-------------Post number 300 on this blog----------------------
July 2009 Update: National Highway passing through Bandipura reserve forest is likely to be closed for traffic between 9pm to 6am, due to a HighCourt order, to prevent disturbance to wild animals-You may wish to plan accordingly.
When I was planning a weekend escapade to Wayanad in Kerala, almost everyone said two days are just not sufficient to cover all important places in Wayanad. But we had only 2 days and after careful study and planning we designed an optimized itinerary that cuts unnecessary travel, delay and wastage of time so that we can visit all important places in Wayanad within available 2 days.
Day 1, Saturday, 20th Sep 2008
Bangalore-Mysore-Gundlupet-NH212-Bandipura reserve forest-Sultan Bathery-Edakkal Caves, Museum-Soojippara waterfalls- Kalpetta-Halt
I reached Bangalore by train, which was delayed by over 90 mins. Mysore bound Kaveri express reached Bangalore city railway station by 5.35 AM, (This very train had reached SBC by 4.10 AM on 23rd July against the scheduled time of 4.45 AM and I had to ask my cab driver to come early). Hertz representative Anil was waiting patiently for me (I’d hurried him so much stating we’ve to go on long trip and asked him to come to Railway station by 4 AM) in the railway station with the brand new Scorpio and I got the delivery in few mins after completing rental formalities (we’d also completed most of the formalities the previous day itself so there was no need to go to Hertz office to take the delivery). Registered on 15th September and less than 600 kms on the Odo, this Scorpio Vls, powered by mHawk was on its first rental and I had to return it safe and sound after using for our trip.[Review of Scorpio mHawk Vls]
I picked up my friends from their homes/nearest pickup points and we were on Mysore road by 6.35 AM, 35 mins behind schedule. We stopped at Kamat Lokaruchi for breakfast and then by 7.30 AM head nonstop towards Mysore. Traffic on Mysore road wasn’t much and I could maintain 120-140 kmph at most of the times. Touched 155 + once I think- Couldn’t go faster as the new vehicle wasn’t responding properly. We reach Mysore by 8.30. Here we got confused which route to take to Gundlupet. We asked couple of people and got inconsistent answers. None of the signboards were helpful either. Apparently there were multiple routes we could take-via ring road, through the city, short cut etc, which is why different people guided us in different directions. Finally we hit the correct road and speed up. Road from Mysore to Gundlupet was pretty ok.
We reached Gundlupet by around 10 AM, 1 hour delay w.r.t. original itinerary. Now we were on NH 212 to Calicut- A very superb road and we began cruising. Soon we were inside Bandipur reserve forest. We halted for a few mins inside the jungle, crossed Kerala border by 10.45, stopped for a moment at a beautiful Seetha Devi temple and reached Matunga Wildlife Sanctuary by 11 AM. We were asked to pay nearly 500 Rs here, as entry fee+ camera fee+ guide charge+ jeep Safari fee. The Safari would last about 12 kms/ 1.5 hours but will we get to see the animals from close was uncertain and dependant on our luck. We decided to give it a miss and move on, as we’d already visited several zoos and sanctuaries. We thought we’ll visit while returning, if time permits.
Next we reached the city Sultan Bather by 11.20. There were no signboards to indicate how to reach the actual Sultan Bathery (the place where Sultan’s cannons (battery) and ammunitions were supposed to be kept). We asked some people how to go to Sultan Bathery (the tourist spot) and every one said “this is Sultan Bathery” (the city). We had a really tough time explaining “we know we’re in Sultan Bathery town-where exactly is the popular tourist spot where cannons are kept…” Finally we learnt that it is inside Jain Temple. We went there- found that there’s hardly anything worth seeing. No cannons, no idol inside the temple, almost nothing-just a stone building which once was a temple and was eventually destroyed by Tipu Sultan and was used to store his ammunitions.
Our first two stops were a kind of disappointment, but the next one was going to be a memorable one. Edakkal Caves-just a small detour from highway and easy to locate, was an exhilarating attraction. The road was narrow and fun to drive. We reached here at little after 12 noon, parked our vehicle and headed towards the hill. We had an option of taking a jeep till the foot of the hill or walk upwards ourselves. We decided to take the jeep for uphill and walk on the return.
Edakkal cave is not a cave as such. Few giant rocks are positioned in such a way that it looks like a cave. Other than that it is just a hill with lots of rocks. Upon reaching the foot of the cave we take entry ticket and start walking through a narrow way amidst rocks. The view gets more and more exciting as we climb up. Wherever it is impossible to climb, ladders/ropes were positioned to assist people climb up. At many places the rock was carved to create a footrest where we can firmly position our foot. Though it appeared too steep and difficult, we soon reached the top of Edakkal hill, took some rest and lots of photos-the 360 degree view from here was mesmerizing. Weather was cool and inspiring. But we couldn’t stay longer on the top as there were some moth like insects which would bite.
Descent was equally challenging. Upon climbing down drank some tasty buttermilk at a shop and bought few ground nuts. Few monkeys came close to us seeing eatables in our hand. Jayasimha extended his arm with few ground nuts on it and monkeys would approach him with caution, quickly grab a nut from his hand and move back a little. We had a simple but stomach full of tasty meals consisting of boiled rice, sambar, buttermilk and pickle. We were back in the parking area by 4 PM. Next we decided to check out a museum, which was just a few kms from Edakkal caves, though it was not a part of our original plan. This museum had few stone and marble statues and artifacts as well as items used by villagers for their agricultural and related activities. This museum is quite a small one, but worth 30 mins of your time and 10 Rs entry ticket, only if you’re not familiar with village life. We referred the map and figured out that we can cover Soojippara waterfalls before reaching Kalpetta (Wayanad District HQ) and calling it a day. Taking directions from museum staff, we head towards the waterfalls, which was some 35 kms from where we were and took little less than an hour for us to reach there. Drive through lush green tea plantations and curvy mountains were a wonderful experience. For the first time I wished had I not been behind the wheel I could have enjoyed the scenery better. The last few kms were so narrow; I had to drive reverse for about half a km to make way for a tourist bus that was returning from the falls.
We had to walk about 2 kms before reaching the falls. The view was refreshing. The falls was small in height but had a strong force and width. There’s a small area where people could take a dip/do a small swim-but this place was crowded and it was not lengthy enough for a proper swim. Some of us wanted to jump in but we’d left our cloths in the vehicle and had wallets, mobiles, cameras and other accessories with us. So we refrained from jumping into water, hoping we might spot a better place to swim next day (which wasn’t going to be), spend some good time near the falls and head back as it started to get dark. Our original intention was to stay at some good home stay, but it was pretty dark by the time we reached Kalpetta and the town appeared to have a power cut-we couldn’t locate any signboards advertising home stays. After driving around for few kms we decided to stop searching for home stays and checked into hotel Woodlands. Priced at Rs 1400 per day + Rs 400 per extra bed, this was slightly above our budget, but overall the hotel was good (except non availability of hot water during evenings) and had safe parking space. It was nearly 9 PM when we came out for dinner and most of the shops had closed. A few hotels that were open had only leftover items to serve. We ate some parathas and return to hotel, calling it a day.
Day 2 experiences in this post, .
Acknowledgements: Kenney Jacob and Nikhil Narayan tried to help us in optimizing our itinerary, but I couldn’t reach the contacts given by them. I relied on information available on internet and sent final plan to Arun of Painted Stork for his comments. Except a small suggestion about timing at Edakkal, he said it looked fine, before adding “Rest all looks good, though I wonder if you are planning a holiday or working on a mission with some tight targets :)”
We also troubled over a few hundred localities for exact directions. Nearly 80% replied പോ“nEra po" (malayalam for: go straight), about 10% said “Ariyille” (don’t know) and the rest said left, right, up down and some other things we couldn’t make sense of. Thanks to everyone for helping directly or indirectly.
Similar: Raveesh's travelogue on day 1 experiences* Part 2 of this travelogue * Yercaud travelogue *
May 2009 update: I accidentally spotted this Scorpio again in Ooty during our Ooty trip (for which I rented a Ford Fiesta from Car Club). Details in this post