Thursday, May 8, 2008

Travel: Mist covers the mountain tops

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 South India. Take a dip in 'Madamma (White Lady) Kulam' ( (pond) north of the peak; that was a favorite pastime with the wives of British planters. There is a story that sometimes Amrit, the elixir of life, floats down to the pool with the waterfall that fills it.

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.)

Also see: Kerala plantations: The bed tea ceremony that was


Gardenia said...

That was a lovely read about a perfect getaway destination. There is such a sense of peace - it seems to infuse the entire piece, and touches the reader too!

Abraham Tharakan said...

gardenia, thank you. Peermade is truly a peaceful place.
You might like to see the photos in my post today on Peermade flowers.

Happy Kitten said...

Hey Peerumade is mine!

LOL! I dint know u had a Peerumade connection!

I grew up on those places that you mentioned and have also taken many dips in the "madama kulam" had many picnics at the Palace (not the Kallivayalil house), or did he buy it recently? His daughter Ms. Gita taught us for a while.

yes the hills are full of Guavas....nd u forgot to mention "Kuttikanam" the junction from where you choose ur journey.

Thanks anyway for the lovely trip...

Abraham Tharakan said...

Happy Kitten, that's a good one. Thanks.

OK, Peermade is yours. But I stake claim for a nostalgic attachment to the place.

You are right; I should have mentioned Kuttikkanam, the junction from where my trip started. I have been generally referring to the area as Peermade.

Geeta is my first cousin. As far as I know, Uncle Michael has not bought the Maharaja's Palace.

One suggestion - why don't you write about Madamma Kulam and the rest of your beautiful Peermade. I'm sure a lot of people would be interested in reading it.

Happy Kitten said...

We had a long weekend here in Kuwait due to the demise of Amir and now I am back after the hectic holidays to not so hectic office hours!

Thank you for your warm response.... even I have a nostalgic connection with Peerumade and taking real trips to Peerumade is like a pilgrimage for me. The virtual trips are taken often though.

Your Uncle and Aunt visited my parents at Mavelikara recently.

Gita teacher taught me in 5 or 6th Standard I think but she left a lasting impression on all of us. She was all elegeance and humility. I still remember the unique way of her teaching and how she made us all keep a small diary where she asked us to write down every new word she taught us in English. Unfortunately for us, she left soon to get married. As you must know, the school is situated on the grounds donated by your Uncle.

I shall try to do a post on Peerumade soon although the photos are those that I took 2 years back.

Abraham Tharakan said...

Happy Kitten, Please do go ahead and write about Peermade. Never mind if your photographs are two years old.

I visited your blogs and shall return to them for more serious reading.

All the best.

Jaywalking said...

Mr Tharakan, Happy Kitten, Thanks for post and the comments. I was a student of St Pius X for a short time but enough to fall in love with the place. So much so that I bought a piece of land along the stream near Madamakulam. Its another matter that I am not able to visit the place as frequently as I would like to.
Yeah, some one should write about Madamakulam, the tea factory, the guava bushes (with deliciously sour guavas).
I have lots of fond memories of the place. Hope to take some time off and do some writing myself.