Munar Tea Plantations, India
During the month of May I will revisit the photographs from my trip to India. I took over 3,000 photographs on my month-long trip in December 2012, and finally I am getting around to posting some of them!
First stop is Munar, the beautiful and shapely hills of tea plantations in the south of India. I rented a motorbike with my girlfriend (she took a little convincing) and alongside some newly made friends from Germany, braved both the heat and cold of the mountains.
Once outside the busy streets of the town of Munar itself, traffic was more relaxed, and the view spectacular! Tea bushes are pruned to English garden perfection, their cell-like structures coiling through gullies and up the slopes of the hills. I was surprised to find eucalyptus forests breaking up the vibrant green of the tea plantations – a sight, and a smell, transporting me to the Australian south coast.
It was so warm in the valley that morning that I had departed with only a t-shirt, but now high in the mountains I froze as I rode through the clouds themselves. The wind picked up at this altitude and I could see the white wisps washing through the trees. At the summit we pulled over to seek refuge with an Indian family who had stopped to build a fire beside the road. They didn’t speak English at all, so we could only offer plenty of smiles as we wedged our way into their group.
Down the mountain and into the next valley, my blood began to run again and we turned off the main road to explore a little village. I guess the townsfolk don’t get visitors that often with the way they stopped their work to stare at us. Again, no one spoke English, so it was with big gestures and smiles that we interacted with some kids who were hanging out their laundry on the best clothesline possible: floating across the top of the tea bushes themselves. A kindly looking old lady stopped to give me some fruit and pause for a photograph, as did another man carrying a giant blue loudspeaker.
My most striking memory of that day was watching workers build the road by hand high up in the mountains. Torrents of thick black smoke gushed from the furnace heating the tar, to which women dumped baskets of gravel scooped up and carried on their heads. All wearing flip-flops.
Distances in India often end up being much further than they appear on a map, given the dense traffic, livestock and just general hazards in whatever form you can think of. We finally found a waterfall that we should have, according to our “not to scale” map, encountered half a day earlier, and, since the light was fading, declared that we had successfully reached our destination. The truth was, we never had a destination in mind. With perfect, endless rolling green hills like those in Munar, you’re just there for the drive.