Saturday, March 5, 2011

Tea Estates, Wayanad

Wayanad is a sort of a hidden treasure as a tourist destination, known to the intrepid traveler, and to people in the south, but the other tourist destinations of Kerala overshadow this district, viz. the beaches of Kovalam and the backwaters.

I had posted on our travel to Wayanad (where we stayed, Wayanad Chain Tree, and the Eddakal caves).
There are several things to do in Wayanad, and one place to visit is the Soochipara Falls (wikipedia link). This post is not about the falls. Maybe in another post. This post is about the gorgeous green tea estates you pass during your drive to the falls and the gorgeous roads.

Despite getting the second highest rainfall in India, the district of Wayanad has perhaps the best state highways I have driven on in India. The roads of Tamil Nadu are also excellent, but the roads in Wayanad were quite unbelievable. Very well-paved, without potholes, with lane markings, well marked curves, and with information signs all along the way. A pleasure to drive on.

On the drive to the falls, you will see lush green tea estates on either side of the road. Stop by and smell the tea leaves, or take photos. Lots and lots of photos.

When it comes to tea, Darjeeling and Nilgiris are the first names that come to mind. As it turns out Wayanad is one of five places in India where tea plantations can be found (5 Places to Visit India Tea Plantations). Darjeeling in West Bengal, Assam, Nilgiris (mostly Coonoor) in Tamil Nadu, Munnar in Tamil Nadu, and Wayanad in Kerala. This may lead you to believe that the district of Wayanad grows a lot of tea. Not really. Going by the numbers published by the Tea Board of India for the calendar year 2007, India grew 980 million kgs of tea, of which North India accounted for 764 million kgs and South India for 221 kgs. Wayanad contributed a relatively small figure of 13.3 million kgs. Nothing to sneeze at. By comparison, the Nilgiris account for 127 million kgs, and Dibrugarh in Assam a whopping 225 million.

The late afternoon sun lends a very warm glow to the entire vista

While you can certainly whizz past these tea plantations at 60kmph, it would be a shame to do so. Rather, drive a little slowly, stop enough and often, get off the car, step out, take in the beauty, the scenery, and capture the moments for posterity.

The photographs that follow were taken in the evening, near sunset, and very near the Soojipara falls. The road here is almost single-lane, and not in that great shape. It continues for about two kms, till it merges with the state highway, which, as I said, is a pleasure to drive on.

For some reason, I attract the curious gazes of onlookers every time I stop the car in the middle of basically nowhere to take photos. Been happening for the longest time. I don't carry a fancy camera, nor do I drive a fancy car. It must be me then. There's something about Abhinav I guess. Something good I hope.

A never ending carpet of green, as far as the eye can see.

© 2011, Abhinav Agarwal. All rights reserved.