A ROOM WITH A VIEW
WORDS: ANJUMAN DEODHAR
PHOTOGRAPHS: SAMEER MANGTANI
GREAT FROM Bangalore, Mysore
GREAT FOR An experience of life on a plantation estate
Picture this: You’re at a heritage retreat in a sprawling plantation spread over 200 acres and you’re asked to choose between a suite in an immaculately-restored Colonial bungalow, and an equally luxurious treehouse, nestled high among jackfruit trees. Quite a pickle, right? But sometimes, even the most vexing of problems can have the simplest of solutions. In this case, all you need to do is stay a night in each. Sure, it might be a tad inconvenient for your hosts, but, if that’s what you want, then that’s what you’ll get. No questions asked. That’s just how it is at Pepper Trail.
Now, Kerala in the monsoon is spectacular to begin with, and Wayanad, with its rolling hills and dense forests, even more so. And in its midst is Pepper Trail, a coffee, tea and spice plantation dating back to the early 1800s. So it scores heavily on location. But that, amazingly, is just the start of it. First, there are the rooms. Currently, there are just four to choose from – two suites in the old bungalow and two treehouses, but you’ll find it mighty difficult to choose one over the other. Then there’s the food – lip-smacking, authentic Kerala cuisine that you just won’t be able to get enough of.
And, to top it all, there’s the staff: though small in number, they’re efficient, cheerful and eager to please, so every request is met with a nod and a smile. Also, having free reign over a massive plantation can never be a bad thing, right? You can go for drives through the estate in open-top jeeps (free), coracle rides on the small, private reservoir (free), and, if you don’t mind the slush, take walks through the property. But keep in mind that this is Kerala, and you could get caught in a downpour. There is also the possibility that you’ll be rained in for extended periods of time, but that is when Pepper Trail comes into its own. You get the chance to curl up with a cup of steaming coffee and your favourite person for company on one of the balconies. At times like these, the treehouse is a clear winner. The bonnet macaques that are usually very perturbed by human presence so high among the trees need to take shelter, and the incessant patter of rain drowns out the cicadas.
Although the property itself could keep you happily occupied for the entire weekend, there are some interesting things to do should you decide to venture outside. The petroglyphs, or rock engravings, at Edakkal Caves, for one, are extremely interesting. Although not very impressive to look at, they’re unmatched for sheer archaeological significance, dating back over 3,000 years. It’s a mildly strenuous 45-minute hike up to the caves and quite popular with tourists, so make sure you get there at 9am sharp, especially if it’s a weekend. A drive on NH 766 through the Bandipur National Park, quite close by, also comes recommended, with sightings of wild elephants almost guaranteed. Stopping anywhere along the 20km stretch through the forest is strictly prohibited, and this is a rule you would be well advised to follow.
Keep in mind that even though the pace of life here is leisurely, a weekend could pass by in a jiffy and, before you know it, it’d be time to go home. So an extra day as contingency could come in quite handy, too, lest you get the Pepper Trail blues.