October 13, 2010
Kerala is known very truly as ‘God’s Own Country’. This state on India’s South Western coast is indeed a paradise which one has to explore to understand it’s myriad beauty. There are pristine coast-lines, lush rain forests, beautiful back-water lagoons, cool and temperate hill stations which dot the landscape of Kerala.
Wayanad, the district which sits on the hills of Western Ghats can be very rightly referred to as the ‘Jewel in the Crown’. It is a place which enjoys excellent climate all through the year. The temperatures can reach upto 35 °C in summer and a cool 10 °C during the winters. The district shares its borders with Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and the districts of Kannur and Kozhikode of Kerala. The people of the entire state and Wayanad in particular are known for their warmth and their hospitality. We had a first hand experience of this when we visited Wayanad in the month of July this year.
Driving out of Bangalore en-route Mysore, Madikeri, we reached Kalpetta the district head-quarters of Wayanad in the wee hours. The hotel manager at the desk wore a welcoming smile and allocated a beautiful room to ensure that our stay was comfortable. Kalpetta is a small town snuggled among the hills. The main highway which cris-crosses the capital is where all the business establishments are set up. Tea, Coffee, Spices and Rubber are the major cash crops grown in Wayanad and rice is the staple food of the people which is also grown in abundance. One must savor the unique Keralite cuisine, rice served with fish curry or curry with parota when in Wayanad. Hop into any hotel, restaurant or a road-side tea stall and relish a cup of hot tea, you’ll enjoy the taste which is found nowhere else. There are tea estates all along and the tea is freshly powdered which brings in the rich taste found only in Wayanad.
We started our visit to Wayanad from Vythri. The southern most gateway to the district is about 30kms from Kalpetta. The Pookote Lake is a serene water body which is surrounded by hills. There are boating facilities available and one can enjoy the majestic view of hills surrounding the lake. We next reached Lakkidi which is perched high on the Thamarassery ghat. One can stand at the view point beside the road and take a magnificent view of the ghats and the long road which curves down. The road connecting Vythri and Kozhikode meanders through the ghats, until it reaches a place called Aadivaram. The drive from Vythri to Aadivaram is a must to enjoy the breath taking views of the hills all along and the rich flaura and fauna which this place possesses. During our visit in July when the monsoons are active the place is rejuvenated with life all over, a green carpet appears to be covering the hills as far as ones eyes can behold. The ‘Chain Tree’ near Vythri is a place revered as it is here, where the local guide’s spirit is chained who was murdered by the British explorer as per the legend.
We next visited the Kanthapara falls. The view of water cascading through the rocks is indeed soothing. One has to walk through thick vegetation to get to the falls, there are sign-boards provided by the Kerala Tourism which lead you to the falls. The Sochipara falls which is even more majestic in nature is closeby, one needs to drive through tea plantations in order to reach the Sochipara falls. There is an entry fee to get to the falls. One needs to trek a distance of about 1 km to get to the falls and the journey is equally rewarding. We however could not visit the Meenmutty falls as the rocks were very slippery due to the rains.
The next day brought in even more surprises than which one could have thought. The Edakal caves situated on the Ambutty hills is a place not to be missed. One can travel upto the foothills and then on hire a jeep which is the only vehicle allowed to travel a distance of 1.5kms along a steep gradient. Once we reach the base, there is a flight of rocky steps which lead to the caves. The climb up the hill is both thrilling as well as exhausting. One needs to pass through small and narrow openings to reach the caves. Edakal in Malayalam means rock between two rocks. This cave which is naturally formed by three rocks is special as this is the place which was inhabited by pre-historic humans. Archaeologists have discovered that these caves belong to the Neolithic age and the Mesolithic age from the carvings found on the walls. The carvings date back to thousands of years, we could find a tribal king with a head-gear engraved along with elephants, deer and probably the kings chieftains. This place portrays the life of our great ancestors.
On our way back to Kalpetta we visited the Heritage museum at Ambalavayal. The museum houses relics from the by-gone era and is a window to understand our rich cultural heritage. Before returning back to Kalpetta we visited the Maha Ganapati temple at Sulthan Bathery.
Our next stop in Wayanad was the Banasura sagar Dam. The dam is one of its kind as it is the largest Earth dam in India, it is not constructed by mortar but is rather formed by soil.
Wayanad is a trekkers paradise as well, the Chembra peak which overlooks Kalpetta is an ideal place for trekking, it is the highest peak in Wayanad. We however did not venture out to scale the peak which would’ve otherwise taken a day’s effort. So, one should take up this climb only if he/she is well versed with mountain trekking, one would be eventually rewarded with a breath-taking view of Wayanad from the top should you choose to scale the peak.
On our last day at Wayanad we drove to Mananthavady which is about 35kms from Kalpetta. Here we visited the Pazhassi Raja’s tomb. The Pazhassi Raja was a brave king who fought the British in order to protect the indigenous people of Wayanad. We met a few tribal woman-folk who even to this day the people revere their beloved king who laid down his life for their cause. This goes on to underline the fact that India is a land of the bravehearts.
The last place we visited in Wayanad was the Thirunelly temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. This temple is close to 3000 years old. The near by stream which runs along is called as Papanashini or the sin destroyer. People take a dip in this stream to cleanse their sins. The temple closes by 11 in the morning and opens again only after 5. We were not so lucky this time as the temple was closed when we arrived there. We then drove out of Wayanad and reached back Bangalore via Madikeri and Mysore. The 3 days we spent at Wayanad were truly memorable. Every place we visited had something unique to offer. We look forward to re-visit Wayanad and rekindle the memories. It is indeed very rightly said that Kerala is ‘God’s own Country’.
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