Let me take you to a place where you will wake up in the misty mornings, will hum the tunes of the chirping birds, and will tread your own nature trails, where the picturesque flora and fauna will fill your heart with joy, where you will surrender yourself to the mysteries and miracles of nature, you will spend your days and nights in the vast expanse of spice plantations, you will not want to come down from your private tree house or jacuzzi villa and where you will not shy from saying that you are totally in love with Thekkady in Kerala. Such is the prowess of Carmelia Haven and I can vouch for it because I am talking from my own experience.
Carmelia Haven, Plantation Resorts and Spa, Vandanmedu
After spending two blissful days in luxury house boat in Alleppey, I reached Carmelia Haven to be spoiled, pampered and thrilled to the core. This was my first visit to Idukki district and I was already in love with the fresh waft of air, verdant landscape, winding roads, little hills, plantations and the abundant greenery. Situated in Vandanmeddu, Carmelia is an old beauty sprawled over 55 acres of tea and cardamom plantations. The moment you enter the property, the mixture of scented air, vast expanse of plantations and the silence of nature grows on you. The check-in was smooth and easy and the ride to the villa was a teaser to the splendid time that I was supposed to spend here.
My room and the swimming pool
After the four hour road trip from Alleppey, the cozy bed in the large and spacious room looked absolutely inviting but the swimming pool just outside these villa rooms was equally tempting. I had a packed day else I would have jumped into the pool right there. More so, there was a curiosity to explore the premises of the resort too. The lunch was set in the Kolumban restaurant and a vehicle was already waiting to take me and my friends to Periyar Tiger Reserve. On our request, the resort had already made arrangements for the afternoon boat cruising in the Periyar lake and the night jungle trail.
It was one fun-filled and memorable day at Periyar and you can always read about it here.
By the time we returned to the resort, it was already eleven. I was tired, hungry and all unclean. Trust me, it was nothing less than bliss to find warm hot water for a quick shower, good food and a comfortable bed after the thrilling adventures of the jungle.
Day 2 At Carmelia
After a great sleep, I woke up to a whistling sound. Later when I curiously asked around about the sound, I was told by the staff that it was Malabar Whistling Thrush, a bird native to the western ghats, also known by the name of whistling schoolboy and it had a habit of whistling at dawn. Wow, this was an interesting learning. Soon after freshening up, I walked towards the restaurant to catch up some breakfast. Well, it was not a lavish spread but I liked the fact that it had place for traditional and local cuisine. I ate some idlis, puttu, kadala and uttapam.
If you are wondering what is puttu, let me explain as I had eaten it for the first time too. Puttu is basically steamed rice & coconut cake which is eaten with kadala curry which can be made from chickpeas, kala chana, whole bengal gram, etc.
The offroading experience at Kailasapara estate was the surprise package of the trip
Ever since I had learned that Thekkady was more about cardamom plantations than any other spice, I was extremely curious to know all about its growing, harvesting and selling process. The trip to Kailasapara was supposed to take care of all this but what we did there was more than expected. A thrilling offroading activity, the small hike to the grotto, a visit to Silver oak and the walk around the kitchen garden well taken care by the owners was my favorite part of the trip. I was really glad that all guests who stay at Carmelia are taken to Kailasapara for different set of activities. It could be hiking, camping, fishing, barbecue, lunch or more.
Kailasapara boasts of 1500 acres of land and it has one of the most picturesque settings in Thekkady. Once you are on the hillock, the beautiful view of the lake and the 360 degree view of the lush green plantations transports you to another world.
Cardamom is one of the region’s major spices of Thekkady. The altitude of the area suits the growth of the spice. The walk around Kailasapara helped me to learn that 70 percent of the national production of cardamom happens in Kumily. The quick lessons on winnowing, drying, processing, packaging also helped to learn the processes involved in growing cardamom.
The Sadhya (feast) at the Kolumban restaurant will always be memorable. I was very hungry and it was a great opportunity to eat more than 20-25 dishes on one banana leaf. Sadhya is generally associated with Onam festival. The number of delicacies prepared is unlimited and a whole gathering sits together and feasts together. Every item on my platter had a special significance, was placed at the right corner and there was a way to eat it too. I relished the whole meal.
Nature walk, Vegetable Picking, Gaming, Cooking with the chef, Bonfire fun over Lavish dinner!
After the great meal, I slept for an hour only to refuel myself for the evening activities. We started with the nature trail but this wasn’t a small affair to cover a 55 acres property. And finally I decided that I was going to use the next morning only and only for my own walk to absorb in every little thing about the natural beauty in there. However, it was a good learning to see some of the commonly used spices,plants and every day fruits and flowers. We also went for vegetable picking. The theme of the dinner was ‘farm to plate’. All that we had picked was used to make delicious curry. I had never seen square beans and mango ginger and I not only plucked them but also tasted them. Before the dinner, we had some time which we used for playing Carrom and foosball in the recreation room.
The second night ended over a cozy bonfire and happy dinner. As promised to myself, I kept the morning to myself, walked around and checked every nook and cranny of the property and later took a dip in the swimming pool. So I did not miss out on anything except the spa. I wanted to indulge but there was no time. Overall, it was a rejuvenating trip to Thekkady and I have been missing the fun I had in the superb company of fellow travelers who love to blog like me.
P.S. The property has a tree house and it gives you a feeling that you are living in the jungle and watching over the activities from your room. Next time, I would love to stay there.