"do you see a sea of coconut trees"
"oh wait yes yes"
"ok you are in uthamapalayam and cumbum is 10min. we will wait"
sm n baski had already arrived at cumbum and were waiting for us. it was baski asking me questions to ascertain whether to wait. since our bus started late we were running late. we were in short conversation right from periyakulam...theni...veera pandi... chinnamanur..
It was sm's idea to go in jeep instead of car. The jeep ride was really fantastic. we removed the top cover of the jeep and stood up to get a better view of the scenary. we could see the mist over the top of distant mountains. clouds merged with the mountains and were melting down into streaky falls here and there. as the jeep started climbing the hill, we sat down and broke into cheery conversations. we arrived at the home stay after an hour since we started from cumbum bus stand.
Suresh, who runs the Green view home stay in kumuli greeted us with warm welcome. He gave us one double room. It was a 10 double rooms homestay with good scenic garden around. The floor was full of flower plants, and the twines were twirling around the parapet of the stairs. All of us refreshed quickly and had the authentic kerala tea. Suresh briefed us of a short plan on what to do for that day, a tea factory and spice plantation visit, view point walk, bamboo boating,elephant ride. we decided to go to spice plantation first.
Chellar kovil spice plantation
We hired the same jeep for a day's trip it costed us 1400. After having appam and kadalai curry for breakfast we headed for the spice plantation. it was located on the slope of the hill. kuriacos the owner showed us around. For people who want to know about spices it is a must visit. As it had just rained, the plants were wet and the flowers fresh. With the aroma of the spices in the air, it felt very refreshing.
There was rosemarry, a shrub; When you caress it with your palms, it leaves a lasting scent on you. One plant insulin plant -eating its leaves checks diabetes. One special herb named AllSpice, it leaves smell of the spice you think in your mind. If you think of ginger, the smell would be ginger. If you think of cardamom, it would smell like cardamom. For the first time, I saw vanilla plant. We saw cardamom, pepper, coffee, turmeric, ginger, cinnamom and many more unknown spices and herbs having aromatic and medicinal values, and so many flowers very pleasing to the eyes and their smell soothing to the mind.
We passed through a small lily pond kept for fishing to reach the view point beyond the garden. It is on the edge of the hill. It was foggy throughout. Through the mist, we could get a glimpse of the towns we came across - cudalur, cumbum, theni; tiny white dots amidst the greenary around. On one side was a huge green patch. He said that is a 5000acre paddy field. Periyar power station is also visible from there. One of the unreachable falls looking like a bunch of white silk wavering in the air and with the various shades of green around, the view is just spectacular.
Back at the spice garden, there was even a bamboo tree house built on top of a sturdy jack tree. The tree house with no other support, swings whenever the wind blows. He said in the night, you could see the light coming out of the towns below like unblinking stars on earth. After buying home made chocos and spices in a nearby petty shop, we started for suruli falls in TN.
Since suruli falls is about an hour journey from kumuli, we had our lunch before starting for the falls. We had kerala meals with fish curry. On the way down, we stopped at one place where four colossal pipes had been laid down the slope of the mountain. We were told that those were the pipes carrying water from periyar dam to the periyar power station below. As the view was also very good, baski opened his photo session and we had to drag him to start for suruli falls. We were stopped 5km before the falls as some "suruli aruvi saral vizha" was going on. An otherwise serenic place looked polluted with left over food and plastic everywhere. Electric wires were running for kilo metres to light the make-shift stage for the function. The water in the stream of the falls was very shallow, with doubts clouding the mind we proceeded to the falls. To our surprise, there were not many people near the falls and the place was clean. There were even change rooms. I was surprised I was in TN. Water was falling down from 20-30 feet, gathered into a pool and flowed down in branching streams. We were glad that we can bath there and not just watch. We bathed for one good hour, testing the water from every inch of the falls. Some lady had brought in two toddlers. They were very happily splashing water in the pool. It was funny to see them wanting to stand in the flow of the pool but shaking and falling and laughing, with every fall and getting up again. Baski dragged me out of the falls and asked me to look up. What a sight that was! It was as if someone with ten thousand hands hiding behind the rocky cliff was throwing down water balloons. It is such a soft water falls. No wonder so much crowd. There was one banyan tree over the top of the falls spreading its cover and sprouting roots from the branches. The water spilling from the falls always kept the roots wet and It is funny that the roots never have to reach the soil to suck water, they had direct dangling water supply. After taking another long deep dip, we came out. On the way back, we saw a samanthi field. It was so fresh and orangy and a feast to the eyes. Params and sm jumped out of the jeep to click some shots. I would say bathing in the falls beats any body massage. After little chat, all of us snoozed off in the jeep.
We had very little time for refreshing as the kalari performance would start by 6pm. We reached the theatre just in time. It was set like an arena where in the middle was a pit with fencing and viewers sat around in the high raised platform. Luckily for us the performance had not started then. In the speakers someone was explaining about kalari, its origin and importance in the war fields . Arranged on one side of the wall in the pit were the weapons of kalari amidst keral style oil lamps and there was an entrance in the wall facing the weapons. With the slow beats of a kerela percussion instrument, six to seven people entered the arena in black uniform. First they performed the Guru vanakkam, that is worshipping the guru. Next was a sword and shield fight between two disciples. Though it was only a demo, they fought fiercely with concentrated eyes and a focussed mind. There were sparks coming when the swords met and it looked nothing less of a real battle between two people. It just left everyone speechless especially the foreigners. The group went on to showcase their kalari skill each time with a different weapon combination and continued to stun everyone. Special mention has to be given to the weapon called urumi which is a bunch of sharp long steel ribbons wielding which required much concentration and practice. People fought with stick, spear, short sword, hand. The performance ended with a Guru vanakkam again. The performance really made an impact on the viewers and earned a great respect for the ancient art and its performers.
I was adamant on having a ayurvedic massage in kerala and got the appointment in one of the nearby massage centers. It was ok types. They just use gingly oil in the name of oil of great medicinal value. First time I took steam bath inside the closed container with just head and neck popping out. It felt good.
Accompanied by two tribes turned forest officers, one armed policeman, chilling breeze of the morning, we entered the forest. trail slippery due to previous night's rain - little streams flowing here and there - elephant tracks on the muddy floor - air turning dense and humid - trees green and high - it felt good. we stopped in an area clear of trees and had breakfast. Then the trail started upwards. After an hour or so climbing uphill, I jumped at the sight of elephant grass. That means, we have reached the top. We sat and took in the nature. somewhere down we noticed some browny rocks apparently shaking. oh! it was an elephant group. Params and sm went down with one of the officers to get closer look, while myself and baski contemplated the scenery around. The guides were good and told us lot of information about their tribal groups, rituals, hunting, forest life, and much more. After what seemed an eternity we started down in a different trail and had lunch near a stream flowing out of a small dark cave and reached the base around 4pm.
In the same jeep we went back to cumbum and started home.It was a very fulfilling trip.