Mountain to Mountain
Travelling through the Western Ghats you pass by a whole cross section of Indian society - people, culture, religion, as diverse as the wildlife and just as vibrant. Statues of saints stand illuminated by the roadside echoing the deep Christian beliefs that were first brought here by the Portuguese. Ornate, brightly coloured Hindu temples lie at every turning, adorned with effigies of Ganesh and Vishnu. Huge intricately painted trucks greet you with religious quotation as they almost ram you off the road. It gives me a slight sense of ease to think that the last thing I might see are the words 'Allah loves you' or 'Vishnu brings peace'.
Driving from Munnar to Valparai requires a steep descent of 2000 metres, a drive for several hours across the plains, and a rapid ascent to 1600 metres. It's a rollercoaster of a ride carefully maneouvering around the 40 hairpin bends that queze your stomach along the way. A phenomenol view greets your every turn.
As you begin this journey you leave behind the mist and goats of the grasslands, cut through the vast tea estates and sweep through high altitude forest and cascading waterfalls. Then you hit the humid zone of the plains. Here villages are coated with banana leaves, mangoes lie in huge piles by the roadside, and children run by with crude cricket bats. Huge flat fields spread out before you, framed by the distinct sillouhette of the Salihydras - The Western Ghats. From somewhere resembling the Yorkshire Dales you now find yourself in the Carribbean.
On the plains the landscape is much drier, a result of the huge rain shadow cast by the Ghats. Palm tree plantations line your route and the air tastes salty. It reminds me of a tropical beach only we're hundreds of miles from the sea. People seem more relaxed, happier, chilled-out, maybe because the sky isn't pouring buckets. Maybe it's because my Seasonal Anxiety Disorder is alieviated and I'm seeing things with my sunny hat on! It doesn't last long. As we climb higher the Tea estates return to view and the monsoon rain pours it's tears on us like an old friend happy to see us again.
We have arrived in Valparai.