In Munnar I felt alone for the first time in India. It was a good place to feel alone, actually. The hotel was on the road in the middle of nowhere, with wonderful views over the mountains and the tea plantations. It was cold. It was misty. It was solitary.
It is not an easy destination for travelers that, like me, want to go around by walk or by public transport. Munnar is a big region over the mountains, 3000 meters over sea level, with beautiful landscapes spread out all around. I was alone, and tired. The hotel offered me a taxi for one day to visit the area, and I accepted. It would be expensive, but I was already there, and I did not see any other option if I wanted to explore the region.
There, during those two lonely days, I thought about being a woman solo traveler. I was the only guest of the hotel, and all the hotel stuff were men. It did not feel unsafe, but it felt strange. Just like it did in Allepey. I remembered the first night in the Heritage Home in Allepey, there was a barbecue in the garden, and I was invited to join. We were only two foreigners and, somehow, we ended up talking together.
It was actually him who made me notice that I was the only woman there. I looked around: all the other men were looking at us. It felt odd. Not dangerous, but being so observed was strange. Uncomfortable. Were they wondering if we would sleep together? I have often been told that some men have seen a lot of (Hollywood) movies and think that western women sleep with anyone any time. Sigh.
When I got into the taxi in Munnar, all alone with the driver, I got again that strange feeling ‘I-am-the-only-woman-here’. My mind started to think too much. What if he tried to steal my money? What if he kidnapped me? My intuition was telling me that everything was fine, that he seemed a nice person, that there was no danger.
I told the driver that I was in Kerala visiting Indian friends, that they knew I was in Munnar. I even sent them a message with the model and color of the taxi and its matriculation number. The moment I pressed ‘send’ I felt stupid. The driver was singing. He was saying hello to a lot of people. He was nicely talking to me and explaining things about the region. He was a good person.
He told me that Munnar is famous for the tea plantations, which all belong to the same company. Most of the workers are from Tamil Nadu, people who moved with their families years back. The company arranged schools and health care for them and they settled down in Munnar.
The tea plantations make a very beautiful landscape. The tea plants are low brushes arranged in rows (so that workers can walk in between), creating a very nice pattern. Only the most tender leaves, the upper ones with lighter color, are collected for consumption. The leafs are collected from the different fields on a rotation basis of 45 days, to give time to grow up the new leafs. After that, different processing methods convert these leafs into the green and black tea that we drink.
We visited the tea plantations. A couple of dams for electricity generation. Some lakes. The tea museum. We did a lot of kilometers. The taxi driver told me a few things, asked me a few questions, but most of the time he was in silence, and my thoughts went away.
I thought about that first week travelling completely alone… I like it. I like travelling in an independent way, moving around by local public transport, going away from the main paths. I like it when there are no other foreign tourists around. I like that children smile and wave and say ‘hello’ to me. I like being surrounded by nature and hear the sound of water and singing of birds. So far, I like to be here.
Have you ever travelled alone? How do you feel? Do you sometimes feel alone or uneasy?
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