Our next stop was Wayanad, a place I have been wanting to visit for over a decade. Though I have lived in south India for 30 years, I haven’t done Kerala justice. Actually I haven’t done India any justice, there are whole sections I havent stepped foot in. So many trips in the wish list, but the one pulsing right on top is the north east. Hopefully 2018.
Last weekend the Other and I saw a malyalam movie which tranlates to Mahesh’s revenge and that’s all it took, we changed our retirement plans once again. We decided we want to live in Idukki, in a small village framed by the mountains, wet greenery, banana orchards, familiarity and peace. The movie is extremely well made and artistic and Other said that India, especially rural India captivates him so much that he has no inclination to step outside, as there is so much to explore right here. He is right but I like travelling everywhere, just wish I had more time and money. I yearn to see the world, all of it.. and experience it.
Both of us are captivated easily, and fall in love even more easily. Our retirement plance have changed from Aldona to Kerala in a few months. You can read about how we decided to live in Aldona here – https://aninsightfulnut.wordpress.com/2017/04/06/lobos-pintos-and-mascarenhas/
At this rate I have no idea where we will really end up, I just know it won’t be a city and it will probably be in south India, so we are comfortable with the language.
Back to our odyssey, the Other was a little bored of the beach and was happy to get to the mountains and we left Kannur soon after breakfast, and in no time at all left the maddening traffic and psychedelic buses behind. We were in the hills., forests on both sides, small hamlets and towns and a cool cool breeze. It was such a pleasant change from the oppressive humidity of the south.
We stopped for our first tea break a few Kilometres from a town called Boys Town – vestigial colonialism for sure. The tea stall overlooked a gushing stream and we could hear chirping birds. If I made a list of the best tea stops on our trip this one would definitely feature in it.
We were however unfortunately relieved of our trusted tupperware bottle, stuck in the side of the backpack, and tied to buttercup while we savoured our tea. In an effort to minimise our single use plastic consumption we had taken two tupperware bottles on the trip and refilled them with water whenever needed. The first one went missing right at the beginning, it never made it to the luggage carousel of the Ahmedabad airport, but this one had served us well for 30 odd days and we rarely had to buy water. One great way to avoid buying water is to stay at homestays, most of them have water filters in the kitchen. It takes a little more effort while staying at hotels, as they place plastic bottles all over the room for your convenience. We stayed at a heritage hotel in Ahmedabd ( you can read about that part of our trip here -https://aninsightfulnut.wordpress.com/2016/12/24/house-of-m-g-and-a-little-of-amdavad/ ) and they would leave plastic bottles inside tasteful cloth pouches all around the room. We would have to walk down to the restaurant and get our bottle filled but once in a while we were tired, or it was late at night and we succumbed to opening a bottle or two.
The only place where we could not avoid buying bottled water was at Palolem, where we were staying at a beach shack and had no access to filtered water. You can read about our trip there here – https://aninsightfulnut.wordpress.com/2017/04/15/the-palolem-microcosm/
For the remainder of the trip we were forced to buy bottles but we tried to reuse them a couple of times, but they crumpled easily. luckily in Kerala the water is good to drink everywhere, even in the tea shops. You will always be offered hot boiled water with some herbs, slightly pink in colour and this is safe to drink.
So losing our bottle in Kerala was not that bad. Overall I am proud of our limited plastic consumption the entire trip. Clap clap.
From Boys Town, the road was more winding and we moved up higher. I was very excited. Wayanad with its rainforests, waterfalls, and streams had been calling out to me for a long time.
I was looking forward to spotting some birds, the malabar squirrel but most of all I was looking forward to staying at the Vythri Resort. This was hands down the most expensive place we were staying at, the entire trip, at a whopping 18,000 INR. But our room had its own pool and was even cheesily called the honeymoon villa. The Other practices a unique form of reverse snobbery and his heart belongs in the shack outside the resort but he agreed to stay here with good grace.
After a stop for coconut water we turned of the road onto a mud track that weaved through the forest interspersed with estates. We were climbing higher and higher and finally reached the resort. The staff were helpful and we were shown our room. It was everything I hoped it would be, large, comfortable beds, a tiny plunge pool, and a balcony overlooking the properties waterfall and gushing stream. You could hear the sound of water everywhere in the room.
We rested a bit an trudged up the hill to the dining area with a view, the rainforest was such a different environment. There was watereverywhere, dripping from the leaves, in the ground and in the air. I loved it.
The food was fabulous too, all meals are included in the rent and are served buffet style. To say the food was mind blowing is an understatement. There was traditional kerala fare for every meal with unlimited poppadums. Avial ( veggies in a coocnut – yogurt gravy) garlicky rasam, betroot pachidi and kerala fat rice with poppadums… this is a combination made in heaven.
Since kerala is a dry state, they have converted their bar which looks very characteristic to a game room and we spent some time playing TT and shooting some pool.
Feeling a little less bloated we decided to soak in our private pool, and this is when we were in for a big disappointment. The pool had no access to hot water, and if we wanted to fill it or drain it we needed to call the reception. It was January and chilly. The water was freezing. The hotel did not bother giving us this detail while we booked !! I vented and steamed and made up for my disappointment by soaking in the jacuzzi which luckily exceeded expectations. Why advertise for a plunge pool if it is unusable, and having the controls in the reception just makes no sense !!!!!
My fumes eventually died down.
We went for a sunset walk along the stream in the property and spotted several birds, I was almost over the disappointment, when suddenly I heard some music. It was out of place and competed with the sound of gushing water. We spied speakers on the pathway, in the garden… everywhere. There was no escaping this music.
Don’t get me wrong, I love music. We were infact carrying a portable blue tooth speaker, another amazing thoughtful wedding gift from a couple who had struggled as much as us to get married, and had triumphed in the end. But to play music which competes with the sounds of nature was out of place and disruptive.
This is a good time to introduce the manager off the place, a pleasant old gentleman… but one who had some strange ideas. He was extremely friendly and caring, he saw us to the bike when we left and reminded me of a grandfather, but he still had strange ideas. This property was set amidst such beauty that he really has little to do, but instead he has planted speakers all over the place.. imagine walking under the trees, and hearing the rare malabar whistling thrush to be rudely interrupted by a hidden speaker belting out carnatic music. You can scurry forward, but in a while there will be another speaker!! He had also organised a magic show in the evening and insisted the Other and I come. He was very very insistent and made it a point to call us several times. I have been scarred by these magic shows… my cousisns had them for every birthday party, and the sight of the tortured mangy rabbits coming out of the hat is not something I enjoy.
The other being a softie said we should go for a while, we got seats near the doors to run out. An old couple came and started pulling out scarves from various things. There was a forced cheer and I felt bad for them. But we had only one night here, so we slipped out to the cool night after the first trick.
The in house naturalist showed us a few nests and we checked on them and took a bit of a walk before heading to another amazing meal. The best thing about this place is the food but they have not capiatlised enough on the environment. Instead of magic shows, I wish they focussed on the micrclimate and environment of the area. They did show us a very poorly made 10 minute docuemntary on the birds of the region, but on the whole there is a lot of untapped potential.
After losing a few more games of TT ( my hand eye coordination is beyond poor, I definitely have a problem and have even walked into poles and the other is good at most sports) we called it a night.
I woke up at 4:00 am, it was dark outside but the air was full of bird calls… and the lazy school boy whistle of the malabar thrush stood out. I nudged thee other awake and we sunk into the easy chairs in the balcony. It was too dark to see anything, but we were treated to a full fledged orchestra. How often do we hear bird calls in the city. The sky slowly turned pink and the first rays of the sun started to light up the leaves. It was beautiful, I left the transfixed other and went back to catch a few more hours of shut eye. This is definitely an improvement on me being a morning person :). I managed to wake up in time for a splendid breakfast, a morning walk, another soak in the jacuzzi and a last round of TT before we left.
On the whole wayanad is worth a visit, it is one of the places in Kerala which is a pleasure to drive through, but the vythri resort is nothing special. great rooms, and even better food but it lacks something, can’t quite put it down in words.. the spa offers swedish massages and not kerala massages for instance…there is just something that is not there. I think next time we would stay in a homestay in the region…
Though I have been sporadic in documenting our journey, I have enjoyed it tremendously, a small window for me to relive the trip again. I am sad to say there are only a few more blog posts left, and I feel a sense of loss… but that just means I need to travel and write more. See you all in Kochi next.