April 29, 2013

Vythiri- The Gateway to Wild Wayanad...!!



The title might not sound apt for people travelling from Bangalore or Mysore to Wayanad as Vythiri would be the last stoppage before going down the hills. But for travellers from Cochin, Kozhikode and other places from Kerala, Vythiri is the gateway to heavenly Wayanad. From the bustling roads of Kozhikode I rode past the small towns of Koduvally and Adivaram on an early morning in October to enter the Thamarassery ghats.

Mist, waterfalls, blue hills, lush green surroundings and bonnet macaques welcomed me as I rode into Vythiri. The black tarmac was splendid all the way with nine hair pin bends and the views from some of them were breathtaking. The lush green valley and distant hills looked surreal. With mist hovering over the roads, visibility was limited to a few meters only. It also made the ride a chilly one.

The misty green and dark thamarassery ghats

I had a break at the first hair pin bend, where there is a small shack which sells fruits like mango, pineapple, gooseberry dipped in salt water. The stall also serves hot tea, coffee, different varieties of eggs and many more. To have had a sip of coffee, a hot spicy duck omelet and some mangoes on that misty morning gaping at the scenic vistas was one of the memorable moments during the ride.

The first hair pin bend
The shack at the first hair pin bend
Soon I was back on the winding 14 km ghat road going past the loitering monkeys, honking vehicles, chirping birds and cicadas to be engulfed by the mist and to fill my lungs with fresh air. The green canopy is present during most of the distance and that gives the feel of a forest ride. The forest cover clears up only in some places giving way to mind blowing vistas. Small shacks also pop up in between with the views of the valley and they definitely are the best places to take a coffee break.

Misty ghat roads

A Bonnet Macaque
One of the nine hair pin bends

Vythiri view point is where the lovely ghats come to an end before entering Wayanad district. This view point blew me off my feet with its magnificent offerings. The first hairpin bend where I had my break was visible from the view point despite the heavy mist. The expansive valleys and the green canopy makes this place a captivating one. I was wonder struck for a long time gazing at the scenic beauty of the Thamarassery ghats.

The ghats
Misty view of the first hair pin bend
Vythiri does not offer a lot to the visitors besides the brilliant vistas and Pookote lake. However immediately after entering Wayanad district, keep an eye to your left. You will see a ficus tree by the road that has a chain wound around it. The chain tree holds a lot of significance in Wayanad's history. Legend says that the spirit of a tribal by the name Karinthandan has been chained to the tree after it started troubling travellers on this route. Supposedly the tribal helped a Britisher to reach Wayanad after crossing the treacherous forest hills. However to claim that he had discovered the place, the Britisher killed the tribal. The spirit of the tribal troubled people travelling on that route ever since till he was chained to the tree by a priest. It was a different experience to stop by and pay homage to Karinthandan.

Chain Tree
From the chained spirit, I rode to the famous Pookote lake, a couple of kilometers from Vythiri. It is a detour from the main road to the left and there are enough sign boards to guide you there. Pookote lake looked serene and placid with the beautiful green background and dark clouds. It was about to pour when I reached the lake. The lake is also known for its boating facilities and there is also a small park and a souvenir shop next to it. As it began to drizzle I rode further ahead and was welcomed by tea estates and forests into the wild Wayanad.

Pookote lake

For people travelling from Bangalore and Mysore, Vythiri would be the last stop on your Wayanad itinerary before hitting the ghats on your way down. There are numerous resorts and other stay options in Vythiri to make your stay comfortable.The vistas, the ghats and the Pookote lake makes Vythiri one of the best locations in Wayanad which you should not miss out on. Though it is misty and cold during the months from October to February, the best views are experienced during the summers when the mist clears and valley spreads out before your eyes.

Signing Note- Absolutely Captivating and Breathtakingly Beautiful...!!

Route- 

Kozhikode- Kunnamangalam- Koduvally- Thamarassery- Adivaram- Vythiri (65 Kms)

Bangalore- Mysore- Sulthan Bathery- Kalpeta- Vythiri (290 Kms)



April 22, 2013

The Valley View...!!


It would be blissful to stay in that house and wake up to those breathtaking vistas every morning. Coonoor, August 2011.

April 15, 2013

Talakona Waterfalls- A Hidden Secret...!!


Most part of the drive from Bangalore was through state highways, dusty side ways, tiny villages, dried up lake beds, brown fields, dying sunflowers, leafless trees, red earth, big boulders, cattle and other interesting landscapes. Summer had set in and the Rayalseema region of Andhra Pradesh was showing signs of a harsh one ahead. We were heading to Nallamala Hills, a part of the Eastern ghats which looked green in patches. Talakona waterfalls situated in the Sheshachalam range of the Nallamala hills was the destination. Nestled deep inside the forest within Shri Venkateshwara wildlife reserve, the falls drop from a height of 270 feet and is the highest waterfalls in Andhra Pradesh. The place is also quite well known for its rich flora and fauna. Tirupathi, a famous pilgrim place is very close to these falls.

This eco project of Andhra Pradesh Tourism invites you with a nice little temple at the foothills of the falls. There are numerous monkeys loitering around who are ready to flick your things if not careful. There is a small pond near the entrance and being a sunday, the place was crowded with kids and families splashing around. From there a narrow walkway led us to the falls and we had a first glimpse of Talakona after 15 minutes.


Children merry making at the pond

Pathway to the falls
The first glimpse
As we approached the falls, the sound of water thrashing on to the rocks was quite audible. The first glimpse made me sigh as I felt water was less and would be just trickles all over. I was however wrong when the whole falls came into sight. Yes, the water was not at its fullest, but the sight of the cascading falls was breathtaking. There was enough water and there was more than enough tourists, all excited to get under those cool waters. The falls has one big fall and then it cascades over many rocks as it flows down into the forest valley. The magnificent fall of the waters was a real stunner. It was crowded at the bottom of the falls and we were thinking whether to get under them or not when we spotted people taking bath at a higher tier, under the first big fall.

The big fall

Cascading waters

We trekked further up and the sound of  water thrashing and people howling became so obvious as we neared it. Thankfully it was less crowded there. The rocks near the falls were quite slippery and you just have a chain rope to cling on while you walk to the base of the falls. It was not a trickle that was falling down as it seemed from far. It was a thunderous experience to stand under those gushing waters and enjoy the feel of being thrashed by the force of them. I could hardly look up and when I did for a second, all that I could see were droplets falling through the sun rays.  Absolutely an overwhelming experience!

The big fall

It was getting painful after a while as the force of the water was getting stronger and our bodies found it tough to take. We all turned red by the time we came out of it. After a precarious walk over the slippery rocks we walked back. This place would be flooded during the monsoon and that would be a totally different experience. I am not sure whether one can get under the falls at the higher tier during the rains as chances of getting washed away with the waters are quite high. During the monsoons or immediately after that, the best place to get yourself a waterfall bath would be under the cascading falls. There is also a trek route all the way to the top of the falls. The views from there are supposedly exhilarating. It is advised to take guides along when trekking all the way up.



Signing Note- An enthralling falls set inside an engulfing forest...!!

Route- Bengaluru- Hoskote- Chintamani- Madanapalle- Vayalpadu- Pileru- Bakharapeta- Talakona

Distance- 240 Kms

April 9, 2013

Jain Temples of Wayanad...!!



It was recently that I had my knowledge updated on the spread of Jainism in Wayanad. Though Jains are very sparsely populated across Kerala, Jainism has quite a prominence in Wayanad and this can be seen from the numerous Jain temples spread across the district. Jainism ventured into Kerala in the 12th century and many temples that you see in Wayanad are a proof of the same. However the decline was quite soon from the 16th century onward.  There has been many reasons behind their decline and the main ones seem to be the resurgence of Vaishnavism and Shaivism and the attacks of Tipu Sulthan. Over a period of time many got converted into Hindu temples while the other remained 

Inner sanctum

There are numerous Jain temples on the Kalpetta- Mananthavady road, most of which remain dilapidated and neglected. The Jain temple in Sulthan Bathery remains the most famous of the lot and is also considered one of the most important temples of the Jains in Kerala. The 13th century Jain temple in Sulthan Bathery is quite well maintained and is a beautiful remnant of Jainism in Wayanad. This Basadi (Jain temple) also played a big role during the historical times as an ammunition for Tipu Sulthan. It is also sometimes referred to as Tipu's fort for the same reason.

Jain Basadi at Sulthan Bathery



The Basadi has been beautifully built with wonderful architecture and carved pillars. The inner sanctum has a carving of Mahavir Jain. There is also a raised platform with chiseled pillars in front of the main sanctum. Though most of it is in ruins, efforts have been made by the authorities to the maintain the temple. However the case is not the same with other Jain Basadis of Wayanad. They look dilapidated due to negligence and need to be given given attention. The beautiful architecture and engravings are covered with bushes and over grown creepers. Hopefully the concerned authorities would look into it and maintain them as beautifully as the one in Sulthan Bathery.


Signing Note- Ruined, dilapidated, neglected...yet beautiful...!!

Location- Sulthan Bathery and Kalpetta- Mananthavady road.

April 5, 2013

The Waterfalls of Thusharagiri...!!




I was riding through Wayanad when Thusharagiri beckoned (Thusharam- white snow, giri- hill). I have heard the name many times before but never been to it. Kerala tourism has made it an eco tourism project with a lot of trekking options besides the falls. Visitors inflow has also been on the higher side ever since. The falls which were earlier visited only by the locals and people from Kozhikode now attracts visitors from other places too.

After an enjoyable misty ride through the curvaceous Thamarassery ghats, I took a deviation from Adivaram to Thusharagiri. The next 10 kms was through narrow roads lined with rubber, arecanut and spice plantations . It was green and misty everywhere. Large hills loomed up at every corner and the ride was blissful through the lap of nature.


I was surprised to find myself as the first visitor of the day. Even the information centre was not open when I reached Thusharagiri eco tourism project at 9 am. It was a small walk past a couple of tiny water trickles to reach first of the many falls, Erattumukku waterfalls. Two rivulets join here to form River Chalippuzha and hence the name Erattumukku. If not keen on trekking, this is the only falls one can enjoy. There is a hanging bridge in front of the waterfalls from where one can get a good vista of the falls and if you turn around, it is a carpet of greenery everywhere. Cascading from a good height, the waterfalls look gorgeous even from a distance. It very much seemed like white snow sliding along the black rock background. One can walk across to the falls and have a thunderous bath under it. With no soul in the vicinity I was not sure about going under the falls. Time constraint also pushed me to avoid the bath and return back. 



To do justice to Thusharagiri, one must keep aside a full day for the falls and the trek through the forest cover. From Erattumukku one can trek up 400 meters further to reach the next waterfalls called Mazhavilchattam (Rainbow falls). Bathing under this falls is dangerous and visitors need to be extra cautious before taking the plunge. A kilometer of further trekking takes you to Thumbithullum para (Thumbi- dragon fly, para- rock), the third waterfalls. In addition to the falls, there is also a natural pool where one can enjoy a refreshing dip. Another kilometer through the greenery and you reach Thonikkayam (Thoni- boat). Here water is stagnant in the shape of a boat and hence the name. The best time to visit the place would be immediately after the monsoons when the water is ferocious and at its best. Make sure to pack delicious lunch from the famous Johnettan's shop near the information centre before you begin the trek.

When I reached back the information centre, the office was open and I had second thoughts about taking a package tour and hiring a guide to trek into the forest. However, I put the thoughts aside and rode back through the winding roads to Wayanad.

Signing Note- Thusharagiri is a trekkers delight with the waterfalls adding charm and freshness to the verdant forest.

Route- 
Sulthan Bathery- Kalpetta- Vythiri- Adivaram- Thusharagiri (60 kms)

Kozhikode- Kunnamangalam- Thamarassery- Adivaram-    Thusharagiri (54 Kms)


April 2, 2013



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