What a contrast it was to leave the hot dry desserts of Syria and Jordan and arrive at the green lush monsoon laden Kerala. This is my sixth time in India, but first time during monsoon.
After a 33-day panchakarma therapy in Ernaculam, I came to Munnar, an established tea plantation 100 miles from Kochi. The green mountains, waterfalls, banana trees and diverse variety of birds reminds me of certain parts of Brazil, like the mountains near Rio and the South part of Minas Gerais. The maximum elevation is about 9,000 feet (3,000 meters) offering a good respite from the heat at sea level in Kerala.
Besides tea, a wide variety of herbs also grow here: cardamon, vanilla beans, coffee, cocoa, turmeric, curry, sandalwood, just to mention a few. It is also a good place for jungle honey bee nests.
There are lots of hiking trails and Wildlife Sanctuaries (Chinnar) , waterfalls, spice farms, tea factories, sandalwood forest, elephants, and a tea museum to visit, everything within a 30 miles radius.
The city of Munnar has a vibrant fruit and vegetable market, and the streets are filled with stores selling tea, natural oils, creams, spices and home made chocolate, not to mention the restaurants serving delicious South Indian food. This is definitely a good place to rest.
Tea plants were brought to India from China by the British who started the plantations here in Munnar. When they left, Tata Motors, the Indian car company took over. They have a 99-year lease in the area surrounding Munnar. The hills are designed with tea plants for miles and miles. It looks like a huge green carpet covering the mountains. Unfortunately, most of the tea is not grown organically.
I went on a tour at the Biovalley Herbal Garden, an organic spice farm. 10 miles from town. I was so happy to see my favorite spices growing on trees: vanilla beans, cardamon, turmeric... I was very inspired to be in a 40-acres farm housing thousands of plants grown organically.
The rain some days is relentless; a good time to read, catch up with films on HBO and reminisce on the rainless Sahara desert I visited not long ago. I cannot help but smile in awe at the beauty of our planet!