As the weather gets warmer, the locals head for the hill stations, so to escape the heat of the Indian summer we followed suit (following locals is also good when you don't know which way the exit is, when you need to cross a busy road and when you want to find a decent street food stall) and headed to Munnar, a hill station in Kerela. We hopped on a local bus in Madurai and as we were the first on the bus we managed find a bit of space for our backpacks. If you're not first on a local bus, be prepared to have to stand up and wear your backpack, or squeeze onto a seat with it. The bus to Munnar wasn't that bad at all - the seats weren't broken, it wasn't too crowded, and we had a window that opened. As you get close to Munnar the landscape changes from dry desert, to lush green tea plantations, and the bus winds its way through tea fields where women are busy picking.
Munnar is a beautiful little hill station, and it's really easy to get around on foot. Auto rickshaw's are an easy (and faster) option - and you might even get the driver who will play the only English song he has - Effiel 65's Move Your Body - at full volume. We took a rikshaw to a cluster of guesthouses a short walk away from Munnar in Old Munnar and settled on a room at Greeview Cottage. If you're ever in Munnar you have to stay there. It's worth the R50 extra (than another similar room) because it has the best hot shower you'll have in India. The only (slightly odd) downside is that there were no plugs in the room. We were hardly using our iPhone's (and you can charge them at internet cafe's which Munnar does have!) and my travel buddy's camera battery was charged so luckily this wasn't too much of a problem - just a bit weird.
After we had settled in we headed into town to get some lunch before heading to the Tata Tea Museum. If you've ever traveled to India you'll know what their museums are like. If you haven't, don't worry, you're not missing much. Most museums are a room with a random collection of items, with really vague descriptions, and it's all a bit chaotic. Indian people take pictures of everything (including you!) and tend to be over excited and loud. They also have no concept of personal space and common courtesy - they will stand right in front of you when you're trying read something, take a picture, or just chatting to your travel buddy. You kinda get used to it and find yourself doing the same after a while. A short film runs every half an hour which is kinda cool as it talks about the history of the region. It then turns into a propaganda film for Tata - the multinational conglomerate who own most of the tea plantations in Munnar, as well as make cars, computers, phones, food, chemicals, hotels and everything else under the sun. You'll get to know the name Tata and the Tata Nano if you backpack around India. The museum was a bit underwhelming, as things often are in India. After seeing a few museums you really appreciate that you live in a city with an awesome museum and make a mental note to visit when you get home. We headed back to our guesthouse, stopping to buy a ton of chocolate (it's made locally and is cheap) on the way and got a got an early night.
It was really hard to get out of bed the next morning when our alarm went off at six, but we quickly hopped up and into our trekking gear knowing that there was hot tea waiting for us downstairs. We met our guide and headed out into the chilly morning. We treked through one of the (hundreds and hundreds) of tea plantations to the top of a mountain for breakfast, and standing on the top of this mountain all you can see is tea. After breakfast we trekked down the mountain and through the wild jungle stopping to see wild spices, taste a cocoa bean in it's rawest form, and to play with a super hyper puppy, named puppy. Towards the end we came across a tree house and scuttled up the flimsy, hand made ladder to have a look of the view over the valley. It sure was scary getting up there, but the view was incredible. At the end of the trek out guide took us to his home for lunch (lunch is usually between 3-4 in the afternoon in India) which was one of the most amazing meals - home cooked by his family - that I've ever had. We hopped into a jeep that would take us back to our guesthouse and in true Indian style my travel buddy and I sat in the back with a bunch of coconuts It was a bumpy ride!