(19/07/2008 – 20/07/2008)
ROUTE TAKEN: BANGALORE-MYSORE-GUNDLUPET-MUTHANGA-KUPPADI-SULTHAN BATHERY-MINANGADI-MUTTIL-KALPETTA
TRAVELLERS: PHANIKAR, SANTOSH, SOMASHEKAR, ANIL RAJ, KIRAN
This place was pending from a very long time, a small step into the gods own country. The first thing that comes to our mind when we think of Kerala is the smell of coconut oil and fish wherever you go, backwaters, elephant rides, tea estates , wildlife safaris etc……. When this small state has so many things to offer we simply couldn’t resist. There are three routes to reach Kalpetta, the district head quarters of Wayanad. One , Bangalore-Mysore-Hunasur-Nagarahole-Kutta-Kaatikulam-Mananthwadi-Kalpetta. Two, Bangalore - Mysore - H.D.Kote – Kabini – Kaatikulam – Mananthwadi - Kalpetta.Last but not the least the route that we were very familiar with by now Bangalore – Mysore – Nanjangud – Gundlupet – Muthanga - Sulthan Bathery - Kalpetta. Everybody who had been on that road would warn about the reckless bus drivers. They pull out daring stunts on public roads when the passengers are seated inside. One deserves to have a red and white bravery awards once he is out of the bus. The plan was to leave on a late Saturday morning and return back on Monday. By the time Mr.Kiran turned up it was almost afternoon, we didn’t want to waste time on having lunch at home, we left almost empty stomach. With no breaks we drove till Gundlupet as we had to enter the forest area before it was dark. The place we stopped for a late lunch was called “COFFEE STOP”. It seemed like we were the only privileged customers for the day. The food and the place was quiet good. As we turned right after the R.T.O check post the human population was decreasing dramatically except for a few shops that was like a make shift market ,selling vegetables and fruits .
We stopped on the way for a few snap shots, we had one of us to look out any F1 competent buses coming towards us. We drove through sunflower fields which were about to bow down. As we bid good bye to the sign board which read “Thank You Visit Again “just at the edge of the Karnataka border. It was around 5.30 when we entered the Kerala border. It was truly god’s own country. The forests were pin drop silent except for the sound made by the insects once in a while. We didn't have even the slightest of doubts what we could experience in those forests. The first check post was at Muthanga Wild Life Sanctuary, where the safari was closed for the day .There was a tea shop in the middle of the forest which served steaming hot tea. Right next to the shop we saw a tree house which was used as a refuge by the shopkeeper in case of an elephant attack .It was dark by the time we reached Sulthan Bathery via Kuppadi. The only job left for the day was to book a nice cottage and settle for the night. Most of the good resorts were booked and the rest were not up to our expectations. The locals told us that we would find good resorts in Vythiri which was about 70kms from Sulthan Bathery. One elderly person told us we had better chances of finding a stay at Krishnagiri which was nearer than Vythiri. The first was AASHIRWAD, which was owned by a pretty lady. Even though the place looked nice the tariffs she quoted was very high. In search of a much economical stay we drove till we find the next one. A small sign board read “SUNBIRD Garden Resort “, but we had no view of the place. We enquired a Security guard of a factory as to where this place was, he pointed us to a narrow pathway which was almost invisible in the dark. Kiran and Santosh stepped out to enquire about the place, since both of them knew Malayalam, which is an added advantage if you are travelling into Kerala. The tariffs were affordable, so we decided to give some rest to the wheels. The cottage was wonderful with three bed rooms and a verandah. We freshened up by the time the hosts arranged for a camp fire. Since it was dark when we reached the resort, we couldn’t have a look at the property. But we were aware that there was a pool somewhere. None of us had the slightest idea that we would be going in for a late night swim, but that was actually a reality. Since there were no guests in the resort, we spent a lot of time in the pool. The food was very filling.
The first sight of the morning was truly breath taking as I could see a mountain almost covered by mist from my bedroom window. Even though the rest of them were reluctant to get out of bed, Anil made sure that we get on the roads asap. The first place our cards was Edkkal Caves which was previously inhabited by pre historic tribes. The painting and stone carvings are still visible.
Confused as to which place to visit next, we decide upon Kanthpura and Soochipara Falls .The roads to the falls are very narrow with countless hair pin bends. At one of the steep hair pins our car refused to climb up. The height from which the water was falling was not much, it made it up with the quantity of water that was being discharged. With some quality time spent and photographs clicked we left the place in search of a decent place for a late lunch. Coming to our rescue was Hotel Paris at Meppadi.
The drive from Kanthapura falls to Meppadi was most memorable with tea estates on both side of the road. We had cover more ground as we had to visit the safari at Muthanga, this time it was not to be missed because the next safari was only on the next day. Reaching there just in time we had the jeep ready for the final trip of the day. Even after about in the core area of the forest the chances of we seeing some wild animals was very faint. The guide fooled us by showing some bark of a huge tree to be an elephant. This was the most disappointing safari of our lives. The only animals we saw were a group of deer and a trained elephant.
Thinking about the money wasted at the safari we headed towards Gundlupet. On the way we saw few vehicles stopped by the side of the road. On closer inspection we could see a big strong wild bison that almost stood 6ft at shoulder. Next to him was one more which was slightly smaller, seemed like his lady love. Not far from there was a number of cars bee lined. We were not sure as to what was happening. When we stepped out of the car (which is not advisable) we could see around 10 elephants with young one trying to cross the road. None of us had the dare to obstruct their path. When they had almost crossed the road a truck slowly moved forward the elephants made way for it to pass. We thought it also let us to drive away. When we were almost crossing the elephants, some idiot in a Wagon R blew a harsh horn. This irritated the matriarch of the herd which thought we might harm its young ones. It came charging at us with so swift we didn’t know what to do. Had Somu messed it up in the driver seat that day, none of us would be alive to write or read this article. The scene was totally chaotic, Kiran and myself who were trying to get snaps of the elephants had stuck our heads outside the car were the first one to be attacked by the older cow if it had progressed further, Somu couldn’t leave his driving seat, Santosh had started running inside the car as neither he or Anil were able to step out of the car as there were two more elephants on the other side of the road. Somehow, by god’s grace Somu was able to pull this up. Just after we managed to escape in the nick of time we turned back to see whether the elephants was chasing us. What we saw next lived in our minds for a lifetime and changed the entire perception about elephants. We saw the matriarch trumpeting at the top if its voice with its trunk high up in the air as if it was like a reshoot for the climax of the movie Jurassic park. After about half a kilometer from here the car came to a halt. Reason, All of us were shivering with fear and Somu couldn’t handle the steering. That was when we decided that these creatures have to be dealt with utmost respect. Surviving such wild encounters it was back to Bangalore for us. With a lot of breaks we reached Bangalore early on a Monday morning.