A thought on life and meaningful travel from the world’s highest tea estate.
It was an old Tamil song playing in the stereo. I tried catching up with the lyrics while gripping my hand in the rustic front door of the old Mahindra jeep, going steadfastly through the curved roads of Munnar with the backdrop of tea estates. It felt like travelling back in time for a moment.
This time I’m not here to take the usual commercial tourist places. My first camping experience. I’m done with the resort and hotel stays overlooking the mountains and the irresponsible commercial tourism they are offering. I need something meaningful which I could cherish when I look back, a little voice in my head was in deep conversation with me while
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It was past 5 when we reached the base of the Kolukkumalai peak. Niyaz welcomed us with a warm smile. Our backpacks were shifted to another jeep, and I made myself comfortable in the side seat expecting not to miss any view. Though the uphill trail looked easy, our bums found bouncing on the seats once we started the ascent. I clenched my life to the holding bar to not be thrown away from the jeep while it battled to climb the muddy road.
The bone breaking adventurous ride of 7kms was worth enough to find the abode – Black Eagles Camp – nestled amidst the shades of green with the backdrop of mighty Kolukkumalai peak. There was a wooden shack, like in the dreams with lanterns hanging on the margined outline on the top of world’s highest tea estate. And before me unfolded the endless view of the green tea gardens and mountains inked in the blue of the evening sky.
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I found a moment of transcendence. It wasn’t happiness. But a blissful state of slowly melting into the eternity of nature.
“Your tent is ready”, a voice shook me back to my senses.
“2nd-row 2nd tent”, Kevin said showing us the tents in the three rows. I slowly tucked into the tent where a sleeping bag was waiting for me inside, wondering how lucky are they who wake up to this magical misty green every day.
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The pitch black of the night sky looked faded in the shimmering brightness of the young moon. We found our comforts for dinner around the warmth of the campfire with a jamming section by Charles. The biting cold didn’t let me stay long to enjoy the sky leaving me to find my comfort inside the sleeping bag.
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The 5 AM wake-up call devoted me to an endless love affair with the dark sky devoid of clouds and left with zillions of stars. When was the last time I had seen so many stars, I tried waking up my memory being half asleep. I wished to stay there long stargazing and finding constellations. But it was time for the hike to catch up the sunrise.
The poking cold came to terms with me as my body temperature increased with the uphill trail. My hamstrings started calling out for a break as it is not used to. I had to push myself to witness the sunrise from the peak.
Ending the last ascend panting, I crashed myself on the mountain ridge with deep cliffs on both the sides. I stayed there in awe dripped in the golden shower of the rising sun on one side of the cliff and a rolling carpet of green tea gardens on the other end.
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In no time the rising sun before me got wrapped in a trance of fog. The same mountain where I witnessed
The downhill trail found easy when hunger crawled up from the stomach to hit the hypothalamus in the brain. After a delicious breakfast from the camp, we choose to hike down the 7km instead of the bumpy jeep ride back to the base.
I felt the stones rolling beneath my feet while trekking down the hill through the narrow alley with beautifully arranged tea gardens around. I carefully found my grip on the hands of the tea plant. The mid sun was fast approaching, but the temperature stayed calm to sink with the green around. On the way down, a picturesque waterfall was placed like straight out from a painting with a small temple adjacent to it.
We continued walking through the plain topography to reach the village where the tea estate workers lived. Life seems simple there with small single-roomed houses and stationery shops running inside the limited space of the rooms. As I contemplated their life, Niyaz said that the younger generation of these workers is shifting to townships for higher studies and a better life.
What an irony! Some people like me come here seeking a better life, and some go from the same so-called heaven seeking a better life.
“He realized that paradise is just the place where your heart belongs.”Shivya Nath
So who else is backpacking to the world’s highest tea estate?
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