Last weekend, we travelled to Wayanad. I just want to jot down a few highlights of this very memorable trip.
On our way to Wayanad
We were lucky in more than a way. As per weather forecasts, it was already time for the monsoon to have arrived there. This would mean a difficult drive, and a more or less indoor time there as monsoon rains in Kerala means downpour that makes it impossible to venture outdoors and have fun. We (particularly I) aren't great outdoor enthusiasts anyway. We were OK with the idea of simply lazing around indoors. Sipping at tea and staring at the rain wasn't a depressing idea for me at all. So, we took the risk. However, monsoon got delayed by those many days; we got our share of outdoor fun.
While going, we chose the following route: Bangalore-Mysore-Hunsoor-Nagarhoil-Kutta-Kartikulam-Varnam.
While returning, we chose the following route: Varnam-Kabini-Mysore-Bangalore.
Wild Elephant sited
While going, we started early in the morning, 5 AM. It took us about 7 and a half hours to reach Varnam, inclusive of all our breaks. While coming, we travelled during the day, drove across Mysore, and hit Bangalore when the office traffic was peaking. This added about an hour and a half to our journey. Moreover, a 15 km stretch near Kabini is very broken. Unless you have a big vehicle, it's good not to try this route. It was a mistake for us!
Both ways, we passed through Rajiv Gandhi Reserve Forest. We were rewarded with sightings of deers, monkeys and wild elephants.
Places we saw
Thirunelli Temple. Supposed to be very ancient temple located in the midst of mountains of Brahmagiri. The trip was enjoyable due to many other factors than the temple itself: the beautiful scenaries around, the pleasant weather, the walk down to the Paapnashini river, and of course the drive itself.
On the Way to Paanashini river
A word of caution for non-hindus. No entry for you into the temple premises! Also, to those males who aren't particularly comfortable showing off their bare torsos. To enter the main chamber of the temple, you must take off your shirt and undershirt. I was neither curious enough to see the diety nor brave enough to expose myself to the chill in the air to venture that. So, if you wish to know what was there in the main chamber, ask Shilpi.
I have found the custom of disallowing visitors on the basis of their community still being practiced in certain temples in India in general and in Kerala in particular. This is not at all forward looking. Had I not sighted that board asking non-Hindus to stay out, my enthusiasm in admiring the heritage status of the temple would have been far higher.
Entrance to Iruppu Falls
Iruppu Falls. Must say it was a beautiful water fall. The glory is subdued at that particular part of the year though. The walk up to the spot is about a kilometre. Not for you unless you enjoy at least a modest level of fitness. Also, while walking up (and down) it's a good idea to keep close the middle of the pathway. The place is infested with leeches. I saw at least 2 people doing blood donation to the parasites. But just in case that sounds fearsome, rest assured. Leeches can cause you no grievous harm. It's just the sight of blood and the repulsive idea of bloodsucking which sounds bad. Otherwise, you needn't worry too much about them.
Raft Ferrying People to/from Kuruvadweep
Kuruva island. It's a small delta on the Kabini river where some local tribes inhabit. You take this raft to the island, walk around a bit and enjoy yourself. We couldn't do it as we reached there at about 3.45 PM, about 15 minutes too late to get the last raft ferrying people to and from the island.
Valmeekam Art Museum. Almost adjacent to the island is this nice cute art museum maintained by some local people. In there are a bunch of interesting sculptures done in terracotta clay mostly depicting emotions related to love, family, sex, spirituality etc. I found them very expressive. A must visit for the artistically inclined.
Neighbouring Village House
About Wayanad, and about the spots listed above, you will get plenty to read on the Web. I think, where I can add meaningfully here is to tell you about Varnam, the homestay we spent our 2 days in. The place was highly recommended by one of my friends. We skipped all R and D and decided to go there. And now, I will highly recommend this place to you.
Neighbouring Scenic Beauty
All of Wayanad is green. So, it's probably redundant to say that Varnam is situated in the middle of greenery clad hills. There are excellent roads connecting it to wherever else you would like to go. The place is full of all amenities that you would look for in search of a restful time out of your home. You could talk a walk to the nearby pa
ddy fields, or the villages around. Of course, if you are a person who expects room-services, heated swimming pools, pool tables and pubs, this isn't a place for you. But if you get delighted by the sight of a lovely courtyard surrounded by a many homegrown vegetation, rabbits, and cute domesticated dog; if a homely look and personal treatment is what soothes your nerves, then head straight to Varnam.
But the most important aspect of Varnam is the family which runs it: Mr. Varghese runs Varnam from this place which once was his ancestral house. And Mrs. Beena Varghese who is there to make you comfortable in all ways: excellent food with a personal touch. Mr. Varghese is a police officer in the nearby town and interacting with him itself was rewarding in many ways. While he speaks, he draws from his vast experience of the rustic ways of local inhabitants, complemented with an interesting and tasteful awareness of very urban and globalised mannerisms. His personality exuded the simplicity, comeliness and candour of a village farmer on the one hand; and the sophistication of very well-exposed and learned individual on the other. My wife and I agreed that the family, in their 5 years of running the homestay which largely serves visitors from abroad, have expanded their knowledge about people with admirable sharpness. It was a joy interacting with the family while sharing our very sumptuous meals with them.