Kerala Wayanad home stay Pranavam
On the way up North to Wayanad, one of the most unspoilt natural parts of Kerala, we saw many trucks on the road transporting construction material and agricultural products because this is the main highway between Thekkady and the other state next to Kerala.
The road was a little steep and very curvy with occasional beautiful views of the surrounding hills. Climbing up to 1,000 m a.s.l. we spotted a few monkeys on the side of the road. It’s the same elevation and the same Western Ghats mountains like in Thekkady we just left that day.
June to November is raining time, then summer time. June and July are moonsoon time. The best time to visit is when everything is green and full of water which is right after the monsoon.
Our first stop was at Vythiri which has one of the highest rainfalls in the world. We passed through it and I was hoping we were not going to experience any rain here. Not that I did not have enough of sweating due to humidity, but I was eager to explore the most of this ever green jungle.
We got of the bus and Anwer, a thin shy Indian guy helped me with bags. Together with Adrianna from Bulgaria and Anna from the UK, fellow travel bloggers who were going to stay at the same Wayanad home stay Pranavam with me, we took a taxi up a little hill to the entrance.
We walked up yet another curve to second floor of the building. I was in a shock once Anwer opened the first room.
”What? There’s two floors? Wow!” I jumped out of happiness. ”All three of you have a room like this one.” Anwer calmed us all down. Good we did not have to choose between different ones.
Straight away I put all my baggage by the door and took the steps downstairs to the room. After my habit of jumping on bed, I used the bathroom, took some quick pics and walked down the hill with girls.
We were about to have our first dinner with the Wayanad home stay Pranavam owners, Mrs. Rema AP and Mr. Ravindran, both in their 60’s, I believe. Mr. Ravindran is not only the WTO Secretary, but he was also the one who in 2000 came up with the idea of opening the first home stay just in their house with one room for rent. Later on, in 2007 the family built the big building with 4 identical two-storey rooms where we were staying, too.
- Dosa with potatoes and veggies
- Spicy coconut chutney
- Cooked tapioca root
- Unripe jack fruit called Upperi
- Green chilli is super spicy but according to ayurveda it decreases your cholesterol level.
- Mangoes are not tasty here because they need hot climate and not the Wayanad mountain climate.
The history of this home stay is pretty interesting.
”We inherited this land from my grandmother and then my mother. In the past, everything used to be shared only with the other women in family. Nowadays, sons usually inherit the same part so the heritage is divided equally. This area used to be a coffee plantation and a paddy field. Still some of it grows here now, however, we also grow many spices.” calmly explained Rema. ”This building it was my father’s hospital; he was a doctor healing indigenous people, mostly. Before we had lived in Kochi and came back here only 1997. We have two daughters born in 1970’s; one lives in Dubai and the other one in Iraq.” proudly continued Rema.
“I really hope you are going to enjoy it in here” Rema said once all the ”mmm, yummy” sounds after dinner changed into ”I’m so full.”
“Lonely planet says Wayanad is the prettiest part of Kerala so for sure we will” Anna said.
“Can we ask you about Hinduism later on?” Adrianna asks.
“Of course, that’s where you learn something. I am happy to find out more about your cultures, too. It’s the nicest part of the whole experience, sharing.” Rema smiled once again.
Back in my room, I did not quit enjoying the fact we were going to sleep at the same place for 3 nights! That was like 2 more than usual. Which not only meant no packing and unpacking every day, but I could also wash my clothes and there was enough time for them to dry up on the balcony.
The coolest thing was the whole design of the room when I could walk in a circle from the bedroom to bathroom and take another door by the shower to get to a small part of the room with stones on the ground. Foot massage right in my room, awesome! I also enjoyed the pretty ceiling and the orange Ayurvedic soap which truly smelled nice.
Plus, it was not hot and humid. What a difference! I even woke up feeling cold at some point. Before going to bed, I saw a 10 cm big grasshopper just outside by Adrianna’s room.
The first thing I did the following morning was to go out to the terrace and breathe. I sat down on a wooden chair and meditated for a few minutes. It looked more humid and very misty, just like after the rain.
Afterwards when singing, a 3 cm grasshopper landed on my butt when taking a shower in the morning. When I shared the experience with the others in our group, I got a funny reply. ”n Kerala grasshoppers are a sign of prosperity.” Well, let’s see, I told myself …
We shared breakfast with the family again. First, I ate some raw small bananas, and then tasted long cooked bananas which can be found only in Southern India. And for the first time I tried raw jack fruit (not so easy to spit all the seeds inside but the taste makes it worth it) and white pancakes vellappa (vella means white.)
”Almost everything we eat in Wayanad is grown here. Most of the activities and accommodations follow the sustainable tourism. Many places belong to UNESCO.” Rema tried to overwhelm us with basic information.
- Touch-me-not plants I knew from Costa Rica already – they close the leaves once you touch them, and are applied as a paste for cuts and bruises to heal them.
- In the morning we can hear cicadas and at night crickets.
- The best time for bird watching is at 6.30 or 7 am.
- The white coffee flowers only stay open for 3 to 5 days and then the flowers dry up, fall off and the following 6 to 8 months the coffee beans grow. And when they turn from green to red, they can harvest them. These coffee plants at Pranavam are 35 to 40 years old. They always look the same as they keep them cutting to the same height – the coffee trees are always kept 8 to 10 feet tall so people can get the beans when standing, so they never have to climb up the trees. The way to harvest them is to put a big sack on the ground, pick them and let them fall in the bag. To harvest 1 kg of coffee beans, the picker gets paid 3 to 5 rupees. One person can harvest around 200 to 250 kg per day. To dry coffee beans it takes 6 to 8 days. Harvesting only takes place in December and January, sometimes even in February. Then after drying the beans turn black (still with the skin.) Then they remove the skin and only the beans are roasted so they turn black.
- We saw both Robusta and Arabica coffee – their leaves and shape of plant are different.Anwer also explained us abut other kinds of coffee.
- Civetkat coffee only the best beans from the plants so the outer skin is very sweet but beans very bitter. Kopi Luwak is the most expensive coffee in the world grown in Malaysia, not as much in India, though. More than 100,000 rupees per 1 kg of this cat poop coffee. It’s a night cat eating it and its poop is collected. This cat has the capacity to eat just the best beans but it’s difficult to collect them then all around the plantation.
- Wild jack is possible to eat. It looks like a small jack fruit but difficult to collect as it grows very high in the trees.
- One jack fruit can weigh more than 30 kg. It is the biggest fruit in the world, indeed.
- Out of known 15 varieties of bamboos, we saw 3. I had no idea some of them have rice! Bamboo sticks get rice every 40 to 50 years. We saw the elephant bamboo which is tall but not thick. Rice grows high on top of the bamboo which makes it dangerous to harvest. So it is not people but rats that collect the rice. The rats bite rice and then store them in their holes so people steal rice from rat holes close to bamboos. It costs around 250 to 300 rupees per 1 kg of bamboo rice because it is not seasonal. It tastes a bit different but has the same use as normal rice. Normal rice costs from 20 rupees up per 1 kg.
- Reed bamboo is not so tall and its used for tribal hats and flute musical instruments. It works as natural air conditioning when walls are made form it. Nature is so powerful!
- One kind of bamboo is called ladder bamboo. You have to cut it when it is green, then put weight on it for one year to make it straight and dry when it becomes less heavy. It turns from green to black when drying up. White marks on the bamboo mean it is mature. We saw a man collecting cloves up in the tree and he got up there using the ladder bamboo.
- Cardamon grows in shade and at the bottom of plantation where it gets plenty of water. Cardamon is called the Queen of spices.
- King of spices is pepper. It was used as money to buy stuff in old times and thus known as black gold.
- Bitter leaves and bitter nut and lime and tobacco is chewn for five minutes.
- We saw holes of yellow crabs. People used to (and some still do) eat these crabs but they disappear very fast when they see any movement. The trick is to insert a coconut leaf inside the hole, the crab holds into it and then it is cooked to be eaten.
- From the thick plantation we walked to the edge of an empty already harvested paddy field. I remembered what our guide Manoj told us already on the bus two days ago ”Wayanad means land of paddy fields. But nowadays very few people still cultivate rice in the area.”
- Huge shacks are used for roofs, cows to eat and to put fruit on it to dry up faster.Cat’s tail is the pink tail plant growing on a small tree. Just for decoration, looks really cool. Tropical soda apple plant with thorns has small yellow fruits which are good for pain relief. Spanish needle plant that sticks to your clothes when you throw it.
- Cupils shaving brush is the feed of wild rabbits -it has small orange flowers. Many wild rabbits in here around eat it.
- Sleeping hibiscus is a sort of hibiscus that never opens up it flowers.
- Very tall fishtail palm with leaves eaten by domestic elephants.
- Other trees we saw were custard apple, sugarnut, cinnamon, two types of basil, thyme, turmeric and ginger. Also sunpeper – rough leaf to clean furniture, two types of cocoa plants – green turns to yellow and brown turns to hard reddish colour. Precious sandal wood is used for oils and smelling sticks.
Once the plantation walk was over, we ended at the beautiful house Rema wanted to show us earlier. The ancestors’ house is more than 200 years old and Rema’s brother, the local Chairman of Congress in Wayanad with his wife live there nowadays.
”You know, it was mostly just Brahmins who could enter temples in Kerala. But we belong to Naia so we built this shrine here for us.”
”In the morning you use sandal wood tilak dot on your forehead to cool down your third eye chakra.”
”Bhasma is from cow poop; poop balls are dried and on Shivas marriage day you light it and make powder of it. It is what you make a tilak dot of on your forehead at night to heat it up.”
“Chanting om is healthy for both your body and mind. Your breathing becomes normal, right?” said Rema with her cute smile.
For last breakfast on the following day we had traditional puttu rice with coconut which is made in a special tube so it always looks the same when served on a plate. And also fried kardala chickpeas together with fruit and ada – the very yummy sweet coconut and jaggery dessert wrapped in cinnamon leaf which gives a special flavour to it. Oh my!
Just to wrap it up, because of low water in the river we could not do the bamboo rafting, and because of the strike our tribal experience was also canceled, so we drove all the way up to Wayanad for so many hours in vane.
Anyway, I was more than happy to experience the real life with a family, share meals with them, learn more about local plants and habits, and taste delicious home-made vegan meals. Thank you Wayanad home stay Pranavam so much for such a unique opportunity!