Air up There

Yesterday I finally accomplished a minor goal I had set for myself early in my stay at Cardamom County, namely, hiking to a cross set high in the hills that ensconce Kumily and the low-lying areas of the Periyar. Unlike the ‘Cloud Walk,’ which took us into the forest for a view of the town and the Mannan/ Pelleyan settlements, this hike allowed me to pass households and schools, small Pentecostalist parishes and eye-catching Catholic Churches. This hilltop is nestled amidst privately owned plots teeming with cardamom and pepper plants, the variously-sized plots of largely middle-class farmers (for probably the fifth time this summer I thought ironically of the admonitory cliché, ‘money doesn’t grow on trees’).

I got some funny looks along the way; I guess these planters aren’t accustomed to outsiders hiking up this steep and sparsely populated road. Men idling by the side of the road who could speak English asked me where I was going, and I almost wished I didn’t have a definite destination in mind so I could reply more honestly, nowhere. Because my destination really was rather arbitrary. I don’t know the history of this site, though I assume it has some significance to local Catholics (the Protestant pastor I met and whose drying laundry I helped collect when it began to pour during our conversation told me that it bears no importance to his sect). I only know that it’s an accessible site that offers a gorgeous view of Kumily and the Periyar River, which winds out of sight behind the savannah hills and into the reserve.

To all adventurous travelers staying in Kumily for a spell and itching to trek not only through the reserve but also the equally distinguishing cardamom plantations, I highly recommend this walk, which is about a 11km round trip (uphill on the way there). Though it is typical to be driven there, walking gives one a more developed sense of the space, a feeling of accomplishment as you stand in the whipping wind, and, if you find the residents as curious about your being there as I did, you can be sure to strike up a conversation or two.

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