Tag Archives: kerala

A journey to the lap of Sahyas ( Silent valley)

Ever since  I read ‘River’s end‘ by Nora Roberts I have wanted to visit a forest reserve and to go on a trail . I am not one who speaks loud about my dreams . May be this is the first time any of you hear about my innate dreams .

Then after I turned to child driven learning I was inspired by Tiffany’s posts on their visits to National Parks . My search for National parks in Kerala ended at Silent Valley . The valley formed by the southern range of Western ghats or ‘Sahyas’ and Northern range of Nilgiri hills. One of the most protected regions of Kerala . ( By protection I mean from human interference or invasion ) 😛 One thing is the word has a pull in it . The place was named ‘Silent valley’ by the British as there are no crickets in this place and the forest is some what silent in the night.The western ghats and the rain forests have been one of my all time passions . And after almost a year of chasing the season there Hubby  booked at Parikrama travel agency a couple of  months back .

I love to plan for trips even more than the trip itself. I like to set every thing perfect , sit back and watch the family enjoying . Kids also  love to pack for the holidays . Where ever she goes Pearl takes her swim suit and dolls and is good to go. Ruby packs every single book he can find related to the place plus his comics and story books . They love to sing along with the music cds .We have this habit of visiting places during off season and we love to have the place to ourselves . This time also it was the same as it  was the Christmas eve .

We started early morning and reached Palghat by afternoon . If any of you pass Palghat at Noon see that you go to ‘Hotel Nalanda ‘ . Food is great . Especially sambar and the non-veg dishes .We stayed at KTDC ‘Tamarind ‘ . The valley is almost 20 kms from the hotel . But later we came to know there are tree top villas near to the park which could have been better choice . The entries to the park has to be booked in advance which is mandatory .Timings are from 8.00 am to 1 pm . There is a bus and few jeeps. No private vehicle is allowed .

We set out at 7.00 in the morning . Three of us ( me and kids) wearing camouflaged dresses and hubby in a blue kurta and jeans .

Inside the park it is real forest .  The trail has some tribal colonies and coffee plantations in the buffer zone .

Ruby looking down at the attapadi tribal village

The attraction to the place is not the animals but the forest . The undergrowth is very thick which makes it difficult to spot animals . For spotting animals Parambikkulam , Walpara , Karadimala etc. are more ideal choices . But as I have said earlier the name has a pull . With the classes on eco system and all just starting I wanted to introduce the kids to the habitat of Jungle.

Hubby asked the driver cum guide about the chances to come across big wild animals and he said people have come across bears and tigers but there have been no casualties yet . I prayed to God to spare my kids 😉 Once into the core area it is thick jungle . The environment changed and the sun light faded . Ruby kept on telling about the freshness of the air. On the way we got out of the jeep to see some black macaws and the silence pressed on us . It is a sweet and heavy feeling .

As a kid , I have always imagined this place to be the abode of Kapeesh, Pintu , Mottu, Peelu, Bandila, Balu,and all of them in ‘Poombatta’ . And it looked and felt the same !!!

The jeep carried us to a point called Sairandri which has a watch tower to see the mountainous beauty around. And that is the last point where any vehicle is allowed. In between I spotted two leeches on my feet. They seemed to be  great fans of geometric symmetry . We knocked them away and my feet bled for another two hours. Later I learned we can use salt to keep them away.

The watch tower is the high light of Sairandri . It is huge and even though climbing it is a bit tricky the view from up there is breath taking .

I stand here on the top of these mountains . The air is thick and resounds with all the poems written on the beauty of my land. Who would not want to write about this overwhelming beauty. I feel like a school girl listening intently to the Malayalam lessons . I bow my head to all those great poets who were moved by these immovable monuments of nature to pen verses even more beautiful .

The panoramic view reminded me of the beautiful lines from a patriotic song. ‘kaanuka kaanuka janma bhuvin komala malar meni’ which can be translated as ‘ come and see the gentle beauty of my mother land ‘ .

The Kunthi river as seen from the watch tower . It flows about 28 kms in the deep forest untouched by human hands. It is believed that Pandavas spend their hiding time during the exile in one of the caves near the river .

At Sairandri there is a forest museum with elaborate descriptions of the flora and fauna of the area. Every thing works with solar energy . The sound machine was not working . Instead Ruby mimicked some of the wild animals . 😀

We couldn’t go down to the river for the hike as the elephant herds were out and roaming and the trail was closed . They warned us there is no definite path to run back if the elephants came after us.  I was let down for a while. Anyway we couldn’t have walked 4 kms up and down with the kids. We saw some mountain squirrels and then started our way back.

On our way we came across forest turmeric, forest ginger, forest plantain , forest gooseberry …. Finally we got the trick we have to prefix every thing with forest 😀 We had started the safari early at 8.00 am and it was almost 1.00pm. Kids were getting tired. Sitting in the jeep I intently searched for lion tailed macaws up in the trees. Instead I was treated with a view of variety of birds, some more mountain squirrels and black macaws.

Then all at once hubby and the guide shouted ‘Tiger “!!! The cat came running from the level above our path and jumped to the next level. No. I didn’t see it . Neither did the kids. My eyes were fixed on the trees and kids were slumping on the front seat. Only hubby and the guide saw him. And the family who was with us was really disappointed. But with an open jeep and the beast running very fast probably in the midst of a hunt it was wiser to move on.  Anyway he ran into the forest and we couldn’t have followed him. Kids got very excited. The whole journey back was filled with tiger stories.

We were the ones dressed up in camouflage and all and Hubby was the lucky one to sight the real beast. And that is what I love most about him. He always get better of me without even trying. Even wild animals know who pays the bills hmm… I wonder how words get around in the jungle.

Back at the hotel we visited another nearby dam and the next morning started our journey back home.  On our trips we rely mostly on fruits and our car smelled like a fruit cart . We discussed in length about leeches, vampire bats , their mechanisms and unique features , hirudin , how they are used in medicine and lot more.  We talked about the geographical specialties of Kerala , the western ghats , monsoons , the different uses of dams , how rivers form from springs. We moved on to evolution , dinosaurs , tigers, leopards and jaguars . We congratulated the smart tiger for his eminent camouflage that made it impossible for us to see him 😦 We wondered whether lion is a cat or a dog and promised ourselves we would check it first thing after reaching home.

Ruby spotted  some terraced farming and mushrooms and wanted to take pictures so that he can take it to his class. We passed through boards which say ‘ Agali ‘ is only a few km  and Pearl couldn’t comprehend why the place was named ‘Ugly’ !!;)

I changed the music into the 80 melodies and Ruby drifted over to the pile of books he had brought from home on jungle animals. Once in a while he put his nose up to update us on some new endangered species . By the time we reached home Pearl had convinced herself that she had seen the back and tail of the tiger and all she wanted was the school to open 😉

Just like the numerous hoardings that welcomed us at Silent Valley announced , journey to a forest is not a picnic . It is a pilgrimage to find ourselves. It is a place where silence and time speaks to you . Even if we come across the wild we leave them on their way . And we do not litter . Man is only a part of the whole chain and nothing more. We have no right to disrupt the balance of Mother nature.

Sunset

Egg stew

I got this recipe from Nisha’s mother. One of our favourite dish at college. Aunty used to send extra appoms and curry so that her daughter wouldn’t starve 😀 After my marriage , as soon as I started cooking on a day to day basis I called her up for the recipe. Even after 10 years, it is one of the best in our Menu.
Ingredients
(  Just the common things you have in your kitchen )
1.Potatoes – 3-4 nos cut into 1″ cubes

2.Onion – 1-2 nos sliced

3.green chilli – 2-3  slit into two

4.ginger – 1″ piece chopped

5.masala

chilli powder – 1/2 tsp

corriander powder – 2 tsp

all spice powder/ garam masala – 2 1/2 tsp

pepper powder – 1/4 tsp

6.coconut oil – 1 tsp.

7.salt to taste

8.mustard seeds and dry chilli for tadka . 1/2 tsp all spice powder / garam masala

9.curry leaves

10.coconut milk from 1/2 coconut ( I take 2 or 3 hand fulls of coconut scrapings depending on availability ). We need it thick so add less water and squeeze thoroughly.

11. boiled egg ( as reqd) or paneer cubes.

Method :

Pressure cook all the ingredients from 1 to 7.
Three or four whistles will be enough .
After cooling add the coconut milk and boil till the gravy is thick.
Smash potatoes if you like it that way.

Do the tadka . Add a pinch of masala to it after switching off the stove.

Mix it with the curry.

Add boiled egg / softened paneer cubes . Simmer for some time.

Add 1/2 tsp raw coconut oil for the aroma .

Ready to serve.

Goes best with Appom / bread.

Spicy Mutton Chops .

I followed Sanjeev Kappor’s recipe with some modifications and it came out very well.  If you want the original recipe you can go here.

It is one of those dishes where I will have to try hard to reach Hubby’s  expectations. They have got one hotel at his native place where it is served. Even when it is closed, he looks at that place and drools !!!

My recipe :

Mutton chops cooked with curd and a spicy masala.

Preparation Time :30 minutes

Cooking Time : 30 minutes

Servings : 4

INGREDIENTS
Mutton chops 1/2 kilogram
Turmeric powder 1 teaspoon
curd 1/4 cup
Salt to taste
Oil 2 tablespoons
Onions, sliced 4 medium
Lemon juice 1 tablespoon

For masala
Oil 1 tablespoon
Onion , chopped 1 medium
Ginger, chopped 1 inch piece
Garlic 12 cloves
Green chillies, halved 5-6

2 tsp chilli powder

1 tsp corriander powder

1/2 tsp pepper powder

2 1/2 tsp garam masala

Fresh coriander leaves, chopped 1/4 cup

method:

Clean and wash mutton chops thoroughly .

Add turmeric powder, curd and salt and marinate in refrigerator till you are ready to put them in the dish.

Take a pan. Add some oil. Add chopped garlic, ginger , 1 chopped onion , chopped green chillies with one or two minute difference in between. Saute 2-3 minutes.

To this Add:

2 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp corriander powder

1/2 tsp pepper powder

2 1/2 tsp garam masala

Keep aside.

In a pressure cooker add some oil . Add finely sliced onions and saute till pink .

Add the masala and saute for one or two minutes. Add the mutton chops till the masala clings to the chops and oil separates.

Stir one cup of water into the pan and add salt to taste.

Cover the cooker and cook over medium heat till five whistles .
Remove from heat and let the pressure reduce. Remove the lid and simmer till almost all the gravy dries up.
Sprinkle lemon juice over the chops and serve hot.

Ponnin Vishu !

Konna flowers are my favourite.We had a ‘Konna’ in front of our house at Haripad . Whenever I think of vishu this tree comes to my mind as a background.  Even though now we get enough flowers here for vishu I always long for those flowers picked from our house.

I would love to wake up again on a vishu morning, as a young girl with amma blind folding me with her soft hands. I would always peep through as I believe mom and dad is the best ‘kani’ you can have. Now  Hubby and kids have taken that place and life has changed so much that it is impossible to be that small girl again .

Vishu mornings always bring the prospects of a bright year with yellow konna flowers, lighted lamps and all those fruits with bright yellow colour and fragrance typical of the festive season and holidays  .

I always wonder why all these festivals are so nostalgic?

that smell of ‘sambar’ from the kitchen

the sweet mischevious smile on Appa’s face, which would always be there once he reaches Haripad!

avial made of cashew nut and drum stick … yum yum

the endless counting and planning for vishukaineettom

walking barefooted from temple to temple under the hot sun and praying earnestly to reach home soon so that we can have our breakfast!

ripe anjili fruits , chakka varathathu , aathakka.

bunches of kudamulla , I think every mango tree in Haripad has jasmine vines on them! You just have to shake those vines  and there would be a shower of sweet smelling flowers  .

Kilichundan manga, Speciality of Haripad . Even now when I take a bite of a kilichundan manga I feel like a small girl standing under that huge tree !

All these are the sweet memories that rush to my mind one after another like from a movie when I think of Vishu .

‘varshangal poyathariyathe

veendum oru vishu koodi kadannupokumbol

nigalkku tharan kayyil oru pidi konnapookkalum

manassil orayiram aasamsakalum mathram.’

The tale of a mango pickle

 

Kids plucking mangoes for their grand mother …..

The collected mangoes after so much hard work!!

And here it is ! Yummy home made mango pickle… Granpa’s Special as my father made it ! Enough to tickle Every Malayalee’s Nostalagic Taste bud !

Bird’s nest