A cup of tea at a roadside tea shop, just before we entered Kalpetta, was a grand initiation to what lay ahead on the road for us. There couldn’t have been a more refreshing welcome drink to Wayanad than this hot cuppa that was filled with the aroma of freshly crushed cardamom and carried pungent traces of ginger. We had been wondering what to expect from Vythiri and Wayanad. Wouldn’t it be similar to the other towns tucked into the valleys of the Western Ghats? There are the similar hills, the gorges and ravines that look so alike, the mist that wraps itself around you, the wildflowers and bouquets of thorns that invariably make a tryst with your urban skin. What else could you find, besides this, in Wayanad? As it turned out, we found a great deal.
There are very few places that simultaneously offer a holistic experience of wilderness and education, combined with the comfort of a modern holiday. Wayanad is a confluence where the needs of the body, mind and soul are met. You can trek both mountains and streams, and bathe under cold waterfalls, while balancing yourself on sharp rocks. You can simply lie down and dream as big as the sky’s expanse, with a symphony of wild calls in the background. Or you could turn philosophical and measure death with dry leaves. If you are enterprising, you can speak to plantation owners who trade coffee, tea, spices, vanilla and exotic oils. And while you are at it, you can talk to plantation workers about the aesthetics of the red flags that dot the lush green terraces of manicured tea hills. At night, you can listen to scary legends by the campfire and accidentally pick up lessons in history. By way of just desserts, there is always the sumptuous Malabar food to indulge in. These myriad experiences come together as one perfect package in Wayanad. ‘Wayanad’ in Malayalam would mean paddy country, but there is hardly a trace of paddy here. So, in a true sense, expect the unstated here. When we asked around as to what the word ‘Vythiri’ meant, the response was “nothing”. And that made for a befitting playing field for our imagination.
If you have a modest budget and want to make the best use of your time, then the strategic location to stay would be in nearby Kalpetta town, which is also the district headquarters of Wayanad. It is also a livelier place. There is more life to observe here. A three- or four-day trip here should be ideal to take in what Vythiri has to offer, but one can spend many more lovely days here.
Location: Tucked into the Lower Wayanad Hills, just above the Thamarassery Ghat Pass
Distance: 287 km SW of Bengaluru
When to go: It rains for a good part of the year in the rainforests of Wayanad. May to September are really wet months. It never gets too cold, but you may want to keep a pullover in your bag just to be on the safe side.
By Sugata Srinivasaraju
About the author: Sugata Srinivasaraju is a journalist who has travelled across India and Europe.