Ever heard of ‘Godliness meter’? They have placed one such thing at the border where the train from Kerala crosses into Tamilnadu. Many Keralites have left for greener pastures over the last century; if the exodus was to the Far East in the beginning, it changed course to the West – especially the US of A – and then to the Middle East.
Yet, the meter showed abysmally low readings. Or so it seems. The moment I left that beautiful place of my birth, the meter reading leaped like long jumper Anju Bobby George and the state government went ahead and declared it ‘God’s Own Country’. Probably that explains why I landed up in the ‘livestock-belt’ (no offence, I’m a ‘Dil/Dilliwala now) instead of New York or Dubai.
Tourism was centered around Kovalam, Thekkady and Cochin then. Huge boats propelled using long bamboo poles, carried loads of paddy, coconut and other products. Kumarakom was still a small hamlet where the attraction was a bunglow from the Raj era with thatched roof (the original ‘punkha’ intact) overlooking a beautiful water-lily pond in front and the backwaters just beyond….. how many times did my friend and I – in our late teens – walk those lonely paths alongside the vast expanse of water, looking for water birds and enjoying the dark green little jungle on the other side…
Even bigger boats are now made and turned into floating houses. Kumarakom have become a tourist hot -spot made even more famous by Vajpayee’s ‘musings’ at a resort there when he was the PM. Star hotels have lined up the lake shore offering everything from noodles to ayurvedic massages. My neighbours in Delhi have visited places in Kerala which I have never been to. Also I’ve met many Delhi couples who did their honeymooning in Munnar.
I make it a point to visit at least one nice spot during our annual summer trip down south to meet my parents. On one such occasion we drove up to a place called Nelliyampathi which is in the district of Palakkad and up in the blue mountains. We started off from Palakkad where my in-laws were then and reached a place called Nenmara. The road was typical Kerala with bends every few hundred meters – in fact all roads except the national highway fall in this category. This was a blessing in disguise for us as the scenery was excellent – Western Ghats filling the horizon, lots of green, paddy being planted with labourers forming a neat line and thanks to the monsoon, gushing rivers…… all in all splendid Kerala stuff.
Monsoon was at its fag end. Dark clouds were still floating around, its travel up north intercepted by the Ghats and the benevolent traveller threw down droplets of water interspersed with sunrays. While puddles, streams and rivers longed for more, trees nodded in assent in the ever-flowing breeze.
From Nenmara starts the ascend into heaven. Right at the beginning of the climb stands a dam which collects water gushing down from the hills and uses it for irrigation. Breathtaking scenery from the top of the dam – both of the mountains and the valley below.
The journey up was at times, precarious. Narrow road was broken at places, signs of mudslide as well (the way to heaven is fraught with obstacles, Holy Book tells me). At one point I even thought of turning back but the adventurer in me pushed me on and it was worth it. We stopped by one of the many brooks amid tall trees and kids had a gala time.
Touch the clouds…. Photo Courtesy: M M Philip
The top of the mountain was a visual treat to the beauty-starved eyes. Rather plain compared to the slope that we came up, it was covered with neatly trimmed tea and coffee plantation for miles. Spotted along the way are orange trees and cardamom plants. We drove around for some time soaking in the glory of bountiful nature but the persistent drizzle prevented us from getting off and taking a much wanted stroll. However, the light rain and low-hung clouds added to the beauty and the mystery of the place. Monsoon at her magical best.
Drizzling in Tea Garden
We turned back reluctantly after refreshments at a tea shop and purchasing some local products like coffee powder. Combining all elements of sensual pleasure, it was a wonderfully refreshing hill-drive.