They say that after you suck dry all of the juice of a ripe mango, you can throw the seed anywhere in this land and it will grow. Maybe that is why every turn of the head is another sighting of spindly coconut palms flowing in the damp air. Or how the green ivy winds its way everywhere along the edges of stones bridges and carpets the forest floor around the base of trees. Why the very vines climbing the trees even produce pods of pepper and how in the midst of all this green there are splotches of vibrant color from the flowers bearing their petals proudly. Even adjacent to the sea of tea gardens, this land is dense in rich vegetation and fauna biodiversity. Vythiri, Kerala – no wonder they call it God’s own country.
Such a place is best enjoyed immersing yourself in the full beauty with hikes and short walks, and of course among friends. With a long weekend, I and few comrades had ample time to explore this lovely place. This started with a short visit to the Pookode lake where it’s possible to do paddle boating but if you’re short on time then simply walking the parameter is ideal. The air is cool under the tree shade that borders the surrounding waters and if adventurous, it is worthwhile to climb the trees view the lake and its greenery from higher above. We ended this gentle stride and exposure with a scoop of ice cream (highly recommended!). This place is also scattered with several watering holes and small streams, and are too enticing not to at least wade in. The water was refreshing and the mud was soft beneath our feet, and near us wriggled the palm-sized tadpoles all clustered by the water’s edge. There is nothing like cooling the feet in natural water against the midday sun.
Our next days’ adventure was a 5000 feet uphill trek to one of the highest peaks among the surrounding hills. This began with a gradual climb past quaint Keralite homes, which bore their unique style of porches that mimic the railing of the notorious house boats. Slowly but surely these homes and resorts began to melt into the thickening forest. Soon the sounds were less of distant car honks and more a multitude of bird calls and the crunch of our steps on stone and leaf debris. We sighted giant squirrels bounding across the tree branches and even glimpsed a spooked sambar dash down the hillside. Just before reaching the top, there was an unexpected surprise in the midst of this jungle trek: two swings and hammocks! Childhood instantly kicked back in and we jumped on the swings – their ropes attached to parallel trees that would sway and shake the higher we propelled ourselves in the air. Yet, of course, we had to finish the hike and with the last set of meters we found ourselves at the top of the peak, legs dangling from a sloping escarpment. The view was widespread green jungle, the small town of Vythiri to the right, and swathes of tea gardens on distant hills. The kind of place you could sit for hours, not move, and yet still become lost because there is so much for your mind to wander on.
The journey down also gave snippets of adventure, from exploring the rock face of a damn not yet flowing with water to taking a quick dip in a watering hole. We even found an abandoned home down a side path off our main route. It had such a strange and beautiful melancholy – a place of broken glass and water stains yet still remnants of bright yellow and blue coloring the walls. Going down the rabbit hole can lead to some fascinating places.
Sunday, the last day, came too fast. In the morning we took a stroll through the numerous tea gardens and circled our way back into town for lunch. Had there been time, we would have quickly jumped into one of the watering holes adjacent to the tea gardens and cooled against the increasing heat. Yet, alas, time truly flies when you are having such a great time. Taarak, the friend who planned the trip, has made this experience a part of Roads and Journeys, and I can’t wait to get back again! The more the merrier to living and experiencing a good life!