and paper are coloured and designed into some of the most amazing pieces I have ever seen. They are incredible and we can’t help purchase a few pieces at factory cost!
Finally we reach the camp; we unload the bags and start a walk through the local village which is right in the heart of the tea plantations. As we are given some info on the product that makes this place, we then cross over a stone which tells us we have crossed into the next state, Tamil Nadu. As the group passes around the corner you can hear the gasps and wows from the back of the line and you that something amazing awaits, it was the view and it did not disappoint.
Nestled at the top of the mountain valley the campsite is basic, a single toilet a cooking and storage shed, with a few tables and chairs. It’s far more than we need, and with this view anything else would spoil the serenity. The weather is distinctly colder people are running to throw on whatever they had brought with them; we are too used to the heat of the coast.
The tents are set up and tea is served, as the sun dips below the back of the mountains the purple and pinks glow over the clouds. We are sat by a fire all listening to Emily talk about… well everything! We stock up on amazing locally cooked dinner of Chicken, Potatoes and Carrots, Beetroot, Chapattis and more. Then it’s off to bed.
We are awoken in the morning, or more lay awake until morning, because of the cold and the paper thin mattress’s most didn’t get a lot of sleep. A cup of tea awaits and were off to do our morning walk. We have just watched the sun come up and it was so beautiful, standing above the clouds watching the sun break over really makes you feel small.
As we make our way through the dense forest we have had to leave a couple of members behind not feeling too well from the cold, but I’m sure they will come good. The walk takes us up a steep path right on the edge of the cliff were we learn some info about the local area. The guide points out the fence that is designed to stop elephants coming across as well as letting us know that these are markings from leopards!!! It brings us to the top of the mountain with another spectacular view. We are looking across to the second highest peak in Asia (Meeshapulima). At this point we are looking forward to breakfast so we head back down through the tea plantations back to camp.
Breakfast with porridge, chicken, beetroot and an assortment of fresh fruits is the perfect start to the day and of course some tea. Now were off for the trek, as we make our way through the village and out to the road along the tea plantations it’s not long until we have our first close encounter with the wildlife. A 2 ½ metre rat snake sunning itself of the slope of the plantations, so camouflaged we could have stood on it. As we all kept our distance the guides went in for a closer look, after having enough of us staring at it. It lifted itself up turned and darted away back into the cover of the tea plantations.
Walking along the road we had amazing view of the tea covered hills winding around and around endlessly. When we reached top station we met our new guide and of course had a cup of tea. With everyone back on board we started our descent into the forest. The rocky path takes us past local houses picking coffee beans and we are lucky enough to spot the world’s smallest parrot, just! It’s really small. Then the hills opened up and we could see across a vast array of Grassland Mountains, as well as the appropriately named Dolphin rock due to its shape.
A few pics here and it’s a continued walk down into the forest, were Guava and local plant life are thriving. Taken past and old abandoned cottage and a few that are still used for the people who pick the coffee beans in season time. We get to see some monkeys playing in the tree though it was mostly bushes being bounced around and lots of screeching. Here we hit a bit of a tuff path the earth is soft and the forest is dense, there are a few trips but everyone is up and pushing each other through. We stop at a waterfall for lunch and inspect the damage, Faen had copped a nice bruise from a slip on an earlier water crossing, and Hannah’s foot had all the colours of the rainbow in it, an injury received a few days earlier in a dancing incident! But she was determined to go on. Aside from a few more cuts and bruises we were in ok shape.
It was the perfect stop for lunch now we were refueled and refreshed with a quick dunk in the fresh water of the waterfall, and were off to make it to the top again. The journey back through the forest was a tad quieter we came out of the forest and started climbing the mountain following its windy path along the side. You couldn’t help but look down beside you and think if I slip over here I’m going to roll off the edge and there’s nothing to stop me. I will die. There were a few jokes about it, but I think it was in the forefront of everyone’s mind. When we reached the next lookout point we took a quick rest. The rest of the walk was to be a straight up climb across the tops of the mountains aiming for a point far up on the hill. We stared off well, everyone chatty and laughing, that lasted about 2 min before we were all breathing heavy, hands on heads and feeling like our quads were about to explode. With a few encouraging words from Pete we pushed on. The group which started together had slowly stretched apart as some powered ahead, and some slowed but everyone worked hard and pushed themselves. This is what it’s all about. Screams of “Doing it for the kids” help get everyone that little bit further.
We get to another point, the last part of the hike and it is one hell of a hike, we all get a last orange and a quick rest. The group is split in two some will take the hard climb some the easier route. After a long day it’s a good option. There are five of us who go the hard climb, as we say our farewells to the others the mountain looks ev
en bigger from the bottom. The start is tough the grass is higher than we are and the incline it’s huge. There are sections where you have to use the lemongrass bushes to pull yourself up. With Tina aka the gate up ahead, Emily powered on by Britney Spears Tunes, Pete and Cindy keeping pace at the back we pushed and scurried our way up the mountain, with a couple of quick stops (for pics, not like we needed to catch our breath) we made it to the top, red faces and soaking shirts a few grass cuts and dirty pants but we made it.
We met the other group at a tea shop, sat down shared Munnar’s homemade chocolate, Cashew’s and of course tea. There are shared stories, highlights of the day’s adventure. We all watched Pete clean himself with no shame using some baby wipes. Then we all packed it into the bus for the long ride home.
The trek had been a success completed by almost the whole team, which is what counts to be there together at the finish line. Having raised over 1800 Pounds to go to helping struggling families pay for tuition fees it is all definitely worth it.
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