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Slice of Green Heaven
by Madhuri Chatterji

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Picture a verdant paradise perched high up in the hills, amidst lush tropical jungles, cool mists gliding down the slopes, creating an ethereal haze. A proud Malayali on our flight to Calicut proclaimed that except for snow, Kerala has it all--golden beaches, serene backwaters, virgin forests teeming with wild life, a rich cultured collage. Indeed, he is right.

 

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It is equally and astonishingly romantic to watch the sunset from one Kettuvallam (a houseboat used in Kerela) among several, while three boatmen hang lanterns and a pearly glow fades behind the palms and skiffs on an immense Vembanad lake. It is like time travel into a quiet morning of another century.

 

After touching down at Calicut airport and a leisurely lunch of spicy prawn curry and rice, washed down with copious quantities of tender coconut water at Paragon, a local speciality restaurant, set the tone of our trip. What followed was an hour smooth drive over undulating terrain, on the ghat road snaking its way up the mountains, through areca and banana plantations, interspersed with patches of Montana forest. Away from the clamour of plains and after negotiating many hairpin bends, we were soon on a dirt track, the approach to the resort. Over the next fifteen minutes, the track meandered uphill through coffee and tea plantations. The vehicle finally gasped to a halt and our intrepid chauffeur triumphantly announced "Vythri resort, Saar!".

 

Spread over acres, the place is perched on two slopes of mountain, on either side of a natural stream, gurgling through a small valley, which gives one a feeling of staying within a rainforest--a magnificent road bridge connecting two sections. Overlooking the valley and tree house, I could feel the natural symphony playing around--the rustle of leaves, the chirping of birds and crickets, the soothing gurgle of the stream and the myriad jungle sounds that calm urban eardrums.

 

As the evening mists rolled in, we had some snacks but were careful not to overeat as we were looking forward to the Ayurvedic massage. We emerged from all these oils and massage with nirvanic smirks and too hungry for more excursions. For lunch, all the dishes were laid out in baked mud urlis (traditional wide mouthed cooking vessels) with elegant coconut and  bamboo serving spoons.

 

Kerala is an easy place to simply sit back and enjoy the tropical sun on a beach at Kovalam or Poovar island, visit an Ayurvedic spa or visit the reclining Vishnu  in Padmanabhaswamy temple or spend a day riding small ferries through lagoons, snacking on spicy prawns, lobsters, sardines. We even meandered into a coffee plantation, where the trees were laden with fragrant coffee, flowers and berries of all hues.

 

Armed with binoculars, a trusty camera and a stout stick we also visited Periyar. A mud track through thickly forested slopes and the subtle fragrances of the jungle, wafting up. As the fallen leaves crackled under our feet, the subtle, intriguing, tantalising fragrances of the jungle wafted up and embraced us. An Emerald dove, resplendent in bottle green plumage, fluttered away into the bushes. A constant shower of red petals from Erythrina Indica trees seemed to offer their own welcome, the forest literally a red carpet of welcome. Flute like melodious call of the golden orioles serenaded us through the mists and a group of black drongos put up an aerial  show, rivalling an aerobatic display.

 

We made a serendipitious discovery of rudrakdha tree and I greedily collected the fallen nuts to string together a necklace like a devout. Many Cinnamon trees also clung to the precipice, we also collected bay leaves, an essential ingredient in a biryani. We usually tucked into our breakfast with fervour, with our staple feast being steamed kerala banana, which served both as a main dish  and dessert rolled into one. We even checked into Nilgiri  Biosphere Reserve, enroute to Pookode lake. The shimmering expanse of tranquil water looked like an emerald, in a ring of green mountains. The kingfishers everywhere shrieked their disapproval at our intrusion.

 

We also splurged on tribal handicrafts--their wares, primarily made from bamboo, innovatively designed cutlery, hangers, lampshades and planters. We gaped in open amazement at large shapes, many elephants who morphed from the grasses, sashaying across the road. Our driver maintained a safe distance to avoid alarming them, as they ripped out branches with practised ease. We were quite content absorbing the mystique of the jungle, the boats silhouetted against the twilight sky, a cool gentle breeze wafting in the approaching dawn in our houseboats. As the chatter of birds ebbed, the colonies of night heron stirred, their raucous squawks echoing overhead. The breeze rustling the palm fronds is just a bonus. Kerala truly won our hearts.

 

‘God is in his heaven and all right with the world,’ wrote Robert Browning and here nothing seems truer. Far away from the chaotic world we found a slice of heaven in God’s own country.

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Image by Evie S.
Image by Kenny Eliason

Madhuri Chatterji is a closet writer and art enthusiast. She is interested in creative writing, poetry, short stories, translations, travelling .She regularly distributes her time to write for them in magazines and journals .After a thirty year long career, travelogues and children stories occupy her the most. Armed Forces background makes her enthusiastic about adventure travels and spending time in the wild.

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