Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Wayanad - Coorg

                    This trip was in my mind since long and finally it took shape on 14-11-08. Myself and family along with Sunil & family were to catch Mangalore Exp from Trivandrum and Dinesh & family were to join us from Chirayinkeezhu. The train was scheduled at 8.45 PM and I was negotiating traffic to my home even at 7.30 PM. Surprisingly and thankfully, my wife Sreedevi had things packed in advance – this seldom happens – and we managed to reach back railway station in time. Dinesh and family joined us and we had a pleasant night in the train.
Day 1 : 15-11-08

                Reached Calicut by 6.30 AM. As planned, Shameer – our chauffer through the trip – was there with his Scorpio. Sunil was the man who had arranged Hotel Aryabhavan for us to have a fresh up. The view of the building itself was heart breaking and dear you will love to be out of it once you are in. Some how we were out of the shabby place and headed for Wayanad after Break Fast. Wayanad, as ever, greeted us with her enchanting beauty which took away the melancholy of the early morning disaster. At Mananthavadi by noon and here it was Dinesh’s chance. Any how the rooms he had booked at Hotel Alaska were worth mention and that too for as cheap as Rs.200 per day. Had Lunch and moved over to Kuruva Island via Katrikulam. The river Kabini splits into two and then rejoins forming this beautiful patch of greenery.

            While roaming around, Dinesh, being a forest Range officer, pointed to small pits on the surface and claimed these to be elephant's footprints. To our surprise, at places, these “footprints” were about 10 metres apart. The elephant would have had hard time for such a walk. Got back and headed for Tholpetty Wild Life sanctuary. And now it was my chance. Self assumed well versed guide – me – took these people to Bavali, the check post at Karnataka border, deviating about 10 km from the route to Tholpetti. But Gods grace, though the route was wrong time was right that we could witness a march-past of pachyderms across the road. A lone chap, reluctant to move with the herd, opted to stay back on the other side, challenging the wild life photographer in me.

           We were at Tholpetti by 5 PM. Being a forest official, Dinesh could manage a safari in our own vehicle accompanied by an armed guard. Shameer, our driver, unaware of the evenness of forest paths, readily agreed for the drive. We were greeted by a tusker just 200 meters from the entrance. 

           Rest of the safari was really frightening and challenging as we were the only people inside the deep wilderness around up to 7.30 PM. We had on our path hundreds of spotted deers, lone sambars, and a bison very close to our vehicle which was as huge as an elephant. 

          Shameer had a tough time behind the wheels. But he never showed it off. Interestingly two of our comrades were at opposite extremes. Sunil was at the edge of the seat fearing a mishap & Dinesh dozing through out. Were back at our Hotel at Mananthavadi by 9 PM and had a nice nap.

Day 2    :  16-11-08 
                   Left for Thirunelly early morning. Busy morning and moderate rush at the temple. Left the place around 8 for Nagerhole national park via Tholpetty. Morning safari there closes by 9.30 AM and we reached a bit late. Dinesh’s influence as a range officer again came to help and we were permitted inside in our own vehicle. This was a desperate effort as it was time for the inhabitants to pull off after the morning show. Still some spotted deer and a Sambar were generous enough to extend their show time for us.

                   We were to reach Honey valley estate near Virajpet by noon and we had expert advice that its better to take Nagarhole – Ponnampet - Gonikoppa route rather than one through Kutta- Srimangalam. Nagarhole – Ponnampet route is the historic remains of a road which existed in the Megalithic age. Scorpio crawled through this so called road at Snail’s pace and our time schedule went haywire. 

            Had lunch from Gonikoppa and headed to Virajpet. On reaching Virajpet, rang up Honey valley people and on their advice took a left turn after 4 km on Virajpet – Madikeri route and after another 19 km we were at Kabbinakkad Junction. Waited there for Sarath from Honey valley to have a breath taking 3.5 km jumps & jerks in his Commander. Really that vehicle is not in need of seats as we found ourselves seldom on it. Had we took our Scorpio along this terrain we could have dismantled it and carried to the base on head. And by 4 PM we were at Honey Valley Estate – One of the most beautiful places of halt I had in my life. Its in the midst of a vast coffee plantation boundaried by thick lush forest and mountain folds. 

             Though run by Mr.Suresh Chengappa & family, a foreigner, Mr. Jack from Canada manages things over there. In a detailed chat, late in the evening, he revealed that he has stake on the property and he had ran away from city life to this serene place. We had a late evening walk to a mountain top near by – Dry pond junction – and returned by dusk. Night at honey valley was chilly.

Day 3 : 17-11-08

             I had an early morning walk to the forest near by with a tribal boy who lives in the premises. He & his family are workers in the plantation.

           I took their snaps and they were excited to see their images that they offered me black coffee that I readily accepted.

           After break fast we had a visit to their private water falls which was shallow but still chilling and beautiful.

        Left honey valley by 11 AM and headed for Chelevra falls, turning right after around 5 km from Kabbinakad. A small walk from the mountain road takes you to the base of the falls. 

           We skipped a walk up the mountain as our fellow travelers (especially Sunil) weren’t pleased with the idea of having an adventure with kids. Next destination was Dubare Elephant camp near Kushal nagar. Went through Virajpet, Siddapur and were at Dubare by around 4 PM.            
            Being Keralites we weren’t pleased with the idea of bathing an elephant at a cost – we would have been happy if the elephant could do it on us – and cleared the place soon. On return had the sight of Orange tree bearing fruits by the side of the road and on the grounds of a polite request the owners permitted us to have some snaps and further extended it to pluck some. And to their regret, frenzy followed, leaving the tree bald in seconds. 

            Left the place after offering them cost of oranges, which we knew they would decline. Reached Namdroling Tibetan monastery near Kushal nagar by 5PM. 

                 Roamed the premises for a while and moved over to a shopping mall nearby. Many of us were excited as if they were in Tibet. They sell Tibetan handicrafts and art pieces that are expected to bring luck – of course to them. (One such thing is still hanging in my car, bringing luck – recent crunch in fuel price is to be read along with – Laugh please) 

                  Headed for Madikeri and the only stop, we had on way, was to clean up my young boy, who couldn’t any more resist the nature’s call, as he was deaf to it for these three days. Reached Madikeri by 8 PM and had to wander a while as we didn’t have any bookings. Finally settled at Cauvery Home stay which could offer pretty neat rooms with ample space for a reasonable Rs.700/day.

Day 4 : 18-11-2008

           Had an early morning walk through Madikeri town. There isn’t much to see in this tiny town except for a fort and Raja’s seat – a well managed park. 

               Coorg is famous for its natural beauty and I think travelers may better choose the southern part of Coorg, which is more picturesque. Left Madikeri for Talakaveri by 11 AM. River Cauvery originates at this mountain top and emerges near Bhagamandala after a short underground descent.

               From the temple near Talakaveri, 360 or so steps take you to the top of the mountain and the climb is worth, as the view from the top lets you have the charm of Coorg beneath. I went breathless many a time along the ascent, as I had a head load – my young boy.

          For our return journey we chose Bhagamandala – Karikke – Panathody – Kanhangad route which goes through really dense forest along the Karnataka – Kerala border and finally we were at Kanhangad railway station by 5.30 PM, where we were to board Malabar Express to Thiruvananthapuram. 

             Thankfully we bid farewell to Shameer – our driver – who played a lead role in making our trip a memory to cherish. The discussion in train was about nothing else but the next destination.

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