28 February 2009

Bangalore to Wayanad-Final part

Since sometime, i was thinking of completing the remaining part from our Wayanad trip from Bangalore. So, here is it. Sit back and enjoy the trip. If you have not captured the begining, check the ticket reservation and then the day 1 of the trip. Day 2 which started with muthanga wildlife sanctuary now continues towards the final leg.
 As we moved from muthana we stopped over for breakfast midway. We were heading for Jain temple midway before actual going for Eddakal Caves.
Jain temple: The jain temple is situated on the mainroad in Sulthan Bathery. The place was quite small and a little surprising to see no one there. we went inside strolling when we discovered a gaurd being posted inside the temple who also was very well versed with details of this temple. The temple is the reason for why the place is called sulthan bathery. This temple had hollow walls and was used to store the artilery in the times of tipu sulthan.
Eddakkal Caves: This place was a far drive from sulthan bathery and took a while before we reached the dropping point. The driver again informed us that either we could take a local jeep to reach the foothills which is some 900 meters over a steep ascent or walk up to it. We all planned and then took to walking uphill. the ascent was extremely tiring and we could see why jeeps were plying there. the complete pathway was maintained extremely well. we could see the huge mountain clouds in the backdrop.  On reaching the foothills we realized the actual ascent starts now. Oh, this was rocky mountain in front of us with places between them for climbing up. we walked and climed past those tall trees and steps and reached the ticketing counter. Above it were those huge DLF building sized rocks and people entering them and getting disapperaed. The sheer look of those rocks was mesmerising. the view from here told that has the effort has actually brought us on quite a height. 
 The tickets promised more uphill ascent. We soon were on our way and now it was just a negotiation with the rocks at every step. We were getting over the rocks, slipping under them and sometimes pushing them but it was just rocks. even exciting was the way the govt. authorities managed to make way to it. the complete way upto the caves is trecherous and dangerous. Some people were just being too excited which could actually be fatal for others, when all are moving in such close circuit. 
Recommendation: If you are travelling with kids or elderly people, you should refrain from visiting this place keeping in mind their saftey. If one insists, then should make sure that you dont go there on sunday since it gets crowded which makes it even more dangerous. 

The view from the top was breathtaking. even wonderful were the caves where the carvings have been done since the times of stone ages. there are proofs available to show that from stone ages to next generations, men lived there. there is also a script which is mix of tamil and sanskrit written there and lot of symbols which were used to communicate. the watchman was extremely helpful and had lot of knowledge about this place, since they were trained by Archeoilogical socitey of india.
 We then started our descent and clicked shots during all the times. the descent was actually quite tough and called for even more negotiation with the path.
What next???
As we reached back, the driver was waiting for us. We were not in a mood to eat much and asked him to skip the lunch stop. The next junction was the sunrise valley. the drive to this place was trechereous and dusty. a far place and took around an hours time to reach. The jeep stopped on an dead end and we could not sight any people or any drives there. Driver showed us a way and told us about the sunrise valley.
   We were in for a surpise here, and sure for the best location of the complete trip. as we moved, in just some 500 meters we saw a valley and then couple of more steps, we were in heaven. there came some rocks at just the edge and nothing apart from that to stop us. a complete view of the valley was in our front.

24 February 2009

Eddakal Cave Vantage point.

A view from the top of eddakal caves, Wayanad, Kerela. What a view of those beautiful peaks, under the blue clouds and green vegetation. Click here for recommended view.

18 February 2009

Trip from bangalore to Wayanad-Day2: Part1...Action continues

Well, as we returned from the places covered on day 1, we settled for some lunch. Since the breakfast was a real stealer, we thought of giving our own hotel restaurant an
other go. We went to the room, freshened up and came down.
The menu was quite elaborate and did have everything which we
were thinking to munch on. We ordered some Manchurian, paneer and Rotis which were served instantly. The food was extremely hot and i would repeat the same words, "To Eat, is to believe." I would highly recommend eating at the PPS restaurant if you are at kalipetta.
We were extremely happy and with that lunch, and went to the room for some rest.
During the evening, we decided to take a stroll around the small town to check the place more closely. The town is quite small but the market is quite good in comparison. Across the main road, you have shops ranging from everything from anything. The noticeable aspects were the vegetables shop, which had real good healthy vegetables available. I didnt know if they were costly or cheaper, but good to see that variety and freshness. Also there are some huge jewelery shops across kalipetta with the displays being mind boggling. Looking at those shops, you wont even equate Kalipetta to a small town as it looks.
Eating out at a bakery:The other good part i noticed in Wayanad was the bakeries across the district. Similar experiences i had in Hyderabad with excellent bakeries items at quite cheap prices. I would highly recommend taking a go at "the walnut bakery", on the main road in kalipetta. Should not be a problem to find if you are around the bus stand of kalipetta. The bakery had excellent assortments and fantastic prices. Sometimes, i feel going from Bangalore makes you love the destination even more for whatever it offers. We spent the evening walking around and settling at this bakery. Apart from this, the town does not have much to offer for the evening.
Planning Day 2:As we returned to our hotel, wondering about the next day, we settled at the reception. I starting the conversation with the attendant and wanted to know the best possible route for our next day destinations. He offered us a plan to take up a Jeep and a plan of places they offer. The price looked good for the plan, being 1000 Rs per person(2000 for our trip) for the full day by jeep and all entry and camera fees included. He was also ready to give us some discounts on that price. As we were discussing, he also told that if there are more folks who could join in, the price would automatically come down. As it was supposed to be, Brian & mcaye, two tourists from Florida, USA staying at our hotel, too came looking out for something similar. The attended informed us that he shall discuss and let us know. After ten minutes we were informed that now we were four for the morning trip, since brian and mcaye too were willing to join in. The price came down to exactly the half and we were geared for an early morning start of 6:30. The plan drawn was
Kalipetta->Muthanga Wildlife sanctuary->Breakfast at sulthan bathery->Jain temple->Eddakal Caves->Surise Valley->Kanthapuram WaterFalls.
Committing to the plan, we went to prepare for the next day's early rise.

Day 2...Hectic & Fun:
We rose quite early around 5:30 and got all set before the clock struck 6:15. as we came out, it was a little dark yet.
I went to the hotel top to catch any glimpses of signs of sunrise, but it was still early for that. We reached the reception and the Jeep had come in. "sandip", a skinny fellow, localite and knowing little english, since used to making trips with visitors was awaiting us. Meanwhile, Brian & Macaye too joined us. We started without delays at dot 6:30 on a plan to stop in between for a cup of tea.

Muthanga Wildlife sanctuary(MWS):
The road was long to muthanga wildlife sanctuary. It is approx. 25 kms from kalipetta and we had to pass through sulthan bathery. Infact, the sanctuary is on the mainroad to bangalore and just in the begining of kerela.
(At the entrance of Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary)
The sun had just come out while we sipped tea on our pit stop inbetween. Mahindra Major, did great job on the empty roads with fields around, surrounded with mist. It was cold, real cold
weather while we were driving down to muthanga. As you reach muthanga village, there is a huge Forest of bamboo trees, which is its characterstic symbol.

(A panaroma while we stopped over at the lake in Muthanga WildLife sanctuary. Click to view large)
"Screeccchh", as a truck pulled over near the toll gates outside the MWS, i continued clicking some shots. The weather was cold and sandip had gone to buy our tickets. Soon we were on our way to the sanctuary and the jeep was the best vehicle for this terrain. We first stopped near some elephants to click some shots. The jungle looked extremely beautiful, but a little strange.
The hush, fallen leaves soaked in dew, cold air, little sun
and still lot of dark areas around and those huge tall trees every where were sort of scary. The elephants had huge teeth and were full bodied tuskers. We soon left them and moved towards the forest interiors. The birds made lot of noise as they were just getting to their daily chores. Suddenly we stopped, since we sighted a group of cheetals. Some ran away, but one of those was like spell bound seeing us. I absolutely love animals and their expressions. Above that i even more love the way their expressions are put into words as and how we love them to. :)
Sandip explained that the forest is on the brim where Karnataka, Kerela and Tamil Nadu share their borders. Now the stretch which falls in Kerela has been named as "Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary",
The one in Karnataka is known as "bandipur wildlife sanctuary" and the remaining part in tamil nadu is called as "Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary".
Now this was some real piece of information. Also he showed us the way inside the forest which according to him, a few kms further would lead you to TN border or Karnataka border.
Sandip took us to a valley, which had huge number of deers. The place was so beautiful that we got down and it took at least 10 mins to absord its effect. The deers all around were amazing. Not to mention, the forest area itself showed me more than 50 species of birds everywhere including golden oriole, blue thrush, flycatchers, sun birds and what no.
Though i was not on a birding trip and refrained from birding shots, still was happy to notice them live happily in this hevean. We also got down around a lake in the forest where all the animals come to drink water. We also saw the malabar gaint squireels and the way they move on the tree tops, is something to seen than explained(Photo attached). On one place, the jungle Langoors were all excited and tried to bend down every single tree or branch they got on to. Finally after spending some 2 hours time and clicking birds and animals, we came out of MWS to the main road.

I shall take you further on the trip of Wayanad..So hang on and return back next week for the remaining part.

17 February 2009

Wild & green -Trip to Wayanad from Bangalore-Day1

(view of Wayanad Peaks)
Ah..i am back after the hectic schedules of traveling to Wayanad over the weekend. What a trip it was, when i look back at it now. I wonder, if the time stops by, when you get to such places, or may be the clocks move faster back at Bangalore. An awesome trip, with probably a little more time which i would have liked to have.
Anyways, here are some statistics about the trip and then i continue with the report. I am sure you like the details or hate them equally if you are looking for a 500 word coverage of the place.

Name: Wayanad. It is one of the districts of kerela and should not be confused by a town's or city's name. The towns to stay in Wayanad district are Kalipetta, Sulthan bathery(SB) and Vythari.
Distance: Kalipetta is at a distance of 270 kms from Bangalore. Sulthan bathery(SB) comes first if you are going from Mysore. from SB, kalipetta is around 24 Kms and vythiri is another 22 Kms from Kalipetta. The road from kalipetta can directly head to Calicut via Vythiri or turn towards ooty.
Travel mode: Discussed here.
Temperature: The district receives good amount of rainfall but during Jan to Feb, its quite similar to the temperatures in Bangalore. A little on the higher side while comparing the day temperatures and little more colder during the nights. The afternoons are also humid and hiking gets a little tough during the peak sun on your head.
Places to Stay: Places to stay are all spread across the small towns of Suthan bathery, Kalipetta, and vythiri. Some places to stay are:
At Kalipetta:
1, Haritagiri
2, The woodlands
3, PPS tourist home (where we stayed)
and umpteen number of lodges at these towns are available. These three hotels mentioned are in kalipetta. I don't think staying places should become a problem since the towns are quite commercial but in case you would want to be absolutely sure, you can call up and get your rooms done at these hotels. Sulthan Bathery, appeared to have even more number of hotels and lodges than anywhere else in the district.
The Story
As we boarded the AC Kerela SRTC, bound to kozikode, we never new that we were heading into such a fantastic place. The bus started at 10:30 dot, and we were quite thrilled about it. It was nearly full with couple of seats still remaining. So, i sense over a weekday, without reservations also, the seats may be available on this route. The conductor tried to pull up people on the way to fill those couple of vacant seat. the buses are just average, and no way can be compared to the Volvo services of Karnataka SRTC. The drive was good but the seating and the gushing AC, were just below average to comfort. We soon went to sleep.
Reaching the Hotel:
As Soon i woke up, the bus was making huge moves to its left and right on a road similar to racing track. I could barely see through the window and just read "Eddakal Caves 22 kms" on a side board. Sensing that we were nearing the town of kalipetta, i woke up my wife and just got ready. Soon about 4:10 in the morning, we got down at kalipetta. Unlike our previous travels across other hill stations, the place was much alive for that early morning time. There were tea shops open and people waiting for buses. The hotel, which i had booked beforehand was nearby and just took us 3-4 mins to reach there. I called up the reception and informed about our arrival. The fellow on the counter, was happy to open up a room booked for us and offered some water & clean towels. We also didn't take much time and wanted to catch up some sleep before starting up for the day. The room was good with a nice bed and Cane sofa set sitting in the room. In one corner, was a TV waiting to be tune besides a gallery which opened to the outside view of the town. The place was quite calm and inviting. We parked everything into the almirahs and soon settled for a nap.

Get, Set, Go....Day 1:
I got up with a bell on the door. The boy of the hotel was there with the newspaper and morning cup of tea. We opened up the gallery and the climate was still quite cool for 8 am of the day. We discussed about the areas around to be covered with the boy, when i noticed the tea served to us. Man, this was different from what i have noticed in other parts of India. The tea, was served in a huge glass and i could recollect the tea served at Punjab, the place where i come from. This was alike the Punjabi tea with lot of milk and tasted excellent. we were refreshed since those tea cups available in Bangalore, have never been my fill, until i take two of those. We soon finished our bath and set off to Chembra Peak. This was going to be our first spot for the day and we booked an auto rickshaw to take us around. I forgot to mention, but apart from tea, breakfast was another sixer on the very consecutive ball. We ordered for some masala dosas and appams( local delicacy for breakfast) and they were too delicious to be explained here. This food itself gave us a different high about the place.
Shahjahan was negotiating the turns and curves as we moved towards Chembra peaks. Oops, forgot to introduce, Shahjahan was the one who was booked for driving us around for the day and someone with no exposure to other language than Malayalam. A happy chap, who listens to "Sajan" film songs at-least 10 times a day and lives in kalipetta town. It had been some 10 kms since we had been driving, but i could not catch sight of any tea estates from our imagination about Wayanad, nor any peaks or mountains around yet. In few mins, it all started changing. Now there was a huge peak on the right side of the road, towering with the sun and its altitude, as if boasting. Soon, we reached Mappadi, another small town which is set in the foothills of this mountain. Here after, the drive turned magical. We got our first glimpse of those tea estates, in their ravish beauty and green covers. They formed patterns across the plantation and looked beautiful. The tops were trimmed excellently and the pathways between the crops looked liked having combed by someone. Most of the drive, saw those estates with tea plantation and huge empty patches in between. we understood that the plucking would have already been done from those areas. Still in far places, the vegetation looked even and we could seen few people working and plucking those leaves.

Reaching Chembra Peak

(View of Chembra Peak)

The way from here, was a snake tail laid into the mountain. We soon, reached a check post which had few people manning the gates. I presume that they do nothing except closing and opening those gates to the entrance. As we moved hereafter, the road was lone and beautiful. it was a place where no homes were there. Only folks living up here must be either in the bungalows of the tea estate managers or the other related labor force for these estates. Through out the drive, it felt as if we owned this place and were on a round of it. The hills looked magnificently blue and little mist was visible across the valley in some parts towards the top. the pine shaped trees grew amidst these plantations and gave even more dramatic touch it them. Another 3-4 kms of riding up, we reached a check post and a office for buying the tickets. We choose to go to the top up to the View point. There was another option of trekking up to the peak ,which we refrained from. Ideally, we thought that trekking would be a great idea to go in a group rather than two of us. The tickets costs peanuts through out the district for any place you enter, a nominal 10 Rs per person with 25 Rs for the camera. It was same here.
What a View!!!
As we reached the top, the view was mind blowing. On one end, at our back was this huge chembra peak with those hues of blue and whites, glowing sun which was little hotter now than what it was when we started and ravishing tea plantations on our front. A road was inviting us to explore this place and we soon got out the cameras and started moving. we were amazed by the tranquility of this place . It was just two of us, across the kms of view now, and the only other sound was, of the wind blowing past us. It was amazingly soothing and nice setting for someone on "valentine's day" too. We walked through the tea estates and enjoyed the nature around. Another noticeable aspect of wayanad, is the birds population. A mecca for bird photography since i could sight more than 100 birds through our trip of two days. We kept walking and the road started to unwind into its turns leading to the view point, a lone building at the very end of the mountain, with a white roof visible from distance.
The view point has been maintained by the kerela tea estate and a decent place to rest around and enjoy the scenery. the place gives you a birds eye view of the whole valley. "ashish", a local guy, working with the tea estates was deputed to this view point and was hanging around when we reached. The backdrop of chembra peak looked magnanimous and we enjoyed this place for some 30-40 mins before heading back to where shahjahan, the auto-driver was waiting to take us further.

(A tea estate with those trees..a dramatic place with a view of one of the peaks)

Towards next destination:
As now we started the descent, the memory of view point was still fresh in mind. We stopped couple of places to get down and click shots. there were huge plantations of coffee in between which were flowering. we got to know that the coffee plantation is exposed to artificial rains to bloom the flowers, and it was first time we smelt them. Initially i did not believe that these amazingly pleasant smelling flowers could be coffee. To see is to believe.
Sujiparra WaterFalls:
Soon, we came down to the mapadi town and continued towards the sujiparra Waterfalls. The place is around 12 Kms from mappadi and another roller coaster ride. As we reached the top of this hill, we saw some shops and vehicles, pointing that we were there. Shahjahan, told us that from here we would have to go on the foot for a walk of around 1.5 Kms to reach the waterfall. Amazingly, across the district, in any of teh place where you have a steep inclined walk, the govt. jeeps are running to take people to and fro they charge nominally (15-20 Rs up & down) and would take 5 mins which other wise would need lot of energy and 30 mins of climb. We still choose to walk down. The sun was getting harsh now from the cool of the morning, and we started towards teh waterfall. The walk was extremely steep at places and after some 700 mtrs, it was all steps. the place was amidst huge forest covering and now we could hear sound of water gushing down. The place was a little crowded in the pathways with lot of people going and coming from the waterfall.
Another 15-20 mins with carefully negotiating those steps, we were in front of soochipara falls. the falls is amidst huge rocks and looks like a trekking spot. The fall was front a good 200 meters of height but not huge in proportion of water. lot of people, were enjoying under the fall and we spent some quality time across the fall in water. The descent to reach teh falls and trek at chembra peak was tiring and Sun was on its peak now. We spent another 40-50 mins at the falls and then started back to the parking. on the way, the jeeps kept making rounds after round with people, which offered an easy solution. But still, i felt that walking gave us the real taste and sense of these places. We could also enjoy by stopping by the Pepper and coffee plantations on the way.
What next:
It was around 2:30 as we starting from sujiparra falls. Pokkat lake was the next destination, but seeing the sun and temperature, it didnt appear to be a good idea for boating. we were informed by many localites including Shahjahan that pookate lake has boating and nothing much to it. We planned to get back to our hotel, since the idea didn't look enticing.

Please read the next leg of this trip here.

13 February 2009

Heading out from Bangalore to Wayanad-Weekend Trip

After a lot of running around to finalize the place and then getting this settled for a weekend trip, i am all set to head out for Wayanad. Excited about the trip and looking forward to my experience of Kerela, where Wayanad lies as the border district with karanataka & Tamil Nadu.
Few initial inputs during my course of booking tickets and finding other details.
1, Kerela buses are also running under the name of KSRTC which actually makes you run to the Karnataka state online reservations and their counters throughout Bangalore city. But please take care, it is Kerela State transport and they do not have any such counters and do not offer online booking too. Their counter is at Majestic and opens 6:30 morning. There are some good options of buses available for anywhere in state of Kerela, but somehow for a weird reason, they make full trip bookings even when you may be getting down quite before the last stop. I could not understand the reason for that. Though they have good available services to Wayanad, Calicut, ernakulam and other parts of the state.
2, There are lot of private buses plying on the route of Bangalore to Wayanad but the feedback i got from some of my friends from Kerela was that most of them would ditch or don't offer service better than state transport buses. So its better to book the state transport AC or super fast buses or go with only a trusted travels (some suggested names were Shama Travels, Kallada Travels for travel to wayanad district).

Shall be back with the trip details soon..