En route, we halted at Nellikulangara Temple, dedicated to Bhagwathy or the Mother Goddess.
It was as we began our ascent, when the image of a pond overlooked by a triangular hill began emerging! “That’s Pothundy Dam, Madam”, informed our driver. We couldn’t resist the urge to pause. Parting the drape of trees and creepers that hung over our landscape, I took the perfect snapshot, till I felt another snapshot from a better angle would be more befitting, till I clicked all of these..
I was suddenly reminded of Kahlil Gibran’s words, “I see beyond these valleys, a mountain veiled with blue mist. Is it not beautiful?” asked the eye one day…
A Silver Cascade
Within few minutes, we reached AVT tea outlet, from where a wooded path led us to a valley which offered breathtaking views of the valley.
As we trod on, it was just the rustle of autumnal leaves fallen on pebbles that was audible, till a screeching and evil sound emanated and echoed in the silence of the woods!
“It’s a monkey,” alerted our driver.
One moment the eerie sound resonated to our right and another moment we could hear it farther ahead!
“That monkey is following us, Madam. Monkeys can swing across trees, so be watchful of your camera”, he warned.
Thankfully, the sound seemed infrequent as we marched ahead in absolute silence with only the sound of our footsteps on the rustled path. Except for an occasional chirrup of birds, the woods echoed with stillness.
The path opened up to a cliff beyond which, a peek into the vale below could churn one’s insides! At a distance, a whistling bird could be heard… and the salubrious mountain breeze blew by.
Pothundy Dam is a constant and cannot be missed from most points atop the hills and perhaps that’s a comfortable assurance that we hadn’t wandered very far.
We were at par with the clouds!
AVT Tea Factory
A famous one across the state, you can buy your tea at a discounted price from here. While POABS is also ensconced somewhere in the hills, it’s AVT that offers a better price.
The refreshing aroma of tea leaves wafted by, compelling us to pursue the trail that would take us to the tea hills soon.
Nelliyampathy ―Bathed in mirthful verdure, with clumps of tea shrubs dotting the landscape..
Post lunch, we drove off to POABS outlet. With very few resorts, Nelliyampathy is still virginal.
This trail was more forested and we followed the track to a point from where we had to trek to the other end. While most visitors retraced, we took the plunge and were amply rewarded with a prettier vista of Seethargundu (stream of waterfall where Sita the consort of Ram is said to have bathed under).
What eased our trek were the numerous wildflowers in pretty pink, lovely lavender and velvety violets that cheered us along..
They lay there planted by some unknown hands, watered by the heavens, nurtured by the earth and, seemed to procreate prolifically, as if in gratitude to the Omnipotent and Invisible Gardener!
On one side were the mighty mountains with dainty blossoms and on the other was the dreaded dale and we ambled along a narrow pathway not daring to sight the site below.
From where the trek trailed off, we halted to capture thin streams running across massive mountains.
POABS is another outlet, which sells not just tea, but also coffee and other organic products like spices and condiments, juices and squashes, pickles, jams and jellies. It is here that you can refresh yourself with your hot cuppa or chilled juice.
Tea Gardens Gleaming Under the Glint of the Setting Sun
Tea pickers with their baskets brimming with ‘picked tea leaves’-a picture perfect hilly picture!
A bifurcation on the thoroughfare leads to the Orange Farm which is a ‘must visit’!
Famous for its Passion Fruits, the place is a visual treat! Within are an orchard and a garden.
The saccharine sip-up of passion fruit juice, available for a mere Rs.5/- is simply invigorating. Never miss Passion Fruit jam with its nectarous flavour. Amla juice (juice of Indian gooseberry) orange juice and marmalade are also for sale.
The descending paseo from the Orange Farm differed slightly from the one we took that morning, but equally enchanting was this, with the landscape dotted with varicolored blooms and trees laden with vividly coloured fruits and flowers.
The most gorgeous among them was undoubtedly the ‘Flame of Forest’, never missable thanks to its towering tallness and its resplendent blossoms.
The profusion of flaming flowers at the acme, against the cerulean sky is matchless in beauty as is the beauty of flaming crimson against the emerald green of its foliage!
Coffee plants along the way
With dusk shrouding the hills, we began our descent and en route halted at Pothundy Dam.
The gate was flung open and the mannequins of an old couple dressed in traditional attire was the first sight to greet us. That was a rather unpretentious welcome!
There were a few more of these graceful damsels strategically placed to add charm to this already enchanting garden.
We darted uphill and I know not whether I caught my breath because I had raced uphill or because of the breathtaking scene that lay before me!
It seemed as if the shimmering waters had just witnessed a rendezvous between heaven and earth, and so couldn’t hide a blush!
Walking the entire length of the bridge, I tried capturing Nature’s splendid spectacle in her different moods and hues.
The Sun bid adieu after a job ‘well done’ and the night took over, urging us to leave the elements of Nature to their own devices.
We too called it a day and returned home, sated with our little adventure.
Chengnoor Bhagawathy Temple
I went solo on this leg of my journey with of course a chauffeur (arranged by my cousin), who chaperoned me.
7 a.m and we began our journey, wading through Cochin’s chaotic traffic till we darted easily through by-lanes flanked by woods & thickets.
However, one cannot pass by without stopping over to behold the beautiful backwaters of Alleppey!
If Shikaras are synonymous with Dal Lake, then kettuvallam (houseboats) are Kerala’s pride!
On Travelling Solo in Kerala
Kerala is no unfamiliar territory to me, having visited its length and breadth many times before. Having a working knowledge of the lingua franca, made it easy for me to navigate around. A few stray incidents aside, Kerala is perfectly fine to traverse even if you are a solo woman traveller. Yet, I’d caution you to avoid the outdoors after sundown.
Having a cousin and some relatives in Cochin and Trichur was certainly a comfort, especially with their frequent phone calls to check on my whereabouts!
It is also preferable to opt for a State Transport (ST) bus. These are very comfy with cushioned seats. Besides, separate seats are reserved for women. Given the season, I didn’t see the reason to book an air-conditioned bus.
Advantages of Travelling ‘Solo’
It’s an ideal ‘me’ time you gift yourself! Catching up on a book or music are some of the little pleasures this kind of escapade entails. Your thoughts are yours and you get to weave more beautiful thoughts or rearrange the existing ones. There’s none to share a conversation with but your eyes tend to take over and behold the loveliness of a new place, spotting its exquisiteness, which you might otherwise tend to miss, when in company.
When on your own, you’re compelled to ingratiate with the locals and humility becomes second nature. In short, it’s a prospect to reconnect with your inner self!
A stay in Kerala’s houseboat is certainly on my bucket-list. Until then watch over this space for more…