I had done a Wayand roadtrip in 2008, with friends and in a Hertz Scorpio. (Read travelogue Part 1, Part 2, and an Ergo article). That was a brand new scorpio Vls with its ribbon on the bonnet
This October, after about 6 years, went there again. This time also in a Scorpio, again from Hertz (Carzonrent) and a relatively new one with ribbon on its bonnet. But this time went with family.
We drove through Bandipur and had to spend about 1 hour at Kerala border for permit. During Shabarimala season I am told it might take as much as half a day to get permit, due to very large lineup of tourist vehicles. Few states permit online payment of entry tax, but Kerala Government hasn’t gone tech savvy yet. So waiting in line for hours at a stretch is the only option if you’re arriving in tourist vehicle, including black board self-drive. Kerala Tourism: FYI and A.
To my surprise, for both 5 seater logan with repeat entry and 7 seater scorpio with first time entry, same amount was charged- Rs 200.
We first went to Edakal caves, which was a big mistake and disappointment. Huge traffic jam meant lots and lots of walking and on the top, ticket issue was halted because of crowd. So we had to abandon and come back- loosing few precious hours in the process. If only Kerala tourism can set up some display boards with real time status like “Ticket issue halted” or “Walking distance from closest available car park: 3 kms” or “todays visitors: 10 times the average” then tourists can plan their visit from a distance and probably come back later. It is probably too much to expect, but Kerala being tourism focused state, they should take initiatives like this to make visitor experience more pleasant.
It was afternoon, so we had lunch and went to our homestay to rest for a while. Evening we saw a board called Chethalayam falls and drove about 12 kms only to find it closed for tourists. Why display the boards to places that are closed and waste tourist’s time. But anyway, the road from Sultan Bathery to Chethalayam falls was brilliant- picture perfect trees, nice and empty roads and lots of curves. I enjoyed the drive and stopped a few times to click some photos. So no regrets on the closed waterfalls.
Then we drove to Phantom rock- the first successful visit of the day. Read more about Phantom rock here.
Next I thought of visiting Heart shaped lake or Hridaya Saras, which is on top of Chembra peak. Google maps took us to that place through some narrow and bad set of roads instead of highway and our Verito driver was very upset with this. Again I enjoyed steering the scoprio and as we approached our destination, it was getting dark. Some of us hit upon the idea of returning back. But with nothing else to explore for the day, I went further till the peak. We reached there after sunset and drove all the way back. Once again I managed to put 10 passengers to discomfort while I enjoyed negotiating sharp turns, deep pot holes and narrow roads. We should have planned better- everyone told me.
Drove back to Sultan Bathery via Kalpetta this time and ordered dinner at Udupi hotel. The verito driver offered to Xerox my foot if I had any plans of driving up on another hill next day.
Back to Herbal nest homestay and rest. End of Day 1.
Day 2: We cooked food ourselves in the homestay for breakfast. It was cheaper and convenient option. Not many homestays let you do that. We left at about 8.30, stopped for sometime at the Jain temple in Sultan Bathery. Then we headed to Kanthanpara waterfalls. This lesser known falls was totally worth the visit and compensated for other falls we didn’t/couldn’t visit- such as Meenmutty, Soochipara and Chethalayam.
Next we drove to Lakkidi view point, followed by Pookut lake. I had already seen this lake, hence opted to relax inside the car for a while. Found a veg restaurant by the roadside and pulled over for lunch. Post lunch we took the same road to Banasura that I’d taken 6 years ago. We did take a diversion to check out Karlad lake.
After visiting Banasura dam, we drove little further to explore a waterfall.
That was the last attraction for the day. No time to visit Kuruva dweep, so we drove towards Karnataka via Mananthawadi. We managed to cross the border before the gates of Nagarahole reserve forest close for the day and reach Mysore by night. The road was much better this time. In 2008, we had some major offroading here because of extremely poor road.
It was good to revisit Wayanad. We could have planned better to manage our timing and visit places at right time to avoid some disappointments. I sort of underestimated the tourist inflow on a long weekend. Besides, we were typical tourists who wanted the car to go till the last step- no time to trek. Rainy weather meant no sunrise/sunset shot and less work for DSLR.
In summary,Kanthanpara falls, Phantom rock, Karnad lake, drive upto Chembra peak and Banasura falls were the new things I could explore this time. Banasura dam, Edakal and; Sultan Batthery were repeat visits