The hills of North India are burning with commercialization. The incessant increase in traffic has created a Catch 22 situation for the hill stations of the northern parts of the country. There is so much traffic that it is literally choking the hills. Compared to that, the lush green hills of Western Ghats still remain a paradise. The low sloping hills of Munnar are lined with tea gardens that truly makes Kerala “God’s own country.”
Dream like old British charm of the Windermere Estate
So while the Sun was scorching Delhi, we decided to tap into the ethereal coolness of Munnar’s tea plantations. As most of the estates are from the British times, we experienced a 100-year-old plantation, the Windermere Estate. The old colonial setting shrouded amongst the misty mountains is a sight to behold. A narrow pathway winds up against the lush green of the tea garden as we approach the first stone structure of Windermere. It is straight out of one of Stephen King novels.
We descend down a few moss-covered stone steps to our cottage. The wooden ceilings are archetypal of construction in the hills as are the stone walls. I crack open one of your windows and the view before makes me fall in love with the hills once again. The greens of the Western Ghats combines with the misty atmosphere in a dream like setting. The beauty has already washed the tiredness of the journey away.
Walk through the plantations of Windermere
Evenings are reserved for a majestic walk through the plantations as the guide from the Kestral Adventures, Ansal joins us. He meticulously takes us through the plethora of flora that grows in our estate before taking us through a small road at the back. Here, we descend into the dense cover of the trees as the Malabari whistling Thrush shoots a few notes at us. Huffing and puffing through the high humidity of the tropical climate of Kerala, we discover the cardamom trees that dot the area. “This cover is very important for the cardamom trees, ” John tells us as he expertly guides us around the winding roots. John’s father Dr. Simon John had bought this estate nearly 35 years ago and this is where he spent most of his childhood summers. We head back from our heady experience for a session of Chai with the doctor, an ophthalmic surgeon by profession.
The Barn and Tea Shop
Chai is served at the ubiquitous Tea Shop, a rustic looking covered restaurant set out right by the pool. Coffee from the estate and tea from the neighboring gardens flows freely as we discuss our love of tying the perfect knot and hemostasis over a plate of piping hot Chana Vadas. Although most of the plantation is covered with Cardamom plants, but some of the areas are under coffee and vanilla cultivation. The dining space, The Barn is just a few steps away from the Tea Shop and it is reminiscent of the old colonial style.
The menu consists of some authentic Malayali food along with a splattering of North Indian dishes and continental add-ons. A pork curry that rustled the best of our taste buds was one of the top, draws our first night. But more than that, it is the fresh breakfast that I truly fall in love with. With sausages that created a crisp explosion on our palate to the freshly squeezed juice from the local tree tomatoes, the picture perfect location takes our sensibilities to another level altogether. The library on top of it adds an old world charm to the place. Although most of the guests might rush down to get the best WiFi connection here, there is nothing more peaceful than having a book in your hand while the insects increase their noisy pitch outside.
Mornings and Nights
Nights at The Windermere are straight out of a horror movie. The mist descending from the mountains, the cobbled steps churning with a few dry leaves while the stone buildings look ominous in the dark. But fetter not, there are guards at each and every corner guiding you to your room with flashlights in their hands. The cozy rooms are welcoming as the air takes a chill around it. The mornings are one of the most romantic that you can ever have. There are a plethora of flowers growing all around the estate as a few birds take to their morning flights.
The Windermere Resorts also offers a plethora of activities along with the old world charm. Although the hike through the estate is part of the package, but you can book yourself on a visit to a tea garden or even enjoy some birding on the way as about 300 species of birds frequent the area. There is even a tea tasting if you truly want to get lost in the essence of Munnar. The Windermere Estate is a place you should be if you’re planning a visit to the hills.
Image Credits: Snigdha (Salt and Sandals)