Last week I was at Peermade again. This quite little hill station along National Highway 220 in Kerala was once the summer retreat of the Travancore Royal Family. It is famous for its pleasant climate all through the year, beautiful scenery and flowers.
Peermade is also a place of many childhood memories for me – the grass covered hills against the backdrop of the mountains, clusters of guava trees that grew wild, trucks of the Motor Transport Company carrying supplies to the plantations scattered over the area, trekking paths, waterfalls ands lakes. It has not changed much over the decades.
At 1000ms above sea level, Peermade is still an ideal holiday destination. Go for long walks in the tea estates and mountain tracks, picnics, climb the mist covered Amritamedu the second highest peak in
Golf if you like, at the Peermade Club. Visit the 18c church that stands proudly amidst cypress trees at Pallikunnu; history lies buried in the graveyard that is the final resting place of several Englishmen. Pay respects at the tomb of the Sufi saint, Peer Mohammed from whom the place has derived its name.
One can drive to Panchalimedu where, according to legend, the Pandavas lived for a while during their exile. Today the area has a monastery and a few convents. The view from there is stunning. The famous Christian Ashram at Wagamon is one hour drive in another direction. Next to it, the British architect Laurie Baker who did commendable work in low cost housing had established a hospital for hill tribes five decades back. (See: Laurie Baker - A Tribute.) The Perriyar Wildlife Sanctuary is 45kms away.
What I love to do best at Peermade is to sit quietly and watch the shifting mist. The thin woolly veil drifts in with the breeze, lingers for a while covering the superb view, and floats away gently, unraveling again the mountains and the valleys and the stream far below.
Peermade is not a bustling tourist spot. It is a quiet get away place where you can be with nature. The climate is never too hot, never too cold. Hotel and resort accommodation is available. But there is a new experience. Several of the plantation bungalows have been converted to homestays. Live like the sahibs did a century back, but with adjustments to suit modern times.
(Photos (copyright reserved) taken by me from the erstwhile palace of the late Maharani Sethu Lakshmi Bhai. It is now the residence of the leading planter and philanthropist Michael A. Kallivayalil.)