Kerala was one of the places I was most looking forward to visiting during my 10 week adventure travelling around India. I first became aware of it because it features in my Destinations of a Lifetime book by National Geographic. It's a state full of magnificent beauty and nature and upon researching it further, Munnar seemed to be one of the main areas to visit.
Munnar is incredibly lush and green. There are hills, tea plantations, trees, waterfalls, wildlife, it's away from the noise and chaos of the big cities. It sounded very much 'my cup of tea' and somewhere that I would not just enjoy personally but would also be great for my landscape photography.
I ended up having to hire an Uber to get there from Kochi, Kerala's main City, but despite it being a 3 hour journey, it was still relatively cheap (by Western standards anyway).
I deliberately booked a room which had a balcony, so that I could enjoy the view and even take photos from the comfort of my room. I was very happy when I arrived, after the crowds and the noise of Kochi and other parts of India so far, this was exactly what I was looking for.
The peace and quiet did not last long however. Not long after arriving ,some incredibly loud music started playing - who knows from where? It sounded as though it was coming directly out of the hills themselves! Despite it going on for much of the night however, I actually quite enjoyed it. It was a bit of a novelty doing landscape photography while Bollywood music is being played. You can even watch me attempt some Bollywood dancing in my previous video on YouTube.
It was the following day when things started to go wrong....
Firstly, the day began by being woken at 5:20 am by the same music being blasted again! It was quite enjoyable when I first arrived the previous night but at 5 o'clock in the morning when I was trying to sleep, the novelty had worn off! The music continued for a further 3 hours too, making it very difficult to get back to sleep.
I had managed to hire a Tuk Tuk this day, to take me to the many sites in the area, something I was very much looking forward to.
This began by driving up to Top Station, the highest tea plantation and then stopping off at the many other viewpoints on the way back down. It took an hour and a half to drive up to Top Station, which is rather a long time on beaten country tracks in a bumpy Tuk Tuk, especially if you suffer badly from motion sickness like I do; but it actually wasn't too bad - it was a bit of a novelty and quite fun.
It was rather hazy when I arrived at Top Station so I couldn't quite appreciate the view in full but it was still quite stunning looking out onto all the tea plantations in the area.
It was on the way back down from Top Station that things began to go wrong again. After a short bit of driving my Tuk Tuk driver stopped to talk to an old guy, who he eventually told me was his Grandfather. They then took me for a cup of masala tea and some sort of deep fried snack - I wasn't hungry at all and was quite sceptical about what I was eating so I ate as little as I felt I could get away with while still trying to seem grateful.
Next thing I knew I was being taken along to some random, very remote, wedding in the middle of rural India so that the bride and groom could have their photo taken with me. It seems quite bizarre to me that sat on someone's mantle piece in the middle of nowhere in India is a photo of a happy couple on their wedding day with my white cheesy grin stood next to them!
Below is a short video I posted in that moment on Instagram or you can see more of the madness in my YouTube video at the top of this page.
While it was a fun story to tell and a bit of a random experience, I really did want to see the sights I had paid to see, such as the nearby lakes and waterfalls and I soon began to notice that even after we got back into the Tuk Tuk, my driver was simply driving past everything.
I don't know if this was because it had suddenly started raining rather heavily (though that didn't stop me wanting to see stuff) or it was because my driver then started trying to persuade me to go back to his home to meet his family, saying that his wife would also cook for me.
Becoming frustrated that my driver had drove past all of the sights I had wanted to see by now and seemed more interested in parading me to his family, at this point I just wanted to go back to my hotel.
We did make one more stop at the end of the afternoon, which my Tuk Tuk driver told me was a photo point. It did offer quite nice views of one of the valleys and I did take a couple of photos.
However I think the real reason he stopped there was because it sat at some crossroads. One way led to my hotel, the other way led to my drivers home...
I went back to my hotel!
Unfortunately though, I returned just in time for the loud music to start again which had been haunting me for most of my time in Munnar and which kept me awake the previous night - I was a bit sick of it by now!
Thankfully it did stop later in the evening and did not start at the early hours of the morning. Instead I was woken at 2am the following morning by a stray dog barking incessantly for well over an hour!
There always seems to be something....
This was my last day in Munnar and after missing out on the vast majority of places I was looking forward to seeing, not being able to do as much landscape photography as I was hoping and a night of disturbed sleep again it was time for me to move on to Alleppey, home to the famous Kerala Backwaters.
Hopefully that would go better....