Kollukumalai – The highest organic tea estate in the world.
That definition sealed it for me. I like highest, I love anything organic and I cannot start my day without a good cup of tea 🙂 The icing on the cake was camping on a peak, a bone-breaking jeep ride through breath-taking landscape and just spending time with some of my favourite people in the mountains.
Raj spent a lot of time planning this trek. Our guide, Velu Sir and Raj spoke everyday for a week to zero-in on the route. We wanted to do a lot – Trek up, camp, drive through Munnar, visit the Organic Tea estate and trek down.
The trip started with a few glitches when the TT (Tempo Traveler – Our vehicle for this trip) guy ditched us last minute. The planned depature from Bangalore got pushed from 7:30 PM to 12:00 AM. While we all got into the TT at different pick up points, some known and some unknown faces, we all knew that by the end of trek we would all go back knowing a lot more about each other.
We reached Bodi Town around 8ish in the morning. We repeated the drill – check-in to a dingy lodge to freshen up, grab some breakfast at a local breakfast place, pick up grocery for cooking at night, distribute weight and pack all bags, wear your best trek shoes and board the TT to Kurangini, base of the mountain we were to climb.
There was some mention of a flowing river 2kms from our starting point, and so we all walked in anticipation till we found this little pool nestled in the woods. One dip here and I was refreshed to the extent of staying there and trying to swim. Even spotting a baby snake (I am very scared of snakes) did not stop me from trying to swim. I did OK initially and managed to go to the other end where the natural jacuzzi was. The return journey turned awry with me forgetting to swim and my dear friend Abhi letting me drown because he couldn’t stop laughing 🙂 Luckily the shore was close by and one push from Abhi and I lived.. That was a scary and in retrospect funny incident. (I hope my mom doesn’t read this).
The steep climb started here and stayed steep till the fag end. The 9 km stretch was covered in 6 hours. Through the climb, we could see the zigzag path of Kollukumalai behind us, the path we were to descend through. The mountains surprised us at various turns painting yet another beautiful picture of unique landscapes. Some stretches were green while some had shades of brown and red, some stretches had boulders but one thing accompanied us throughout – The lemongrass. The refreshing fragrance of lemongrass was in the air and if we needed more, we plucked out a leaf and rubbed it a little. No boutique soap or shampoo with lemongrass in it even comes close to matching the sensorials of this leaf in its natural habitat.
We found a small patch of plateau land and decided to pitch our tents there. Again, we went through the drill – 1 group goes to fetch water, 1 group to get wood and hay, one group starts pitching tents and one more starts cooking. Our guide became a part of our group here, cooking with us, advising us on how long we should fry the rava for, how long we should saute the veggies for etc. 🙂 Some of them decided to star gaze after dinner while I decided to call it a night, a decision I regretted later because the moonrise was apparently rare and gorgeous.
The best part of camping is the morning amidst mountains. That feeling when you zip open your tent and peep your head out and feel the coolness in the air and look at clouds around you, step your bare feet on wet grass… stretch… and breathe… Perfect mornings are made of such moments isn’t it?
We packed up our tents and our sleeping bags, cleaned the area and started the climb to Top Station. We gate crashed into a house and they gladly took us in 🙂 The lady of the house made tea for us followed by helping us with Maggi! We walked around the area and met these little girls who climbed trees to pluck guava for us. Sweetest gesture ever. This is where I met a horse who was so friendly and warm. We spent time chatting with the horse, feeding him/her and just being together.
A small climb and we found road. 14 of us got into 1 jeep and managed a 35km drive through ghats and tea estates of Munnar. Yes, we had crossed borders from Tamil Nadu to Kerala to complete a full circle back to Tamil Nadu. The drive through Munnar tea estates was a beautiful one and almost all of us took turns to stand on the side of the jeep, and feel the wind in our hair. Isn’t it a lovely way to experience Munnar?
Another 20kms and we reached Suryanelli where we had a quick lunch before boarding 2 jeeps, to go through the 10 kms of bumpy roads leading us to the peak of Kollukumalai Tea Estate. This road trip was 10 times prettier than the previous one. Absolutely no vehicles, tea estates for as far as you could see and pleasant weather made this journey absolutely unforgettable.
One cup of organic tea later we started the descent through the zigzag paths of Kollukumalai. We played this word game called Cows and Bulls without realising how quickly we had completed 1/3rd of the trek. The next piece was really quick too and I had to jog at quite a few places to keep up with this really fast trekking group! We shared stories, spoke about the mountains and the treks we should plan in the future and dreamt about them and before we knew it we were at the base village again.
I feel, the beauty of the mountains can be experienced best when you become one with them, when the mountain becomes your home, the dry wood your kitchen, the grass your bed and the starry sky your roof. To more such days and nights 🙂
Location: Top Station and Kollukumalai, Tamil Nadu.
Date: Oct 15-16, 2016
Cost: Rs. 3250/-
Organiser: Intrepid Hikers (us :))
Guide: Velu Sir – +91 94471 94186