A longish weekend owing to Eid-ul-Fitr and Ganesh Puja. I only had to take one day off to make it a five day weekend. Perfect for a getaway from the hustle and bustle of corporate life. Wayanad, in God's Own Country Kerala, was the chosen destination.
True to style, we tried booking bus tickets at the last minute. It was just past the peak of the monsoons, but still not a recommended time for visiting Kerala. The state is known to get more than its fair share of rainfall. So we were quite optimistic of getting tickets. However, all the travel agents we visited had the same answer, "No tickets to Wayanad, sir!" Somewhat discouraged we were on our way back when I had a brainwave. I called up another friend to check if any tickets were available online. My friend was at work, but reported back in a few minutes that tickets were available in some private travels which we asked him to book.
The travel fixed, we had to come up with the itinerary for sightseeing. Wayanad as such, is a whole district and the attracions are scattered all around. Kalpetta, the district headquarters, was in the bus route. So we decided to set up our camp in Kalpetta. Once, the journey started, I realized we were yet to make any hotel reservations. The bus was expected to reach Kalpetta in the wee hours of morning when finding a hotel will be difficult. So another SOS call to more friends to get some info on local hotels from internet and send me the contact numbers by SMS.
We disembarked from the bus at Kapetta around 5 am and were welcomed by a light but persistent drizzle. I started dialling numbers from the list sent across by my friend. None seemed to have any rooms available. We managed to flag a passing auto and convince the gentleman to take us on a hotel hunt. After visiting almost all major hotels in the area, there was just one hotel left on our list. The auto dropped us outside the hotel and left. I will say one thing for the service here, the auto-wallas are pretty decent. They don't charge anything more than the fare value. This was very surprising to us, being used to the ways of auto-wallas back in Bangalore. Unfortunately for us, this particular hotel opened at 7 am while it was still 6 am. We whiled away the time watching the rain which had now worsened. It didn't seem to be a good indication for the trip. Whoever heard of treks and hikes with the rain pouring down. There seemed to be a temporary lull in the rain and I stepped out in search of a cup of coffee. After walking some distance and getting some directions, interacting with folks in a language I could neither speak nor understand, I managed to find a chai-walla who had his small shop under a makeshift waterproof roof. I managed to get under the roof and enjoyed my first coffee of the day.
Back at the hotel, we were in for another disappointment. There were rooms available but needed prior reservation. Trying to think out alternatives, I remembered the JustDial service launched in India a few years back. Deciding to give it a try, I dialled the helpline number and requested for hotel numbers in the area. The gentleman, at the other end of the line, had my name wrong, but did sent across a long list of hotel numbers along with their addresses. Looking through, I started crossing out all that we had already checked. And found one that we hadn't enquired yet. I guess, this was the start of our good fortune.
We found rooms in the hotel and checked in. After breakfast, we went down to reception and the friendly staff provided us with an itinerary and arranged a Jeep, complete with driver, for our sightseeing. The Jeep proved really indispensible as most of the roads in and around this place seems to be in dire need of repair. And the driver was very knowledgeable about the routes. We finalized on all the places we wanted to cover over a period of two days, after which we planned on travelling back to Bangalore.
As it turned out, the trip was a real success and will be memorable for several reasons. The scenic beauty of Wayanad is incomparable. It reminds you why this place, cradled in the lap of the Western Ghats, is known as the God's Own Country. There are majestic mountain peaks, placid lakes, awe imspiring waterfalls, lush tea gardens, coffee plantations and lovely forests. Some of these are wildlife sanctuaries where one can go on a safari while a few are totally wild and no visitors are permitted. There is also a very popular bird santuary for people interested in the feathered kind. It's also a trekker's paradise. The trek to Chembra Peak, the highest and most difficult in the area, is quite popular and promises a fantastic panoramic view of the surrounding countryside. Then there are prehistoric rock carvings and cave paintings in Edakkal Caves. Wayanad has it all!! Will be posting some more pictures of this beautiful place in another post.