A special someone that awaits you with a steaming cup of refreshing tea when you are all drenched and shivering to the bone – This is Kolukkumalai for you. Even if you have been to Munnar a million times, Kolukkumalai is a 'hidden gem’ that not many know about or have visited. This pristine quality is what adds to the beauty and charm of this unexplored destination.
Kolukkumalai is one of the highest tea plantations in the world and it has all the right ingredients for a quaint little post-card style town – sprawling plantations, valleys, brooks and cobblestone pathways. Crossing all this and reaching the top most point to experience the wind carrying away your voice is quite thrilling.
The trip to Kolukkumalai was planned out of the blue but the mind already began to paint vivid little pictures. Almost 38 kilometres away from Munnar, the jeep journey through the dirt track was like being cooped up in a washing machine gone haywire. You finally reach Kolukkumalai after traversing through the 11 hairpin bends. Once you are up there; your mobile phones enter the Tamil Nadu coverage area.
Even the breeze at the plantation has the aroma of freshly brewed tea and instantly energizes the spirits too. At 7,900 ft above sea level, the rolling hills and its vast expanse of greenery is an overwhelming sight to behold.
There are very few places that can fill you with immense pride and Kolukkumalai is such a place. After the one and a half hour jeep gymnastics you reach near Kolukkumalai. It is safer, scenic and much interesting to continue the next leg of the journey uphill on foot. Jeeps and bikes seem to be the only vehicles that can conquer the Kolukkumalai peak.
With every turn, you get the feeling that the terrain here is similar to the Idukki high ranges or Wagamon, but what Kolukkumalai have in store is something totally different and unlike any other. There is nothing much to see here and no tourist hot spots either, but every sight will stop you in your tracks, be it the vast tea plantations, the greenery around or the cottony clouds that you could almost touch.
Even at noon, a mist descends to envelope you. The ravines and rivulets form the borders for the various tea plantations. There is even a smattering of Eucalyptus trees on a few hillocks spreading their heady scent.
The workers and supervisors at the tea estates were a tad amused at us shivering in the cold climate, as for them this is no big deal and nothing but everyday scenes. They warn us that there are wild elephants, leopards, giant red squirrels and wild hens in the area.
Kolukkumalai is paradise for both nature lovers and trekking aficionados alike. Just when you are about to come to the conclusion that walking uphill was not a wise idea, you will come across the old tea factory where even today tea is processed in the traditional method. And due to the high altitude and optimum climate the tea grown here has a special flavour and freshness. The two-storied tea factory was built in the 1930s and the interiors are completely done in wood. This is indeed heaven for tea lovers especially when you get to taste different varieties of tea at the Tea tasting cafe. You could even take home fresh tea packets of varieties like Broken Orange Pekoe or the Flowery Orange Pekoe from the sales outlet here.
Once you have enjoyed your fill of Kolukkumalai, it is best to start your descent before it gets dark. Start the trip early before dawn, so you can reach the peak by noon. You could carry water, food packets, and some warm clothing as well.
If the mist and cold is no bother, you can spend more time there in the evenings. Nevertheless Kolukkumalai is one place you could easily go to anytime you want without much preparation.
A tranquil peak without the hustle and bustle of tourists, Kolukkumalai is a place that will keep calling you back. It is a place that you will wish to go again and again.