Only in Munnar, the setting sun casts a shadow in the air.” I didn’t quite understand this description of Kerala’s most famous hill station by Ajith Kulandesu, a teashop owner in Adimali, Kerala.
Kulandesu is a Tamilian, living in Adimali—a sleepy town on the way from Kochi to Munnar—for a year. He hails from Kodaikanal, which is Tamil Nadu’s answer to Munnar. Both the cities—separated by 100-odd km of rainforests—vie for the status of south India’s best hill station destination.
“Munnar is in Kerala, but the name has been given by Tamilians,” he adds, with a visible Tamil pride. “In Tamil, ‘munnar’ means three rivers.”
The Kerala government website confirms this. “Munnar is situated at the confluence of three streams—Mudrapuzha, Nallathanni and Kundala—1,600 metres above sea level,” it notes.
I am riding the new TVS Victor from Kochi to Munnar, a distance of 140 km, which, according to Google Maps, can be covered in four hours. I take six. The Victor is a commuter bike, meant to be ridden within city limits. Long-distance riding can lead to fatigue, so it’s suggested you make a stop every 40-odd km.
The Victor was the first indigenously-developed motorcycle by TVS, after the company parted ways with Suzuki of Japan. It was launched in 2001 as a 110cc bike, and was a runaway success. Later, a 125cc version was launched, which was a moderate success. However, soon enough, sales started dropping. In 2005, the Victor was discontinued.
This year, the all-new Victor has arrived. It has a 109.7cc engine that produces a maximum power of 9.5bhp and torque of 9.4Nm. The styling is sporty, even as it retains its commuter motorcycle design.
The ride is comfortable, courtesy the series spring suspension and the most spacious seat in its segment. The Kochi-Munnar section of NH85 is a well-paved road, so this six hours of riding won’t wear you out, provided you make a few stops. I ride the disc brake variant, which is stable on wet roads. The Victor feels the safest at speeds of about 60kph.
Munnar is a quaint old town; inhabitants are chiefly Tamilians and Malayalees. The town has little to offer, except tea and spices shops. Most picturesque locations are around Munnar. Because the roads around town are narrow, the best way of exploring is a two-wheeler. It is also frugal. Taxis are expensive.
The Victor returned me a mileage of 60kpl. A 10-litre fuel tank means a range of about 600 km. So, a full tank can take you from Kochi to Munnar and back, including trips to all the beautiful surroundings. The locations that you shouldn’t miss are Eravikulam National Park (8 km from Munnar, famous for the Nilgiri tahr); Anamudi (11 km, highest peak in south India at an elevation of 2,695 metres); Mattupetty Dam (11 km, boat rides); Chinnakanal (21 km, waterfalls); Top Station (35 km, panoramic views); and Nullatanni (2 km, tea museum).
The best thing about Munnar, however, is the climate. At the day progresses, the hot rays of the sun evaporate the waters of the Arabian Sea, 140 km away. This vapour-laden air cools as it rises up the hills surrounding Munnar. As it cools, the air condenses into droplets of water. Almost as a rule, it rains from 2.00 pm to 4.00 pm. As the rain stops, mist envelops the entire region.
It is then when you start experiencing the unique phenomenon of shadows forming in the air. It was then when I finally understood Kulandesu’s remark: Only in Munnar, the setting sun casts a shadow on the thick mist.
TVS Victor is available in two variants—disc brake and drum brake. The ex-showroom, Delhi, price of the former is Rs 52,715 (suggested buy) and the latter is Rs 50,715. It’s a commuter motorcycle, which is also comfortable, to an extent, on long-distance trips
(In the series Destination India, we ride different motorcycles to different parts of the country, telling you in brief both about the places and the wheels we take to explore these)