Mararikulam, Kumarakom, Thekkady

A family celebration & reunion got us traversing loches and littorals, hills and dells, vineyards and vales in God’s own country. 
Strands and sand, the sun and the sea, spices and streams formed the highlights of this break in Mararikulam, Kumarakom and Thekaddy.   

 

Determined to relax with only solitude for company and the company of family, we settled for resorts instead of relative’s residence ―something we’ve rarely done while in South.
 

MARARIKULAM

Marari ―a two hour drive from Cochin was our first stop-over. Mararikulam Village, flourishing on the shores of Marari Beach had us spellbound with its typical Kerala styled bungalows and cottages aligned on the by-lanes and boulevards.
 
Late May, & Southwest Monsoon had already hit the Malabar strip. A pall of grey cirrus descended to form a canopy, and tagged along…  
 

Soon, manors gave way to avenues fringed with coconut palms and in no time we were at the gates of Abad Turtle Beach Resort, our abode for the next few days.  

 

 
Prettily done, the green gossamer glades dotted with private cottages ―each bearing a shingled roof and a hammock, Abad seemed a picture-perfect portrait of an ideal holiday home amid idyllic settings!
 
Mottled with Hibiscus, Ixora, Oleander, Frangipani and Roses, the lawns emanated a heady fragrance and the welcome drink was an instant invigorator.

Along with pool and play-court amenities, cycling was another activity that residents could avail of, of course, not to forget the Ayurvedic Massage.     
Each cottage offers a view either of the garden, the pool or the beach and mine was the last, and closest to the beach! 
 
 
Sauntering along meandering promenades, we couldn’t pass by without capturing this gaggle of geese traipsing on the dew-drenched lawns. The white of fleece against the jade green turf made for a soothing spectacle―the very quintessence of bucolic charm!  
As eventide merged into obscurity, we soon settled into our cosy quarters. 
It was about 6 a.m. when I was roused by the sudden sound of thunderous thunder! It was raining and perhaps did so the entire night. We did what we had to. Monsoon is certainly the most opportune season for an Ayurvedic massage and we thronged Abad’s Revival Ayurvedic Spa.
Ensconced amid medicinal trees and herbs, with the path leading to the spa redolent of aromatic herbs, Revival Spa seemed the ideal place that spelt of what it promised & it certainly was. Each herb bears its botanical name and the name it’s locally known as. 
 
The path leading to Revival Ayurveda Spa
The Spa exteriors wore a Spartan ambience, yet the aesthetic floral arrangement at the threshold, the friendly doctor and genial masseuse only hinted that the experience would be superlative and, truly unbeatable it was!
 

A soothing experience and lunch later, a lull was inevitable.

 
Butterfly Garden
Nestled amid Abad’s lush lawns, is a colourful haven, with lovely flowers and flitting butterflies ―vying for attention. Even as I stepped into the Butterfly Garden, I was greeted by a potpourri of dazzling colours. 

These jutting slender tendrils had a string of multi-coloured petite creatures with their flimsy wings attached to them. 

 

As I ambled along, as if by cue, a kaleidoscope of butterflies that lay nonchalantly oblivious, suddenly took wings as though emerging out of a prized magic box that little girls keep. But unperturbed, they again lodged onto trees and blossoms; fronds and foliage, greedily lapping up every drop of nectar with unbridled urgency.

 

Whoever coined the phrase, ‘as busy as a bee’ has certainly missed out on this terrific sight!

 

There were other equally stunning inhabitants of this enchanting garden that beckoned, and I shifted my gaze to capture those.

 

They lay scattered on the turf, over the trees ―dotting the shrubs, some snaking their way around sturdy trunks, some winding up through arbours and yet some lay strewn on the pond.

 

 

 

 

 

Could not overlook this particular bloom, which is unsurpassed in its striking symmetrical arrangement. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some burgeoned as budding buds, some flourished as beatific blossoms, some lay pendent from trees, some lay natant on the pond, some exuded a heavenly scent yet others as mere wall-flowers, lent beauty wherever they dwelt. 

 

 

 

 

 

While flowers twirled mirthfully flaunting their floral resplendence, the sight of these large heart shaped laminae, which played host to pirouetting dew-drops, was equally dazzling.   

 

 

 

 

 

Small viaducts ―forming an aesthetic overpass over conduits strewn with water lilies and lotuses.
 
The cottage overlooking the Butterfly Garden is of course worth considering! 
 

Somewhere nearby lay a pond speckled with foliage ―artistically arranged by the hands of Nature. 

 

 

Soaking in as many scenes as my sight could behold, I packed the rest in my camera for leisurely perusal.   


At a distance, the fluctisonant waves beckoned. The sea seemed serene summoning visitors & promising to showcase a spectacular sunset. But, a curtain of clouds had spread itself over the firmament. The summer sun nevertheless stole one last glance at the lashing waves, before being blanketed. 

I retraced my steps promising to be back ashore the next morning. 

 

Coconut palms that bowed in defeat before the passing storm of the preceding evening, once again rose, straightening their trunks to greet the noonday sun.

 

 

Our stay at Abad was drawing to a close and we surveyed the place one last time.
A cosy seaside retreat with amiable hosts and amenities, Abad attempts to bring in elements of Nature wherever doable, blending convention with the contemporary. 

 

 

The Gardener who gladly obliged to be photographed- in her ‘hands-free’ parasol.

 

Pellucid waters reflecting both Heaven and Earth..
As Above, So Below
 

A mere mention of Abad’s delectable Burfi is a gross understatement. Not wanting to glut my gut with rich desserts, I placed an order for Thenga Burfi or Coconut Burfi and believe me, the afters I was served seemed humble till I took my first bite! I’m sure I’d have qualified for a television commercial for chocolates. The delicious burfi ―perfect in every sense with the right sugar content and with slivers of dry-fruits garnished to tease the tongue, is certainly a sin to be indulged in! 

KUMARAKOM

An hour’s drive from Mararikulam to Kumarakom transported us from littorals to lochs, literally! Kumarakom offers you the perfect laid-back backwater holiday and a stay in a houseboat is certainly the best way to enjoy the vista here. However, with aged parents and a tot, we abandoned a houseboat stay. But ‘Lakesong Resorts’ more than made up for a houseboat stay. 

 

Kumarakom

Lake Song Resorts, Kumarakom

With the facade reflecting Kerala’s distinct architectural style, Lake Song Resorts on the backwaters of Kumarakom is certainly a visual treat.
    
 
 
Kumarakom situated on Lake Vembanad has several resorts scattered on its banks, with each providing boating facilities within its precincts and Lake Song Resorts has its peddle-boating wharf located strategically at the reception area, thereby adding to the allure. 
 
 
Lake Song’s ornate exteriors certainly need a mention. The snuggery and the exquisite wooden carvings may seem a contrast but the clever use of wood, metal and glass lend an old-world charm with a singular appeal! 

 

The evening entailed an hour’s cruise along the lake. 

Dark clouds loomed large, blighting the charisma of the crepuscular hour, and soon cruising crafts scurried back towards the quay.  

Note: As my son put it, this was just another cruise along the bay! And he’s not wrong. People from coastal areas would find this a jaded activity and if you’re hard pressed for time, I’d suggest you give this a miss and instead opt for canal-cruising; that’s what we did the following day.   
While in the backwaters of Kerala, never miss Canal-cruising which is certainly more delightful. A canal-cruise entails cruising in Kerala’s ‘Kettuvallam’ (a coracle) that glides along narrow canals that are flanked by village houses on both sides.
 
Our hotel desk arranged for one and we were told that our cruise would begin at 9.30 a.m. I requested for an early jaunt, which the staff ceded to. Only my mother, my son and I went aboard as the rest of the family preferred a respite. Usually one kettuvallam’s capacity is about ten people. The cost being the same, we paid the full price. Believe me, I don’t think we’d have enjoyed so much had we traveled with a crowd. Who said three’s a crowd??    
 
The spree lasts a full two and a half hours and the route cannot be retraced, for it’s impossible to backtrack, given the narrowness. So, do go armed with cookies and water and ensure that you step out after your morning ablutions.   

 

There’s no better way to enjoy Kerala’s pastoral scene. Gliding gently along the canal, we chanced upon temples and churches, splendid mansions and humble shanties ―the factions of which form Kerala’s cultural fabric. 

 

Vembanad Lake
Suddenly the terra firma bordering the canal gave way to a vast expanse of water. We were cruising along India’s longest lake ―Lake Vembanad! The glassy waters reflected the azure of the skies above and it seemed as if a row of coconut trees had lined up to welcome and cheer us as we coursed through!   

With only a few other boats in sight, we had the entire lake to ourselves. The vast expanse of the sky and the lake merged to form a cerulean splodge, the blueness of which was intercepted by only the conspicuous chain of coconut palms. 

Soon ‘kettuvallams’ began to appear in sight, signalling the end of our voyage. 
The weather did not permit a visit to Kumarakom’s Bird Sanctuary but the canal cruise more than made up because Kumarakom and a backwater cruise are indeed synonymous.  


THEKADDY 
After riding the waves, we were ready to scale heights and a 4 hour drive from Kumarakom took us to Thekaddy in Idukki district. Known for its tea plantations, Thekaddy is also famed for its sugar and spice and all things nice!  
This time our sanctuary was Spice Grove Resorts nestled amid forested land farther away from the fracas of tourists.
 The View from my Balcony
Early next morning much before sunrise, eager to tick the ‘to do’ list on the day’s agenda, we left for Periyar Tiger Reserve. 
It’s only till a point where vehicles ply, after which only wayfaring is permitted. Fortunately rickshaws are allowed till a point, which made it convenient for my parents. 
Nothing to beat a brisk morning walk along a forested trail inhaling salubrious mountain air! Flanking the road were giant trees, some laden with luscious fruits and some known for their medicinal properties.  
Note: Boating in Periyar Lake is a must. You can book online ―weeks in advance so as to avoid queuing up and remember, nothing to beat the golden hour when Nature is at her supreme best. Online booking also ensures that you get to the sundeck.

  

 

A thin veil of mist had descended upon the lake as the sun was yet to make its august presence felt. The uniqueness of its teal green waters often punctuated by denuded tree trunks is what makes Periyar Lake peerless, and wading through the ripples is the most romantic experience! 
Periyar is also a birdwatcher’s haven. 
Perched upon stark tree trunks were rare birds ―shattering the silence with their mere presence!
Periyar‘s faunal diversity includes elephants, deer, boars, bison and much more. We were lucky to catch a glimpse of this sounder of boars that had come to graze. 
Post lunch, we embarked upon a jeep safari that included rambling on tarred roads or jungle routes. We opted for better roads. Thekkady’s flora comprises an assortment of spices no doubt, but orchards and vineyards are Nature’s other bounties.  
This vineyard in Cambam on the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border with its awning of vine, laden with succulent grapes is certainly an ocular treat. We waded through the heavily loaded vineyard with head held low!  
This fertile plain boasts of a profusion of orchards ―mangoes, papaya, chikoos, plantains and guavas. Outside, are fruit and juice shops, whose juicy grapes and coconut water are simply divine.  
 
Coconut palms as well as plantain stalks lending a festive look, only speak of the soil’s fecundity. 
The last on our agenda was a ride on the tusker. While the rest of the family preferred this, my mother and I succumbed to the thrills of shopaholism.    
 
There’s no dearth of souvenir shops in Thekaddy. Kerala’s wooded terrain makes it a niche for treen collection comprising wooden decorative tables inlaid with metal, wooden snuff-boxes, ash-trays, pen-holders, tea-trays, wickerwork, Kathakali masks et al. Ceramic souvenirs with iconic imagery also make for pretty memorabilia. One such place where we shopped was Konark Handicrafts, which boasts of a large array of curios and souvenirs.  
 
Evergreen Spice Garden, Thekaddy
The following morning en route to Cochin we halted at one of Thekaddy’s spice gardens. Evergreen Spice Garden is an unobtrusive grove used for spice cultivation. 
Our hostess ―eager and conversant, showed us around, explaining the medicinal value of every shoot and root. With a plethora of herbs and spices as a panacea to all ills, Mother Earth has indeed offered us her blessings in a platter!
 
There were saplings to lower sugar levels in diabetics; herbs that cure asthma and skin diseases. 
On one corner was this Vanilla Creeper willfully winding its way around a tree. Yet a second look, and this tree stood tall and proud seeming to twist the twine around its trunk! 

Cardamom Blossom

Never knew that our common cardamom boasted of such a pretty blossom! 

On the shelves were herbal potions and concoctions, oils and liniments known to boost hair-growth and lend a glow to the skin! Packing a few, we bade Thekaddy a farewell and began our descent from cloud nine!    
Thekaddy’s undulating slopes festooned with tea-trails make for a bewitching spectacle, which makes it impossible to just pass by without a pause.   
After frequent halts to seize priceless moments and freeze them in our camera, we arrived famished and weary at Rani Restaurant, whose humble curd rice garnished with lime pickle eased our queasiness. 
 
The host’s generosity needs a mention for permitting me to pluck a few ornamental plants from a thicket tended by them.
  

Strolling along shimmering shorelines and limpid lagoons, heaving hills and hairpin bends, we soon zipped past Cochin’s highway for a family reunion with relatives. I know not how swiftly the days flew by, but surely, memories of God’s own country make for a rejuvenating reverie!  

Comments

  1. Very Nice. Superb narration about God's own country and nice photos also.

  2. Very Nice. Superb narration about God's own country and nice photos also.

  3. Thanks a lot Divya, for having taken the time to go through…do keep a watch over this space for more..

  4. Simply superb, Shubhrata ! Mind blowing photos, brilliant narrative, and incredible language ! Had to rush to the dictionary often ! You are truly a highly mature traveller with a penchant for soaking in the present moment in its entirety. Aap jahan travel karti ho, us jagah ko abad kardeti ho ! Looking forward to many such travelogues ! Cheers !

  5. Simply superb, Shubhrata! Mind blowing pix, classy narrative and incredible language ! Had to run to the dictionary often! You truly have a penchant for mature travelling and soaking in the essence of the present moment in its entirety. Looking forward to more such transcendent travelogues! Cheers

  6. Thanks Kishkay, for having taken the time to go through the entire length. Readers like you enthuse me to churn out more such travelogues..

  7. That was a good one 'Abad'!!;-)

  8. Awesome Blog, First time and I was truly impressed. The word play and the nature truly captured in its essence made me want to pack my bags right away.Pictures spoke a thousand words…Loved it!

  9. Kumar

    Shubh…brilliant commentary and photography….eye for details is commendable..your passion to capture nature at its best is astounding

  10. Superb Shubhrata!! Nature in all its glory captured beautifully on lens..and icing on cake ur classy narrative.

  11. Glad you liked it Preethi and glad you relished it too..

  12. Thanks a lot, Kumar. Yes, nature is soothing and rejuvenating, and keeps us mesmerized..

  13. Thanks Usha..keep reading. Glad you liked it.

  14. Wowwww shubhs…..beautifully penned down with equally mesmerizing pics 🙂

  15. Thanks Aman Venkat, keep a watch for more..

  16. One word – "wonderful"… So much affection on every words and every photos…

  17. Like!! Really appreciate you sharing this blog post.Really thank you! Keep writing.

  18. Paritosh Khichadia

    After having gone through the entirety of your blog and comments, I have to admit that all comments mentions about everything that I wanted to inscribe. Where is your travel bug taking you next?

    1. Shubhrata Shankar Iyer

      Thank you very much for liking this post, Mr.Kichadia. My bucket list is endless..☺. I only hope that I get to cover more places before I die..

  19. An impressive share! I have just forwarded this onto a co-worker who had been doing a little homework on this. Alta Jabez Idaline

  20. Pretty! This was a really wonderful article. Many thanks for providing this information. Lonnie Jeth Pejsach

  21. This was an excellent article. I’ll be back to view more. Thanks for making it. Great job!

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