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Monday, 8 October 2007

Ponmudi: Kerala's Golden Crown

I sat happily humming to myself on my way to work in the morning as the pleasant breeze hit my face and rain splattered the roads all around.

For a change, I didn't even mind the pollution and traffic around me. It was this weather which reminded me of something and prompted me to get over my laziness and finally write after this long break.

The overcast sky, the soft drizzle and the rain kissed trees drifted my thoughts back to a few months when I was standing overlooking an expanse of mountains covered with a green blanket with the sky playing pranks on me.

On the one side of the sky was a full misty stretch overshadowing the plants and making the early morning look like late evening. On the other side was a brightly lit up sky generously sun bathing the plants.

61 kms away from Trivandrum, I was in this quaint little hill station called Ponmudi. Literally meaning a golden crown, Ponmudi was quite a breathtaking sight to behold.

Though just about a 1000 meter above sea level, it had all the ingredients of a typical tourist hub.

We planned this family gathering during our last visit to Trivandrum. Our group reached there after a pleasant one and a half hour drive from Trivandrum.

The signboard at the outset did say 21 hairpin bends but the drive was surprisingly comfortable.

I didn't even need to pop in my usual dose of Avomine to stop me throwing up!
The beautiful Kerala countryside hardly gave me time to think of anything else.

The abundance of trees and flowers along with the lovely breeze kept me gazing out of the window of my car.

In between we also crossed the Kallar river which seemed very calm to me but I was warned that the same water gets quite wild at times.

As our destination grew nearer, my spirits were also perking up. And finally when we reached the government guest house where we were supposed to spend the next two days, I was elated.

Apart from the fact that the place looked cosy, I instantly fell in love with the area it overlooked.

To me, Ponmudi only meant the beautiful tea gardens, mountains, trees and flowers all seen from the guest house.

As the mist played hide and seek with the mountains, we kept standing there just gazing at the beauty around us.

Who could believe that we were just about 1000 meters above sea level and could still feast our eyes to something as incredible as this?

The weather-ah, the weather. It was the perfect weather to enjoy a holiday. Neither too cold to be confined to your quilts and nor too hot to flaunt your summer clothes collection.

While the Trivandrum people did start feeling cold in the evening, I and my husband were pleasantly reminded of the Delhi winter onset.

My first impressions of the guest house turned up to be perfect and the place was indeed very homely and comfortable.

The rooms, though not luxurious had all the required amenities.
But the real surprise came when we went and peeped out from the huge balconies of each room.

With swift cool breeze blowing across, the balconies overlooked to a postcard kind of scenery. The mountains, blanketed by a deep emerald cover looked almost black as the mist started falling.

Just then slight drizzle started washing all the plants, trees and flowers with its pure water. Nature's bounty had completely me engulfed when I suddenly realised that I'm being called for lunch.

Running towards the lunch room, I saw my husband and his nephew busy taking a thousand snaps of God knows what. I went near thinking it must be a beautiful flower but to my horror discovered that it was actually a garden lizard!

Both the men were completely fascinated by how 'friendly' the lizard was.
Well, being right in the nature's lap, the one day in Ponmudi did give the two many other opportunities to go on a photography spree.

My sea fish starved husband just couldn't stop raving about the fried fish served at the meal.

The fried chicken was also an instant hit with the non-veggies in our group as the ladies kept trying to find out the secret behind the perfectly fried chicken and fish.

As far as I was concerned, well I was busy gobbling down the sambhar rice with papad.
After the stomach bloating lunch, it was siesta time but none seemed to be in a mood for it.

The gossip session carried on till evening when we finally decided to get out for a walk. The kids were excited to find a small garden with some swings and instantly freed themselves of their mother's grip and ran.

It was now that when it finally struck me that my mobile had not rang since I had arrived in Ponmudi. I took it out only to realise that though the screen flashed Airtel, the connection was actually not good enough to make or receive calls.

Wow, this was a complete holiday, away from the constantly ringing mobiles and the buzzing city!
But people back in Delhi had to be informed so we marched to the only shop we could spot within the guest house.

A small provision cum stationary shop which had an STD booth but that was also shut! But the owner kindly offered to give us his mobile to make a call and we did so paying only a small amount.

As I was busy chatting away on the phone, my husband noticed packets of tea displayed. Merchiston tea powder, made from the tea leaves of the Ponmudi hills was available as black tea as well as normal tea.

We bought packets to sample of both and I must say that we thoroughly enjoyed having the lovely tea back in Delhi.

As the coastal people in our group started feeling quite cold, we decided it was time to retreat. Just as we settled back with blankets in our rooms, the menfolk silently slipped away.

They came back armed with a bottle of wine and informed us that they had chilled beer in the beer parlour of the guest house. It had started raining by then and I almost shivered to think of the chilled beer!

With the rain dropping the temperature further, we thoroughly enjoyed the sips of wine we got.
Since we had our evening tea quite early, everyone was ravenous by dinner time.

I almost pounced on the fried rice. And the fried rice was probably the tastiest one I have ever eaten. The perfect blend of vegetables and rice, I thoroughly enjoyed having it with lots of papad and raita. The non-veggies were not disappointed at dinner time also.

Sleeping in a blanket in July almost sounded like a dream. But the thin yet warm blanket provided to us was perfect for the weather. When I think of the room now, I can still smell the dampness in the walls and the air.

The night was by no means silent. We could hear rain pouring throughout the night and the wind shaking our windows violently.

Even amidst all this, we had a lovely sleep and woke up late next morning only to be told that we had to rush and pack.

After a memorable day and night in the Golden Crown, we headed back home with a heart full of memories and a camera overflowing with pictures...

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