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Old 2nd August 2007, 13:34   #31
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Great trip report and pictures. It brought memories of 1994 when I visited Munnar. It used to be a hidden gems those days. After I came back from my trip, I told some friends about the trip and they said, "Munnar, where is that?"

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Btw, how many of you know who "sort of owns" Munnar for another 50+ years (actually on lease) ?
Isn't it Tata Tea ?
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Old 2nd August 2007, 14:00   #32
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Dad is planning to buy some land here and spend their post their retirement life.
Land is very expensive there and you have to watch out for Achumama's Bulldozers.x

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There was also a train service a long time back to Munnar that was stopped and also a ropeway which the family starting with "T" withdrew. They now hold the right to one of the most beautiful places on the country for the next few decades to come.
Top Station was actually the last stop for the 2-feet gauge railway line. The ropeway and the railwayline both became too expensive to maintain once the roads reached Munnar - both railway and ropeway were meant to transport tea from various estates and that became redundant.

The Indian Railways Photo gallery has several pictures of the defunct railway:

[IRFCA] Indian Railways Photo Gallery - Remains of Kundala Valley Railway, Munnar

Here's the extent of the Kannan Devan Hills Plantation Company:



KDHP was formed on 1st April 2005 when Tata Tea which held all the plantations decided to EXIT the plantation business. KDHP is owned 75% by Present and Former employees of Tata Tea (Munnar), 19% by the Tata Group and 6% by some sort of trust. Tata Tea now owns just the factories and not the plantations.

So its not really 'T' that owns Munnar - it used to be them and they could've held on to it for another 99 years more, but it isnt them anymore. Our belligerent Chief Minister however does not seem to understand the situation and keeps insisting that the 'Tata Company' has encroached onto public land - a questionable claim because most of the 'encroached' land has been shown to be in the custody of the REvenue Department and not Tata Tea or KDHP.
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Old 2nd August 2007, 14:22   #33
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Fantastic travelogue and nice pics. You said you took all those pics using your mobile - How did you go without a camera? A proper zoom on that white tuskar would have been great.

How I wish I can get lost in those places !!

BTW, only today, one Mr. Rahul Dubey posted his pics on the India Highways - Yahoo group on his recent visit to Munnar, Kodai, etc. The photo point of the never ending tea estate was also one of his pics.
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Old 2nd August 2007, 14:38   #34
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allrite your on mclaren my birthdays on october lets make it then shall we!yahoo finally a long drive meet i guess!

so whos starting the thread
you only heard about the illegal construction my uncle lost 50 acres and 3 buildings!
but who cares he was least bothered!
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Old 2nd August 2007, 15:20   #35
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Great writeup Rahul, "white Tusker"? Would love to come across one.
Now I know who to ask for directions to Rameswaram, am planning a visit soon.
Impeccable snaps as usual, wish I had the time and $$ to do an entire South India trip by car.
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Old 2nd August 2007, 15:44   #36
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Steer, I guess the Tata's have a 99yr lease on Munnar or sorts. Of which only some 36 odd years or so is done. Kanan Devan tea is as you mentioned a part of Tata only? Atleast their adds still carry the T symbol.

A brief history about Munnar:

Munnar means the joining of three rivers. Don't ask me for the names, I can hardly pronounce them.

Infact Kanan Devan was the name of the leader of the tribal area (most of us think its a brand name our marketing people came up with). The firangs named the place after him who led the exploration of the forests I was told. Earlier the Britisher J.Munroe leased out a part of the land from the Travancore Maharaja and decided to cultivate coffee. Since the weather was not suitable they experimented with other plants of which tea was an instant success. This trend continued until further crops like cardamom, orange, pepper etc started growing well too.

There are about 20+ estates called by various names, the workers in these estates are provided free food, acco, education for their children etc at Tata's expense. Every person who works in these plantations picking up tea leaves are paid a sum or Rs 75/- everyday. Their target set is 5kgs everyday, however astonishingly some manage to gather close to 30 times their daily target on an 8hr shift. Each persons collection is then weighed and stored until the yellow tractors come to the collection points and carry away the days proceedings. The quarters for all the workers are situated within walking distance. They are paid bonus' and are granted leave on all govt holidays and more. A nice life they seem to be having, specially from the POV of us who have lived in cities all our lives.

I did have a chance to look at the school started by the Tata's to educate the children working in their plantations. Its called "High Range School". Situated in one of the most picturesque locations and has almost all the modern facilities we find in schools I grew up in too. Save the large playground. But nature is the biggest playground that their children seem to enjoy. I had a look at their buses. The school has about 12 buses that ply in various routes picking up the school children. These buses look better than most engineering college going buses I have spotted in Bangalore. There is also an Engineering College at Munnar. You have two petrol pumps too and petrol costs a measly 46.72 rupees there inspite of being a hill station. ATM centres, foreign exchange counters name it and you have them.

Steer, dad did do a bit of asking around. Not exactly in town, but a little lower in the hills there is a bit of land available for sale he was told. Completely legal @ 3-5 L for 1 cent. In town though its much higher @ 10L a cent. He is doing a lot of research about Munnar and the land occupation rules as we speak. He seems very interested. But he is also aware of the fact that now the Govt seems to be going bonkers issuing notices for demolition etc.

Last edited by mclaren1885 : 2nd August 2007 at 15:49.
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Old 2nd August 2007, 17:02   #37
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Rahul take your dad to Wayanad also. He probably might change his mind.

edit : The weather is pretty cool and also the proximity to bengalooru.

Last edited by rjstyles69 : 2nd August 2007 at 17:03.
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Old 2nd August 2007, 17:32   #38
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I remember when Rameshwaram used to be accesible only by train. We had to park cars at the station and get on to the train. Once there it was bullock carts and horse carts. What a fun it used to be.

Anyone tried racing horse carts??? Esp ones with special racing fuel - 250ml of rum alongwith the usual "kollu"
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Old 2nd August 2007, 17:43   #39
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Originally Posted by mclaren1885 View Post
Steer, I guess the Tata's have a 99yr lease on Munnar or sorts. Of which only some 36 odd years or so is done. Kanan Devan tea is as you mentioned a part of Tata only? Atleast their adds still carry the T symbol.
I didnt mention Kannan Devan Tea - I mentioned Kannan Devan Hills. The tea is named after the hills.

The tea is still processed by Tata at their factories in Munnar. Its just the plantations (the Land, basically) that have been handed over to the company owned by the employees.

I wish you all the best with your purchase - though I'd suggest you look at other places in Kerala too. Munnar is expensive and there are quite a few more places that are as beautiful (or better).
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Old 3rd August 2007, 00:29   #40
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Rahul,
great pics & useful report too.I'm off to Munnar on the 7th.Will make it a point to visit all the places you've mentioned.You said it was too dark to take pics in Dhanushkodi,well here are some from my trip in 2005.A jaw dropping place if you go in the right season,which is now.Once the monsoon sets in (which is sometime in november in TN) the vast stretches of sand on either side of the road gets filled with water & is not a great sight at all.Also,I would advise all people wanting to see this lovely place to do it now because the dredging work for a Sethsamudram canal will start anytime now & the natural beauty of this place will be lost forever.
BTW,did you take a ride on the 4WD tempos which take you from the end of the road to the land's end ?? & did you see the ruins ??



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Old 3rd August 2007, 04:31   #41
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Actually one SHOULD go during summer when the water level is lower in the reservoir (its not a lake, but the reservoir for Mullaperiyar Dam) - this is when the animals come out of the forest to chill out on the 'beach'.
Steer, I was there in June and this will be my second and last time. Both the times we saw an odd elephant here and there and some wild boars/ buffaloes. It was pretty depressing to say the least. I don't know under what assumption KTDC folks are operating, but there wasn't one good toilet in the park. Not only that one needs to pay money to use it, it was stinking and badly maintained. I didn't fancy going up the steps to the Beer Parlor aka Aranya Nivas to use their toilet. In contrast, McLaren's pictures of Munnar are breathtaking. I haven't seen that many elephants in Thekkady.

KTDC has a few boats but they only go once every three hours or so and the tickets are sold only half-hour before the boat departure! Talk about being tourist friendly. I associate Thekkady with boating. Unfortunately, the whole boat trip is downright nasty, people having to walk quite a distance to board the boat. Not only that, the KTDC idiots sold tickets for the upper deck on one boat and then tried to pack the people up on another boat. This made quite a few people angry and a shouting match ensued in Hindi for about 10-20 minutes prior to departure. To top it all, some village idiots in the boat refused to sit down and another shouting match ensued, and these guys were beaten up when they got back to shore by the KTDC guys. Witnessing this melee my kids started screaming and it was a real nightmare. Customer service and KTDC don't go together it seems.

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I dont know when you've been there - the facilities available in Thekkady today are second to none. You have a whole bunch of really good resorts available other than the KTDC Aranya Nivas that was the only option earlier. Some of these resorts (Spice Village, Taj Garden Retreat, Carmelia Havens, Cardamom County, Elephant Court etc) are good enough for you to live in without even bothering to visit the lake.

Then of course you have the very very secluded Lake Palace on a forest island in the middle of the reservoir - only accessible by boat and can be scary at night!

I dont know about the attitude part, but the facilities are definitely not lacking!
I should've been clearer. I only meant the facilities inside the wildlife preserve and not the resorts etc. I am sure there are good ones around there in Thekkady/ Kumily etc. provided one doesn't visit the lake but rather go on the private elephant ride/ wild life safari etc. I know about the Lake Palace, the boat I was on picked up a KTDC official from that place and dropped him back!

In my opinion though, the place is far too crowded to be relaxing. Thekkady Lake/ reservoir I am scratching off from my list from now on. From the looks of it, Munnar is outstanding. Vagamon is great too.

Last edited by THE-U- : 3rd August 2007 at 04:44.
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Old 3rd August 2007, 05:07   #42
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Chandan, the 1st pic is exactly what I was talking about. Vast stretches of barren land. And suddenly you have water everywhere as shown in your 3rd pic. Wonderful place. But, we didn't hire the jeeps. We went till the end of the road paused for sometime and returned back. We didn't get to see the ruins nor the Navy's base or some such thing they talked about. We left Rameshwaram past 6pm. So we got back without much delay. Least to say the place gave my mom the creeps . I was only disappointed that I couldn't capture a few pics. I decided to return the next morning but it wasn't to be. Munnar was awaiting us .
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Old 3rd August 2007, 09:26   #43
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Wonderful place. But, we didn't hire the jeeps. We went till the end of the road paused for sometime and returned back. We didn't get to see the ruins nor the Navy's base or some such thing they talked about.
Rahul & all the others who have not done this one should do the 4WD ride atop tempos on the beach with water on both sides for about 5km.Better still if you have your own 4WD vehicle.You have to see the ruins which have been left in as is where is condition for almost 35 years now,including the devastated rail tracks.
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Old 3rd August 2007, 15:26   #44
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Completely legal @ 3-5 L for 1 cent. In town though its much higher @ 10L a cent.
Are you sure is it cent (or its acres).
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Old 3rd August 2007, 16:33   #45
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Great Trip
Lovely write-up
Fantastic pictures!
& great amount of patience, i took some good time to read it wonder how long you would taken to write it

Munnar pictures brings back some good memories "Warchild - Sam" are you reading??
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