The sun was up when I met Durga this morning but hadn't been out long enough to burn off the dawn mists.
I didn't even have to show Durga the Top Station post card, he'd decided that's where we'd go today already. It's a 40 km/25 mile ride, which is far winding through tea fields in a rickshaw, but sitting on the lumpy blue seat, in the open air, looking out as the hills slowly rolled by, I was really enjoying getting to know the area this way.
After about 15 km, we arrived at the Mattupatti Dam, where Durga dropped me off and told me to walk. As he drove off up the road to wait for me, I thought, "I'd really rather just get to Top Station than look at a dam!" but I knew he'd dropped me there as a consideration. I met up with him where a few other drivers were gathered and we zoomed around the corner were the biggest elephant I've ever stood in front of was munching on palm branches.
Durga then brought me to a small dock where I could get a view of the lake. I can't say it wasn't beautiful, but there's something about the unnatural shore line, the way the trees just pop up from the water, that bothers me, though I'm curiously less bothered by the electricity the dam provides back in town.
As we forged on, Durga suddenly pulled over and excitedly started pointing into the tree, at two rare Lion-tailed macaque monkeys. "Take a picture, take a picture!" I could hardly even see them, even through a 300mm zoom, I was amazed he was able to spot them at all. A few minutes later he stopped again, as a large one swung through the trees not very far off the road. He was seriously more excited than I was for me to get a photo of it. It was still far enough away I couldn't get a worth-while shot, so I figured I'd just watch it. But he urged me again, "Take a photo! Take a photo!"
Just a bit further and we pulled off the road where the shoulder widened, and climbed down to the first row of tea bushes and looked out over the valley where a mass of white clouds collided into the jagged peaks, consuming them in their soft grip. I would have to project the photo on a full-sized theater screen for it to start to do justice, but standing there, it was stunning. Again, Durga told me how lucky I was that there were clouds today and I began to wonder if I was really that lucky or is everyone who makes the journey up to Munnar just lucky to be there?
After the two and a half hours it took to get there, it was a shame to leave after just a few minutes. We did spot another macaque, but the only other stop on the way back was near the dam, again, for a well needed cup of chai from a man who seemed very friendly with Durga. Durga told me this man's tea was very good, and I watched him as he poured the brew high from his right hand into the cup he held below, creating a nice froth with the milk. I don't have much to base a cup of milk-chai on, but it was good!