Wayanad's Pepper Trail is the perfect destination for a short getaway
Luxury travelling is taking on an all-together new dimension. A weekend at a star hotel may not give you all the bragging rights you want. Instead, it’s likely to be all about the lone elephant you spotted on the way or the snail you filmed on a morning walk, which your FB friends, Instagrammers and Tweeple are on the lookout for.
This idea of an ideal holiday turns to reality at Pepper Trail. A 200-acre plantation of pepper, coffee and tea, this is a prized destination in Wayanad, tucked away from the commercial hub of resorts and homestays, and is located close to the Karnataka border, at the Mangalam Carp Estate of Sulthan Bathery.
We embarked on our road trip from Bengaluru for a two-day break on a seething May afternoon. The six-hour journey, dotted with stopovers at quaint tea shops, offered sightings of elephants and deer, passing through the Bandipur National Park.
A light evening shower greeted us as we pulled up at Pepper Trail’s main gate. We drove in, onto a rugged dirt track. The staccato sounds of crickets kept rhythmically rising and falling as we moved closer towards a single ray of light. After nearly a kilometer’s drive, we spotted dots of light peeping through the thick foliage. Closer, and closer, and lo, the sight of warm lights from the tree house welcomed us. We stood there, gazing at this dreamy spectacle, lost in a reverie.
Once we were done taking in the sights and sounds, we were guided to the reception. Tastefully done with red- and turquoise-upholstered antique furniture, corner tables and teapoys adorned with teak figurines of elephants, the reception is picture-perfect for an ‘incredible India’ postcard. A hibiscus-lemon drink, made with fresh flowers from the plantation ,was served to welcome us.
Contentedly refreshed, we headed to our abode for the night – the Pazhey Bungalaav. Less than a few hundred metres from the reception is this charming, old bungalow that houses two suites – the Malabar Suite and the Mackanzie Suite. The 140-year-old structure was built by Colin Auley Mackenzie, a Scotsman who had developed the plantation in the pre-independence era.
Family-heirloom furniture evokes images of grandma’s home, making the Mackanzie Suite rather cosy. After dinner, we retired for the day, but not before requesting the staff to keep cycles ready for a morning ride.
It wasn’t an early start, as daybreak sets in here as late as 6 am. Two cycles were ready and we started our anticipated morning ride. As it had rained, the path was slushy — not the best of tracks to cycle but once we hit the main road, there was nothing that could stop us.
We cycled up and down the highway, crossing Mangalam Carp Estate and the adjacent Sumangalam Carp Estate. After an hour of biking, we headed back to Pepper Trail for a typical Kerala home-style breakfast — idiyappam with vegetable stew, ghee-fried ripe bananas and fruits, and a hot cup of coffee.
Post breakfast, the entire morning was spent driving through the estate in a 1990s Jeep (Pepper Trail offers complimentary drives). The myriad smells of bergamot, vetiver, lemon grass, eucalyptus and many such plants and trees soothe your senses. If you have a valid driving license, you can try your hand at driving the mean machine.
After the estate tour, we were back in time for lunch and met Anand Jayan, the man behind Pepper Trail. Anand tells us about his grandfather, PB Kurup, a well-known scientist from South India with a keen interest in essential oils who bought this plantation way back in 1932 for an amount of Rs 40,000. It has taken Anand a little more than three years to develop it as a plantation offering guests a luxury vacation. After lunch, Anand suggested a drive up to Thovarimala Ezhuthupara, where the only other tea estate in the vicinity is located. Bang opposite the Edakkal Caves, Thovarimala is untouched by commercialisation and is the perfect spot to view the sunset.
Amidst the clouds
The second night was the highlight of our stay, as we spent it at the Woodpecker tree house. The tree house is perched atop fibre masts at a height of 40-feet and is built around two jackfruit trees. We opened the door and were taken by surprise. Dispelling our image of a primitive tree house, this one was plush, complete with a four-poster bed, a pretty balcony, and a washroom with modern amenities. The next morning, before we left, we went on a canoe ride at the plantation’s lake. There aren’t any crocodiles, but you’re sure to enjoy the sounds of birds in the morning sun. Not to forget the loads of pictures for true bragging rights!
This writer was invited by Pepper Trail for a two-day stay