On our travels across the length and breadth of India, we often come across brilliant people who make the trip, that much special. And talking about kind people, Kerala comes to mind almost instantly! A state well regarded for its natural heritage and beauty, Kerala is a land of beautiful people and rich flora and fauna, where experiences amalgamate with memories to stay in our hearts forever! It is the great appeal of this diverse state that keeps calling us back.
THE UNEXPECTED NATURALIST – THEKKADY
“Sir, did you not go for a safari today?”
“No, we reached late!”
“Worry not Sir, I will make sure that your day is not wasted.”
Thekkady is a must visit for anyone who loves wildlife as much as we do. The entry to the stunning Periyar National Park, Thekkady is a small town, located right on the edge of the forest. The KTDC Aranya Nivas and Lake Palace will be the best choice for anyone wanting to take in the jungle vibes completely! We arrived at Aranya Nivas a wee bit late for the afternoon boat safari. Disheartened, Joy and I took a walk to Periyar House, the other KTDC property for some chai and snacks. Both the properties are located inside the forest and one can hear the melodious songbirds heading home, constant chatter of crickets and a whole lot of evening activity in the jungle. Feeling satisfactorily spooky, we headed back to Aranya Nivas. At the gate, the guard welcomed us with a big smile and instantly, we started chatting with him about Periyar. The conversation on top ensued.
Mutthu (Name changed) told us, “We have very special guest from the jungle, who visits the periphery of the property every night.”
“I will call you Sir, if he comes today.”
Waiting with bated breath we went back to our room. The intercom rang sharp at 8.55 PM, Mutthu’s voice buzzed.
“Sir, please come to the gate now. Our guest is here!”
It took us just a few seconds to reach as we darted with our cameras, and there it was! A fully grown Porcupine, just beside the secure fence of the hotel.
I had never seen a live Porcupine before in my life and i squealed in joy! The little prowler went around in circles for a bit giving us a chance to take a good look at his spikes, his head and the cute little rodent feet! Immensely grateful, we thanked the guard for his timely intimation and giving us a real taste of the jungle, without going on any safari! It was an incredible moment and just by being kind, he etched his place in our hearts. People who you connect with in a strange new place, basis a common love for jungles and wildlife, are the best kind of people according to us!
THE ADVENTUROUS NAVIGATOR- MUNNAR
“Tea bushes have to be old to be tasty. This estate has over 150 year old tea plants.”
We were travelling from Kochi to Munnar via Kumarakom and Thekkady. It’s often the journey that brings you the most exquisite and unexpected encounters, we have noticed.
Meet Varghese Thomas – a small business entrepreneur from the Shola Hills of Munnar who came to pick us up and take us to our next destination near Munnar.
On hearing where we wanted to go, he took a few moments to fathom the route, taking us to a remote corner of the state. There were road blocks for construction, on the way. Undeterred by the longer route, he joined us on an adventure and willingly offered to take us to some places off the beaten track on the way!
Varghese calls Chinnakanal, a little village on the foothills of the Shola Mountain Range his home. On our journey towards Shola Crown Munnar, a luxurious retreat just outside of the main city, nestled in the cardamom plantations of Shola range, he told us many stories. In his childhood, he had ridden ATB’s across these forests, chasing elephants! Enthralled by his knowhow of the land and the people, we got immersed in his incredible stories on the road. He also showed great interest in aerial photography when we stopped on the way to fly the drone. Apparently, he himself has worked with quadcopters for mapping topography of the area in the past!
He took us to Anayirangkal Dam where the views took all the stress of a city life, away from our minds.
Next on the way, Varghese stopped by a tea estate and introduced us to a couple of tea workers who were on their way home for lunch. After exchanging greetings and our purpose of travel, they kindly asked us to take a photo of them, and we obliged happily! After all, it is the human connect that makes the photographs on social media so special.
He explained to us the history of tea plantations in Kerala, the age of the plants we were looking at and finally, broke a few leaves and crushed them to let us smell the fragrant aroma of fresh tea leaves. His knowledge about not just destinations but the inherent history of the place, filled us with awe. After spending a day in Munnar, Joydeep had to travel back to Kochi for another trip and Varghese escorted him late evening through the hilly roads of Chinnakanal safely, where elephants often come down by the road. The next day, he also came forward with a helping hand when my cousin who was supposed to join us from Bangalore, got lost due to road work diversions in the main city. A timely phone call and my brother was on his way with Varghese’s wife and daughter who were luckily in the Munnar town! They escorted him back to Chinnakanal to their home, offered refreshments and allocated another driver from their village, to drive him back to the hotel after an exhausting day! Varghese Thomas – we will never forget you.
A CHEF’S APPETITE- WAYANAD
“Sir, do you need anything more to eat?”
“No Selva. We are too full already!”
When in Kerala, aside from everything beautiful, the food is worth writing a whole blog about! The variety of food aside, the love that Malayalis have for feeding others is remarkable. We had taken a short trip to Wayanad back in 2017 with a few friends. Arriving at our stay high up within a coffee estate during high monsoon, our excitement was doubled when the estate jeep escorted us uphill through roads that we will never dare to drive on with a standard car.
Once fresh after a shower, we headed to the dining room for a surprise that took over our trip for the next few days. An unforgettable platter of delectable food, prepared by the in house chef at Marmalade Springs Resort, was in front of us. There was fish fry, chicken kerala fry, mixed vegetables, beans curry, rotis, rice, daal and a few more items, ending with a homemade dessert that left no more space in our stomach. And the sojourn had only begun!
The next morning, a huge breakfast spread awaited our attention, and when we were unbelievably full, we asked for the chef. A gentle looking man with polite demeanour appeared before us and introduced himself as Selva. Language barrier was not a problem to express how delighted and grateful we were for his incredible hospitality. What happened next was bewildering and funny for us urbanites.
Selva ran away as if he remembered something and came back with a few baskets, refilled with breads, puris and more omelettes for each of us! Breaking out in a laughter, we had to politely apologise as we had already eaten so much. The expression on Selva’s face was of disbelief and a little hurt i believe. We felt heartbroken at that and asked the Manager to kindly express our heartfelt gratitude and appreciation for his food, and assure him that we will eat well at lunch.
The next few meals, Selva kept running back and forth from the kitchen whenever we asked for a second serving and brought us way more than we could eat! The beauty of Wayanad is the monsoons had already charmed us, and got us to relax and enjoy the amazing views from our resort. In fact, in order to digest all that food, we decided to take a walk down to our car and head to a nearby waterfall hike while it rained heavily. All because we didn’t want to see Selva sad at dinner if we couldn’t eat properly. We had never met anyone like Selva before or after this trip, at least not yet! His eagerness to serve guests ensuring happy tummies, gave us so much joy, it is perhaps indescribable in words.
Such, is the love of the people of Kerala, that keeps pulling us to this beautiful state full of adorable surprises like these stories! At the end of it all, there is nothing more true than the tagline of Kerala Tourism, #HumanByNature.
We made a tribute video on the beauty of Kerala with a legendary Malayalam poem by Chnagampuzham Krishna Pillai. Watch it below:
You should checkout this brilliant campaign video created by the Kerala Tourism Department that captures the true essence of this world famous destination, in its glory!