After a restful night, fantastic breakfast and a breezy checkout from Hotel Hemala we embarked on our drive to Munnar. We exited Karur in a few minutes and once again were on the highway. The road was fantastic till just beyond Dindigul.
As we approached Batlagundu we slowed down and the half hour we took to cross Batlagundu was terrible – broken roads and lots of haphazard traffic. The section near the bus stand is pathetic. I wish they would have a bypass for this section. We then saw the mountains appearing closer. We have driven this section in the past on our trips to Kodaikanal. Although narrow, the roads are good and most of the traffic is sane. We passed Eden Gardens – the place we stopped for coffee on our drive to Kodai (for my wedding). We fondly looked at the right turn that would have taken us to Kodaikanal, but continued straight down.
The road got narrow and a bit worse beyond this with some unlaid sections especially near Periyakulam.
We bypassed Theni and went past Bodi to finally take the turn that started the climb to Munnar. The hills were no longer part of the background – they were all around us. The surroundings got more lush green and tall trees were on one side and a steep drop on the other. The Xcent struggled at times to find the right gear. I had to coax it to downshift on some sections and to overtake. But I loved the way it hugged the winding curves and took the hairpin bends. We could feel the temperature drop.
I found that Kerala bus drivers didnt care about you and probably didnt realise they had brakes on their vehicles. Thankfully there always seemed enough space for us to continue. We were also amused seeing autorickshaws chugging along the road!
The scenery slowly gave way to mesmerizing views of the valleys and the tea estates – miles and miles of fresh green, manicured tea plantations that were breath taking. This was the best part of the drive. There were a couple of view points and we stopped amidst some greenery for short photo ops. The air felt fresh and light. Work, buildings, dust roads, deadlines and projects were now a distant memory as our minds went into complete vacation mode.
Dark clouds gathered and a light drizzle hit us as we reached Chinnakanal after 2 PM. The drive was awesome and I never wanted it to stop. But then we couldnt possibly drive and drive and drive without food could we! We decided to take a break and have lunch at Club Mahindra. Would the weather let us down?