I'm fed up of the long coffee-break that the monsoons seem to be taking in Mumbai! It waltzed in late and zoomed off early. So aggravating! To distract myself, I keep thinking about my trip to Kerala a couple of months ago. Especially my stay in this lovely plantation home in Kothamangalam .
Kerala has to be a gardener's idea of paradise. Forget the ease with which everything seems to grow here, it's also home to some of the best spice plantations in the world.
And Kothamangalam seems to be at the heart of all this activity in spices and forest products. It's a small town situated at the foothills of the Western Ghat mountains so there is a lot of trade in rubber and timber. And the minute we drove into this little town, the scent of medicinal herbs used in Ayurveda, is all-pervading.
I have no idea why it is so overlooked on the tourism map. The Thattekad Bird Sanctuary is hardly 10 - 15 kms away and Munnar, with its scenic tea-estates, is just an hour or so down the road. But apart from that, the looming rubber plantations enclosing whole universes within them, have a charm which is simply unique!
Imagine waking up to a view like this! Walk out onto a balcony surrounded by greenery, no people in sight, no sounds except bird-calls. Bliss!
This is what I saw from that balcony. The kitchen garden with its fair share of bilimbi trees, chilli and banana plants and a whole lot more ... always fringed by tall rubber-trees in the background.
Oh yes, and mangosteens! The tree was filled with fruit in varying stages of ripening. Have you ever tasted mangosteen? It is the most delicious fruit in my opinion.
Unfortunately, it doesn't keep well and quickly hardens to a rock-like stage where it's almost impossible to crack the fruit open and get at its pure white segments.
It has to be one of the most dramatic-looking fruits too. Just picture it cracked open... purplish skin with an inner red flesh and hidden within it, like the prized jewel, is the pure white, segmented, deliciously sweet fruit. (Give me a minute to wipe the drool off my key-board, okay?)
Pretty little white wax-apples hang like bells on the tree. Contrary to its name, there is nothing waxen about it, except maybe its glossy skin. Did you know that they come in pink and red colours too? A wax-apple tree in full fruit is a beautiful sight!
Not as beautiful as this, though. Like I said, this is a plantation home and just a few feet away from the house, a veritable forest of rubber trees grow sky-high, blocking out the sunlight and turning the sky green instead of blue.
It is an imposing sight and sent thrilling shivers down my spine. There is something so primeval about it.
In the dense undergrowth, caladiums fight for space and add a dash of colour. An eye-catching change from green of all shades .
A sudden downpour blurs the trees and everything takes on a hazy atmosphere. One can almost imagine dinosaurs foraging just beyond one's line of vision. And myriad mythical creatures suddenly seem so plausible ... as if they are surely living just beyond that clump of green yonder.
The downpour also fills up this little coconut shell which is used by the tappers to collect the latex that goes into making the rubber that your car tyres run on.
See that white line? That's the latex. The tapper makes a cut on the tree which induces the latex to flow along the line of the cut ... right into that conveniently placed coconut shell from where it will be collected later.
A stroll in the garden brought me to a large carp pond . More interesting for me was the number of dragonflies zipping around. I can't imagine how they found this pond attractive ... those carp were voracious.
Isn't this dragonfly gorgeous!
This gorgeous Dawn Dropwing dragonfly was too restless for me to get a good photo. Finally I had to make do with this though the red laterite soil is just not the best backdrop it could get.
There's something very vital and alive in the air here.... it's buzzing with activity. I had hardly bent down to click these heliconias when this Chocolate Pansy butterfly dropped in for a quick pose.
Hey, I don't mind!
(This post is specially meant for one of my regular readers in West Lafayette, Indiana. Happy birthday, Antony! )