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Published: December 23rd 2015
OUR TRIP TO KERALA
Visit to the God’s own country by car was in our plan for quite some time. Dussera holidays during end October gave that opportunity. We (Myself and my wife Munia) were consulting various websites from the net to select the route. We visited Munnar and Thekaddy earlier around five years back. However Kerala is world famous for its backwaters. This time we thought of visiting the backwaters of Kerala. We decided to cover three places which are well known for backwaters i.e Alpuzah (Alleppy), Kumarakom and Kottayam in between.
These places were far away (more than 500 kms) from Bangalore. Moreover a substantial stretch was thru hilly tracks I.e Western Ghat section, since we would cross the Western Ghat mountain ranges. Hence we decided to break in-between. Another attraction was various off-season hotel discount offered by different travel-sites.
After studying various alternatives, finally we decided to visit KUMAROKAM with a halt in MUNNAR. ALPUZAH was near to KUMAROKAM. We would return thru Wayanad. It would be a trip of five days altogether. Google Map would be our guide to show the route. Most important was the role of the navigator (Munia)
to provide the direction, while I would be on the wheel.
Accommodation was booked in MUNNAR(22nd), KUMAROKAM (23rd
) & SULTAN BATHERY, WAYANAD (25th
) thru various websites. 21st October
, 2015 - UDUMULPETTAI
With tour plan finalised, we started from Bangalore at around 10 am. Delay was due to certain unavoidable pre-occupations in the morning. Last night, Petrol tanks were filled in (35 ltrs) and air checked of the car in the shell petrol pump near to our house.
Munnar was around 500 kms or around nine to ten hours journey by car from Bangalore. Today’s program was to reach Munnar if possible, otherwise to stay en-route at night and reach Munnar next day morning.
First one hour there was heavy traffic till we reached the first toll gate (Rs 45) to catch the elevated lengthy flyover thru electronic city. Traffic was occasionally slow and there were few crossings upto the second toll gate(Rs 25). We reached Hosur (Tamilnadu-40 kms from B’lore) at around 11.15 am.
NH 7 is a 6 lane highway and ideal for driving. Gradually we were passing hills on both sides as well as
in the horizon. I was tempted to put pressure on the accelerator. It was a sunny day with beautiful atmosphere. We reached Krishnagiri (91 km from B’lore) at around 12 pm.
We passed a tollgate (Rs 60) to enter Krishnagiri. The six lane road was so smooth, the engine was joyfully acknowledging its acceptance. I could hear that the car was singing. The road was moving to the horizon like a serpent passing thru the glaring sunny atmosphere. It was a pleasure to drive.
Next toll gate was at Thoppur (Rs 86). Soon we were near Salem (Tamil Nadu). Surrounding nature with hills filled with green cover was excellent to watch. Slowly no. of windmills appeared on the hill-top. We were feeling hungry. The tollgate boy suggested Adyar Ananda Bhawan at Salem would be a good choice for having a good quality lunch.
Salem was around 202 kms from Bangalore. The restaurant was deep inside Salem city. We had to deviate around 1.5 km from NH 7 to reach our destination. We could reach our destination thru Google maps, but half an hour additional time was lost. However it was a good veg lunch, nice to enjoy
since we were hungry. W
e started from Salem at around 2.30 pm. There are various alternative routes for Munnar from here. One alternative was Bangalore – Dindigul – Theni – Bodi – Pooppara – Munnar route . As we gathered from the websites, road condition would be better in this route, but it was lengthy. We selected Bangalore- Hosur- Salem- Perundurai- Dharapuram - Udumalaipettai- Marayoor- Munnar route for our journey since this route passes thru Chinner Wildlife Sanctuary and had immense natural beauty.
There was some indication board to deviate from NH 7 towards Perundurai. Unfortunately we missed the board and proceeded further. I was little perplexed. But my guide (Munia) assured a better alternative as suggested by the google map. We decided to proceed thru this route. We crossed Namakkal (254 kms) and then Karoor (298 km). In between we crossed another toll gate-Rs.42).
From Aravakurichi (324 km) we took a right turn and entered SH 193 and then SH 84C towards Dharapuram . This state highway in Tamilnadu was a two lane road, but properly maintained except few places. We passed Dharapuram (370 km) and reached Udulmulpet (408 Kms) at around 5 pm thru Dharapuram
- Udmulpettai road. So far we travelled 408 Kms.
Munnar was around 90 Kms from Udulmulpet. However the next drive would be on hilly tracks and in dense forest areas. Hence we decided not to proceed further.
Hotel Annamalai (Rs 650/-) was a place with basic facilities and Parking lot. The allotted room was broad enough but Munia was not satisfied with cleanliness. Nevertheless it was ok for overnight stay. However need for mosquito repellent was felt.
On the way we noticed an eating place just in front of the bus stand. We started walking towards that to have food. Suddenly there was a big sound of applying brakes and we saw a huge accident on the road. Two motorcycles with pillon-riders collided with each other at high speed, possibly from the opposite side. Three or four persons were lying in the road in a pull of blood. Luckily, two ambulances reached the spot immediately and carried the victim. We had to appreciate the immediate response to medical emergencies which might save those precious lives. 22/10/2015 MUNNAR
A beautiful sunny morning. Today our route was thru Western Ghats and amidst thick
forests of Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary. We started at around 7 AM in the morning. Filling petrol was the first requirement, since no petrol bunk would be available till Munnar, once we leave Udulmulpet. Munia was asking to fill our belly also, but I insisted to proceed without wasting much time. Little confusion regarding the route to be adopted, but Google map was the guide. Once we left the town, the scenario was changing gradually. Hills and greeneries were calling us. After around half an hour we came across the first check-post to enter the forest. We had to write our names, destination and car no in the register. Check post personnel indicated for some tips which we ignored.
Road (NH 209) was narrow and going towards the uphill. We entered the western ghat ranges and the forest. There are lot of twists and turns on the road. It was quite narrow and rough in various places. Natural beauty was excellent. I was careful in driving while enjoying the amazing nature.
The second check-post came after few kilometres. We entered Kerala. Here also we had to write our whereabouts.
Monkeys. They were in large nos., naughty and looking
for eatables. While entering our details in the checkpoint, we were surrounded by monkey regiment. Munia was frightened. Luckily all the car-windows were closed. Gradually we entered the deep forest. Roads were further rough, going up hills, with no of hairpin bends. T
he whole environment was calm and cool with sounds of birds occasionally. We stopped the vehicle at one place for quite sometime to feel the quietness.
This forest has no of wild animals including tigers, elephants and defers. We could not see any large animals except monitor, squirrel and varieties of birds. There were lot of sandalwood trees as also rare medicinal plants. Any way our knowledge was little in these areas.
At around 9 am we reached Maryoor ( 45 Kms from Udmulpet ). It was a small hill station before Munnar. A beautiful place with shops and market as also lodging facilities. We had tea break and also to take few snaps. May be, we could have stopped here yesterday by proceeding further. After few yards, we noticed a Kali temple too. Munia went inside to see and offer prayers.
A good place to have breakfast was
in our radar. We got that. A nearby Hotel named Sarovar was managed by a lady. A menu list was hanging with various Kerala food as also beef. Beef is a controversial item nowadays. However we observed that there was no such taboo in Kerala. We noticed that subsequently also in the later part of our journey. Hindus and Muslims, Christians all were co-existing and running business here in harmony. We had breakfast with Appam ,omelette and potato sambar (obviously with tea at the end). With burning stomach the food was extremely delightful.
Posters, hoardings of two well known political parties (Congress & CPM) were spread out all along the road-side. Subsequently we found the same in almost all the places we visited. We heard that Panchayat Election was going to take place very soon throughout Kerala.
Now we were driving thru sandalwood forest and nearing Munnar. Tea garden started in between.
Next stoppage was at LAKKOM Falls on the way to Munnar. We had to climb a bit uphill. Entry fee was Rs. 20. With monsoon just ended, waterfall had ample water. Large no. of tourists alighted into the water. Some of them were taking bath
also. After a brief photo session we decided to resume our journey. It was already 10 am and we were getting late to reach our destination. We had a taste of green coconut water (Color of the coconut was reddish). Taste was salty. Munia was negotiating for a hat to tackle the sun, but shopkeeper did not come down to the bargain.
Before Munnar, Eravikulam National Park was also on the way. This is one of the major tourist spots in Munnar. But we observed a huge rush of tourists in que in the ticket counter. We left the idea of entering. Any way we enjoyed the forest and the bountiful nature in our journey.
Munnar is one of the most favourite hill stations in India. Located in the western ghatranges (around 1800 Mtrs above sea level) it is one of the most favourite holiday destination in South India. Covered with greeneries and tea plantation, it presents a spectacular view of natural beauty. Low flying clouds and pristine, mist-filled valleys made Munnar one of the tourist hotspot.
This breath taking beauty of nature was overwhelming. Various flowers were blooming with wide varieties of color. We saw green
tea bushes, tea gardens with vast greeneries. Mountain ranges touched the blue sky. Small tiny houses were visible in the distant Valleys. This is Munnar. Nature has opened its bounties here. We stopped the car in various places. Each place seemed to be unique in its beauty. We both felt much younger. Photo session continued for long. We entered Munnar town at around 12 pm.
Hotel West Wood Riverside was selected thru Makemytrip (Rs. 2500 rental). Hotel was located at around a km from the central point of Munnar at the bank of Mudhirapuzam river. We were alloted a room with river view. The river was not very wide (like any other river in the hill side), but with enough current. We sighted motor boats sailing the river quietly, carrying tourists. The river took a nice right turn after a while. The water was crystal clear, as if the river surface was visible from the top. Mountains of Munnar stood tall on the other side of the river. Another noticeable point was that there was no construction obstructing the view. Thus the scenic beauty was wide open. A good location to enjoy the nature.
the car inside the hotel courtyard. Front office reception was ok, but in response to the query regarding sight seeing arrangement they had responded that it was already late for having a day sightseeing (Rs. 2000 per trip) today. However they could arrange for night jeep safari at Chinnar wild sanctuary (Rs. 2000 per trip). The visit would be for around three hours beginning from 10 pm.
Our previous experience of jungle safari arranged by forest department in various forests showed that the probability of noticing large animals had been quite low. Comparatively private safari had been more successful (of course risky in terms of dependability).
We decided to explore Munnar on our own. Beginning at around 2 pm we reached the Mattupetty Dam on the Eravikulam Lake first. It was a huge lake with exquisite natural beauty and surrounded by hills. There was heavy rush of tourists enjoying the beauty of the lake and surrounding areas. On proceeding further passing thru the right side of the lake, we came across Echo Point and few other tourist spots. No lunch today except street foods at nearby stalls adjacent to the Lake.
Our final destination was the “View
Point” which was around 24 Kms from the lake in the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border and a favourite tourist spot to watch the Sunset. Sky was overcast, but we decided to take a chance. Gradually the route was going up-hills with narrow hilly roads.
We reached the spot at around 5’o clock. Vehicles are not allowed after a particular point. After that the walkway was extended nearly a kilometre or so with both sides going down at least thousand feet deep, as if we were walking on top of a hill. It was an interesting place but distant horizon was not visible since both sides were plunged in deep fog.
We saw a hotel (named Hotel Periyar Residency) in that place, definitely an ideal place for lodging. It was very cold (much more cool compared to Munnar). We refreshed ourselves with omelette. According to Munia the size of the egg was unusually large. Clearing her doubts, the shopkeeper ensured that it was indeed a chicken egg (and not anything else).
Munia was delighted to acquire the long-cherished hat at last. This shopkeeper came down to the bargain and the hat was bought.
We came back to hotel
at around 8 PM. Feeling extremely tired Munia wanted to have the dinner in the hotel room but the food rates were painful. I noticed a Gujarati eating place on the way and selected the place for finishing my dinner. Food was served after a long wait nevertheless it was north Indian type, hence acceptable. 23/10/2015 MUNNAR- KUMAROKAM
Morning break-fast was complimentary. Apart from the quality of food, the most noteworthy feature was the location of the eating place. The courtyard adjacent to the restaurant was in an open area covered with glass-pane at the top. Enjoying breakfast therein with a magnificent view of the river, adjoining mountains and light morning sunshine was a delightful experience. In fact this was the best place of that hotel.
At around 9 PM we began our journey to the next destination, Kumarakom, which was around 150 KMs from Munnar. According to Google Map, the journey would be via Kalarkutty- Koothattkulam-Perumthuruthu - Muthalakodam -Thodupuzah- Kuravilangad-
Perumthuruthu - Kumarakom route.
We commenced our journey thru NH 49. After around half an hour the Map suggested for a shorter route. Near Ambaddy estate we took left turn.
This road was narrow with lot of curves and sharp bends. We were moving amongst large tea estates. There were lot of resorts/Home Stays in both sides of the road. Soon, a river emerged on the left side. It was accompanying us for next half an hour or so. There were localities in between and the narrowness of the road made negotiating with the incoming vehicles quite difficult. Ultimately we reached NH 49 once again.
It was already 1 PM. Feeling hungry, we had lunch in a place called Kuravilangad. It was a ordinary eating place with localites. We ordered two Kerala Fish Meals. Two /three types of vegetables were served without any limit, with Kerala rice. Vegetables were tasteful but the fish curry disappointed me.
Road was divided in this place. One road was moving towards Kottayam and another to Kumarakom. We resumed our journey at around 1.30 PM. After driving nearly one hour or so thru narrow roads as directed by my navigator (Munia) in slow speed, when we reached Kumarakom, it was around 3 PM.
Lake VEMBANAD is a huge fresh-water lake stretching Kumarakom and Alpuzah. This lake is at the confluence of three
rivers (Periyar, Meenachil and Pampa). Kumarakom is situated in the eastern coast of lake VEMBANAD. The whole area is a network of rivulets and canals. Boats are the main mode of transport. Taking the lake as waterfront, these canals constitute backwaters.
Another important feature is that the adjoining paddy fields are below sea level. The waterways are made by blocking the huge water thru barricades made of mud on both sides, miles after miles. It was a different world I had never seen before. I heard of similar place in Venice or in Bangladesh (Purba Bangla).
Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary lies on the prolific estuary of river Meenachil and embraced by lake VEMBANAD. Hotel KTDC WATERSCAPES is situated right inside the sanctuary. This place is famous for its natural beauty and migratory birds, particularly during winter.
We reached KTDC Kumarakom Resort (Rental Rs. 3455) at around 3 pm. It is a vast area within the bird sanctuary. The reception official informed that our booking was upgraded to lake-view room. We were pleasantly surprised to see the room. This wooden bungalow was elevated around 15 feet from the ground and was equipped with modern facilities but right into the
nature. It was located in the bank of the lake VEMBANAD. There were several small-sized canals within the area and canal view rooms (which we originally booked and less costly) were located by the side of the canal.
View from the room balcony was exquisite. Varieties of fish catching birds were flying all around to look for prey. Occasionally the fishing boats and house boats were visible. We could see the vast lake meeting the sky in the horizon. Everything was calm & quite except the birds.
Reception person advised us to book for boat ride in advance. But subsequently it was known that all bookings for today were full. Ride could be booked only tomorrow morning. We thought of visiting the bird sanctuary now. From the entry point it was around two km walk. The entire stroll was between trees and plants. However we could not watch any migratory birds since this was not the season for birds arrival. Ideal time for bird watching was winter.
We thought of having the joy of boat ride. However house boat ride was costly. There are various kinds of house boats and the rentals starting from Rs.600
per hour. Cost further escalated depending upon the size, look, amenities and luxurious arrangements of the boat. House boat was very popular for staying amongst tourists but not cheap. We came across hundreds of house boats of different varieties plying into the lake and adjoining backwaters. Any way we had booking for boat ride tomorrow morning.
I read of a cheaper alternative in the internet. There are no of "passenger ferries" across different routes of considerable distance passing thru the lake. Rates are extremely low and one can enjoy the boat-riding experience at the lake. In fact it is poor man's choice of tourism.
When asked in the reception they could not provide the whereabouts. After several enquiries, we could gather the details of ferry ghat. It was not very distant from the resort. We decided to take a chance.
The ferry service was upto a place called Muhammad. Ferry service runs every half an hour. We boarded the 6 pm ferry. It was a twilight time. But the sky was almost overcast. The journey was between two points of the lake. Gradually the daylight vanished and the ferry boat slowly moved to its destination piercing
the darkness. Small points of lights emerging from fisherman's boat were visible in the distant horizon. We were enjoying our journey, but a bit un-easy since there were few passengers in the launch and the destination was totally un-known to us.
After around half an hour journey, we reached the destination, Muhammad. The ferry ghat seemed to be recently renovated but had a deserted look. There was vast darkness of the lake except the lights at the ghat. On return we were the only two passengers in the entire ferry. Our adventure ended at around 8 pm. It was a nice experience.
Night buffet dinner at the resort was quite costly (Rs. 850 per head). According to me it was not worth it's cost despite having large varieties of both veg as well as non-veg dishes. There were cheaper alternative outside, but Munia did not agree.
After dinner, Walking into the huge garden within the resort was enjoying experience. There are nice walkways and we were tempted to walk.
It was 9.30 pm. I pulled the chair to the balcony and admire the dark nature with room-lights switched off. The entire atmosphere was extremely
calm and quiet. Few houseboats are seen floating in the lake.
Soon we were interrupted by various insects. It was time for a quiet sleep. 24/10/2015 KUMARAKOM-ALPUZAH
I woke up in the early morning. That was the time for birds. They were extremely busy in their routine activities. Sky was overcast yet again. Lake was still in a lazy sleepy mood with a mystic cover of light fog. I opened the glass door and noticed everything was wet due to mist at night.
Our boat ride would be from 7 AM (Rs.600 for one hour). Mr Mani would be our guide and also boat operator. He was a local man and a very friendly person. He operated our boat to the lake as well as nearby backwater. There were houses in both sides of the waterways and a dinghy or a boat at every house. It was as if we were moving thru the country road in a rickshaw, only difference was that it was waterways, not roadways. There are vast paddy fields at both sides. Interestingly, the paddy fields are below the level of backwaters.
Waters were restricted thru mud
barriers in both sides of the waterways, mile after mile. Was it natural or man- made, I have no idea.
Mr Mani showed the place where the boat race was organised every year during August. It was a major tourist attraction. This year the monsoon was less, affecting the crop.
There were large no of house boats floating. Many of them are fully AC, with dining table luxurious sofa-sets, placed in the front balcony.
We came back at around 8 AM in the morning. Breakfast was complimentary. With large varieties, it was a good refreshment. “Puttu” was one local tasty special variety.
Our duration of stay at Kumarakom was coming to an end. Now we have to be ready for our next destination I.e. Alpuzah.
We spent some time sitting in the garden in between the lake and our room. It was a memorable experience in Kumarakom. We liked the place. 24/10/2015 ALAPPUZAH
Alappuzah (Alleppey) City is an important tourist destination in Kerala. This town with picturesque canals, backwaters, sea beaches is described as the “Venice of the East”. The vast backwaters of Alappuzah are the
most popular tourist attraction. A houseboat cruise in these backwaters is a delightful experience. This place is also famous for the SNAKE BOAT-RACE organised during August every year. Tourists from all over the world come to visit Alapuzzah to watch the boat-race.
Distance between Kumarakom and Alapuzah was around 33 Kms. Commencing our drive at around 12 PM thru SH 40, we reached the giant Pallathuruthy Bridge to cross over Lake VEMBANAD.
At around 1.30 PM we reached our destination, KTDC Hotel Tamarind at Alpuzah (Rs 1200).
We booked this hotel also thru MakeMy trip. The room allotted was extremely small. Maintenance of the hotel was not up to the mark. There were barely minimum furniture inside the room. Even the room key was not operating properly. Despite intimating at the reception, there was lukewarm response. We were disappointed but there was no other choice.
The reception person was very much interested to arrange a houseboat trip for us. When we asked about the location of the jetty for availing passenger ride, he initially attempted to discourage us. Nevertheless we took an auto and reached the jetty. It was not very far from the hotel.
There were ferry services commencing from this jetty to various distant places. We saw a launch about to start its voyage. The destination was difficult to pronounce and remember. However we understood that it would take more than an hour to reach that place. The launch was of two storeys. But upper deck was already full. Hence we had to contend ourselves in the lower deck. We occupied two window seats. The journey started. There were dense habitats in both sides of the waterways, large multi-storeyed buildings in certain places on the riverside.
Soon the waterway plunged into the vast backwater territories. We saw a large auditorium in a small lagoon, church, market, beautifully constructed houses all surrounded by water. The launch went on cruising from one point to another with several waterways in between. There were pedestrian over-bridges in waterways to move from one side to the other. We observed hundreds of houseboats throughout the journey. They were of different sizes, equipped with all facilities expected in a star hotel.
Like Bus-stop, there were four-five water-stops. Passengers dis-embarked and new passengers came in. After around one and half hour, we reached to the final terminus. The fare
was Rs 20 per head, meagre expenditure compared to the travelling cost thru houseboats but with fairly long duration.
After a brief halt, the launch began its return journey. This time we could occupy seats in the upper-deck. The fare was double i.e. Rs 40 each. Dam cheap once again. Today’s lunch was snacks and biscuits which we carried with ourselves. Once again we could experience the nice surroundings. This wonderful journey ended at around 5 PM.
We came back to hotel and refreshed ourselves with Coffee and tasteful Banana Fry. Next destination was to visit the Sea Beach. When we reached there it was almost Sun-set time. The place was full of people. Large no of shops were visible in that area selling varieties of food items, stationeries, momentos etc. No of Bengali Tourists assembled therein to enjoy the puja holidays.
At night, I had delicious dinner at the KTDC restaurant with “Kerala Curry Mean” with rice. It was a nice meal reasonably priced. Munia had to be satisfied with veg meal since it was Saturday (observing “Tirupati brata)”). The climate was humid and we were feeling very tired after continuous roaming from one place to
another through-out the day. Time to take rest as also prepare for tomorrow. Tomorrow we had to undergo a long journey to Wayanad, a distant place from here.
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