2018 was the year of many things – of data breaches, of executive resignations, of political upheavals, natural disaster, of new records in Sports. For me personally, it was a year of new insecurities, never-known fears, and long days that were spent being stressed.
2018 was also the year of Neelakurinji, the flower that blooms once in 12 years. It bloomed last in 1996 & will bloom next in 2030. That’s almost two generations later when Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Bots would have become passe & Teleportation would probably be offered as a flight service by airlines. You see the window here?
Kerala Government, tourism board and local players made huge preparations to welcome & manage the tourism expected to explore Neelakurinji. And then Life happened. Kerala got submerged overnight that resulted in huge losses of resources, lives and spirit. Neelakurinji wasn’t a priority anymore. Because of incessant rains and landslides, many patches were damaged and the chances of witnessing the carpeted Neelakurinji peaks and valleys became slim.
And yet, it bloomed with full spirits wherever it found space. While they repaired the roads and network, Neelakurinji spread a little more. And before they could, tourism started flowing in.
Day 1: Meeting Munnar:
Munnar was love at first sight in 2014, then love at second sight in 2016, and subsequently in 2017 & 2018. And just like you are excited to meet a loved one, I was excited to meet Munnar after a year.
The day I landed was a crisp day with some signs of recent landslides and highway patrol that had fixed the roads as soon as it happened. There were several teams at work, for repairs and for widening the roads. It was a welcome change. And just about then, my favorite shade of Green emerged with the kind of air that I love the most – caffeinated.
Looking at the graded, stepped Tea farms makes my heart beat faster. And that day was no exception. I reached Munnar town, had a cup of Chai in one of the cafes, and went about shopping in the main market for Spices, Coconut oil, Banana and Jackfruit chips, Sandalwood items & Tea. You must shop for that too.
And then we ate in Rapsy – our favorite restaurant. Sarvana Bhawan, which is nearby Raspy, was closed for maintenance which was a bummer, because I love that place. But it gives me something to look forward to, for the next time.
Day 2: Glimpses of Neelakurinji:
This was the D-day and we have planned for an early visit to Top Station to get the first, uninterrupted view of Neel (short for Neelakurinji). The day began with some freshly steamed idli and hot from the caludron kind of fried vadas and two cups of filter coffee to go with it. On a full stomach, and breezy air, I rode all the way to the top station on Snooze mode and yet as I am writing about it, I can feel the cold on my face, the goosebumps on my skin and the ruffle in my hair.
As we reached on the top, it had become all misty and foggy. The visibility was low, but the amazement was high. With a bag full of wonder, curiosity, eagerness, I walked to the top with wide eyes, light heart & a lighter head, with a hope of better visibility. The temperature dropped as I climbed up; the winds made noisier sounds as the voices in my head got silent & before I knew it, I was atop.
70 mins. of walking around and waiting up made the Weather Gods happy, and the fog cleared up for a while. And the views were out-of-this-world.
Day 3: Kolukkumalai & Neelakurinji
It started at 4 am when I woke up to watch the Sunrise of Kolukkumalai, a hill station on the verge of Munnar and Tamil Nadu. And beyond the Sunrise lied the exclusive treasure, called Neelakurinji.
It took an hour long jeep ride and an hour long bumpy ride thereafter over the boulders and stones. Two hours & a drowsy morning later, we reached Kolukkumalai, slightly above the sky, a little below the heaven – where you could see the sky breaking into multiple bands of colors; where you could see clouds rising above so much so that you wanted to touch them.
And beyond all this, the treasure that’s called Neelakurinji- Blue, Sparse, Beautiful, Spectacular!
Day 4: Bidding Adieu
A morning with the flowers and an evening thinking about it was the best day I had. The last day, we had planned to go to Eravikulum National Park & play hide-and-seek with the flowers there. And just when I reached, they told me that the park’s closed because of impending rains. And thus ended the trip to Munnar – fulfilled yet left wanting for more until the next time in 2030