Cardamom County is located in Kumily, a small town adjacent to Thekaddy. Kumily is not as well known as Thekaddy as a tourist destination, which is one of the reasons why the resort’s official address is Thekaddy Road, Kumily. For many people one of the most interesting things about Thekaddy is its location: proximity to the Periyar Tiger Reserve. I found that the most interesting fact about Kumily’s location is that it is on the border of Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
For most of my one month in Kerala I have been located at Cardamom County, where we have our own natural garden, but I haven’t had the opportunity to see for myself whether there are many farms that grow vegetables or fruits in the state. Even though coconut trees, banana trees, and mango trees are very common in Kerala, I never saw a person cultivating these fruits for commercial use. One of the reasons why Kerala is called “God’s Own Country” is that Kerala has one of the most fertile lands in India and these fruits and vegetables seem to grow by themselves without much human effort. Of course this isn’t true–but it certainly looks that way! From my view in the Western Ghats it appears that Keralites, rather than cultivating vegetables or fruits, take advantage of the fertile land to grow tea and spices, especially cardamom, the queen of spices. It would be obvious since cardamom is much more valuable than other crops.
This leaves a question for the consumers in Kerala, especially tourists: where do the vegetables and fruits we eat come from?
I never thought I would be finding out where these crops come from and going to visit Tamil Nadu during my stay at Cardamom County. Frankly speaking, I knew Tamil Nadu was a state next to Kerala, but I never knew that Kumily was right on the border!
Tamil Nadu accounts for 10% in fruits and 6% in vegetables in all of India. Mango and bananas are the leading fruit crops in Tamil Nadu, accounting for over 87% of total fruit production. The main vegetables grown are tapioca, tomato, onion, brinjal and drumstick. The state is the largest producer of bananas, flowers, and tapioca; the second largest producer of mango, natural rubber, coconut, and groundnut; and the third largest producer of coffee, sapota, tea, and sugarcane.
My trip to Tamil Nadu started with an invitation from a python snake. Saleem, Assistant Manager and Naturalist at Cardamom County, found me in the afternoon and informed me that there has been a sighting of a python near town across the border. (Saleem has been working at Cardamom County since the opening in 1999 and knows a lot of people and places around the resort). Knowing that I like taking photos of just about anything (yes, I would even want to see a snake if I have to travel a ways to see it), he asked me if I want to take some photos and I instantly said “yes.”
About 15 minutes down the road through Kumily, we reached the border and about 5 minutes later we got to the location where the python had been sighted. Unfortunately the python was gone, but since we were already in Tamil Nadu, Saleem insisted that we keep traveling into the neighboring state. The Western Ghats draws the border line between Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Because these states are divided by the mountain range, the climate, culture, people, etc. are very different. As we drove down the mountain towards Gudalur, one of the closest towns of Tamil Nadu from the border, I saw the flat land of Tamil Nadu from the hill.
The Periyar Lake is actually the source of the river that is flowing into Tamil Nadu. The water from Periyar River flows into the Periyar Lake and is diverted into the Vaigai River via tunnel through the Western Ghats, which I was able to catch through my camera lens.
This tunnel delivers water to five drought-prone districts in Tamil Nadu, and is one of the reasons why the dam in Periyar Lake is maintained by the Tamil Nadu public works department under a 999-year lease arranged between the governments of the two states.
For the first stop of the trip we went to a vineyard owned by a person that Saleem knows.
One of the differences that I observed after crossing the border was that the lifestyle and living conditions in Tamil Nadu were distinctively different from what I’ve seen in Kerala. Just as an example, in Kerala, fruit or vegetable shops usually sell their items in the retail shops or stalls. However, in Tamil Nadu I saw people selling items on the street. Also, the building structure was very different. These are the pictures that I took on the main road of Gudalur.
One thing that caught my attention was that they not only export vegetables and fruits but also beef and other livestock to Kerala. Kerala is one of the few states that consumes beef. When they say beef, it is from bulls, not cows. Since Hinduism is the largest religion in Tamil Nadu, Tamil people do not consume beef but they raise bulls as livestock.
The statues on next pictures show the Hindu influence in Tamil Nadu.
Here are some pictures of pineapple, coconut, and mango plantations.
At last a hydro-electrical generation plant on the Vaigai River and the view of the river.