Saturday, 31 August 2013

Wayanad- where the jungle meets resorts


Early morning view of Chembra Peak from Kalpetta Town
 
Wayanad still retains the innocence and culture of farmers. People & culture perspective, it may be the best place in Kerala. Women are safe in public and people respect each other. When asked a gentleman not to smoke in a public place, he obliged without any hesitation. Bus drivers and conductors helped us to reach our destinations. Mass tourism has not spoiled the economy and ecology. But climate has changed in the last decade owing to the rampant construction depleting the green cover.

Ernad express is a good bet for anyone on the coastal south Kerala to reach Wayanad. Starting at 2am from Nagercoil, this 'day' train reaches Calicut (Kozhikode) at 12.30 pm. We boarded from Cherthala at 7 am (216 km, 6 hrs, Rs.85). From Calicut railway station a short ride by private bus will take you to the 'puthiya' (new) bus stand, circumventing Mananchira square and pond. A 3hr ride from Calicut to Vythiri turns adventurous a little after Thamaraserry. Thamaraserry 'churam' (ghats road) is a very famous road known for hairpin bends and described in the Malayalam movie Vellanakalude Nadu by Kuthiravatham Pappu. Once you reach Vythiri, you see hoardings everywhere about resorts - green, silver, view - all of them sound the same.

Kalpetta is the district center and there is no place called Wayanad in Wayanad district. For a budget backpackers' accommodation Kannur Ayurveda Center, Emily Road, Kalpetta (tel: 9495260535, dbl Rs.600, http://www.ayurvedawayanad.com/) run by doctor couple Vinod and Jeeja. Excellent home made food will be served in your room Rs.60/meal. An hour long ayurveda massage Abhyangam costs Rs.700. The whole body is massaged with Dhanyatharam Kozhampu nourishes skin and provides quick relief from travel fatigue. 

Roaming around any part of Wayanad is possible from Kalpetta, as there are plenty of buses, except Tholpetty, Thirunelly and Pakshipatalam. It is better to stay at Mananthavady for these wildlife destinations.We did a trip to Pulpally taking a bus from Batheri (Rs.19, 1hr, 25km) via Chetalaya - where there is a temple dedicated to Seetha, Lava and Kusha. This is an interesting route amidst teak forest with a few tribal settlements at Irulam. 

We met Biju Joy's mother and brother at Marappanmoola, a short ride by bus from Pulpally Bus Stand. Panamaram is a low lying area in Wayanad which gets flooded during heavy rains die to its proximity to a tributary of Kabini River. Pallikannu church near Kambalakkadu is a favourite pilgrimage spot. We had a friend Biju George at Sarvodaya school, Echom teaching there. Both Biju Joy and Biju George studied with me at St.Xavier's college, Thumba.

Rain Soaked Tea Estates at Vythiri

Uravu Bamboo Heritage Centre  (http://www.uravu.net/) is 45 min from Kalpetta (Rs.12). Uravu promotes social enterprises based on value addition of local, natural resources, especially bamboo. This bus goes up to Mukkamkunnu, Meppadi is just 7km  through  tea estates and an interesting ride if you have own vehicle. Buses don't go beyond Mukkamkunnu. 

Blooms Green Farm:
Take a turn to Kenichira at Beenachi from NH212 between Batheri and Meenangadi. This route can lead to either Pulpally or Mananthavadi. Kenichira is a small town and Blooms Green Farm is 10min walk from the town, tucked away in lush greenery. It boasts an organic farm, a bunch of animals including ten dogs and a vast pond (www.bloomsgreenfarm.com, Tel: 999 555 3377, 999 555 7733). They also have budget accommodation starting from Rs.750 a little distance away and camping location at Makkiyad. Proprietor Jonh Joseph is a real estate developer and work with developing time-sharing villas with eco-tourism concepts. He organises an yearly shuttle badminton tournament in December. While unwinding yourself doing nothing, you can indulge in the delicious meals or go for an elephant ride within the organic farm.

A famous Kannada song "viraha nooru nooru taraha" from a well known director Puttana Kanagal is from the movie "Edakallu Guddada Mele" translates on top of edakkal hill. It was through this movie I came to know of Edakkal caves in Wayanad. I was looking forward to visit this place, as I'd heard a lot about it. Visiting the Edakkal cave gave me a sense of accomplishment, apart from meeting all my expectations I had. Soochippara, Pookot Lake, Banasura Dam, Pazhassi Tomb are a few other tourist attractions in different directions. Board buses from Kalpetta bus stand to reach any of these locations.


Green moss clad entrance at Pazhassi Tomb


There is a scenic route from Wayanad to Ooty via Gudalur. Most people will guide you to take a bus from Bathery, but there are TN buses from Calicut to Ooty. You can take a KSRTC bus from Kalpetta to Meppadi and board the TN bus around 8am which reaches Ooty by 1pm via Vaduvanchal-Cherambadi-Gudalur. An alternate driving holiday to Munnar if your predilection is for tea estates.

To reach Wayanad from Mysore, the shortest route is through H.D.Kote-Bavali-Kartikulam-Mananthavady- closed between 6am-6pm. The only route open through the night is via Kutta. Many KSRTC (both KA and KL) buses ply on this route and it takes around 3hrs from Mysore to Mananthavady for Rs 105. You can stay at Kabini Tourist Home, Valliyoorkavu Rd  (04935 240611, 954426399 dbl Rs.400, tr Rs.500) very close to the bus station at Mananthavady. You can visit Thirunelly and Tholpetty from Mananthavady; Kuruva Island is closed to visitors currently.

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