Malluland-Gods own country

Last weekend I was on a short getaway and I realised that my land truly is a beautiful place. Not just because of the landscape marvel and stuff, but also because of a heritage that is so overwhelming. Here’s the way I would love people(tourists and Non Keralites) to talk about or think of Kerala as.

Kerala, God’s Own Country! Here, you can sip coconut juice (plucked by wiry-legged, bronze-chested Kuttappans and Kochu Thommas)or dig into a plate of karimeen pollichathu on the wind-swept deck of a houseboat in Kumarakom. Or you can go on a forest safari to Thekkady or Gavi. If you don’t get a fresh Malayali tiger sighting, we guarantee you a fresh Malayali tiger dropping sighting or atleast a stone carved version of tiger, buffalo, elephant etc!!The beaches of Cherai, Marari, Kovalam and Varkala. The misty mountains of Munnar, Kuttikanam or Wayanad. The enchanting waterfalls of Athirapally. The lesser known Andhakaranaazhi, Kodanad, Silent Valley, Parambikulam national park, nelliampathy, kuruva dweep, agasthyamalai etc. The heritage of erstwhile Travancore and Malabar. The foreign influence and remains of Dutch-French-Portuguese and British Ancestry at Fort Cochin.  The fingerlicking kadumanga achaar or succulent mutton chaaps and beef varatharachathu. The flavour packed biriyanis and the secret recipes of the syrian christians and malabar mappilahs. All this and so much more!

However, we also offer you many other sightings :)

Our YWCA/Rotary women in their kota saris and their weekly games of rummy.

Our Marthoma achens on their Bajaj scooters with their cassocks billowing behind them like capes.

Our nasrani achayens with their scotch whiskey and their waxy moustaches.

Our gelf returnees with suitcases full of foreign scents.

Our men are hairy and so are our women. We believe in equality, a what’s-yours-is-mine policy, including your wife’s Tata Estate, rubber estate and the three gold teeth in her mouth.

To see our men in form, attend a Malayali wedding. When they’re sober, they’ll discuss the stock market, insurgency in Pakistan and global oil prices. Two Johnny Walkers down, they’ll hitch up their lungis/mundus(Jockey Bermudas peeking from beneath) and break into inebriated renditions of ‘Alliambal Kadavil.’ One can learn patience just watching the men standing in long queues in front of BEVCO shops or learn the art of walking swiftly in a lungi/mundu and jumping onto a moving bus with the same ease and fervor.

To see our women in form, attend a Syrian Christian church service on Sunday and watch the Mariammas, Eliyammas and Shoshammas in the front pew belch out verse after verse of Suriyani hymns – lusty, off-key and hitting notes that will make even the Mar Baselios Bavas turn in their graves. Learn the art of multi tasking by just watching the old muthachis and ammachis sing,cook,play with the kids, watch TV and pray all at the same time. Learn the art of sales by watching the lungi clad chechis on Lunars, selling fish, bargaining and applying the Buffets and Kotlers theories in full swing.

And what about our superstars? Can your Tom Croose or Brad Peet vanquish a dozen gun-toting villains with a single, gold-ringed knuckle punch like Mohanlal or spew English like Suresh Gopi (‘Just remember that’) or own a courtroom like Mammooty (‘That’s all, Your Honor’)?

But all said and done, we are a simble, humble people with simble, humble pleasures: watching Idea Star Singer on Asianet or the mallu version of saas-bahu soaps like “Kumkumapoovu”, scouting the obituary section of Malayala Manorama, getting our dentures stuck in plates of chakkavaratty, ogling next door mallu aunty’s large sized “bumper” or her “charakku” daughters, finding bridegrooms for our daughters (must be minimum an ingineer), going for second show and hooting when the power fails.

And why are we the way we are? Simblee. Coz we are Malayee. We are like this wonlee. :)

Welcome to Kerala. Nice to meet you!

The Kodai Diaries

Finally, our much awaited holidays to Kodaikanal took off on 1st October early morning at 1:00 am. Yes I know that’s crazy but I’ll tell you in awhile why it was a great idea to leave that early.

The four of us had a cup of coffee and took off from Kottayam at 1:00 am on Saturday Morning, taking turns to drive. The route from kumily to thenni is superb. Since it was night we did see some deers, langurs.porcupines and monkeys. We reached thenni at 6:20 in the morning and had a nice cup of tea from the roadside tea shop. Well I must say that shops in Tamil Nadu seem to open at 4:00 in the morning, much to our surprise. We started driving up the Kodai Road at 6:45 and reached kodaikanal at 8:00 am. The drive was great. The reason being, since it wasn’t hot at all, none of us got tired. We could roll down the windows and get real fresh air. Absolutely no traffic and no disturbance. It was a great journey from the start.

After hours of research and googling, we had reserved rooms at Dale Thorpe. It was definitely love at first sight! Great Place for a getaway. The service being outstanding. However, I would suggest that you have breakfasts there and have rest of your meals outside because of the variety of food available at kodaikanal. Read reviews of Dalethorpe here.

So, we had our breakfast of hot idlis, dosas and sambhar and decided to take a small nap for 2 hours before venturing out. At 12:30 pm we took our cameras and began our journey. Our first stop was the shopping area for a small round of shopping. It’s at the heart of the town, around the lake. Smile and Bargain. We stopped to have lunch at a small Tibetian Restaurant. Amazing food! Momos, Chicken Wings, Fried Rice, Noodles, Massaman Curry n everything chinese, tibetian and indian. It’s a rush during weekends because of tourists and the regular Kodaikanal College and school crowd. Its best to drop in between 12:30 and 1:00 or between 2:30 and 3:00. pm. They are open for dinner as well and its packed!!! Our best find was this shop called Pastry Shop, very close to BATA showroom. The gentleman who owns it is a man named Prasanna. He really lives up to the word gentleman. The Pastry Shop serves the most delicious brownies,cakes and truffles I have ever had! He gives away chunks just to taste. They are open from 11:30-5:30 everyday. This place is a must visit.

After satisfying our tummy, we set off to Coakers Walk for a nice walk. It is bestto go after 3pm if you want a nice romantic walk.History says that this 5 km hill-edge path way was identified by Er.Coaker in 1872. About a Kilometer from the lake, Coakers Walk runs along a steep slope on the southern side of Kodai. It offers some of the best views of the Plains. Entry fee is collected at Rs 10 per head here. On a cloudless, clear day one can have interesting sights, such as…. Dolphin’s nose in south, valley of the pambar river in South East, birds eye view of Periyakulam and even city of Madurai. One must be aware of a attractive happening called ‘Brachem Spectre’ which is  when a very lucky person can see his shadow on the clouds with a rainbow halo, when sun is behind and cloud and mist is in his front. None of us were lucky enough :(. Another hotel to note here is Villa Retreat. A great hotel with a stunning view. We have noted it for our next visit here :)

We decided to end our first day with a drive around the lake. It was a nice lazy drive. After 7:00 pm, the shops slowly close down. The only people left are people on their evening walks, couples on their honeymoon and the locals. We headed back to the hotel and retired after a nice dinner of Chappathi, Chicken Curry, Fish Fry, Rice, Aloo Gobhi and sambhar.

Day two started early. We had a sumptuous breakfast and headed out to Berinjam Lake. This place is a must see. The Entry is right next to Pillar Rocks  at Moir Point where per car is 300 Rs. Its best toThe road is narrow and tough mountain terrain within a dense forest area, but the view is worth itThe drive to reach the lake takes around 45 minutes.On the way to Berijam lake, you can stop at Silent Valley and Caps fly Valley, both of which are beautiful. Silent valley has a very enchanting and scary feel about it. There’s a sheer drop covered with mist that takes you straight to the pearly gates if you don’t watch your step. The kind of stuff painters love to draw. Wear good shoes in this trip. It’s very wet around Kodai and these are slippery mountain trails. There’s a small roadside attachment on the way called the ‘Berijam lake view’ further up where you can stop and take a look at the lake from above the mountains. It’s a breathtaking view.When you ultimately reach berijam lake, the first thing you come across is a barricade that keeps all the taxis and bus out. You go on foot from there. The lake is 25 Kms in perimeter. When you start walking, go about 100 metres and to the right there is a less travelled route to reach a nice part of the lake. It is an adventurous route and please beware of leeches. It bit two of us! There’s a signboard that say there’s a goverment rest house near the lake. The lake is a source of pure natural mountain water. There is a small shop that provides bread and omelets.I suggest you pick up something on the way so that you can have a picnic there.No boats or fishing but there are some tents and campers. Later the tents get taken down as it got darker. Maybe it gets too cold, or maybe it’s not permitted or safe at night. There is plenty of place to be alone in the wild if that is what you are looking for. The place is not crowded at all (like Kodai lake). It’s deep inside the forest and away from civilization. The forests around are dense and rich. There is a board listing panthers besides varieties of deer.To sum it up, it’s a very beautiful place to be alone and away from civilization for some time, but the road is not very easy. If you take the trip, the trouble is worth it.

On the way back from the lake,we stopped by at Pillar Rocks.The Kodaikanal Pillar Rocks are made up of three massive granite rocks whose heights extend up to 400 feet. Sited 8 km from the lake tower, tourists can obtain a spectacular bird’s eye view of the surrounding panoramic vistas.The cool, dark shadows of the Pillar rocks of Kodaikanal are a good place to picnic and relax at leisure, engulfed by the tranquil quietude. A small and beautifully tended garden, glowing in the colors of the seasonal blooms adds to the charm and the picture perfect beauty of the place. The rock pillars have hidden nooks and corners and cavernous chasms that exude an aura of mystery that delights all adventure enthusiasts.

It is interesting to note that there exists a small and enigmatic chamber between the two pillars that is appropriately named the Devil’s kitchen for its eerie ambiance.It’s now called Guna Caves after it was turned into a romantic kidnapper’s lair for a Tamil movie. Loud teenagers stand just outside the fencing around the cave, screaming angstful “Abiramiiiii!”s (name of kidnapped in said movie).  It is said that locals come looking for a certain hallucinogenic ‘magic mushroom’ that gets them a good price from “Keralites and foreigners”. There is an entry, veiled by bramble, a path only some people know about. The rocks are loose and wobbly, the fluorescent green moss making everything slippery. Bats are shrieking from somewhere really south, and we, errr… are heading in the same direction. Someone is haggling for a kilo of carrots somewhere far above and it sounds warm and safe there. Inside Devil’s Kitchen, however, the air’s muggy, the walls smooth, with little shelves that look perfect for a perch. The guys with me chucked a pebble that was instantly swallowed by the darkness. We hear the plonk only after about 10 seconds, and a crash of wing flapping (of bats we jolted awake). We’d discovered fresh country by simply stumbling on it. This is the kind of place that teaches you to how important it is to have a firm footing.

Baffled by the experience and really tired, we decided to grab a bite. There is a place called Clouds End which is a cafe run by Tibetians. Do not go there!!! I am sayin this because they served stale food which they argued was nice!!!That took us to Pizza Corner back in the town. After lunch, we decided to cycle around the lake and do a bit of shopping. Cycling around the periphery of the lake is 5 km and take about an hour if you stop for shopping. We bought some knick knacks, some gifts for folks back home etc. Dinner was at The New Punjab Restaurant. Yummy food at great Prices. We took it back to our room to eat in front of the bonfire. Great food, a fire to keep you warm and a nice glass of port wine! What more could anyone ask for. We enjoyed our last night at Kodai, sad to be leaving next day.

We started back early next morning. By the time we reached the foothill it was blazing hot and we regretted not getting out earlier!! Which is why I said its best to travel really early in the morning.
Kodai will always hold a place in my heart coz I realised a lot of things at one shot during this trip. That’s another post :)

P.S- For all the chocaholics out there,like me. There is a shop right next to The Pastry Shop which is a SPice/Chocolate Shop. GO there for some yummy,gooey hot chocolate! Priced at 60 Rs per cup, its a must try!!!

Until next time, explore Kodai!