Where in the world is Katie O’Brien?

Michele Snow

One of the first places people envision when they think of India is the Taj Mahal, one of the largest tourist attractions in the world. Don’t get me wrong, the Taj is a beautiful structure that is worth seeing in at least once is everyone’s life, but I didn’t want to go there. I saw India as a perfect opportunity to become less of a tourist and more of a traveler. 

The tea fields in Munnar are home to some of the most breathtaking views that I’ve encountered on my journey so far. This part of southern India is located at a high altitude that allows for tea plants to grow within the rolling hills.

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Tea fields in Munnar, India

Among the hills are dirt paths that lead hikers through millions of tea plants in every direction. Tea pickers can be seen popping up here and there, pulling the individual leaves from the bushes and placing them into large baskets. The air was misty and crisp, a little chilly and wet from a recent rain.

After a short hike, the group I was traveling with spent the night in tents on the edge of the tea fields in a small campground. That night, we settled in our tents and woke up at sunrise in preparation for an eight hour hike. 

Putting one foot in front of the other, we trekked through the rough dirt paths up and down small mountains. After a few hours, we sawlittle houses in the distance and began walking in that direction. As we got closer, we could see that all of the houses clustered together formed a small village.

Walking through the dusty streets, people peered out of their front doors, greeted us with a friendly smile, and continued with their chores of the day. Some of the children followed us for a while, laughing and waving. We stopped for a little while and played hand-clapping games, pretending that language was not a barrier.

One of the students I was traveling with had bubbles and candy in her backpack, which we handed out to the children, one by one. We helped the children open the cellophane-wrapped jolly ranchers, giggling at the sour faces they made when trying something green-apple-flavored for the first time.

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Village children in Munnar, India

After a little while we continued hiking out of the village and back through the tea fields through our campsite. The sun had begun to peer out from the clouds and break from the morning foggy mist that we encountered at the beginning of the day. Taking in the landscape, we talked about how the view was so beautiful it couldn’t be real. It looked almost like a colorful scene out of a whimsical Dr. Suess book.

Although the Taj Mahal is beautiful, Munnar was something that I would not be able to recreate. It felt good to see something a little more off the beaten path instead of following what a majority of people see while in India. Taking a risk and doing something that is not in everyone’s itinerary can lead to some amazing places, Munnar included.