PONMUDI GLOWING AMIDST CLOUD-FILLED
VALLEYS – KERALA
The big waves splashed forcefully on the outcrop of rocks sending sprays upwards.
With the high tide coming in, the intensity increased. We sat on the uppermost
ledge of this outcrop and yet the spray reached us. The only massive outcrop
in that long curved palm fringed shoreline at Kovalam, a much publicised beach
of the southern city of Trivandrum, was nature’s gallery for the visitors
to witness the splendour of the sunset.
As the sun dipped to the horizon, it appeared to grow in size and became fiercely orange. Slowly and steadily people came over to the outcrop, sat on the ledges at different levels unperturbed by the heavy sprays. They belonged to the league of sunset aficionados, I presumed.
The Ponmudi Hills partially blocked the early morning sun rays on the plantation. Yet, the tappers went about briskly gathering the milky fluid collected in the coconut shells. Coconut thatch mats covered almost one half of the road over which women were spreading black pepper for drying.
During my tour of Kerala, I had found that the elephant was as common a sight as a car or a cycle. As we drove on we came across a lone elephant ambling along carrying his mahout atop and his breakfast of coconut thatch in his trunk.
The thick tropical forest greeted us at the foot of Ponmudi Hill range. The road passed under a canopy of thickly matted foliage. Birdsongs rose above the clatter of our jeep. The forest receded gradually as we wound our way to the top giving way to neatly clipped tea bushes. The Britishers’ penchant for the hills was evident here too in the form of tea estates. Tea is a ‘recent’ entrant in Kerala’s plantation history which has had international trade for centuries. Her spices were so famous that a Boman chronicler Pliny had complained of the impending ruin of Rome through the drain of currency for the traders demanded solid Roman coins in exchange for their goods. Coffee made its appearance earlier than tea by about four decades and it was Murdoch Brown who started the first coffee plantation at Anjarakandi on the northern end of the Western Ghats in Kerala. By the 1860s and 1870s tea estates were thriving on the high ranges of Anamudi, Munnar and Ponmudi.
Though I was told that the tea estates at Ponmudi were not as big as those in the Munnar Hills, to me they appeared quite vast. Large water sprays showered the gardens. I halted by the group picking leaves. The ‘mate’, a septuagenarian shading himself with an umbrella, was reading aloud the day’s news to the pickers. The pickers’ response was either a grunt indicating disapproval of the news item or a plain silence in agreement. In this highly literate state it is often quipped that the daily news is a staple diet! So engrossed was the ‘mate’ that we startled him on our approach.
That evening we trekked to Ponmudi Crest. Ponmudi in Malayajam means golden crown and true to is name the Crest glowed golden , the evening sun. A brief moment ou*, a lasting one in my memory- Fo-, the clouds rolled rapidly in the sky and the downpour was all too sudden. The clouds descended enveloo,rg us Whoever dreamed of being on cloud nine; at least on that day I was on one. The white c!ojo-foled valleys between the series cf ridges gradually reducing in height front the summit, presented us a scene typical of a Chinese painting. This scenic Merchiston Estate—the only surviving tea plantation in the area beauty was heightened by the large shafts of falling rain punctuating the panoramic view.
The brilliant red coloured southern trong on dotted the trees like flowers. The air filled with the loud raucous cackling of heavy billed Malabar hornbills. The shrill notes of the blue-black Malabar whistling thrush added to the cacophony. Even the rare long-tailed paradise flycatchers flitted gracefully from tree to tree. I had never seen so many species of birds in the wild. It was like an open aviary.
After my four days sojourn in Ponmudi I wanted to extend my holiday. It was
a tranquil and peaceful hill station tucked away quietly in a corner of India
offering just the kind of holiday one dreams of. Rubber plantation on Barasinghas
in the Ponmudi zoo
Ponmudi is 61 kilometres from Trivandrum. Trivandrum is connected by Indian Airlines and Air India flights.
A broad-gauge rail-line connects Trivandrum with other cities of India.
By Road -
Kerala State Transport Corporation buses ply between Trivandrum and Ponmudi every half hour. Kerala State Tourism Development Corporation conducts a daily tour from Trivandrum to Ponmudi.
WHERE TO STAY
At the tourist complex of Kerala Tourism. 10 cottages and 24 rooms, all double bedded.
The tourist complex has a restaurant service, serving only Indian food. The complex also has an auditorium to seat
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