From a conversation(in malayalam) during a bicycle ride to Munnar –
Villager – Ningal Munnarilekku cycle chavittukayano? (Are you cycling to Munnar?)
Cyclist – Athe athe (Yes! yes! )
Villager – Ningal adipoli! (You guys are awesome!)
Awesomeness aside, what is it that the hill station Munnar has in store for cyclists you ask?
Standing a 1500+ meters above sea level, with a cooler climate compared to the Keralan coast, conquering the tea carpeted mighty mountains of western ghats on pedal power give you a sense of achievement.
If you love cycling in mountains and you are in Kerala, Munnar is a must to be explored on a bike.
Lets take a virtual ride through Munnar, Kerala and you can see for yourself.
The starting point of the ride is the foothills of western ghats, near the small town of Neriamangalam, along side rubber and pineapple plantations. With an easy start and few downhills to begin with, we get to warm up our legs before slowly hitting the climbs. We cycle through a forested section with bamboo groves and tall trees on one side.
If you are cycling during monsoon or just after, you are welcomed by little waterfalls on the way. Stop by and wash your face and feet in this chilled water flowing from the mountains.
A short break at the waterfalls and voila! You are completely refreshed and ready to hit more climbs leading towards Munnar.
Along the way you can see and experience, the Periyar River deep in the valley, a hydro-electric project, churches, a basket weaving community settlement from neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu, water gushing out through one or more open sluice gates of Kallarkutty dam (if you are biking in August) and few toddy shops serving spicy curries with tapioca. Toddy is a locally brewed alcohol made from coconut or palm flower bud sap. You have to try it when here to know why it is popular in these parts!
Soon you will reach Chithirapuram and that is when you will say “Wow! This is so beautiful.” This is the first stretch of tea plantation that you see. Munnar town is just 6 km away from here.
Munnar is culturally very different from other parts of Kerala. It has a predominant Tamil culture due to the settlement of migrants from Tamil Nadu who came here to work in the plantations.
The story is that the British found it very hard to get people from Kerala to work in tea plantations, so they finally brought in people from Tamil Nadu who where ready to do the hard work and this changed the landscape of Munnar!
To this day, the women from these communities pluck the tea leaves in the estates here while the men work in tea factories that process the leaves. The town of Munnar is quite small and it is packed with people and shops. When in Munnar, you can visit tea museum and learn about the history of Munnar – which is intertwined with that of tea.
Another place you can visit is establishment called Srishti. Srishti was started by TATA group to rehabilitate the physically and mentally challenged children of tea plantation workers.
But hey wait, the ride to Munnar is not complete without cycling to Top Station. A steady climb that takes you to an altitude of 2000 m and to the highest point in Kerala.
If you wish to ride and explore this beautiful part of Kerala by bicycle, be sure to check out the link provided here.
With this third and final post, this series of blog posts that describe Dibin’s dream cycling tour route through Kerala now comes to an end. You can read the first part about cycling Fort Kochi here and the second part about cycling the backwaters of Kerala here.
If you are considering cycling through Kerala, feel free to write to Dibin our Kerala and Sri Lanka bike tour expert classic(at)artofbicycletrips(dot)com for inputs. Cheers!