"I'll go to Nepal also, if u want me to, this is only Kochi...!"
"Think again, are you sure that you can go all the way on bike?"
"Yes yes, you don't worry, I'm game for the entire trip."
Gabbar was all enthused!
"I also want yo join you, on my Fiero in the worst case...!"
"Its not a small distance, besides, we'll be taking breaks in Wayanad.
Also, It will be raining heavily..."
"Not a problem!"
"Ok, Done! We are leaving Bangalore at 2AM sharp!"
"Ok, I'll start making all the arrangements."
This was Abdulla...
2AM, Bangalore. We were all geared up for a 550+ kms bike trip to Kochi, via Mysore, Bandipur, Wayanad and Calicut. Everything went fine till we took our first break, at around 4AM beyond Maddur. Once back on road came rain, our fourth faithful companion in the trip!
The breakfast was taken at Gundalpet, around 60kms beyond Mysore. This is the place where the road splits for Ooty and Calicut. An early morning call to update Maa and Gabbar coming in terms with the actual distance to be covered were the highlights apart from the rock solid 'idli' here.
The road ahead was the highlight of the journey, cloud covered mountains to road side herds of deer! The only sad part was that we were not allowed to stop over and shoot once inside Bandipur WLS. It was as if a dream had come true, with a drizzle setting in...
It was the hoarding of Wayanad WLS that made us realize that we were no more in Karnataka but entered the 'cause' of the trip. Yes, it was Wayanad that had prompted me to take this journey up, knowing well that a bike trip to Kerala is not the best thing to do during Monsoon season. It was really difficult for me to convince people that it was actually the rain that had pushed me for this bike trip. Kerala is at its best during Monsoon, and what better than riding amidst the greenery with steady drizzle on - its heavenly! I was least bothered if I was getting termed as a Nerd, it was an honor instead...
Comes Sultan Bathery
This is one of the main towns of Wayanad, and probably the most popular one besides Vaithiri (known for its resorts) and Kalpetta (distt. HQ). As such, we did not explore the town much, but then were pleasantly surprised with the cleanliness maintained throughout. It was decision time - which all places to visit, which to exclude from the list. Well, it was not the best of the things to do coz items were in plenty and time, as always, limited. Finally, we zeroed on three things - Edakkal Caves, Kanthanpara Falls and Pookat Lake. We took off the highway (NH-212, beyond Mysore, till Calicut) after around 5kms from Sultan Bathery.
This was about 6-7kms off NH-212, “A stone in between” - The name comes from the fact that there's a huge rock resting upon two of the same kind below. The cave is located at a height of 1000 m on Ambukutty Mala near Ambalavayal. The New Stone Age pictorial writings on the walls of these natural caves at Edakkal are evidence of the civilization that existed in these regions in prehistoric times. Check out http://www.edakkal.com/ for more information. The more interesting part for us, however, was the 'Tri-State' point atop this mega structure - we can see three states, Karnakata and Tamil Nadu apart from Kerala itself where its located.
It was as if we were going down to the basement of Wayanad, such was the down hill gradient to the falls. Once we reached the place, all we could see was a three feet cascade - a pure case of utter disappointment! Just as we were about to start back came a native girl. What she asked and then told us remains as clear as my understanding of Malayalam till date, but it was enough for us to go into the dense green vegetation and explore beyond. Thanks to the girl, we didn't miss upon one of the smaller but gorgeous water falls that I've come across. The silver lining to the falls was the sheer amount of water it was carrying down, and the mist it was generating. I really had a hard time in keeping the camera dry!
Lush Green Gardens
This was another first for me; never in my life had I seen Tea and Coffee gardens going hand in hand with each other. There was this continuous carpet of Tea bushes, and before one realized and turned a corner, Tea was no where to be seen but replaced with Coffee plantations. The two kept up with there quest on playing the hide and seek game with us, until we realized that we had actually over run the way to Pookat Lake. With an untold agreement, we just moved on with our attention still being held with the greenery around us. We got back on NH-212 well beyond Pookat Lake, infact very close to Vaithiri.
Coming down the Ghats
Once we crossed Vaithiri, came Lakkidi's Ghat Section. The Ghats run for around 12 kms and one descends about 800 meters, to the plain lands of Kerala. We stopped over for some much needed break, more to feast our eyes on the view provided than to satisfy our tummies. This was the first time that I was at this location during day light and knew what I'd missed out upon in the past; all the while on previous occasions, I had traversed this during the darkness of midnight. All I could make out during those times was the twinkle of vehicles' headlights that gave enough evidence of the might of Ghats. Sudden jolt broke my trains of thought. We were amongst the worst section of roads till that point. Though the road widening was going on, it had little immediate relief. Continuous water flow had reduced the road to nothing. The struggle finally ended with the Ghats bidding adieu after a while. We had hit the plains...
In a flash we could make our the difference. The air was warmer, and typically humid. The heaven was history. Kerala is not known to have the highest population density for nothing. People people everywhere. "We love Highways" seemed to be the mantra here. Let it be the kids or grown ups, they were all there. Even the cattle didn't spare the road. As time went by, the two of my co-travellers had started to get fatigued. Abdulla realized that he would not be able to move on without a proper rain gear. We stopped over for a bargain, and started once he was confident of his latest purchase. As the sun came down, we realized that we had moved a bit too slowly for our comfort. With rain constantly pelting down it would not be easy driving once natural faded. Further, taking NH-17 towards Gurvayur didn't help us much; we reached there late and it would not have been possible to visit the temple. In the process, however, we did achieve something peculiar - till the end of our journey, our route had not crossed over to the standard route from Bangalore to Ernakulam.
The Final Showdown
Driving in rain had never been the same. Bright flashing headlights ceased to go low beam, neither did the volume of traffic got down (even though it was raining all, but literally cats and dogs). Wading through calf high water, we moved on. We finally reached my sister's place at around 10pm. Exhausted we were, but then, this was one of the best and most challenging drives for me till then. It retains its status even now, especially since I'm completing this write-up after a gap of five months including a 1000+ kms circular trip of Jog Falls!
Few stills captured during the trip can be found here...