Comfortably Numb

Sheila Kumar's Storehouse

Published on: 09/15/17 7:35 AM

Travel: Konni, Kerala


Eden, with its own river

Everything is  so green that it could hurt the eye of a non-Malayali. But then I`m a Malayali and in the interests of full disclosure,  this is a coming- back- home trip for me.

This  homecoming is happening after more than two decades and Konni looks more striking, more green, its rather intense beauty immediately impactful. Dense vegetation, thickly forested low hills, tall trees with gigantic creepers winding themselves sinuously around the branches, the constant chirruping of cicadas overhead or maybe in the undergrowth, huge black boulders dotting the landscape, a sort of blue haze over everything, and of course the ubiquitous rubber plantations.

This then is Konni, the land of my paternal forebears.

Strange homecoming

It`s a strange homecoming.

Hard to look at all this with an impersonally appreciative eye given that my paternal grandfather was an early settler who,   many moons ago, brought up large tracts of land hereabouts directly from the government and grew acres of rubber on them, set up a primary school which soon became a high school, a printing press, a couple of theatres and proceeded to intertwine the lives of the family with the life of the little village as it was then, and its villagers.

But a tourist is definitely what I am, the touch of poignancy notwithstanding, given that the clan moved to the cities in the intervening years, the school went into other capable hands, the family house on top of a steep hill fell to rack  and ruin, and altogether the imprint of kinship became fainter with each passing year.

Konni is famous for its Elephant Camp and indeed, time spent among these gentle giants is totally worth the while. There is no more taming and training of wild elephants here but the huge wooden cages that can house as many as three elephants at one time, remain a gawping attraction.

Today, the adult elephants are loosely chained to their iron stakes in allotted places, their names and particulars neatly painted onto a pillar  next to their stalls. There is just  a baby restlessly pacing inside one of the wooden cages, not too interested in fraternising with us.


The green lagoon

At Adavi, in a lagoon of the Achankovil river, which actually originates here, Konni Tourism offers what it calls bowl boat rides. It`s basically coracles and something in the region of Rs 800-Rs 1,200  will give you a leisurely ride on fairly shallow waters, taking in the lovely view of low overhanging branches, ancient trees with gnarled roots and branches, and the sun shining in a dappled fashion on the black and white pebbles that lie on the bed of the waters. I plunge  a hand into the water and find it  surprisingly cold.

We drift lazily on, the coracle-man wielding the single oar in sinewy fashion, and it really is a smooth ride. A few hundred yards ahead is another coracle with a couple in it.

Suddenly, there is the noise of something heavy hitting the water, near the left bank. We look in that direction and are transfixed. It is a huge snake (and I’ve seen some biggies in my time spent in Kerala) which  falls heavily into the water, then makes like Michael Phelps across to the other bank, head held aloft. It moves at incredible speed and with no writhing of its body, which is held absolutely straight, as straight as its head.

In no time, it reaches the other bank, gets onto the soft mud and lies there awhile, probably catching its breath. Everyone else begins to breathe again. `Rajavelampala,` says the boatman in awestruck wonder. `First time I’ve seen one here.`

The couple in the other coracle ask their boatman if this snake or its kin are regulars here. `There`s plenty of bears and leopards around,`  the man replies, `but first time I’ve seen a king cobra here. `

Back in the vehicle, a hush prevails as everyone runs the snake montage in their mind`s eye. I cursorily look down at my mobile and find I have one, just one snap of the magnificent creature.

All in all, Konni, that was some homecoming.

How to get there

Konni  is located approximately 100 kms  from Thiruvananthapuram and 12 kms from Pathanamthitta on the NH66.

The  main railway station is Chengannur , 45 kms away.

The closest airport is in Thiruvananthapuram.


Things to do

Konni is fast gaining popularity as a trekking and rock-climbing destination as well as for its jungle safaris.

The famous Anakkoodu, Elephant Training Centre has pachyderms as old as 75 and as young as four  years housed in there, and is really worth a visit.

Kattathipara in Kokkathodu, gigantic rocks with the triple-echo phenomenon, is located a few kilometres away from Konni.

The Kumbhavuruthy waterfall amidst thick forests is about 47 kms away from Konni.

The Achankovil and Aluvamkudi forest temples hold their ancient secrets and are a tourist attraction.


Where to stay

The town does not boast of too many hotels or resorts but Contour Jungle Resorts  is making a name for itself and in town, there is the Hotel Konni Gate.

What to buy

Konni is not Kerala`s most famous shopping area but you do get forest products and honey, as well as fresh spices in the Elephant Camp store.

This ran in THE HINDU of 13 SEPT 2017. 

Related links:

Travel: Tipu`s Fort, Palakkad

Travel: Nelliyampathy, Kerala

Travel: Guruvayoor, Kerala

Feature: Palakkad`s Ayurvedic Spas

Travel: A journey home

Feature: My Own Time Capsule

Feature: The tea times of childhood

Photo Feature: An Eden with a serpent in Konni, Kerala




Achankovil riverAdavi coracale ridesKeralaKonniKonni Elephant CampPathanamthitta districtrubber country

Sheila Kumar • September 15, 2017

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