Thursday, May 31, 2012

Peermade , Deccan Herald.

The plantation town of Peermade
Tea estates in Peermade ..

The long winding road on a misty morning.. The abundance of tons of oxygen is the greatest asset here..

Peermade hill station in Kerala was the favourite holiday destination of Travancore royalty, writes Susheela Nair.

The air is chilly and mist falls over the plantation town of Peermade in the evenings. At times nothing can be seen around, except the whiteness of mist and the next moment the mist would vanish unveiling the richness of the land.

Once, the erstwhile summer retreat of Travancore Maharajas and the British planters, its present claim to fame are the tea plantations, the British bungalows and the mausoleum of a Sufi saint. It is off point the usually trodden tourist track and in the shadow of Munnar. Most tourists pass this town by. This, in some ways, is Peermade’s USP.

We dropped anchor here for a truly blissful quiet weekend to explore the rest of the district’s highlights like Thekkady, Vagamon and Idukki.

Peermade engages the senses not just on the strength of its natural beauty but also because of the charming tales spun around its most favoured points.

A short trek up the Peeru Hills took us to the mausoleum dedicated to Peer Mohamed, a Sufi saint who is believed to be the first trader of spices in the region. Overgrown with weeds and creepers and surrounded by deep, endless gorges and waterfalls, it stands sans any epitaph. This quaint little hill station is also known as Peermedu (‘Peeru medu’ in local parlance means Peer’s valley) after him. When the British made it their summer station in the 1800s, the name was later anglicised to Peermade to suit their tongue.

Just within walking distance is the huge Summer Palace of erstwhile Travancore Maharajas, ensconced amidst lush foliage. Stepping into this crumbling palace conjured visions of the times when the Maharaja sauntered down the endless corridors. The great underground escape passage, the prison cell, the stables, the durbar hall all hark back to the days when Peermade was the favourite rendezvous of the royalty.

The other landmark of royalty in the vicinity is the Maharani’s Palace, the summer residence of Maharani Sethu Lakshmi Bhai, in the Glenrock Estate. Now, it is the private residence of the Kallivayalil family.

Kuttikanam, the gateway to the hills of Peermade is an easy drive from Peermade. Just a hop away from Kuttikkanam junction is the Thrisangu Hills, a place used by the armed forces as a firing range. Its main allure lies in the fact that one can see the sunrise and sunset from this place besides having commanding views of the Peeru Hills, the Summer Palace of the erstwhile Maharajas, the pine forests and the organic tea factory of Peermade Development Society.

An interesting halt is the stately CSI Church or the St George’s Church surrounded by cypress and pine trees in a country-churchyard in Pallikkunnu. Constructed by Rev. Henry Baker Junior, a CMS missionary, it is claimed to be the first church in the High Ranges. Reverence also lingers for Daniel Munroe, who was instrumental in the opening of various estates.

Lost in a time warp are the graveyards of the British planters who lived and died here, their mortal remains marked by quaint crumbling tombstones with epitaphs. Even today their present generations come to pay respect to their ancestors who treaded this part of the world centuries back.

Another imposing church is the granite Velankanni Matha Church, located in Pattumala (which means ‘hills draped in silk’), a picturesque place located amidst an undulating expanse of lush green tea plantations.

A rickety jeep drive beyond Stagbrook Estate twist up your insides. It leads one to Madammakkulam, a natural pond encircled by deep woods on all sides. This idyllic place is evocative of the British regime when Madam Robinson, a British planter’s wife and her buddies went galloping on horseback to frolic in the pond, under a gushing waterfall. The locals were restricted from using the pond. Hence it came to be called Madammakkulam meaning ‘madam’s pond’ (Madamma’ is referred to any foreign lady). Now tourists make a dash to this place for a rejuvenating dip in the serene water of this natural pond. Just beyond the waterfalls is the Irumulachipara, two massive boulders.

The hills around Peermade are bustling with picnic possibilities. Going up to Grampi or Parunthupara, (Eagle Rock), a sprawling rock spread over half a kilometre in diameter is a must-do. It offers a remarkable, panoramic view of the surrounding areas from its high peaks. We ventured to Panchalimedu, where the Pandavas are believed to have spent some time in exile. We were greeted with crosses, granite edicts, a cave and a pond here.

It is equally significant to Christians who have put up crosses on the slopes of the hill. On Good Friday, people from all sections of life throng here in memory of Christ’s crucifixion. The trek to Amritha Medu, the highest peak in Kuttikkanam, can be a demanding climb and is not meant for the uninitiated and meek-hearted. From the pinnacle, one can have incredible views of the entire Peermade region.

FACT FILE*Getting there:
Air: Nearest airport: Nedumassery (Kochi) – 150 km
Rail: Nearest railhead- Kottayam- 75 km
Road: Thekkady- 35 km,Vagamon- 25 km, Kottayam-75 km, Munnar- 140 km.
*When to go: September to May end. For a monsoon break, June, July and August would be ideal
*Where to stay:
Misty Mountain Resort, Henwoods Bungalow, Ashley Bungalow
Wood Palace Heritage Resort , Hotel Himarani International
KTDC Yatri Niwas.

1 comment:

  1. Finally someone has written about Madamakulam.. I have a photo of the same on FB.. did you see it?


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