The Wayanad district in Kerala is about 280 KMs from Bangalore. There were atleast two plans made in past but at both times, I could not go due to some or other reason.
Wayanad has three major towns; Sulthan Bathery, Kalpetta and Lakkidi. So when we talk about visiting Wayanad, we are basically going to one of the above places.
It was Christmas times. Schools were closed and work load in office was also little less. I had not made any plans for Wayanad as such, but on a Saturday, I just decided to look at possibility. I called two hotels, one refused as all rooms booked and another “Hotel Great Jubilee” at Sulthan Bathery promised one room for two nights from next day.
Next day morning, we took the road to Sulthan Bathery in our small Alto. We left Bangalore at around 7 AM. I being a modest driver, the plan was to be at Sulthan Bathery by 2 PM.
Sulthan Battery is situated at about 930 metres above mean sea level. One can find beautiful folded hills across the horizon. The climate is pleasant throughout the year.
At around 11, we were at Mysore and took our brunch there.
From Mysore to Nanjangud, the road was very bad. This stretch was for about 20 KMs. After Nanjangud, it became little better, though it was a single road.
The temperature was soaring high as we reached Gundlupet, it was about 1 PM and Lord Anshumaan were showering heat and light in full blaze.
At Gundlupet, there are two roads ahread. The straight ine goes towards Bandipur, Mudhumalai and further to Ooty. The right turn here takes us to Kerala and the gateway is Wayanad.
Now we were crossing the Muthunga Wildlife Sanctaury, which is a part of Nilgiri biosphere Reserve. I was driving slowly party because of hard to find speed breakers and also partly to see some wildlife. It was quite dense forest but at that hour of noon, we remained unsuccessful to spot any wild creature, except some monkeys!
Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary at Muthanga is contiguous to the forests of Nagarhole, Bandipurand Mudhumalai. The forest is very rich in bio-diversity.
The vegetation is predominantly moist deciduous forest. This region hosts several rare herbs and medicinal plants. Muthanga has a large population of Elephants and they are often spotted on this road. I was quite excited to spoke few of them here. Jungle cats, Panthers, Wild dogs, Deers, Bisons, Wild bears etc can be seen here. The reserve is also said to have a few Tigers.
Sulthan Bathery is the first place as we crossed Muthunga and reached Wayanad.
The hotel was quite comfortable and staff was very helpful. Soon we settled down and after some quick rest, started working on our sojourn.
Evening was approaching fast and most of the tourist spots at Wayanad are at some distance to each other, so it was impractical to start for any such spot at that evening. We decided to take a walk to the Jain Temple nearby.
Sultan Bathery was originally called as Hannaredu Veethi, a Kannada word means twelve streets. The name was changed in the 18th century, when Tipu Sultan used the Jain Temple for his armoury (Battery). And thus the town became known as Sultan's Battery, which gradually became Sultan Bathery.
The Jain Temple in Sulthan Bathery is believed to have been built during the 13th century. Its design is strongly influenced by the architectural style of the then reigning Vijayanagar Dynasty.
It is a small temple with flat roof. Small idols of Jaina Tirthankars are there the grilled sanctum. I felt a little annoyed how a beautiful temple was converted to military purpose by Tipu Sultan.
There were a group of school children, more excited than us, trying to unfold some hidden truths about the place. Young age is quite productive but needs the right direction so that the energy can be channelized for some fruitful purpose.
We returned back to our hotel and after a good dinner, went to bed for an exciting next day.
Though I had my car, but still I decided to take a local taxi for site-seeing. I felt it was better to save time and hence to cover more number of places.
After breakfast, we started our exploration. The first place was the Wayanad Heritage Museum.
The Wayanad Heritage Museum at Ambalavayal houses the relics of Wayanad’s heritage recovered from different parts of the district. It is dedicated to the collection, preservation and exhibition of the Wayanad's priceless heritage. It is a journey to the past.
Extensive surveys were undertaken in the district in 1986 when Shri Ravindran Thampi was the Distrct Collector. The effort was continued during the time of the District Collector Shri Viswas Mehta’s stewardship.
There are four galleries in the museum. Each gallery represents different aspects of human existence in this hilly region. They are named
· Gotrasmrithi (Representing primeval tribal traditions),
· Jeevasmrithi (Representing livelihood tools and vesses),
· Veerasmrithi (Representing a heroic age of forgotten periods) and
· Devasmrithi (Objects of worship and piety).
Exhibits in the museum include many stone weapons, stone carvings, sculptures, potteries, hunting equipment and clay sculptures.
Kids were also quite excited to visit the museum. I always make sure to visit museums whenever I go to some such place. These museums takes us to the history and culture of the place, which sometimes remains unseen in nowadays day to day life.
After having a sojourn through the bygne era of Wayanad, we took the road to Neelimala.
Neelimala is a trekkers delight. There are 4X4 Jeeps available to take us to a convenient place, from where a walk of about one KM, took us to the view point.
The Jeep climbs up a rugged road to reach the base of a tribal settlement, surrounded by coffee plantation and pepper vines.
At the top of Neelimala, the sight is a breathtaking one with a view to the Meenmutty falls located nearby and the valley in the foreground.
While walking towards the view point, I remembered my college days at Dwarahat. Same fresh breath, the sound of breeze and birds, same peace…it was just amazing!
My wife was a bit scared to walk alone, but I was in some other horizon, everything was very soothing.
The sides of the path leading to the view point is also dotted with small bushes of purple flower plants and also chirping sun birds and other varieties of small birds darting in and out of the bushes.
On the way, we spotted the Meenmutty falls. It was visible with its roar. The majestic waterfalls, gushing down and then flowing in cascades further down its course is an awesome sight to watch.
As we approached the view point, the trekking path gets narrower. Now the vegetation on the sides changes to tall, wild grass, including the lemon grass variety. The narrow path goes further up and suddenly opens up into a panoramic view.
The entire valley was engulfed with thick fog. The majestic Chembra peak was infront of us. I promised myself to visit there sometime.
Our Guide there explained about the place and different hills and regions. He had accompanied us from Jeep stand.
Spending sometime there, we took the steps back to the waiting Jeep and came down to the main road in next few minutes.
The jeep drive is very similar to the Jeep drive to IshtaKameshwari at Srishailam. Though here the distance is quite less.
Our next destination was the famous Soochipara Falls.
Sentinel Rock Falls, also known as Soochipara Waterfalls is a three-tiered waterfall, surrounded by thick forest. Locally referred to as Soochipara ("Soochi" meaning "Needle" and "Para" meaning "Rock"), the drive to Sentinel Rock Waterfalls offers scenic views of some of the best tea estates in Wayanad. This waterfalls has height ofabout 200 metres.
All have to pass through a security check at the entrance where they make sure you don't carry any plastic. For platic water bottles, the security tags it with a sticky note and one need to pay the fine if that bottle is not shown while returning back.
Walking slowly and carefully, as we have two little kids, we approached the waterfall. A flight of descending steps took us down there.It takes about 30 minutes’ walk through very scenic surroundings to the water falls.
Good thing was that forest guards there all the time to check the activities and to make sure to reduce chances of accident as well as to save the environment.
My son slipped and got drenched, I shouted on him as I was worried that he may get injury. He was alright but started crying as saw me angry. I became normal quickly as it was not time to give instructions. Let the intuition and nature take its own course.
I just sat on a nearby rock as kids played with water. It is always a bit risky to go directly below the waterfall as there are always chances of stone felling down. I made sure that they enjoyed the falls while keeping a safe distance from direct waterfall.
We returned back equally enjoying the surroundings. Near parking area we took sone sugar cane juices and some artifacts etc.
Time to go towards Pookode Lake.
As we drove past Kalpetta towards Pookode lake, we stopped at a Dhaba for food. I had told the driver to find a dhaba with Vegetarian food.
Food was good but quite spicy and I liked it!
Later afternoon, we were at Pookote Lake.
Pookode is a natural fresh water lake nestling amid evergreen forests and mountain slopes. It is about15 km away from Kalpetta.
This lake is spread across an area of 8.5 hectares and with a maximum depth of 6.5 meters.
There was quite a rush there. Evening was approaching. There is a small children park there. My kids are always interested in swing, but I took them straight to the lake.
We took the ticket for boating and then waited for about 30 minutes before our turn came.
This scenic lake presents a calm and serene environment. Tourists can also avail of boating facilities. There are pedal boats as well as row boats.In general, families with kids are not allowed to take pedal boats. The lake’s view from the boat is amazing.
We took the ticket for boating and then waited for about 30 minutes before our turn came.
We enjoyed boating in the serene lake. I was a bit disappointed as water was not that clean. Blue water Lilies as well as Lotus were in abundance.
It was very good experience. In general I stay away from boating etc., because of water fear. Though here I did not felt any such thing. The rowman gently took us for a round of the lake and we enjoyed the beauty of nature surrounded by wooded hills.
Evening was knocking. We were feeling quite good after the boating. Now it was time to enjoy the beauty at Lakkidi view point.
Lakkidi is the gateway of Wayanad and is one of the highest locations here. It is situated 700 m above mean sea level, atop Thamarassery ghat pass. It is about 58 km northeast of Kozhikode.
Lakkidi view point is a beautiful place to enjoy the evening. One can see the beauty of nature unfolded around and in between, how the man has created the snake like ghat roads. Similar but a smaller view we had enjoyed at hair pin bend 9 at Valparai Pollachi road.
Nearby is a famous Chain Tree.
During the colonial rule, Lakkidi was a secret route for local adivasis of Wayanad. An English engineer took help from a local chieftain called Karinthandan to identify the route through the ghats. Karinthandan helped him to find the shortest route to pass the ghat. Once the English engineer found out the way, he killed the adiviasi to take credit for finding the route. Later it was seen that the travellers who passed by the new route were haunted by the soul of Karinthandan. Hence a priest was called and in a chain his spirit wastied in a small tree. It is believed that the chain grows along with the tree.
While returning from Lakkidi view point, we stopped at Chain tree. I paid my respect to the adivasi. Our poor and gentle ancestors were made fool by colonial powers.
An NGO called PEEP (People's Action For Educational And Economic Development Of Tribal People) organizes Karinthandan Smrithi Yatra on the 2nd Sunday of March every year in memory of Karinthandan, who is considered as the first martyr of Wayanad.
It was approaching dark now. We took the road back to Sulthan Bathery for our hotel.
Day 3 at Wayanad, after breakfast, we checkout from hotel and took the road to the famous Edakkal caves.
Edakkal Caves are situated about 16 km from Sulthan Bathery and tourists have to trek up the Ambukuthi Hill to reach the caves. The trek up the hill, peppered with coffee plantations, is worth an experience and it takes almost 45 minutes to climb the hill.
As we reached the base of the hill, we spotted the car parking, we proceeded further and found another car park but we still proceeded and finally at the last car park we put our car. Idea was that not to walk long during Sun, when we will be back tired of trekking!
So the trek to Edakkal starts. It was an uphill walk for about 30 minutes before we reached the ticket counter. From here stone staircase takes one to the caves. This portion of trek requires care and attention.
It is good that going and return paths are different. Authorities have constructed steel staircases to take while returning.
People with small kids or old aged people should take extra care.
Edakkal Caves are two natural caves. Lower cave does not have much carvings. Upper one is of more interest. We enter through the lower cave and then via staircase go towards the upper one.
These caves lie 1,200 metres above sea level. Inside the caves are pictorial writings believed to date to at least 6,000 BCfrom the Neolithic man, indicating the presence of a prehistoric civilization or settlement in this region.
Reaching there, I took a guide to understand things in right perspective. Though I don’t rely completely on Guides but match their versions with other sources like books and Wikipedia etc.
These are not “caves”, but rather a cleft or rift approximately 96 feet by 22 feet. A 30-feet-deep fissure caused by a piece of rock splitting away from the main body. On one side of the cleft is a rock weighing several tons that covers the cleft to form the 'roof' of the cave.
The name of Edakkal Caves literally means `a stone in between’. As the name indicates, it seems that one boulder miraculously wedged in between two bigger ones to create a cave.
There are many legends associated with the gigantic fissure at Edakkal. People believe that Lord Rama, shot an arrow which pierced the mountain and created a deep cleft there. The name of the hills, Ambukuthy too is derived from this legend. (In Malayalam, Ambu means arrow and kuthy means `to pierce’ and hence the name.)
The ticket office is there after a walk of about 30 minutes for tourists to buy tickets. From here a further ascend of about 30 minutes took us to a forgotten chapter of history.
The caves were discovered by Fred Fawcett, a police official of the erstwhile Malabar state in 1890 who immediately recognized their anthropological and historical importance. He wrote an article about them, attracting the attention of scholars.
Historian M.R. Raghava Varier of the Kerala state archaeology department identified a sign “a man with jar cup” that is the most distinct motif of the Indus valley civilization. The finding, made in September 2009, indicates that the Harappan civilization was active in the region. The “a man with jar cup” symbol from Edakkal seems to be more similar to the Indus motif.
The rock surface is full of linear motifs and one can see weird shaped figures, crosses, triangles, stars, wheels, plant motifs, pot shaped items, various animals and human figures. Many of the human figures have raised hair, some have masked faces and all these figures are eye-catching and have archaeological significance. Apart from these pictorial carvings, ancient inscriptions including Brahmi as well as Sanskrit script have been identified from the caves.
|Path to return|
Images of a tribal king, a queen, a child, a deer and an elephant can be seen on the wall.
An iron railing is placed in the cave which helps prevent visitors damaging the carvings.
It was a journey to history indeed and really a reward those who walk to this place.
Return journey was not that tough but still precaution needs to be taken on staircases. Soon we were back to the base of the hill and walked towards the car park.
I was also interested to visit Banasur Sagar Dam, but time was not sufficient. We had recently visited a couple of dams near Pollachi and Valparai, so we dropped the idea for future visit and took the road to Bangalore.
Minimum of three full days needed to explore Wayanad.
It took about 7 hours to reach Bangalore. Overall a very good trip, a long drive and a glimpse of history!