Sunday, October 30, 2011

Wayanad – piece of heaven on earth

Steam coming off the streets after rain

Work has been very hectic, especially for my husband. After working on Diwali day, we decided to go away for couple of days. We initially planned for Ooty but on our way, we got to know that Ooty has heavy rainfall on the go we changed to Wayanad. Stopped over in Mysore; met my grandparents, took my grandpa too with us. The drive from Mysore to Wayanad is a small drive of about 3 hours. By the way, Wayanad is a hilly small town in Kerala. Only in recent years it has been a tourist space because of Mysorians I guess! Mind you, there is a forest in between Mysore and Wayanad which has to be crossed before 6pm after which the forest department closes the entry gate until 6am. This is to not disturb the wildlife that crosses around. We made it well before 6 into Wayanad. So we drove to a Karapuzha Dam. The speciality of this Dam is that it is the biggest MUD dam in Asia. The whole dam, except the spill way is built in soil. It was very serene.

We halted in Sulthan Bathery as it is kind of the heart of the town. Next morning, we started off with a list of places to see from the pamphlet we bought. We started with the GanapathivattomTemple – Lord Ganesha Temple in Sulthan Bathery. Ganapathivattom was the original name of this place after which it got the current name Sulthan Bathery, when Tipu Sultan conquered this place! Then we drove to Edakkal Caves. These caves depict the pre-historic heritage of Wayanad. The cave was formed in the crevice of a broken rock and another massive rock. The carvings on its walls display the cultural practices of the Neolithic age.

We drove to the location which is very steep. We decided to walk up the 1km distance instead of the jeeps that go to and fro. I must say the way up to the caves is very very steep to climb and to get down. We stopped every few meters and continued. There is a small cave at the base above which the large cave rests and holds the stone-age carvings. There are at least some 50 or more steps that we have to climb up to finally reach the cave. We stopped mid way to look around and it was just gorgeous…thick dense forest till the horizon. It was like a scene from the Jurassic park! Finally when we reached at the entrance of the cave, we had to get down another 15 steps. All these steps are made now with strong metal pipes & stone steps. The cave has light coming in from the top…and at the start you see the carvings. There are numerous carvings of the King, a child, a Queen, wheels etc..showing life in those times. There is a rock with scripting that reads as “we killed tigers here to live in this cave”
The King, a child face
They are very detailed and clear carvings. And totally worth all that hiking up to the cave. From this height, we could also see the famous Phantom rock – A human shaped rock. Wayanad has lots of waterfalls, one of the famous ones is the Meenmutty Falls. We did drive to this place and walk down the fields of coffee and tea plantations..but half-way through we learnt that the falls are another 1km down the hill and we had our grandpa walking with us with great difficulty. So after almost a km of walk we decided to go back. But our mood got all adventurous when we accidentally saw one large spider and we got the bug of photography. We were clicking this once spider and we noticed there was another larger one next to it..and the awe and excitement went adding as we found 4-5 large spider, all very beautiful but still scary. I tested one of the web strings and it was really strong like a nylon string; pretty strong spiders and moved on before it gets scary like the Hollywood movies and once of us turns into a Spiderman! I would like to be called Spiderwoman if I did! But yeah we got gorgeous pictures – good enough for those Animal Plant geeks!
View from the Eddakal Caves
Next  we decided to see is the Banasura Sagar Dam. The drive to this dam was just scenic..with beautiful dense Tea plantation, low lying clouds..just showered wet roads. The place is just full of plantations estates of coffee, tea, black pepper and Bettel nut! The betel nut palms are so tall and! Unbelievable and beautiful! The roads in the whole city are pretty good with some potholes sometimes, should be from this year’s monsoon.
Spider 1
Spider 2
Spider 3
Tea Plantations
Banasura Sagar Dam is India’s largest earth Dam. It is quite commercialized now since my husband visited it almost 6 years ago when there were no boating services then!
Beautiful landscape of Tea estate
I have to mention the people of Kerala was very nice..if not to generalize for Kerala, people of Wayanad. They are very warm and welcoming; very helpful in directing places. Unlike my experiences in Tamilnadu, here people speak Hindi very well; English - almost everybody does. I could sense my geography lessons from school all through my trip – Kerala is the state with highest literacy rate! Very well proved! Moreover they seem very hard working people. Typically I have seen Kannadiga men in Mysore and Bangalore who gather up in groups or 5-20 and gossip, which I find very weird. But Wayanad people always look busy, working, doing an activity. Another peculiarity of the place is that they always serve hot water in all the restaurants. Wayanad has a cold weather and hence they always drink warm water. The water also is rose pink in color. What I thought was potassium, turned out to be some Ayurvedic  wooden bark that is boiled with the water giving it that color and the strength to people to fight cold weather illness. And you can’t miss the traditional attire of the men here. They all wear the white pancha or colored lungi…these are kinda wrap-around skirt things that men wear. Men in my family also wear these but not on the streets. Wayanad people wear lungi’s as their official attire...The elegent ones are those white ones, let down all the way to the feet; the weird looking ones are those folded up to the waist & really crazy colors.
The last spot we visited was Pookkode Lake. Beautifully set lake between mountains. It’s like a scene from the movies. We did boating for some 20mins..I am sure they’ve shot numerous bollywood movies here…if they haven’t it is an option for Ooty.

Tender Tea leaves - Remember the Lipton Tea commercial

Chembra Peak

Pookkode Lake
We started at 5 pm from the lake for Mysore and my husband forgot about the 6pm limit of the forest gates. We reached the Gate at 6.15 and the officials had already closed the gates. We had another car behind us. We went to the forest officials. The guy was kind and quick enough to let us go on a condition that when we reach the other end, we tell the officials that we’d crossed the gates before 6pm J. We had already thought we had to go back to Sulthan Bathery and spend another night. So we quickly made a move after giving our information to the officer. It was getting dark so quickly. We started off and in 10 mins it was pitch dark. We were quite scared especially my husband who was driving. In his head he was thinking what would happen if we have an elephant charging at us from the front. I have to admit the drive was scary…in the dark we could see twinkling eyes…and the first I saw a bunch of those yellow sparkling mind thought of all animals like tigers, lions, hyena, foxes blah blah…to our relief those were a pack of spotted deers that we’d seen just few minutes ago before we entered the jungle. And then we drove past a Bison who was busy eating grub and not disturbed by our car lights. We had a little fox run across and then what seemed like an Owl that flew right above our hood. I guess it wasn’t very happy with the car lights. Pack of deers every few meters was always scary. It took us exactly 30 mins to reach the other end. All through the route we did see villagers walking in groups which made me wonder how cool are they about wildlife crossing! The dark ride still scares us a lot and we were glad we reached the other end without any wild event! You have to respect the nature.
Banasura Sagar Dam
Except for this one major mistake, we had a great trip to Wayanad and next time we go there we’d cover the waterfalls and make sure we have no oldies with us. J Enjoy the pictures of beautiful serene Wayanad.