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Wayanad Travelogue - A Rejuvenating Vacation in the Wilderness of God's Own Country
Selecting the Destination:
"Dude, my vote is for Wayanad. Hills, jungles, caves, lakes, waterfalls and trekking - you get it all over there at a single place" - exclaimed Aman.
Saurabh had other ideas, "But have you considered the distance? Bangalore to Wayanad is over 280 KM. Coorg would be much closer."
"If you ask me, I would like to go to a beach instead. Beaches are ideal for relaxing. What do you think Deb?" - Sandip put forward his expert opinion and wanted me to support his idea.
"I am okay with any damn place on earth, as long as we four are together", I tried to be as diplomatic as possible without favoring any particular parties.
Our 5th semester examination was just over. Before going back to respective hometowns, we wanted to spend a few days in the lap of nature refreshing ourselves from the grinding regime of the exam preparation. After a few rounds of discussions, Wayanad in Kerala became the unanimous choice.
Finalizing the Transport:
With the destination finalized, it was the time to decide on the mode of transport. Wayanad doesn't have railway connectivity, so our choice was restricted to either availing bus service or opting for cab service. After some rough calculations over the cost of travel, we realized that there was not much difference between bus and taxi, so we decided to hire a taxi for the entire trip considering the convenience and comfort that it offers.
We didn't have much idea about the taxi service providers that offer affordable yet reliable service. But thankfully, Aman's elder brother Vimal, who is working in the transport industry, came to our rescue. He recommended the services of Besto Tours, stating that they are punctual, well-behaved, transparent and affordable.
He went on to add, "Last time when we went to Ooty for a family trip, he hired a Toyota Innova from Besto Tours. The vehicle was in great condition, the driver was very professional and the whole trip was just amazing. You can rely on them to provide you a great travel experience."
We immediately gave a call to Besto Tours to enquire about the availability of cabs for our 3-day Wayanad trip. Finally we opted for a 5-seater (4+1) Toyota Etios (AC) for the entire trip covering the onward journey, local sight-seeing and the return journey to Bangalore for a very reasonable price of INR 7650. We thought it was a bargain deal, considering another taxi operator had quoted us in excess of INR 9000 for the same trip.
Finding the Accommodation:
We are typical backpackers, tight on budget, always looking for a cheap accommodation. We had no choices - just a roof over the head with three B's - bed, blanket and bathroom would have been sufficient for us. After searching on popular hotel booking websites, we finally zeroed in on Hotel Vedanta Wake Up located at Sulthan Bathery near Edakkal Caves. It was a budget hotel where we booked a 4 bedded room for just INR 1250 per night.
The Onward Journey:
10th January 2017 was the D-day. We all were very excited. The vehicle from Besto Tours arrived at our hostel gate right at 6 AM, as per the schedule. A middle-aged person in his 40's was driving the car and his name was Srinivas. Soon we picked our backpacks and embarked on the journey to Wayanad.
We cleared the city roads in no time and touched down on Mysore Road. The Bangalore-Mysore expressway was in great condition and our progress was fast and steady. Our vehicle had a very good music system and surprisingly a great collection of Hindi songs to switch our moods on. We halted at Maddur for a 15 minutes break and had a sumptuous breakfast of delicious masala dosa and fruit juice.
We were constantly driving at around 110-120 KMPH and soon we reached Mysore. Our next stop was for a short tea break just before Nanjangud. The drive till Gundlupete was fantastic, but the road condition deteriorated as we entered NH-212. Especially the stretch after Gundlupete till we reached the Kerala border was in poor condition. It become a lot improved once we entered Kerala. The route through Muthanga Wildlife Reserve was very scenic and we went on a clicking spree to capture the essence of nature. We even came across a herd of spotted deers grazing at us. Our driver told us that elephant sighting is also pretty common in this stretch, although unfortunately we did not come across any other wildlife this time around. We halted at a couple of places along this scenic road to do some photoshoots on the backdrop of verdant forest and Western Ghats mountain ranges.
Eventually we reached Hotel Vedanta Wake Up at around 12:15 PM after asking a few locals for proper direction. After entering our personal details in the hotel register, we checked into the allotted room. It was a decent room with four single beds and necessary facilities, but no luxuries to boast about. Considering the price, it was however a very good deal no doubt.
We were quite hungry by then. So we freshened up quickly and straightaway went to grab some food. The hotel had a decent restaurant and food was tasty as well.
Wayanad Sightseeing: Day-1 (Edakkal Caves)
Our hotel was located at a walkable distance from the famous Edakkal Caves, which is the only known place in India with rock carvings from the stone age. So we decided to start off our expedition exploring this prehistoric shelter first. The caves are located on top of Ambukutty Mala - a hillock with an altitude of 1200 meters above the sea level.
To reach the caves, one has to trek through the rocky terrain. It took us around 45 minutes to climb the hill and reach the entrance of the caves. We paid the required entry fees before getting in. Inside the cave, there are two chambers. The smaller one, lower chamber, is 18 feet long, 12 feet wide and 10 feet tall, while the upper chamber is much bigger in size measuring about 96 feet X 22 feet X 18 feet.
There are carvings of human and animal figures and various other objects on the walls of the caves. These carvings are believed to belong to the 4000 BC era and provide solid evidence of a highly civilized society who lived in the pre-historic age. It was an eye opener. It's not for no reason that the Edakkal caves have drawn great attention of archaeologists and historians from all over the world.
We explored the Edakkal Caves for more than 2 hours. Then it took us another 30 minutes while trekking down. The clock had just gone past the 5 PM mark. It was a tiring day after the long journey from Bangalore. So we decided to head back to our hotel room and resume our sightseeing activities on the next day.
Wayanad has a lot of places of tourist interest to visit. We wanted to visit as many as we can. So we decided to have an early dinner and start early on the following morning.
We wanted to taste the local cuisines, so opted for Kerala non-veg meals for dinner. It was an awesome meal consisting of steamed rice and idiyappam with Malabar fish masala, prawn curry and Kerala-style roasted country chicken.
After finishing off the dinner, we chatted for a while chalking out the plan for the following day. It was decided to start off by 7 AM in the morning, so that we can cover quite a few places throughout the day. We informed our driver accordingly and set the alarm to wake us up at 6 AM. All in all it was a thoroughly enjoyable first day of our trip to Wayanad.
Wayanad Sightseeing: Day-2 (Lakkidi View Point, Pookode Lake, Soochipara Falls)
We woke up to the alarm at 6 in the morning and freshened up quickly. We came out of the hotel to experience beautiful mountain view of the surrounding landscape. We were also grreted by amazing views of sunrise. A gentle breeze was blowing across and there was chillness in the air. In a nutshell, it was the perfect weather to explore some interesting places in and around Wayanad.
Our first target was Lakkidi Valley View Point, which eventually falls in the same direction as the famous Pookode Lake. It is siatuated at a distance of around 35 KM from our hotel and we reached the place after an hour long drive through the beautiful ghat sections.
Lakkidi View Point is one of the highest points in the entire Wayanad district. Located at the crest of the serpentine Thamarassery ghat pass at an elevation of almost 2300 feet above the sea level, one can get a hawk-eye view of the 9 hairpin curves from Adivaram to Lakkidi from this view point. The place offers dazzling views of the surrounding cliffs and valleys. It is also a favorite place among the travellers for watching the views of sunset. We spent around 30 minutes at this awesome place and took some amazing pictures.
Next on our wish list was the famous Pookode Lake (also known as Phookot Lake). This beautiful freshwater lake is hardly a 5 minutes drive from Lakkidi View Point. We reached there by 9:15 AM and immediately went for a round of walk along the banks. The lake is said to be shaped like the Indian map. Nestled between evergreen forests and Western Ghats mountain ranges, it's an ideal location for photographers and nature lovers. Located in pristine natural surroundings, we were simply blown apart by the beauty of this amazing natural lake. We hired a row boat and went for boating in Pookode's calm waters. Kayaking is also available for the adventure lovers, although we didn't try it out due to longer queues.
The place is also a bird watcher's paradise. We could spot so many species of native and migratory birds along the lake shore and adjoining forest cover.
Besides the natural aspects, there is an aquarium, a children's park and a shopping centre near the boat house to keep the tourists engaged. Tourists can buy tea leaves, various spices and bamboo/cane handicraft items from the shopping center.
After spending close to 1.5 hours near the Lake, we proceeded towards our main attraction for the day - the gorgeous Soochipara Waterfalls (also popular as Sentinal Rock Waterfalls). The distance between Pookode lake and Soochipara is about 30 KM. It was almost 11 AM, and we had entirely forgotten about breakfast - completely mesmerized in the lap of nature. So we decided to have a heavy brunch (breakfast + lunch) on the way to Soochipara.
We stopped by a roadside Punjabi dhaba to load our stomach fully before proceeding towards Soochipara waterfalls. Our drive was through beautiful tea plantations and we had another round of photoshoot in a scenic stretch on the backdrop of tea gardens.
We reached the Soochipara parking lot by 1 PM. One has to walk down for close to 2 KM from the parking place to reach the foot of the falls. It's a steep descent through a rugged terrain followed by a series of stairs, much like a light trekking experience. Although there wasn't too much water in the dry season, it was still a wonderful sight. Stream of water cascading down from a height of around 200 feet is a sight to behold. There was a small pool of waters beneath the falls, where we went for swimming. Playing in the waters was real fun and all of us really enjoyed our time over there.
Time was tickling away quickly. When we finally came out of the waters and reached the parking lot, the time has gone past 4 PM mark. After doing some real exercise to reach the waterfalls, we were feeling hungry again. There were a few eateries near the parking lot that came to our rescue. After filling our near empty stomach with sandwich and fruit bowls, we started on our journey back to the hotel room to conclude a wonderful day spent close to the beauty of nature.
Wayanad Sightseeing: Day-3 (Meenmutty Falls, Banasura Sagar Dam, Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary)
It was the final day of our stay at Wayanad. 12 noon was the check-out time at the hotel, but we decided to check out early, so that we need not had to return to the hotel after sightseeing before proceeding to Bangalore in the afternoon. So we packed our bags, had a heavy breakfast, paid the remaining hotel dues and checked out of the hotel room by 8 in the morning.
Our target on the last day was the famed Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary. But before that, we wanted to visit another popular waterfalls in Wayanad - the Meenmutty Falls. This waterfall is located at a distance of 19 KM from our hotel. We reached there in flat 45 minutes.
Meenmutty is the largest waterfalls in Wayanad, with waters gushing down from a height of 300 meters in three stages - presenting a triple-decker effect. This cascading waterfalls is one of the biggest crowd pullers in Wayanad. As was the case with Soochipara, we had to trek for around 2 KM through the rocks to reach the base of the falls. Though the trek was moderately difficult, it was well worth the efforts considering the spectacle that Meenmutty is.
The water flow was less as it was the dry season, but enough for us to indulge in some fun under the flowing waters. The surrounding was nothing short of spectacular with verdant forest playing the perfect backdrop for some memorable photographs. We spent around 2 hours at this amazing spot swimming, bathing and playing with the dancing waters.
Next in line was the famous Banasura Sagar Dam, which is situated at a close proximity to Meenmutty falls. It is the largest earth dam in India and the second largest of its kind in Asia with clean waters and beautiful landscapes. The main attraction here is speed boating. None of us had ever been on a speed boat before, so we wanted to make the most out of this opportunity to indulge in some adrenaline rush.
We booked a 5-seater speed boat for INR 750 and went for the adventure ride. It was an amazing 7 KM ride through the heart of the dam and we were cruising at close to 50-60 KMPH. It's a pity that the duration of the cruise is just 15 minutes. We felt for 750 bucks, they could very well do a half an hour ride at the very least.
Our next target, and the last of this Wayanad trip, was Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary, but before that it was time for lunch. After an awesome feast on Thalassery chicken biryani, we proceeded towards Muthanga.
This sanctuary is a part of Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve along with Nagarhole and Bandipur National Parks in Karnataka and Madumalai in Tamil Nadu. It falls en-route our Wayanad-Bangalore return journey. A jungle safari looked really inviting and we all were game for it. We visited the eco-tourism center and booked us tickets for a Jeep Safari.
We were accompanied by an armed forest guard during the safari ride. It was an amazing experience which lasted for around 1.5 hours. We didn't spot too many wild animals, but yet it was not too dry. We spotted wild elephants, herds of spotted deers, sambars, Indian bisons, Malabar giant squirrels and a variety of monkeys. We heard that there are tigers and leopards as well, but sadly we didn't come across any during our safari ride. However, there were a number of endemic bird species that gave us company. I could only recognize peacocks, woodpeckers and owls among the birds we encountered at Muthanga.
Besides taking Jeep Safari, people can also go for elephant rides at Muthanga. Option for guided trekking tours through the jungle is also available. We were running short of time, so decided to skip the jungle trekking till our next Wayanad trip.
The Return Journey:
The clock went past 4:30 PM mark when we embarked on our return journey to Bangalore. It was an uneventful journey. We stopped somewhere near Gundlupete for a tea break and then proceeded straight towards Mysore. We reached Mysore at around 7:45 PM and took another break for dinner. Once we touched down Mysore-Bangalore highway, we were doing 110-120 KMPH all the way. Traffic was also moderate, which made our progress faster. We finally arrived at our college hostel at around 10:30 PM after spending three thoroughly enjoyable days at Wayanad.
Besto Tours Taxi Service Feedback:
As was the case during the onward journey, the return journey as well went very smooth. Our driver, Mr. Srinivas drove very carefully and it was a very comfortable journey. Overall we were 100% satisfied with the service provided by Besto Tours. Punctual timeline, vehicle in great condition, experienced driver, affordable pricing and professional dealings - we could not have asked for more. In short, we will vehemently recommend Besto Tours to our friends and family members for any types transportation needs.
This Wayanad trip was truly a wonderful experience with so many exotic memories of what nature's beauty is all about. The beautiful rolling hills, the twisting bends, the splendid view points, the amazing lakes, the scintillating waterfalls and of-course the fantastic Kerala cuisines - all in all Wayanad simply blew us apart with its inherent charm and beauty. There were quite a few places that remained unexplored, but we are hopeful of covering them all during our next trip to Wayanad and bring you a first-hand account of our travel story. Till then - adiĆ³s and happy travelling!