Are you a tea lover?
You are thinking what does tea have anything to do with God. And I will say, everything!
I had always wanted to go to Kerala and an opportunity arose couple of year ago. After spending few days in the luxurious Philip Kutty farm, our lovely driver, Rajesh, picked us up from Alleppey, the house boat parking town, to drive us to Munnar, the tea country of Kerala. However, when I am in India, I prefer to find unique, hidden gems, tucked away in some remote village, jungle or a hill side. So we drove past the city of Munnar, the Muttapetti dam and the Kundalae dam to get to the remote village of Pazhathottam. Our destination was Camp Noel, a secluded mountain resort nestled in the high ranges of the Western Ghats, in the Shola national park.
The scenery on the way was beautiful but by the time we reached the entrance of the national park, it had turned dark. Which, my dear friends, is not something you want to experience if you are driving in an unknown, forested region in pitch dark, with no phone signal, an inexperienced driver, a kutcha ‘unpaved‘ road, a mother who was scared that death awaited us at every sharp bend in the road and trying to ward it off by fervently reciting God’s name, a father who was worried about how he will defend the women under his protection if some dacoits were to attack our car and the person in charge of the trip was throwing up violently in the back seat of the car! Some heaven, you say!
After driving around for close to two hours in the dark, we finally reached Camp Noel but since it was pitch dark, we couldn’t see anything. However, the resort staff was lovely and got us quickly settled in our cottage and we all went to bed exhausted, tired and relieved.
In the morning, I pulled aside the curtains of my bedroom window and I almost broke into a hallelujah! Yes, God exists and it lives in the tea country of Kerala. I can vouch for it. Wow! wow! and wow! glory to the God! My faith in God’s existence was teetering on the edge the night before but I became a believer again that morning (yes, yes, I hear you believers and can see your raised brows across the invisible wavelengths of the internet!).
Camp Noel is located in a valley surrounded by a tropical green jungles of neelgari, teak, jamun, cashew, plum, coral, and jasmine trees on one side, step-farmed fields heaving under carrots, peas, tomatoes, peaches, apples on the other side and emerald green velvety tea gardens as far as the eye could see. I am not a good enough writer to capture the beauty of this place in words but in that moment, I knew in my heart why Kerala is called the God’s own country; it’s so apt, captures the essence of the place and the awe it evokes in you.
The staff at the resort was splendid, our every wish and whim was catered to. The chef prepared finger-licking food at any hour of the day. I think we must have had about thousand plates of pakoras, vadas, utpams, samosas, paneer tikkas and savories during the day, sitting next to a camp fire at night, we felt cocooned in the warmth; and a sense of good feeling of having arrived home.
During the day, we went for leisurely walks in the mountains with breathtaking views of the villages, valleys and the mountains, hiked through the tea gardens again and again but still couldn’t enough of the beauty of the place. Wandering through the lush country with little impromptu picnics, with ever-present cups of tea, we never wanted to leave…. This is why I think God must love tea as I know of no other human activity which enhances the beauty of a wild landscape, the way tea gardens do. Lush, emerald green wonder…
Kerala is beautiful place but what makes it truly special is the gentle nature of the Keralites, their hospitality, their friendliness and the pride in their country.
I am in heaven and off to share a cup of tea with God! How about you?
What are the places where you had a truly magical experience?