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Monsoon Clouds, Shades of Emerald & the Malabar

A weekend getaway to Wayanad and Kozhikode

As the wise saying goes, “never miss an extended weekend in IT industry” and that too when you’re living a three hours drive away from “God’s own country”! It was August, the monsoon had fed Bharatpuzha and Perriyar well, the Ghats were under the wrap of emerald carpets and the clouds were firing the imaginations of the poets. Everything was perfect; I mean almost. The brooding buddies were still confused as always; late to reach the decision, but all too well that they finally reached it before Friday midnight. People scrambled over their tracks, Nike shoes, sunglasses, toothbrushes and budgetary calculations till one o’clock in the morning. Finally I called up BIT office at 1:30 am, seems ridiculous and obviously nobody picked up the call.

13th August, 05
7:30 in the morning. We were sipping the hot massala tea at K.D Road. Two girls miraculously reached on time. (May be I’m being too nice to them!) Pretty girls always enjoy this much privilege. I called up the BIT for the third time, “I’m going to Kerala for three days and want a cab within an hour!” BITwalas were helpful as ever and by 9:30 we were on the highway.

Now, I can’t tell you why we chose Wayanad over host of other places around. During my last trip to Munnar I crossed the region under the dark of night and mist. So I didn’t have much idea either. May be, some friendly suggestions and occasional readings here and there! ‘Wayanad’ in Malayalam means ‘paddy country’ but there is hardly any trace of paddy fields so this is a land of unknown and unstated. There in lies the charm of Wayanad!

After Gundlupet (66 km from Mysore) on the Ooty Road take the right diversion to follow the inter state highway to Kerala. It was drizzling outside and I could clearly smell the fragrance of the wet leaves from the jungle ahead. Just before you enter the forest pull over by the unknown lake beyond ever blooming marigold and sunflower cultivations. The cloud covered distant Nilgiri hills create a perfect backdrop beyond the lake. Catch herons and egrets busy fishing on the edge of the water as your hands and hair get wet by the moisture in the air. Soak yourself in the tranquility of the nature. Breathe some life beyond the world of pollution, smog and computer.

Beyond the lake the tree line gets thicker as you enter the Muthanga WLS which is an extension of Bandipur – Nagarhole NP circuit in Kerala. The state road tax collection check post is just beyond the jungle. You can always enjoy the cool breeze after the rain, the vista of lush banana plantations and nearby hillocks over a cup of strong and hot tea!

We reached Sultan Bathery just before noon. Sultan Bathery is located just beyond lower Wayanad WLS. It derived its name from the old ammunition dump of Tipu Sultan located near by. Our next destination was Edakkal cave. It’s located on the upper ridges of Ambukuthy Hills. The caves discovered in 1890 by one English man are in two levels and the upper cave hosts stone carvings dated back to Neolithic and Mesolithic ages. In Malayalam Edakkal means ‘gap between rocks’. One huge block of rock creates the roof of the cave. You can get a glimpse of the valley down under through the narrow gap between two parallel rock faces. Scramble upwards for another 300 meters through the rocky steps beyond the cave to reach the hill top. The gorgeous view of the evergreen forests and distant hills is a true pleasure for your lenses! Don’t attempt to reach the upper ridges after rain. It gets really murky and dangerous!

When we came down to the base of the hill it was well past noon. Lunch time! We managed to get some egg curry and rice in a road side dhaba. Next we headed for the Meenmutty waterfall.

We reached the spot from where the trek starts at around 4 o’clock in the afternoon. Here all sorts of people were present to discourage us from trekking for four treacherous kilometers. And thankfully we didn’t pay hid to them. Initially the path is through the tea garden which gives way to thick tropical rainforests beyond the plantations. It was drizzling and the sky was grey. Soon we lost our way in the jungle. We could hear the distant sound of raging water but it was beyond visibility. Suddenly we heard a voice from our back. A tall, slim fellow in a mundu and brown shirt was calling us. “Where exactly do you want to go, you people are heading towards deeper jungle! If you want to see the waterfall, come with me”, he said in a distinctive and assuring voice. The next twenty minutes was a real hell bent over us, scrambling through rock faces, descending through wet rain forests on a 70-80 degree exposure with fear of leeches heavily on body n mind. But what we got back was an experience of a lifetime. The raging murky torrent of the Meenmutty was before us swiping away everything on its downstream like an angry bull. While we were appreciating the vista straight out from national geographic channel visuals we had to balance ourselves on a two feet narrow, muddy edge over the downstream current of the fall. Kunjaman was explaining the meaning of the word Meenmutty, it means, fishes can come downstream but can not retrace their path back through this waterfall! It was getting darker due to the cloud cover and the approaching evening fog. So we started climbing back. Getting up to the starting point was very tiring and I was literally gasping for breath. One friendly family helped us with some cool water to drink and to sprinkle over our faces on our way back. Before the darkness approaches we waved Kunjaman Good Bye and headed for Kalpetta.

On our way to Kalpetta we met Saju, Kiran and couple of buddies from the office. They informed us that most of the hotels in Kalpetta are heavily booked. So we decided to go straight to Kozhikode that night itself. We reached Kozhikode at ten o’clock and managed to check in at a comfy hotel for the night.

14th, August, 05
Next Morning we went to the Kappad beach which happens to be a local beach and 8 kms north off the town. You could see the old mossy green stone monument with scriptures written on it that Vasco Da Gama landed here in 18th May, 1498. The beach was almost empty and we enjoyed a bath over there. The long arch shaped beach boasts an old Light-House at a distance. It’s perfect for a beach walk during evening with slippers on your hand. You could enjoy the white wet sand under your feet! After enjoying my first sighting of the Arabian Sea with a cool pineapple juice under the shadows of coconut trees we drove back to Kozhikode for the lunch.

After the lunch we left for Kalpetta once again. It was monsoon time and watched the cloud covered valley and the misty hills from Thamarassery Ghat view point under the ephemeral drizzles of August on our way back to Vythiri. We managed to get a nice lodge in Kalpetta and put our heels on rest for the night.

15th, August, 05
Next morning started early, at 9 o’clock  and our first destination was Pookote Lake. We preferred to have a walk along the pave way around the lake instead of the boat ride. Pookote Lake is located at a place called Lakkidi which has the reputation of receiving maximum rain fall after Cherapunjee-Mousinram. Our next destination was Suchipara or Sentinel Rock waterfall. The road to Suchipara goes through endless tea gardens with Chembra Peak being a constant distant companion along the road. It’s a short one kilometer descend through the forest from the parking space in front of the juice n tea stall. The narrow waterfall with all its monsoon rages was a sheer delight for eyes. You can reach the base of the waterfall by scrambling through the wet rocks. On a sunny day try to capture the rainbow formed on the mists sprayed by the fall!

Banasura Sagar Dam was the last destination in our tour itinerary. True Kerala monsoon started showing its color by then. We reached the Dam, some 22 kms off Kalpetta amidst incessant grey shower! The Dam boasts Asia’s largest earth reservoir with occasional small islands dotting the lake. I managed to take a few snaps of the dam and the cloud covered hills around and hurriedly got back to the car.

The return journey was almost uneventful excepting a few sightings of the wild tuskers in Bandipur forest! We reached Mysore at ten o’clock in the night. Back to the world of dust, smog and computers!

Copyright © - Abhishek Mitra.

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