Monday, May 28, 2012

Bungalow & Farm Holiday – Part II

The ancient charm of a colonial bungalow, the rustic charm of a farm resort-----contd.

April 21-23, 2012

The drive from Vaghamon to Vandiperiyar (14 kms from Thekkady) was filled with nature’s wonderful hues and views. As we were nearing our destination – Harithavanam Farmer Resort in Keerikara, the emerald green tea plantations welcomed us, stretching 6 kilometres way up to the resort. We unwound the window glasses, let the cool and fresh wind in, turned up the volume of the music playing “We will, we will rock you!” and looked forward to gulping down some fun, on the rocks. 

The Resort had this very earthy concept, with generous use of bamboos in its decor. We were to stay in 2 cottages which had thatched roofs and eco-friendly materials to keep it pleasantly cool in any weather. A refreshingly cool lemonade, spiced up with ginger was waiting. A shot of spirit, followed by a heavenly feast (traditional Kerala cuisine with fish curry, fried fish, dry prawns chutney and the works!) and we were all ready to hit the waters.

We changed into suitable outfits and made our way through the plantations (coffee, spices, fruits and vegetables), down to the river. The water wasn’t too deep, as it was the peak of summer, but just enough to stay afloat and beat the heat. We had a splash of a time. We sat like hippos in the water, and could see small fishes curious and nibbling at our feet. We spent about an hour by the river and went back up.

We then played some cricket (we always carry bat, ball and stumps in the boot, to play where we please!) after which we indulged in some steaming hot pazhampori (ripe banana slices dipped in a batter of gram flour and fried in coconut oil…slurp, slurp!) and refreshing hot chai (tea). We got to cuddle some cute li'l rabbits too.

Next we got ready to go on the fishing trek down the river, across the bridge, through the plantations…with a professional fisherman to guide us. What a catch we had! 

My elder daughter Ann proudly lifted live fish one by one, from the net into the basket. And to have that fried and curried for dinner is an experience worth relishing (A boat can float in my mouth now, just thinking about it)!

 We had time for a quick shower, and got ready for campfire and dinner. Rotis, Rabit roast, Fish fry, Chicken curry, Peanut masala and Fresh green salads with some clinking of glasses, in a background of music blasting off from my sister’s mobile, kids all flared up with their own singing and dance performances and then a grand finale with all of us breaking into a tribal sort of dance around the fire. It was a sight, no doubt, but gratefully there was no one else around, but us!

Crashed the night and morning we were up early to have a quick breakfast - Vellayappam and beef stew, and hit the road on our journey back home. The drive was not very pleasant though what with the endlessly curvy roads and the kids and sis giving in to motion sickness.

Finally we were on home ground, bringing back with us the memories of a fine vacation. Though just 2 days in all (the weekend), it was a fulfilling and refreshing holiday, worth waiting for!

Busy days ahead, I switched on my laptop and nearly swooned at the mails and the work in store for me. The worst part of a holiday, is having to get back to work, I tell you! Just like the Monday morning blues, I'm suffering from 'Back from holiday' blues...Will get over it soon for sure, but hey, who wants to?!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Bungalow & Farm Holiday – Part I

The ancient charm of a colonial bungalow, the rustic charm of a farm resort

April 21-23, 2012

It was a journey amidst a hectic schedule. A harried couple of months at work, followed by a weekend getaway plan, what with sis bil in town. Leaving behind a pile of work that would be sitting a pile higher when back from holiday. Kids, Bob and I along with my sis and bil hit the road early in the morning.

A whirlwind visit of Bharananganam the resting place of Saint Alphonsa en-route to Vaghamon. 

The highway on four wheels and six spirited souls (six abs none!) continued on the dreary drive uphill.

The first casualty (of motion sickness) turned out to be my 3 yr old daughter Becky (the youngest of the lot) who threw up without warning. But I held up the mug in the nick of time saving our clothes and the car insides…phew! (A mug is handier and less messier than the pukey bags/plastic covers, and so accompanies us on all our car journeys)

The rest of the journey passed by quite uneventfully, save the beautiful sights around us - the mist clad hills, rocky mountains, views of the bottomless valleys, tea plantations….

And lo and behold…we arrived at our first destination – Vaghamon – A right turn from the T-Junction and about 500 metres down the road is the Estate Bungalow of MMJ Plantations - our exotic place of stay.

A bit more about the Bungalow...
Built in 1927-28 by the then Chiefs of Vaghamon (Travancore) Tea Company Mr. Hammonds and Mr. Gardinier (Brits), this Bungalow is situated inside 2000 acres of Tea, Cardamom and Coffee Plantation at an elevation of 3100 feet above sea level. The wooden floors are fixed 3.5 feet above the ground level.

Most of the Bungalow remains quite intact with no major renovation having taken place, except perhaps for the modern bathrooms adjoining the two guestrooms, and the regular maintenance and cleaning around.
We were welcomed with a cup of steaming hot tea served in the cozy settings of the living room in all its colonial splendour. All rooms in the Bungalow have a fireplace that adds an exotic charm to the place. We quickly had a shower in the modernized bathrooms and took a quick tour of the Bungalow. It has a visitor’s room, living room, library, 2 guest suites with attached bath, recreation room (caroms, chess, cards...), dining room, kitchen, storeroom and a caretaker’s room. Each room spacious, and each nook telling a resplendent story of the yesteryears.

We played a few rounds of caroms (had been ages since the last time I played!), had some refreshing drinks, then went out for a walk in the garden. 

They have a beautiful garden of medicinal plants and flowers of all kinds and colours that make it picture perfect. With organic farming, everything locally cultivated and farmed, and a poultry farm, our lunch was nothing less than perfect. It was then time for a siesta, short yet sweet.

The fresh tea refreshed us and we were ready for the drive around Vaghamon – A place called Pine Valley (acres of Pine Trees) the perfect picnic spot and a scenic place popular among cinematographers in South India, then proceeded t to Mottakunnu – again a picnic spot, a seemingly endless meadow with little hilly mounds. The weather was rather pleasant.

Drove back to the Bungalow, enjoying the sights around. More rounds of caroms followed. Then, sumptuous dinner. We were ready to crash. After a good night’s sleep, we woke up early, walked around the tea estate (covered not even 1% of the 2000 acres perhaps!) and the veg garden.

Many photo-ops later, and after bread, butter, eggs and tea we hit the road, heading to our next destination – Thekkady.

[This post begs for a Part II, so I’ll be back…Hope you’ll be back too!]