A few days back, I made a plan to revisit Thekkady for brushing up the memories of my schooldays experience through the reserve forest. My intention was to enjoy a boat ride in the picturesque Periyar Lake rather than trekking the jungles for catching a glimpse of the great Indian tiger or the trumpeting elephants of Asiatic origin. In addition, I had included the vineyards of Cumbum into my itinerary, which ultimately outperformed the rest.
Just under 25 kilometers (23 kilometers precisely) from Kumily in Kerala, Cumbum or Kambam is a beautiful town in Tamil Nadu. I had never ever thought of this place as a tourist destination until recently a friend of mine explained his splendid experience in the vineyards of Cumbum.
Disappointed at Thekkady
Being a paradise for wildlife lovers, Thekkady was our first priority. We began that morning by driving from Kottayam through the winding roads of Kerala. The path was lonely in the early hours of the day, but soon we were under the grip of fog as we climbed the mountains of Kuttikkanam. My plans for capturing the rising sun from the pristine hills of Parunthumpara was marred by the thick murk. Yet the haze couldn’t hide the beauty of the panoramic hills.
Soon the fog was cleared and the serene tea plantations were revealed. We were driving through the exotic roads of Pambanar and Vandi Periyar, two small towns near to Kumily. The joy of blending with the nature filled my heart. We passed through some of the best coffee estates, cardamom valleys and spice gardens of Kerala as we were approaching Kumily.
At Kumily, from where we took a turn to Thekkady road, travel vendors (or agents) started canvasing us, but we continued to the gates. At the gates of Thekkady – Periyar Tiger Reserve, the information we received was disappointing. Not only that the gates were closed for vehicles, it was also difficult to buy a ticket for any of the boat rides that day. Being a holiday, Thekkady was overly populated and we had no chance.
A Joy Ride to Cumbum
Kumily was vibrant, yet we could cruise through the narrow roads comfortably. Three check posts and we were driving through the forests in Tamilnadu. Lush green vegetation of Periyar National Park is an abode for several species of animals and plants. The hairpin bends on the road opened a wider view into the jungles of Western Ghats. As we descended to the plain lands of Tamil Nadu, we could see the majestic Western Ghats structuring a barrier for the God’s own country.
Streams and canals, blue sky and green woodlands, red soil and dark rocks; the merged and so my feelings about the trip. Coconut groves and banana plantations that spread over the vast plains cherished our mood. Soon were a farm that showcased marigold flowers in yellow, orange, and inca yellow. We crossed the farms and the fields to see the sign boards of vineyards. We passed them and continued to the busy town of Cumbum.
Not so small, but a commercially important Cumbum remains a trading point of vegetables, fruits, and flowers to various parts of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Sunny the day was in that part of the world that we returned quickly to experience the famous vineyards of Cumbum. There were two of them, one each on either the side of the road.
The Vineyards of Cumbum or Kambam
Crisscrossed between Thekkady, Kodaikanal and Varusanadu hills the valley of Cumbum consists of vast farmlands including the vineyards. Cumbum is also one among the few places in South India to have booming grape farms. The vast spread of sparkling green grape vines under the baking sun was a sight that refreshed our minds. The grape gardens were free to enter.
Clusters of purple grapes on the vines changed the mood. Keeping the crowd away, there wouldn’t be a better romantic place than the vineyards of Cumbum. Guests including us were lavish in taking snaps and plucking grapes fresh from the plant. I could have stayed overnight at a hotel or a resort nearby, but that was not the end of my journey.
Author: E Jey
Just a passionate traveler who loves scribbling his expeditions @ www.jauntmonkey.com, www.outonroads.com, and www.blogthatall.com