“Do people take bath here?” I turn back and shout at Aji, my driver. “They are crazy over it.” He screams back pitching his reply above the loud roar of the waterfall, sealing my fate. I touch the freezing water again.
Against this deafening scream of the water, even a cry for help would be responded by my driver with a wave his hand, greeting me back.
Gripping the craggy rocks with nails and talons, I move inch by inch towards the waterfall. I took a long breath. Then in one swift move I slip behind the chilly curtain of water. Will the heavy slabs slapping on my back with their coarse hands sweep me down the stream? I fear. Then I forget to fear.
No masseur can ease out the tired muscles and perk them up like the frigid fingers of a wild waterfall. This is the ultimate experience; I thank my friend Sambhu Sankar for insisting me to stay in this resort when I told him about my journey to Kuttikkanam in Idukki district.
“Tea, coffee, cardamom, pepper, wild trees and medicinal plants, you name it, our 600-acre plantation has it,” Sumesh Rajan, the manager of Misty Mountain plantation resort proudly told me in the morning when I checked in.
We soon got on to a jeep to explore the highlights. A dramatic viewpoint which opened to an awesome valley was our first stop. Had it not been for the fences, I feared I would have walked off the cliff lured by the lovely blue of the distant mountains.
The deep valley shimmered in the morning light. I stopped Aji midway, as he began to pick out microscopic junctions and monuments deep down the valley with his keen eyes. I didn’t want him to deconstruct a poem my eyes were feasting on.
There on the shade of a guava tree I sat on the sun-dappled ground to stretch my legs. Aji brought a handful of fresh berries and fruits I had never seen in my life. “I am sorry. My stomach is upset,” I declined the offer fearing to taste the unknown. Aji smiled and continued to hold the fruits at me.
“Do you have any wildlife in this plantation?” I asked Sumesh rolling a juicy fruit Aji had brought, to the other side of my mouth. “Yeah, a little,” Sumesh continued, “Animals like hares, barking deer, monkeys are common. Hornbills and kingfishers are also regulars here. Nature lovers get excited when migratory birds come during certain seasons.” The fruit broke and its bittersweet pulp filled my mouth.
On the road we had to squeeze our vehicle to the narrow shoulders whenever estate jeeps came against us. I inhaled deeply. They were not jeeps but little clouds of cardamom with engines purring at the centre.
The resort has two major waterfalls and three check dams in its property.
Misty Mountain, owned by planter Michael Kallivayalil, is also heavy on antique charm. The palace where the queens of Travancore once stayed during Summer season is deep in the estate. They have also renovated the Dewan’s summer residence into a cozy cottage where you can stay with your big family for Rs. 5000/- for a day.
Or stay in one of the ten rooms (Rs1500/-n tax) or a dormitory (Rs. 5000/- for 5 people). During holidays only the early birds who have booked their rooms in advance can check in to their nests. Once there, don’t forget to pedal around in the bicycle they provide. Canoeing around in their lake is also fun.
The heavy dose of rainforest and the birdcalls which insist for answers may indulge the child in you.
The rooms are spacious and tidy, but a wee bit close to the road. You get all kinds of cuisines at the restaurant. Before you check out ask for jams made from estate grown guavas and plantains. They are the best to appease angry wives back at home, I have experienced.
Kuttikkanam junction is only a 5 minute walk from here.
They told me that a few more cottages are coming up near the dam.
So next time I go there, hope I will catch you sitting on the windowsill of a cottage against the dying light of a beautiful evening with a fishing rod in your hand. Deep into night you might see a slice of heaven on the still water below where the stars come, preen themselves, and pass by in silence.
(Kuttikkanam is 167 kms from Trivandrum, on the way to Thekkady. Call Sumesh to book the room in advance at his number – 9447848123)