Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Road Trip to Wayanad

Planning phase:
When software professionals get 3 consecutive long weekends, what do they do? Some workaholics go to office even on weekends, some go to their native places and the rest surrender themselves to the God of sleep. But there are a few restless species of this breed who hate to spend their weekends passively. Two species of this breed, Prat and Kaps decide to spend one of these 3 long weekends doing something adventurous since the other 2 weekends are already packed with some other plans. This long weekend falls on 26, 27, 28th Sept 2009, 28th Sept being Dussehra. So, starts the most hectic part - planning phase. Prat and Kaps being the initiators, have to take the responsibility of this stupendous task. Since almost all from Kaps’ friend circle have already planned to go their respective native places, Prat is left with the task of gathering a group of people from his friend circle. After a series of mail chains and phone calls, he succeeds in gathering a group of 6-7 people. Some people are going to join from Chennai and Hyderabad. Let’s see how people from this group relate to each other. Kaps is an outlier. Prat is connected to Prad and Prad is connected to the rest of the group. The next task is to decide the place to visit. After a lot of googleing and discussing with various people, Kaps pitches in for Wayanad. It being a 3 day weekend, he assumes that this is the best deal. Prat also agrees for this place enthusiastically. Prat proposes a weird idea of going on bikes. Being a risky idea, everybody rejects it straight away. So the search of cab, hotels, etc takes its course. In the meanwhile, an issue pops up. One of the persons from this group, who’s supposed to join the rest of the group from Hyderabad, had visited the place earlier and didn’t find it worth visiting. This starts kind of a debate over the place to visit. In the midst of all these debates and discussions, on the night of 24th, Prat has an intensive verbal altercation with Prad (the reason for which is still not known to Kaps). In the morning of 25th, Prat tells Kaps that he has broken the only link with the rest of the group and the other group is planning for a separate tour to some other place. Now what would the leftovers, Prat and Kaps do? Spend the whole weekend like normal software professionals? No way !!!! In the evening of 25th, Prat proposes his older idea of bike trip to Wayanad. Kaps is a bit hesitant about this idea, his bike being bought quite recently and is supposed to follow the speed limit. But he has to accept this idea, the only other option being spending the whole weekend like normal software professionals which his mind wouldn’t approve of. Kaps is also hesitant since there’s no plan in place, but Prat manages to convince Kaps that not much planning is required. Prat and Kaps go through a few blogs about Wayanad tour and it is decided that they should leave early morning on 26th, reach Wayanad in the evening, spend the next day in Wayanad and start the return journey in the morning of 26th to avoid riding in the evenings. It is decided that packing of the bags, taking printouts of the blogs will be done on the same day before going to sleep so that they can leave very early in the morning. Both of them are dead tired after a hectic office day and both hit the beds without packing and printouts, promising each other to get up at 5am the next day. Quite expected!

General info about Wayanad:
Wayanad is not a town or a city. It is the name of a large district with more than half a dozen towns. In all probability you would be heading to one of its three major towns, Sulthan Bathery, Kalpetta or Mananthavadi. There are three routes to reach Wayanad from Bangalore. In any case, one has to reach Mysore and from then onwards, the routes differ.
Route A : Bangalore - Mysore - Hunsur- Nagarhole - Kutta - Mananthavadi (Wayanad)
Route B: Bangalore - Mysore - HD Kote - Bavali - Mananthavadi ( Wayanad)
Route C: Bangalore - Mysore - Gundulpet - Munthanga - Sulthan Battery ( Wayanad)
From Kaps and Prat’s experience, one should never take route A and B, the road conditions being pathetic for almost half of the whole journey. Route C is the best deal. If one wants to bypass Mysore city (to avoid traffic), there is a bypass road that appears on your right after Srerangapatina town. This is the road you need to take to reach KRS (Brindavan Gardens) and Ranganthittu Bird Sanctuary located near Mysore. Take the road towards Gundulpet, in other words National Highway 212. One can also get to NH 212 from the city centre (palace area).
Day 1:
In the morning of 25th, after a lot of alarm snoozing, Prat and Kaps wake up at 6 am. They hurriedly pack the bags, take the printouts and withdraw some cash from ATMs. They finally manage to leave the place by 7:15 am. Kaps is on his new Pulsar 180 and Prat is on his Apache RTR 160. Both of them set their respective trip meters to synchronize with each other (thanks to the digital speedometers both the bikes have). The engines start roaring and the not-so-planned journey begins. They start from Forum towards City Market to reach Mysore road. They take a wrong route near Corporation Circle and then after a couple of gyrations around corporation circle, they finally manage to touch the Mysore road. They decide to ride the bikes within the visible distance from each other, but the traffic on the Mysore road (it being the Dussehra season, and Mysore being famous for Dussehra celebrations) sets them in and they keep losing the track of each other and have to constantly make phone calls to each other about their whereabouts. They decide to visit near WonderLa and there they decide to ride independently and meet each other every 25 kms (this is where the trip functionality in digital speedometers come handy). They spot a deadly combo on the Mysore Highways: A Petrol pump and a McD.
They refill the empty petrol tanks and equally empty stomachs. Getting energized with that refreshment, they cruise towards Mysore. On the outskirts of Mysore, after asking a couple of local folks (which confuses them even more), they take the road inside the city. The drama of losing the correct route and asking the local folks continues and finally the duo manages to get on the correct way towards Nanajangud i.e. NH212. Mysore city to Nanjangud is about 23 km and Nanjangud to Gundlupet is about 35 km. The road is in a decent shape. It takes around 5 hours for the Bangalore - Myosre - Gundulpet stretch, including a couple of breaks in between. It’s well past the usual lunch time and the duo is dead hungry. At Gundulpet, they decide to take lunch at Hotel Pathan’s International. The restaurant is a decent one at reasonable rates. As they exit the town, the highway makes a right turn. The road at this junction goes toward Ooty. But to head towards Wayanad, one has to take the right turn. The duo had to ask the local folks since there was no direction-board at this junction. By this route, the duo will be entering Wayanad through Suthan Bathery. Gundulpet to Sultan Bathery distance is about 50km, mostly through the forest. Just before entering the forest, they spot a small Tourist Centre on the left side of the road. There they meet a person, Tipu, who hands them over a detailed map of Wayanad, suggests them a rough plan according to their schedule and also gives them contact numbers of various hotels in Wayanad. In about 15 minutes after leaving this place, the duo is about to experience what Kaps called an awesome ride of his lifetime. Imagine a dense teak forest with a curvaceous road laid out in the most improbable locations offering breathtaking sights and bird calls. The Bamboo shoots are rubbing each other and whining. It takes anything up to an hour till one crosses the forest. One should watch out for wildlife crossing the road. Inside the forest there are some rules
- No parking, no Picnic, No horn etc. A small river and a short bridge across it mark the Karnataka-Kerala border in the middle of the forest. There’s also a battery of check posts as they cross the forest. They also spot lots of typical Kerala style tea shops along the way. The whole ride through the forest on a well-laid road is unforgettable.
Somewhere at the end of the forest, they see an entrance to the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary. But they decide to head to Sulthan Bathery right away. As soon as they reach Sulthan Bathery, they make calls to various hotels that Tipu had suggested and guess what! All the hotels are fully occupied. This is the last thing one expects when one rides all the way from Bangalore to Wayanad in a single day. After a lot of searching here and there, they finally manage to get a roomat Hotel Mint Flower. They check into the room, freshen up and grab a bite as they take some time to savour the fact that they rode continuously from Bangalore to Wayanad. They discuss with the receptionist about the places to visit. There they come to know that most of the tourist spots in Wayanad get closed by 5 pm and open only at 9 am. Since it’s already 4 pm, they are advised to visit Edakkal caves which is the nearest place from their place of stay. They have to rush since they need to get to the place before it closes.
After half-an-hour of hilly road riding and awesome scenery, they reach a place where onwards personal vehicles aren’t allowed. One has to rent an official Jeep of do a trek. It’s already 4:30pm and the Jeeps have stopped going up since it’s nearly the closing time at the caves. After a series of unsuccessful requests, the duo has to go back to the hotel and retire for the day. Not at all a good way to end a dead tiring day!
Day 1 journey: Bangalore-Mysore-Gundulpet-Sultan Bathery (Wayanad)+some more inside Wayanad (Edakkal caves)~300kms for the day
Day 2:
The plan for the rest of the days is as follows: Visit Meenmutty falls, then Edakkal caves, come back to hotel around 3 pm, freshen up, check out of the hotel, grab a bite, head towards Pulapally, get some hotel there and spend the night, visit Kuruva Island early next morning and head back to Bangalore as early as possible by route A. The event # 1 for the day is Meenmutty falls. Leave the hotel at 8 am after shower, breakfast. Head off for the Meenmutty falls. Tea gardens galore! Coffee plantations aplenty! Rolling hills covered with tea and coffee, interspersed with rubber trunks.
Enter Tamil Nadu after crossing a toll gate! Ghat road with small cottages and log cabins in isolation shows up and leads them into another, and now forgotten fantasy. Wrong Road !!! Go back a few kilometres and take the right diversion to a muddy dirt track. Reach a spot where bikes cannot go any further. A trail of unexpected events follows. One has to hire a Jeep to cross this 1.5 km of hell of a road. One can’t even imagine taking a bike on this road. Mud, potholes (much bigger than those on Bangalore roads), incline, boulders. Reach a place whereon one has to pay Rs. 300 for a guide for a group of upto 10 people to get through a 2 km of terrain trek. The duo is certainly disappointed since nobody had furnished them this info before. Keeping all the disappointment aside, they decide to go for the trek with the brand new clothes and shoes. The trails start and after a while the cursing about the terrain also starts. A muddy, slippery, rocky descent amidst a dense forest. Thank God, they have a guide to lead them. A few slips here and there and they can hear the sound of Meenmutty water falls in the distance. As they get closer and closer to the falls, the terrain gets dirtier. After immense toil, human will triumphs and they emerge to a most intoxicating sight called the Meenmutty falls. Voila! A rainbow at the bottom of the falls. That’s heck of a view. Water streams falling all over you, Kabani River falling in full force with a deafening sound, water gushing down the hilly rocks and you are at the bottom of the falls. All the efforts throughout the trip, totally worth it.
After spending a few golden moments at this heavenly abode, to go back is a worse torture than ever imagined. Breaks are taken every now and then. It takes more than double the time to go back than the onward trek. Amidst all this torture, they get a view of Chembra peak on their way. They had heard that Chembra peak is the highest peak in Wayanad and trekking to the Chembra peak is one of the risky tourist endeavours. Kaps decides to surpass this endeavour some day. Finally the destination is visible. Water is consumed in large quantities. Take a jeep back on the hell of a road again. Spent almost 3 hrs on Meenmutty falls. Take the bikes and cruise towards the next destination. Edakkal caves. The same spot that gave them a miss the other day. Reach the bottom of the caves whereon one has to hire a Jeep to reach the top. Reach the top and see so much rush out there. The gates are closed to avoid any unfortunate event due to an unexpectedly large crowd. The crowd is thicker than the one in Forum on weekends. Prat almost gives up and pleads Kaps to give this place a miss. But Kaps wouldn’t budge and finally manages to get the tickets amidst the filthy crowd a la Mumbai locals. The rock walls of caves contain some interesting carvings, which represent human and animal figures and objects of human use and symbols. The very next day’s TOI has this news.
After having seen the caves and their awe and terror inspiring geography, the duo heads back for the hotel. They manage to check out of the hotel within the stipulated time. The next destination for the day is Pulapally. No sooner had they covered 2-3 km from Sulthan bathery towards Pulapally than it started raining quite heavily. They take shelter in a dilapidated hut for some time and when rain appears to have lessened, they start their cautious ride to Pulapally, it being a forest area. It also turns out to be an awesome ride among the lovely woods, sweet bird chirps, nicely laid curvaceous roads and a tree house!
It has almost fallen dark when they reach Pulapally. They start searching for the hotels right away. It turns out to be a very small town wherein people hardly know foreign languages. As an evidence of how Indian travel industry is growing, there is apparently no hotel room available even in this small town. After a lot of hunting and a small debate, the duo decide to take a shelter in a yatri nivas, the conditions wherein are far from all the comforts. When they go for dinner at a hotel, people look at this foreign duo quite curiously. It took them all the skills of dumb charades to explain to the waiter to get some rice-sambar. Prat is a bit uncomfortable and not at all happy with the luxurious yatri niwas and the curious looks that people bore. Never mind, hit the bed and go to sleep.

Day 3:
Get up early in the morning at 7 am and cruise towards Kuruva Island. Take a right turn from the highway and a muddy, filthy 3 km road welcomes them. Praying all the time to God not to get the bike tyres punctured, reach the destination at 8:30 am only to come to know that the place will open at 9:30 am. Cross the river on a bamboo raft to reach the island, 950 acres of ever green forest on the tributaries of east flowing river Kabani. Far away from the disturbances of city life lies this heavenly place amidst a dense forest, rare species of birds and herbs. “From rush to lush” –Prat.
Spend approx an hour at this heavenly place and start the return journey. Once again pass the 3 km patchy road. What a nightmare! Keep asking local folks about the directions to Mysore. Have a breakfast at a bakery and ride on. Oops, that’s route B. Go back a few km, take the route to Kutta. The road condition is pathetic. Reach Kutta after a lot of cursing and ask for the route to Nagarhole. Holy shit! Two wheelers are not allowed to enter this route. Can you imagine the feeling of riding back on that holy crap called a road? The feeling literally shudders the duo. Then comes the rescuer. A good-hearted human being tells them an alternate route to reach Mysore. The route is of course longer than the planned one, but the duo is ready to take any route except the one just travelled. Ride on a not-so-good road and finally reach a highway. Conclusion: Never take route A and B. Guess what! The duo is in some part of Coorg. Thank God, the road condition is good. Cruise towards Mysore on this lovely road among woods. The duo has almost forgotten about the hunger, thirst. The only aim is to reach Bangalore before dusk. After riding on horrific roads, these highways seem like a piece of cake. Cruise at 110 kmph. Take a stop at Mysore, grab a couple of chocolates and some water, take a bypass around Mysore city. See the crowd going towards Vrindavan gardens, it being the Dussehra day. Cruise on the Mysore-Bangalore highway. Start imaginary races with other bikers. Take a few breaks here and there and finally reach Bangalore. The body is sore after such a hectic day. Take shower, grab some food and surrender to the God of sleep.
Day 3 journey: Kuruva Island – Kutta - Mysore – Bangalore including lost ways ~ 320km.
                                                        The Duo that rocked Wayanad!
Twenty years hence if I wonder if I lived my life to the max, this trip will be on the list for sure.
Signing off,
Kaps

4 comments:

  1. bhai... itna bada article... aadha bhi nahi pad paya.

    Fotos look really good.

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  2. he he he...i agree...felt too lazy to edit...aage se yaad rakhunga :)

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  3. gr8 article....hats off to your effort....how many long weekends did you take to complete it???

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  4. :) Yeah, it was quite some effort. But your efforts in reading it would've been far more than mine. Thanks :)

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