Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Getting to Munnar

Posted from Kumily, Kerala, India

We took the bus from Cochin to Munnar a few days ago. The trip was long, dusty, and loud. But the lack of windows, which made it dusty and loud, also meant that it was pleasantly cool for the nearly five hour ride into the mountains of Kerala, near the Tamil Nadu border. Typically, our travel days are our worst days. They are the days when we are hot, tired, cranky, and impatient, especially with each other. They are also the days when we learn a little bit about how a place works. For instance, India moves at its own pace. There's no hurrying it, and no slowing it down. It has an inertia and momentum all its own, and two kids from America aren't going to change it. We'd initially discovered this inertia when we took the night train from Goa to Cochin, but taking the bus from Cochin to Munnar is a much better example.

The day before leaving we asked around to find out exactly when and how often buses leave Cochin for Munnar. Luckily, they leave pretty often. According to everyone we asked, including travel agents and guesthouse owners, the buses leave every hour between 6AM and 1PM. Comfortable that we could get an early (for us) start, we left our guesthouse just before 8AM, arriving at the bus station shortly before 9AM. However, when we reached the desk to find out which bus was headed to Munnar, the station master politely informed us that the previous bus (first one of the day) left at 8:30AM, and the next one wouldn't leave until 11AM, and if we missed that one, we could take the 1:30PM bus, but after that we would have to wait until Monday. Huh? We asked no less than five people, and they all agreed that there would be plenty of buses. Maybe the three-bus schedule yesterday was the result of a reduced schedule on weekends. Oh well, we weren't in any rush, so we just enjoyed the ride.

After leaving the long, wide stretches of roads outside of Cochin, we started to climb. The higher we went, the roads became much narrower, as the switchbacks snaked up the mountains. I think our bus driver thought he'd entered the Pike's Peak Rally after taking driving lessons from an arcade game, because he whipped our bus through the hairpin turns at surprising speeds, somehow narrowly missing the large tourist buses hurtling toward us from the opposite direction. The ride was nerve-wracking, but we managed to get to Munnar in one piece.

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