Friday, April 26, 2013

W is for Wayanad

Are you sick of my Wayanad travelogues yet? This is my fourth post this month that features Wayanad - all written for the A to Z Challenge of course. (Here are the others - the trip to Calicut and Wayanad, the Edakkal Caves, the trek up Chembra Peak)

But I can't help it. I've visited the district twice in the last one month, after a gap of at least four years. (Here's a post on Thirunelly Temple from the 2009 visit.) The trip last weekend was at least my fourth visit to the district. 

Before my recent visits, I used to think that Wayanad was over-hyped - that it had become so famous only because it's so close to Bangalore. It's a quick nature-filled weekend getaway for the pollution-weary residents of Bangalore.

Maybe it's because I've now become one of those weary Bangalore citizens that Wayanad seems so much more appealing now. I've become a confirmed Wayanad fan. The greenery, the variety of places to see, the now-familiar towns and villages.

Strangely enough, the trip last weekend was the first time I was travelling from Bangalore to Wayanad by car. There were four of us, and we had hired a taxi for the weekend. We had been told that the road through Bandipur National Park is closed from 6 PM to 6 AM. And there was no way we could leave Bangalore on Friday afternoon. So we left early on Saturday morning - around three. 

The drive through the empty Bangalore roads was surreal - I've never seen Bangalore so empty. We were out of the city in no time. While we were on Mysore Road, I was thinking of how choked and dusty and LOUD the road is during the day, and thanking our own planning skills. 

The towns went by quickly. I mostly slept till Mysore, but kept waking up in between and heard the names of the towns we were passing through. Channapatna - famous for its colourful toys; Mandya - famous for its sugarcane; Srirangapatna - famous for its Tipu Sultan. 

After Mysore, I changed to the front seat, since I had had the most sleep out of the three in the back seat. It was around six, and dawn was just breaking. The crickets were creating a huge racket amongst the trees on either side. Beyond the trees, the fields stretched out to infinity. 

We got slightly lost around Nanjangud. The driver decided to take a left for some reason, whereas he should have just stayed on the straight road. But we somehow found our way back to the main road. The detour wasn't entirely a bad thing, because we passed a beautiful temple on the way. But I started using the Google Maps app on my phone because of this incident - which would prove disastrous later on in the journey.

On and on we went, passing quickly through barely-there towns and villages, till we reached Gundlupet. I must say, the roads were superb. They're not as good as Tamil Nadu highways, which are wide and multi-laned and have good signals, but they were miles ahead (no pun intended) of the roads you generally find in Kerala. It also helped, I suppose, that they were empty.

We took a right at Gundlupet to enter the road leading to Bandipur. Though we were now passing through forest, the trees were dry and scraggy, because we were on the rain-shadow region of the Western Ghats. It was difficult to believe that the lush greenery of Wayanad would start just a few dozen kilometers ahead, once we'd crossed the hills.

The trip through Bandipur was strange, at least for me. Just a couple of days before, we had seen a pic on Facebook of a car smashed out of existence in Bandipur by a lone elephant. One person had been killed. We kept looking around for signs of rampaging elephants. Nikhil scared us by telling us that elephants could run at sixty kilometers per hour. 

But we crossed safely, and cheered when we saw the "Welcome to Kerala" sign at the border. More forest lay ahead, but it somehow felt safer. 

Unfortunately, we got lost on our way to the homestay we had booked. The homestay owner had sent us the route details by SMS. If we had stuck to that route, we would have reached just fine. But my Google Maps told me different, and we used my route. The thing is, Google Maps tells you the shortest route - it doesn't consider the state of the roads. And the roads in Wayanad are pretty terrible once you're off the main highways. So we ended up spending at least half an hour more on the road than we should have, and reached the homestay only by 10:30 in the morning.

On this trip, we visited Banasura Sagar Dam, Pookot Lake, Lakkidi Point and Chembra Peak. I will hopefully summon up enough energy to write about these soon. But only once the A to Z Challenge is over!
• • •


Arun said...

I have visited Wayanad last week. Beautiful place. :) You should add some photos. :)