Sounds of silence
Spend a quiet retreat in the hills of Wayanad, listening to nature conduct its rich symphony…
Cottages with a view: Glenora homestay.
The woods are dark and deep; the roads smooth and steep. A narrow, long-winding path up the hills takes you to Wayanad, the land which once was an expanse of paddy fields. Home to coffee and tea planters, the wealth of this place on the Western Ghats at an altitude of about 2,000 metres above mean sea level is nature at its unadulterated best. Many waterfalls, peaks, valleys, caves, a wildlife sanctuary and a museum dot this spice destination in Kerala, which is still to see commercialism gain roots at a greedy pace. Homestays, however, are here to stay. From just about 10 five years ago, there are over 50 homestays now; the trend is in.
It takes two-and-a-half hours by road from Kozhikode to reach Glenora, a Mahindra homestay. Three German Shepherds guard the five-star rated abode from an enclosure at a safe distance. The still of a misty morning forecasts good things to come; the first is a warm welcome by the host, Mr. Rajagopal. The next is tea, which is pronounced with such sweetness and offered with such reverence that you receive it like a celestial potion under the clouds. With every sip of tea, tuned-in ears can hear the birdsong from the balcony overlooking the mountains and towering trees. The accommodation is a neat cottage built on stone stilts. Food is strictly not served in the room as creepy crawlies could invade the squeaky-clean confines. Instruction is pasted on the glass door to never leave it open in the evenings when the light is on inside. A violation of this could invite shockingly huge bugs, which would find you better company than their contemporaries of the familiar wild.
As night falls, the birds go to sleep. It is time for animals to live up to their names. Bears, leopards, elephants roam the distant jungle; you could hear their sounds, even better, imagine being surrounded by them. The heart skips a beat every so often, right through if you choose to stay awake. The noises of the night, even the silence, are strange.
Touching upon the basics, the foremost is food. Mrs. Jayarani Rajagopal manages the kitchen, which is compartmentalised into three sections, for vegetarian and non-vegetarian purposes. She is a perfect host who believes that appetising food effectively communicates. To assist her in the kitchen is Anil, also a skilled driver. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are by the clock. So different is the homestay from a hotel that its ambience exudes a sense of ease. Getting personal is spontaneous and food is enjoyed at length over unrelated conversations. When the table is set, one can expect to see a mélange of colourful dishes, each with its own distinct aroma, taste and style.
How is time tackled at a homestay? Time does wait if you intend not to do much. Close to Glenora is Sunrise Valley. Sunset is also beautiful when, from the summit, you see the Chaliyar meandering through the deepest part of the valley against the backdrop of a golden sky. Dark boulders on the water way below look like elephants crossing the river. Far across the mountains ahead is Udhagamandalam.
Jeep rides with Mr. Rajagopal are an experience. Speeding past lush-green tea gardens makes you wonder if global warming is a matter of the past. Tea dust in one kg packets costs Rs. 90 at the roadside outlets adjoining the estates. The same in a glossy wrapper elsewhere in Wayanad is Rs. 130!
Trekking is enlightening with a host whose local knowledge is immense. When he shows you pepper, betel, cinnamon, clove and lemon grass growing one beside the other, you sense the scent in the oxygenated air is therapeutic. Deep breathing comes naturally.
Five-star comforts in a homely setting…
A relaxed walk to the 40-acre coffee plantation owned by the host teaches one to appreciate life for what it is. The mesmerising cup of coffee in our hands on a routine day has come a long way. Ripe burgundy berries that transform into hard brown beans to produce the classic aroma of coffee when roasted is a story by itself. Interesting hours go by discussing the grading of beans for in-country and export markets.
Glenora's flower garden is a lover's delight. There is a flower of every colour, and roses the size of lotus. Even poinsettias adorn a leafless tree. Fruit trees in the surroundings are mostly organic, maintained by Mr. Rajagopal and his wife. The coffee drying yard in front of their house is so vast, it could well serve as a helipad.
Wayanad's flora, fauna and heritage can heartily be explored in one visit. Distances could be covered easily if the accent is on sight-seeing. Peace and quiet are always near. When man and nature co-exist in harmony, the ordinary appears like a fantasy. In Wayanad, you could wish for the wind to play music and the waters to flow without a murmur, and watch it happen. Time waits.
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