Thursday, March 15, 2007

Way to Wayanad - 4

  • The bus arrived at 1:10 am, we rushed in to secure a seat for us, and the bus seats were no way attuned for a sleep. Our ‘spell of sleepless night in Kannur’ started we felt like we were in a coffin, not an inch to move about.After 2 hours or so, we reached ‘Kannur’ , the time was 4 am . We scouted for another bus to a place called ‘Kasargode’, this place fell in the last part of our itinerary. The journey was 4 hours. We got a bus around 4:30 am… I struggled for a spell of good sleep, so did my other friends, couple of them were seated on the floor of the bus. After tiring journey , we reached this place called ‘Kasargode’ we scouted for place to rest and refresh . after sometime we found a place called ‘Udupi hotel’ located a Km away from the railway station. The owner of this lodge was a difficult person, he failed to understand our need, he would allow two rooms for five us, whereas our requirement was only one room and a toilet, after much argument we settled for the deal and then a Lungi clad old man was summoned and, he escorted us to the rooms. When that man opened the room , I could smell fungus , cobwebs and dust, the man wasn’t embarrassed a bit, very coolly he went inside and started sweeping the floor, guess this rooms must be last used by our freedom fighters… and a cot was also broken! The same man started mending the furniture, which annoyed my friend who was lounging in another rickety bed, and he asked this workaholic gentle old man to leave the place and continued his sleep. So , now we had two double bed rooms and the old man said , we need not pay for the broken cot, that means a discount of 30 bucks!.

    After sometime, we took the essentials and left the rooms at 10:30 . we had our brunch at a restaurant nearby, and boarded a bus to a place called ‘Bekal Fort’ which was some 17 kms away from ‘Kasargode’

    Some Facts:

  • The fort, a circular imposing structure of laterite rising 130 ft. above sea level, stands on a 35 acre headland that runs into the Arabian sea.

  • This fort is more than 300 years old and is believed to have been built in the 1650's by Sivappa Naik of the Ikkeri dynasty.

  • There is also another belief that it was originally built by Kolathiri Rajas and later captured by Sivappa Naik. The fort was occupied Hyder Ali of Mysore in 1763 A.D and then the Huzur of Canara during Tipu Sultan's reign and later the British. During the British rule, the erstwhile Bekal taluk was part of South Canara district and encompassed the present Kasaragod and Hosdurg taluks.

  • At the entrance is the Anjaneya temple, dedicated to Sree Hanuman. Said to be as old as the fort itself, the shrine was recently renovated and attracts hundreds of devotees from far and near.

  • Best time to visit : Throughout the year

  • How to get there

  • Air: Nearest airports are at Mangalore (50 km); Karipur International Airport, Calicut (Kozhikode) International Terminal (180 km)

  • Rail: On the Kozhikode-Mangalore-Mumbai route. Enquiry Ph: 430200

  • Road: There are regular buses every 30 minutes from Kanjagad to Bekal. An excellent network of roads connects Kasaragod to major towns in Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

We reached the place after half an hour, the weather was too too humid. This fort was well shot for a song in a Manirathnam movie called ‘Bombay’. The song was shot during the monsoon season I guess. we stole splendid views of the ‘Malabar coast’ from the sentry towers.after exploring taking few pictures of the fort, we decided to rest for a while under a peepal tree , which stood near the shore. Couple of boats were anchored in the Arabian sea. One of friends tried spotting Saudi-Arabia with the binoculars. We consumed many bottles of local soft drinks , similar to our own ‘Bovonto’. I realized that I was a bit worn out because of the journey, I slept-off under the tree , I wasn’t aware of the surroundings, only I could feel the cool sea-breeze. After some time, the sun was little low, we, decided to walk along the shore. The shore was lined with countless coconut trees!..After sometime, we ventured out of the beach area to the bus stand. After a brief period of travel we reached our rooms!.. we went for shopping some goods. Tasted some native snacks , which were sold by the roadside hawkers.we had ‘Chicken shawarama’ ( an Arabian snack , in which a roti is stuffed with shredded and roasted chicken) I restricted my dinner to chicken shawarama. ]
The train to Chennai is at 10:15 we were to board west coast express. We reached the rooms at 8:30 pm, and vacated our rooms. We had little problems here, the proprietor of the lodge refused to discount the 30 bucks , we were promised. The amount is small and not at all worth for a fight. But, we fought for it, called the proprietor by names, our tongue turned foul..he was that cheap to frame a sudden rule that took us off our money. We didn’t fight for the money , we fought for for … eh, I don’t know what, can be called as prestige or pleasure. Completely unaffected by the hustle, we left the place. Reached the station around 9:45 pm. The train started immediately as soon as we got in, this station must be of least importance, iguess.
So the next day, at 8 o clock we reached Erode, which is the native of one of my friends, traveling along with me. Had been to his house twice, once for a leisure visit and another visit which happened during the start of this year, the occasion was bakrid.. His family is promising when it comes to food and hospitality. Biriyani and non-veg is their speciality.! So, our lunch menu suddenly turned out to be grand because of the neatly packed biriyani packets brought by the relatives of my friend, they took pains to feed us , that too early in the morning!..hats off to them! soon the train left the station, we started to gobble the food!..after finishing of the dish! We played cards, chatted , slept, stretched!.. by the time ,we entered the premises of Chennai.

At 3:o clock I got off ‘West coast express’, waved at my friends in a goodbye like gesture! And they reached Chennai central at 3:20 pm. This is one of my memorable travels till date, though I didn’t get a chance to spot the wild cat, atleast I am happy that i had a glimpse of it's pug-marks and captured it on my cam also!..i am happy with that, meanwhile, the plans for another forest trip had already started! May be this November!..

Way to Wayanad - 3

I enjoyed the cozy confines of the ‘Alaskan room’ previous night , the clothes had dried by now , The time was 5:30 am, I woke up to see my friends already busy with their chores. We finished the chores very soon and we were prepared for another busy schedule for the day. We boarded the first bus to ‘Thirunelli Temple’ which is 30 kms away from ‘Mananthavady’( the place where we stayed for the night), The ticket fares were quite costly, the KSRTC( Kerala State Road Transport Corporation) bus conductors procured an instrument for issuing tickets, when the destination and the starting code is typed, a printed paper is vomited in a jiffy, containing details like, ticket fare, Distance, starting and ending place…

We reached the temple after sometime, The temple is a modest one, I would call it ‘a typical keralised temple’.One common feature of these temples is that, the male devotees have to be topless before they enter the shrine, really don’t know why such a necessity, while the same god can tolerate t-shirts, and shirts, kurtas etc in our land. thinking on these lines, after much hesitation I removed my shirt and tucked under my arm, and gazed around for a while, to make sure ladies are at a good distance, unfortunately they were only few millimeters away, if only the temple had thousand pillars like The ‘Temple in Rameshwaram’ I would sneaked between them , but, there wre no such provisions here. The offerings and pooja delayed our worship, after sometime, we scurried in, clapped our hands and muttered some prayers, ran out and slipped into our clothes.

Some Pointers

- Sree Thirunelli Devaswom, Thirunelli, about 32 km north-east of Mananthavadi, Wayanad district, north Kerala.
- The temple is also known as the Sahyamala Kshetram. It is believed to be more than 3000 years old. Legend has it that this temple dedicated to lord Vishnu was built by lord Brahma (The Creator) himself - an architectural marvel with 30 granite pieces supporting the shrine and the floor paved with huge square granite blocks.
- Papanasini, the holy mountain spring believed to have divine cleansing powers to absolve the soul of all its sins, flows nearby. Also in the vicinity is a sacred rock where ritual offerings (known as bali) are made for the ancestors on the New Moon days of the Malayalam months Karkkidakom, Thulam and Kumbham. Besides the rituals during the two-day festival, art forms like Kathakali and Ottanthullal are performed.

- Getting there:Nearest railway station: Kozhikode about 72 km from Kalpetta

- Nearest airport: Karipur International Airport, Kozhikode about 23 km from Kozhikode town.
After loitering around the temple premises for a while, we decided to have our breakfast near the temple, meanwhile, we were informed by my native friend’s uncle that , we can visit the another forest reserve, we had our breakfast, I had 4 thick dosais and a tea, we headed for ‘Tholpetty ‘ which is some 7 kms away from Thirunelli Temple . Initialy,our stay in the forest was destined to this place. Due to unavailability of the watch towers , we opted for’Muthanga’. We reached the spot in a very short while, we hired a jeep for 500 rs and we were prepared to enter this part of the forest, the forest officer warned us that, spotting animals at this part of the day is rare, but, we took it lightly. Along with us, an interesting man came, whom we met in the bus while heading to ‘Tholpetti’. He claimed himself as a ‘Nomad’ and for the past 33 years he‘d been visiting various forests in the country. But, not even once he had spotted a tiger, I can feel his agony! So, the jeep entered the forests and I again started squinting at each and every bush , squinted more when I saw the water bodies..ocassionaly couple of deers and Langurs disturbed my concentration.

Some Facts:

- About the Sanctuary:- Tholpetty wildlife sanctuary is situated in Wayanad, in the lower hills of Nilgiris, 300 Kms north east of Cochin (six and half hours journey ) and 100 kms south west of Mysore. Being part of the Niligri biosphere reserve of the Western Ghats, Tholpetty is one of the largest protected areas and best places to see Asian elephants and Indian bison. The sanctuary cover an area of 345Km.

- Accommodation:- Accommodation is arranged in a sixty year old homely bungalow Pachyderm Places (just opposite to the sanctuary). The well furnished and comfortable rooms have attached western toilets with hot water shower. Traditional and authentic Kerala food will be served.

- Wildlife Tour: - Wildlife tour is organized in a jeep everyday morning and evening. Photography is allowed. Visit to tribal villages, waterfalls and ancient Hindu temple is also arranged.

- Visiting time: 0600-0800 hrs and 1500-1730 hrs. Ph: 04935 240233.


After 7 kms we reached a watch tower and took some snaps with horn of a Deer and we traveled further for another 17 kms after three hours , we emerged out of theforest a bit disappointed. The forest officer was right!. Later we rested for a while in a local tea-shop, had fruits and spoke with the proprietor of the tea-shop, who claimed that, he had spotted Tiger for 5 times, he must be around 17 years old!.. he just spotted outside his shop it seems!. Only when the bus arrived, I closed my mouth, which, I kept open, after hearing how and where the guy spotted the ‘Wild cat’…We headed to a place called ’Kuruva Island’ . The Island was made, coz of the back-waters...

Some facts:

Kuruva island is situated 17 kms east of ‘Mananthavady’,. This 950 acres of uninhabited, evergreen forest on the tributaries of east flowing river Kabani is an ideal picnic spot, far away from the disturbances of city life. The wooded land is a home to rare species of birds, orchids and herbs. Occasionally, wild mammals can be observed by the riverside.

There are two islands , each can be reached by boats and a raft. Negotiating the river with help of ‘raft’ was quite exciting!. We were told that , the calm waters are infested by alligators!
Later then we left the island around 5:30 pm, we had to walk 1 km to the bus stop. From there we boarded a bus to ‘Mananthavady’. After we reached the place, we enquired about the buses which will take us to the places included in our next plan of action. After a formal enquiry with the bus drivers and locals we narrowed down on one particular bus , scheduled for, next day at 1 am. For that, we have to retire early.
We had our last supper at ‘Mananthavady’ in a restaurant called garden restaurant..
After a good meal we returned back to our rooms and vacated around 11 and left for the town bust stop. The town bus stop was busy even at this juncture, I tripe-checked my watch to make sure it is not 8 pm. We sat down monitoring the surroundings, that particular lace was preparing for some Communist meetings , the place was buzzing with activity. Drunken men exlplained their views on world matters..the bus came at 1 o clock, we had a brief travel of about 45 mins to a place called ‘Kannur’.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Way to wayanad-2

  • After breathing the forest air for 5 long hours I woke up at around 4’o clock to attend the nature’s call, so, I had to come down the tower, the surroundings were so dark and couldn’t figure out anything, I flashed the light into the bushes nearby. was able to see nothing, so went up to continue my sleep, actually, I didn’t feel like sleeping so sat down monitoring the surroundings took some shots in my handy-cam. Yawned, stretched, and tried waking up my friends by flashing lights on them…

    At 6 : 30 am , we prepared to leave the watch tower!. We took couple of snaps with the tribes and started our trekking .This particular morning was one of my favorite! at this hour,the forest was pretty polluted with assorted noises produced by the insects and birds!.. All my thoughts were to spot a tiger!. so , I squinted really hard at each and every bush adjoining the trekking path, which made me to lag behind others. After walking a few distance, away from the watch tower, I saw my friends excited over something, they were pointing at something on the ground.. I tip-toed as fast as I could, and the reason for the excitement was the discovery of the footmarks of elephants!!!..Previously,We were told by the tribes that an elephant was standing just nearer to the trench!. I initially didn’t believe them, as I was on constant vigilance except for the stint during my four hours of sleep, I thought the tribes were lying to aggravate our interests, now, these footmarks prove that the tribes were right, they have no reason to aggravate our interests.. so took a couple of shots of these foot marks in my cam.. There was also elephant dung, on the path, fresh and soddy!…so , with my head hung I retained the lag , with great difficulty I made my head to turn, left, right, and down, left , right and down…and again , I saw my friends excited. before I reached them , I discovered and identified the marks on the path, myself ..they belonged to that of the TIGER's or may be of the leopard’s.. These pug marks were fresh!. the wild-cat must’ve prowled along this path, the previous night!!..we continued the trekking further into the forest!. we rendered ourselves mute, as our talks might distract the animals!.... while walking, apart from the thoughts of ‘spotting a tiger’, I thought about various stories in and about jungle, it started off with topics such as Mowgli’s encounters and ended with poaching, and terrorists activities in the forests…I strongly condemn poaching and deforestation!, only because of these activities, I wasn’t able to have a glimpse of the animal I love the most!. after some good walking!,, we started to experiencing the heat of the morning sun on us…we took routes , which the guide suggested..we reached a particular point where, the borders of three states (Karnataka,Kerala and Tamil Nadu) meet.. this place is called as triangular point!. This forest is named as ‘Mudumalai’ in TamilNadu, ‘Bandipur’ in Karnataka and ‘Wayanad’ in Kerala…after taking a few snaps and shots of this place we headed further into the path…till this time we didn’t talk of my friend , didn’t appreciate this morning hours to be spent walking, he felt so, because he was hungry!. So, couple of biscuit packets were opened and consumed!. we saw couple of jeeps along the paths, as the safari was open already, I cursed the jeeps for making loud noises, which diminished the chances of spotting animals.. the guide took a diversion , leading to another trekking path, which was undisturbed by the intrusions of the jeep.. While we were walking we crossed couple of watch towers…and suddenly we saw huge black mass!.. it is the great Indian elephant!! it was standing alone munching its morning meal!. It is a known fact that, elephants move in herds, I guessed that this elephant must be a mad-one, the herd must‘ve kept this elephant away, even the guide felt so… this elephant had a tusk! And was pitch black, the trunks weren’t spotted with pink dots, so it means that, the elephant is young.. we were comfortable distance while watching it, and we further moved away to avoid any dangerous encounters.. After this we didn’t see any animals. We reached the dormitory after trekking for three hours , we refreshed in the rooms, and started to Sulthan Bathery, our next schedule was to reach a place called ‘Edakkal caves’ which was four thousand years old and it was discovered by the british .. we reached ‘Sulthan Bathery’ at mid-day, we finished our lunch in a modest hotel , then, we boarded a bus to the ‘Edakkal l caves’ it was some 12kms away from Sulthan Bathery.. so, we reached there after 45mins..the place we were dropped is 1 km away from ‘Edakkal Caves’..we initially thought that, covering 1km is not a big deal, but, we found it pretty strenuous, as the path was very steep and drained a copious amount of energy!...

    Some pointers

    - There are two caves which are located at a height of 1000 m on Ambukutty Mala near Ambalavayal.
    - The New Stone Age pictorical writings on the walls of these natural caves at Edakkal are evidence of the civilisation that existed in these regions in prehistorical times.

    - The caves can be accessed only by a 1 km trekking trial from Edakkal.Morning hours are the best time to visit the caves.Entry is permitted only up to 5pm only.

    - Inside, one finds ancient stone scripts, cave drawings and pictorial wall inscriptions of human and animal figures with peculiar head dresses, the swastik forms and symbols.
    - Archaeologists consider these as one of the earliest centres of human habitation. Similar straight line cave drawings (considered 7000 years old) have been found only in Stiriya in the European Alps and a few rocky places in Africa.

    - The drawings at Edakkal depict the human figures, stars, wheels, bows, knives, palm trees etc.

    After staying inside the caves for a while, we walked back to the bus stop, we boarded a bus to ‘Sulthan Bathery’…phew !!! we had enough of sulthan bathery, I felt ,even the sultan himself wouldn’t ‘ve visited the place this many times!...from there we boarded another bus to a place called ‘Mananthavady’ where we decided to spend the night in a hotel!. we reached the place after a travel of more than one hour! , we dined at a place called ‘Indian Coffee House’, which was one of the bad hotels , we had food.., we scouted for a place to spend the night!.. we found a hotel called’ Alaska’ just opposite to the bus depot!..we struck a good deal with it.. we took two rooms for two hundred rupees each!.. the rooms were new and really clean!. we were really surprised!. We took bath, washed some clothings and retired for the day!..

Way to Wayanad!

  • Whenever I sit and think about the things I like the most, Forests and wilderness, stand tall among my other worldly obsessions… This obsessive nature of mine with the nature, landed me in one of the famous forest reserves of the nation along with four of my friends..
    The place is Kerala, in the district of Wayanad which is located in the northern part of Kerala, apart from forest reserves, Tea-shops and Mamooty fanatics ( the southern Keralites support Mohan Lal; this fact was told by my friend, a native of the Land.

  • So, this trip was planned when I came to know that my friend’s uncle is a forest ranger who is in charge of the sanctuaries. This trip was possible only because of that man, who, I haven’t seen yet... Leaving behind the loads of work to be finished, the bags were packed amidst tension.. Five of us, boarded the train at Chennai Central, we have to land at Kozhikode (Calicut), form where, the expedition starts. We decided to compromise on comforts to avoid any monetary constraints in that place, so, we traveled in unreserved compartments. Luckily, we got seats but very soon the seats were occupied by twenty other people, who promised to get down at the next stop, we experienced little discomfort and irritation at this juncture. In addition to the our fellow occupants ,The wooden seats ripped off our pleasure of ‘being seated ‘ .I was thinking of the railway budget, that promised cushioned seats for even unreserved compartments! But alas!, we were little too early for enjoying it!.

  • Rubbing-off the discomforts we experienced during the previous night, we finally landed in the god’s own country, the next day morning around 8:15, We had our first sight of array of coconut trees along the water bodies, autos , streets filled with chatterings of the native language!.. We finished our ablutions in the Railway Rest-room., which was very clean for a railway rest-room. After that, we broke our fast in a restaurant suggested by a native , The food was pretty cheap, we had variety of non-veg dishes. Five of us are very good eaters, we were surprised when we saw the bill!.. Delighted, we discovered that the food is cheap in this land...

  • We had to reach a place called ‘Sulthan Bathery’, quite an unusual name for a place, the reason for this name is, Tipu Sulthan used this place for storing his weapons, hence the name!. And yes, this is so close to Mysore , this place can be reached via Mysore also. The Bus Network was a bit uncertain at that point of time, so, the locals suggested us to take a detour to another place called Kalpetta and, from there to Sulthan Bathery, we humbly followed their instructions. One of my friends found the Hair-pin bends little uncomfortable as his stomach suffered a violent churning. Quite a talkative person he is, was rendered silent and inactive during the journey till Kalpetta! I am used to traveling in mountain ranges right from childhood, so I was pretty much comfortable than my friend.. This journey swallowed a good chunk of the Day, and we landed finally at Kalpetta...From there we have to fetch another bus to Sulthan Bathery, The native friend, had relatives in this place (sulthan bathery), so, he was instructed to visit them, which made us to have an acquaintance with them.. As we reached the place, we enquired about the exact geographical position of my friend’s relative’s place and headed towards it with some fruits…His relative is a Doctor who owns quite a big hospital in the town, so, it took very little time to find that place. As we reached the place we had a warm reception and greeted by the hospital smell and chattering of the patients with assorted problems!
    After a brief introduction of selves, we were guided to the house, which was in the backyard of the hospital. The house was fairly big and showed signs of a very good architecture, with a mix of modern and native art!...We had a brief stint of lounging in the room, allotted to us. Later, we were treated with lunch, which had a impressive menu and it was purely “KERALISED”.My palate had encounters for the first time with some new stuffs, like, chamandhi podi mixed with rice and chicken gravy mixed with chopped capsicum donning pepper flavor, I crowned the latter , the best among its fellows!.. After that, we let ourselves to chat about for a while and we took snaps of the house along with its inmates... My friend was instructed to call anytime for help by his doctor relative! After this good reception and hosting, we headed towards the main itinerary of our plan, staying the forest! We are supposed to take bus which was scheduled at 5:30in the evening, for which we had to wait for 1 and half hours, which would delay our entry into the forest!, which means we wouldn’t be allowed to enter into the forest!..So, we opted to travel by a jeep. We headed to this place called, Muthanga!.This place is known to be free of tourists and promising for those who visit here, hoping to see some animals. This place is 13 kms away from sulthan bathery. The journey was quite enjoyable as the busy town life faded away and made its way into the wilderness. The jeep halted after 15 mins in the check-post, we reached the place finally!
    We acquainted with the officials , Mr.Gopalan was in charge of this particular area .After a formal speech , we were asked to speed up our pace , as it was getting dark already!.. we were supposed to stay in a ‘Watch tower’ deep inside the forest for the night and next day, we were to trek for 10 kms.. Delighted with this impressive schedule, we packed dinner for the night in a local restaurant named ‘Malabar restaurant’, the menu was simple, Parrotas and curry!.. We had tea and took bath in a dormitory, and left our baggages in the rooms and took only essentials in a separate bag which contained all our things needed to spend the night inside the forest!.

    We were , guided by person named ‘Rajeevan’, who will be accompanying us during trekking,, so we started our journey deep inside the forest of Muthanga. The jeep took us some 14 Kms inside and dropped us in the watch tower and left immediately to avoid any mishap in the darkness of the forest… the dusk slowly gave way to Night, we could only hear distant chirpings and funny musical compositions of various birds... The watch tower was looked after by the tribes of the forest, there were two of them, who updated the visitors on the prowling of animals.. last evening the tribes claimed that they spotted a tiger near-by the watch tower, my heart gave a lurch, as I loved to see a tiger right from my childhood in its natural habitat, I was disappointed to miss the opportunity to spot it… we settled in the top of the tower, while the guide stayed in the ground floor…the
    Watch tower was surrounded by a man-made trench to avoid the inmates being disturbed by wild animals!, especially elephants!.. The night replaced the dusk, as we settled and we rubbed ourselves with copious amount of Mosquito repellant creams, but then, guide just said that this forest is free of mosquitoes and there is no need of such vigorous pre-cautionary efforts against things which really don’t exist.. the animals are lucky!...the watch tower had no electricity , we had to stay in dark, only source of light we had, is our torch and the fire made by the tribes to cook food...we chatted for a while about the forest with guide,Rajeevan..He is visiting this place after 2 months, he is working for 12 years and he spotted the tiger only 3 times! And these were some info we gathered from the guide, actually he wasn’t a talkative person, he retired soon in his room after dinner. The dinner, as I said already, was simple and we ate it under the light of three slim candles! We then searched with the lights in the direction of any peculiar noise from the forest! Chatted for a while... And were prepared to sleep in the terrace, we spreaded four newspaper sheets, for five of us to lounge. We lied down gazing the night-sky which was bathed with countless stars! A beautiful sight! We spent some quality time in identifying the constellations taught to us in school. Occasionally, we heard strange noises. We woke up to find the source, this hapened once or twice ,at a point of time we got tired of it and slept-off!

    Here are some facts about Muthanga

  • Area: 344 sq km

  • Location: Bordering the Mudumulai Sanctuary in Tamil Nadu and Nagarhole and Bandipur Sanctuaries in Karnataka .

  • Climate: thanga enjoys a healthy climate. During the hot weather the temperature goes upto the maximum of 35o C and during the cold weather the temperature goes down to 15o C. The average rainfall is 250 cm per year.

  • Getting There: the nearest airport is the one at Kozhikode, nearly 120 km from Sulthan Bathery. The nearest railway station is also Kozhikode, about 97 km by road from Sulthan Bathery.