Nestled in between mountain wildlife reserves and India's Southwestern coast, the Wayanad region of Kerala is a beautiful region of Southern India, though not mentioned at length in any guide book. The friends we stayed with hired a driver for us who made sure we saw all the beauties of his homeland which were many. Over the next few days we visited waterfalls, caves with ancient carvings, mountain temples at the edge of the jungle, wild elephants rustling through the forests at dusk, coffee plantations in full bloom shaded by trees dripping with black pepper vines, and the stunning mountain tea plantations that are as magical as a scene from a Doctor Suess book - their well groomed hillsides doted with whimsical trees. We couldn't speak his language, Malayalam, and he didn't know English, but we got along with hand gestures, a few words in Hindi, and a lot of goodwill.
The friendliness and hospitality of people in Wayanad was almost overwhelming at times and everyone was incredibly proud of his or her personal niche in this beautiful landscape. One evening we visited a tea factory that processed thousands of pounds of tea, day and night. The workers at the factory were happy to show us around and answer our questions. This worker took me into a room to show me a mountain of tea powder. He was happy and proud to pose for a picture. When I showed him the image, he was dissatisfied and picked a different pose. This second portrait earned his approval.