Kerala in South West India is tropical – humid and hot with all the wonderful things that means – coconuts, tropical fruit, houseboats and loose clothes. But both locals and visitors relish a trip to the hill stations for a break from the heat. If you are planning a trip to Kerala make sure you make time to head for the hills. It is not cold, just a pleasant relief from the relentless humid heat of the backwaters.
First stop is Thekkady – the temperature has dropped as we climbed into the Western Ghats mountains that are the border between Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Pleasantly warm, without the humidity, I can see why the Hill Stations are so popular.
We are treated to lunch at Nirraamaya Retreats Cardamom Club , most of us wish we could stay longer, and this is definitely a place I could come and spend some down time.
Getting there was a challenge – but an exciting ride up the hill in the Club’s jeeps just added to the sense of isolation. Beautiful thatched cottages set in a landscaped garden, with it’s own onsite spa with both western and Ayurveda treatments. While the others had fun on the hammock (how could you resist?), I went to meet Reshma the onsite therapist.
Thekkady Spice Country
I love seeing where food comes from and today I was introduced to the trees that produce cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cardamom, cloves, pepper, coffee and more as Mr. Sudhir guided us through a multi layered forest.
Tall trees offered shade to the cardamom and coffee plants beneath, as well as providing a framework for the pepper vine to climb, an interactive ecosystem. Cardamom, along with pepper is one of staples produced here, and is harvested 7 times a year.
So a visit to our guide’s shop Lord’s Flavours has me going out with a large bag of sealed spices to take home to New Zealand.
We are hosted for two nights at The Spice Village Eco Tourism Resort, which was a such a highlight for me that I have written a whole post about it. CLICK HERE
Tigers Are Really Here… Somewhere
A visit to this area is not complete without a visit to the Periyar Nature Reserve What a wonderful name for a reserve – the Tiger is such a magnificent creature – who would not want to see one.
The truth is that very few people see tigers or even elephants on a visit here. But they are here, and this reserve is after all for them, not us. If anything it is there to protect them from us. So I take pleasure in knowing they are there, and they are protected.
However we enjoy a few hours on a boat enjoying the reserve, and we do see deer, monkeys, birds and even turtles, and thanks to one of the great crew members who was a both quick to see them and good at taking pictures – he was my cameraman for the day.
After a marathon drive around narrow but beautiful hill country roads we have arrived in Munnar. It is 100km/ from Thekkady but the roads meant it took us 7.5 hours. It was worth it – the patchwork tea plantings hug the hills with backdrops of misty mountains reaching into the distance.
We are at Tea County one of Kerala Tourism’s properties – it is a grand old dame with lots of character, though a little frayed around the edges (a bit like me!) Surrounded by beautiful rose gardens and set looking out over the town, it is just a short walk to the markets and shops.
At last the 30 bloggers on #keralablogexpress are let loose in a real town market, and they make the most of it, encouraged a little by the fact that the hotel only has wifi in the lobby.
The walk up the hill was a bit much for me, but an auto soon had us home for 40 rupees. Rooms here range from 4800 – 12,500 rupees depending on the season and which room you opt for, and it is a great base in Munnar where land is at a premium, so not so many hotels – just tea, tea and more tea.
Kanan Devan Hills Tea Museum
Nearby in Madupatty we visit the Tea Museum – Once a a part of the legendary Indian Mega Company Tata. Tea is so much a part of our day to day life in the west, we take it for granted.
In the museum we get a chance to see how it is grown, and picked and processed, as well as being reminded of it’s healing properties.
Wayanad is also a Kerala Hill Station, but our visit there demands it’s own post – watch this space.
Rosemary was one of the bloggers on the second #keralablogexpress in which a visit to the Hill Stations was one of the highlights.
Read the Keralablogexpress stories here.