This was my first summer away from the hills, my sanctum sanctorum, from the scorching heat of Gujarat. I had made two trips to both Garhwal and Kumaon in the previous month, but May and June in Ahmedabad are nothing short of torturous. So I just wanted to go someplace cooler and greener.
A blogger friend, Tvara, was invited by another friend to stay at her homestay in Wayanad, and she was generous enough to make me an offer I couldn’t refuse. I had never been to Kerala despite being fascinated by it in ways more than one, so off we went within a week of my previous getaway. 😀
Monsoon had arrived earlier than expected in Kerala and I could not wait to experience the virgin rains. We landed at Kozhikode (Calicut) Airport, from where it was a three and a half hours long drive to Palkadavu Warium Villa, an Airbnb in Mananthavady. As the homestay approached closer, the streets went darker and the crickets louder! The cab driver could neither understand our language nor was he familiar with the location. Fortunately, the mobile network was sympathetic and we found our way through the lonely, forest roads to our home for the next three days. We got out of the cab to the most beautiful aroma of damp earth. How journeys to unknown destinations reward you in little ways! We thanked and paid our concerned-looking cab driver. He asked us if our reservation was confirmed, whether there was anyone inside waiting for us, and if we had a stay B. Despite telling him to not worry and leave as it was late, he stood at the main gate, watching us drag our bags through the pebbly walkway right up to our room. A cute, barking lab named Scotch was the first one to welcome us followed by the caretaker Baiju. The man of few words gave us drinking water and led us to our aesthetically done room where we slept like babies.
We woke up to a fluorescent green morning, so soothing to our just-woken-up eyes! The view in the company of local filter coffee was a perfect start to the day! The Villa has an expansive lush garden, swing and the apple-of-our-eye treehouse! PW Villa is a 76-year-old heritage house converted into a homestay adorned by beautiful wall art and antiques. The place has a traditional yet relaxed vibe!
Like good children, Tvara and I were quick enough to get ready, eat breakfast and go out with the Villa Manager, Sachin. We couldn’t contain our excitement on discovering that our beast at the Villa was a Thar. “Could things get any cooler” was a mutual scream! We hopped on our swaggy ride that rustled through the woods, paddy fields, farms and the local markets. It was appetizing to taste some local wafers so we bought some crispy munchies and could not stop amusing at an endless queue outside a liquor shop at eleven on a Sunday morning! But before we judge, Kerala has the highest life expectancy among all Indian states. 😀 We saw ladies clad in Burqa, people going to church and temple bells echoing around. The city population is almost equally divided between Hindus, Muslims and Christians.
Sachin and his sister took us around some farms and it was heartening to know that unlike other parts of the country, most farmers in the area are well to do. We had a grand lunch specially cooked for us by his mother. I wonder why North Indian curries are so famous, given their South Indian counterparts are so much better! The ingredients were farm fresh and the preparations, super flavoursome! While Tvara hogged on the traditional fish curry with Tapioka, I enjoyed my vegetable curry in raw mango sauce along with vegetables in tamarind curry and their signature thick rice. It was such a satiating meal! We gave our tummies some rest while chit-chatting with Sachin and Nivedya at their green, peaceful home. We had not planned our day well hence a little trek in the dresses we were wearing followed. Are we cool or are we cool! We drove through the tea gardens and went uphill towards Muneeswaran Kunnu from where you get a mesmerising 360-degree view of the entire Wayanad. The place was so breathtaking that we kept sitting there almost until sunset. The night was about sharing experiences and understanding the local culture with natives over chilled beers and the mouth-watering Kerala Parotta with an amazing curry.
On our second day, we witnessed the first rains of the season that went high and low like decibels of a soundtrack. The balcony like corridor of the villa with wooden and jute furniture is a perfect spot to witness nature at play. It was a day to unwind and rejuvenate. We spent a major part of our day having coffee, appam and sambar for breakfast, afternoon beer, lunch and evening beer sitting pretty much at the same place. And, we had the most innate conversations while the rains and spirits were high. It stopped raining around 5 and the evening was a good time to head out. PW Villa offers Night Safari at Tholpetty Wild Life Sanctuary so we decided to go for it in the darkness of the night. We also saw Polyhouse next to the villa from where the guests can pick fresh vegetables. We covered two different routes for trying our luck at spotting some wildlife. Monsoon is not a great time for the same yet we were lucky enough to see elephants, deers and foxes a couple of times. The woods are home to tigers as well. After an adventurous escape from an attacking elephant, Sachin, in his Fast & Furious element, took us for a scrumptious dinner to Holiday Hill. This is the place where our homely breakfast also came from.
Our third morning was under a clear but not sunny sky. We had breakfast that comprised of rice flour and coconut cake called ‘Puttu’ with aromatic black gram curry, known as ‘Kadala Kari’ in South. These breakfast items and curries were on my to-try list for long!
We headed out towards Poodoke Lake that gives a hint of the iconic Back Waters. You can both walk around the lake through the beautiful jungle track and enjoy the speed/paddle boats. We wanted to trek to the scenic Chembra Peak famous for its heart-shaped lake but it was closed due to monsoon. The pristine Soochipara and Meenmutty Waterfalls are other sights you must have on your list. After walking around the jungle we drove towards the Banasura Sagar Dam, named after the son of the respected king of Kerala, Mahabali. It was then Sachin realised that we had skipped lunch so he made us try the most amazing samosas and rolls on the way. Besides being beautiful beyond words, an interesting thing about Banasura Dam is that you get noticeably different views from different spots. From Sharoy Resort where we took a coffee break, the view began from their infinity pool and stretched to the dam and then the Kabini river between the hills. From another spot, we saw the colossal reservoir surrounding a set of islands that were formed when the reservoir submerged the surrounding areas.
Lost in the beauty of Wayanad, the drive back was relatively silent. Sachin’s family hosted us with yet another delectable dinner. Tvara was served the best butter chicken she had ever had while I gorged on coconut curry, naan, jackfruit jam, sauteed vegetables and rice. For dessert, we indulged in jaggery rice prasadam brought from the Shiva temple nearby. Sachin’s family bid us a warm farewell and we retreated to PW Villa.
The early morning drive back to the airport revealed scenes we had missed during our onward journey. Watching the clouds move slowly across the hills and lakes warmed my heart and saddened my mind at the same time. I wish every part of the country could be so educated, sensitive, green and progressive!