Monday, November 21, 2011

Kuruva Dweep (Island), Wayanad

Continued from here and here.

Kuruva Dweep is a group of islands formed by River Kabini. It is also the most visited place in Wayanad. Kuruva Dweep is a good recreational place. The boulder-infested river is a good place to wet your feet and splash water around. It can be a good picnic spot to spend a lazy afternoon. Be warned that in flow of water in certain parts can be intimidating. The huge boulders though can break the flow can still be dangerous if one falls on it.

But getting to this place is not so easy. There’s quite a lot of walking to do and a handsome price to pay. Right where your vehicle is parked, there’s an entry fees to catch a raft that will take you to the other end of the river. Personally travelling in a raft has been my first experience. What I did not expect was a rope tied from one end of the river to the other. And the navigation of this raft was done with the help of this raft, by pulling them and even taking a 360 degree turn. After crossing the river one needs to walk half a kilometer before you will be asked to pay for another entry fee, plus additional charges for camera. I really don’t understand the idea behind paying entry fees twice. But that’s the way it is. Thankfully the place is not all that trashed, meaning that money goes in the upkeep of the place and also as wages to the many men and women posted in Army overalls.

It’s another couple of kilometers before you get a chance to wet your feet and play in the water. But once you get there, it’s all fun and games if you are coming as a group. Make sure you spare at least 2-3 hours for this location when you plan your trip.

Getting-there: 23kms north of Kalpetta.

Must-Do: Spare enough time to have fun. Exercise caution.
Must-Don’t: Littering.

My Rating: 5/10

Friday, November 18, 2011

Soochipara Falls, Wayanad

Soochipara (a.k.a Sentinel Rock Waterfalls) is a menacing-looking waterfall near Meppady in Wayanad. It stands at a height of 200 metres. Soochi means “needle” and para means “rock” in Malayalam, obviously referring to the needle-sharp rocks that abound the waterfalls. It is supposedly a three-tier fall, but with water gushing down in an intimidating fashion, it looks like a free fall.

The waterfall is a 2 km walk from where your vehicle can go no further. At the gate before the falls you need to pay for the entrance and camera. From here it is a downhill walk of about a kilometer and a half. Thankfully the path is well laid with stones providing an even surface to walk on. Once you touchdown on the falls, the rocks here are very slippery and sharp. Caution is advised while walking across these rocks. They are not only slippery but also razor sharp.

The spray of water falling down is enough to irrigate an agricultural field. And the thundering noise of the falls is enough to silence an explosion. It is this magical environment that I was expecting to find in Wayanad. Looking at the deluge of water gushing down, I could only but imagine the situation during July – August when the famous Kerala monsoon is at its peak. That will be a spectacle to be witnessed at a later date. Having lived a long-cherished dream, I was hoping that this would be the turning point of the trip after a rather disappointing start.

Must-Do: Try Indian Gooseberry (Amla) dipped in Honey, Pineapple dipped in salt and chilly water at the shacks near the waterfalls.
Must-Don't: Littering

My Rating: 7/10

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pookode Lake, Wayanad

Wayanad has been a much-awaited, much-delayed and much-cancelled trip, so much so that I completely stopped planning a getaway to these mystic terrains. The breakthrough from this impasse however happened with a trip being planned by my new friends in the travel circle. I had no hesitation in tagging along with a group of eight others. And much like all much-awaited and much-delayed Bollywood movies stretched over a period of time, this one too turned to be a dud…. well almost. The saving grace being a good company.
A long line of vehicles at the forest checkpost in the Karnataka-Kerala border, bad roads and delay in getting our rooms ready in Kalpetta meant we were already behind schedule. After breakfast, which can at best be called mediocre we headed to Pookode Lake. Having seen a few stunning pictures of Lake Pookode, I decided to include it in the itinerary. Had I read the Wikipedia article on Pookode Lake, I may have re-considered this decision. But it was not to be and Pookode Lake turned out to be as disappointing as the morning’s Masala Dosa. The hot November Noon Sun only worsened the experience. So Pookode is a small lake surrounded on all sides with hills and thick green cover. On another day and another time, the place has the potential to look scenic. But this was not the time or the day for that. Paddleboats are available for the visitors to drift across the lake. But a few minutes on these squeaky, outdated, holes-ridden boats and you would rather swim across – had the water looked a little appealing. The far end of the lake is home to quite a few water lilies, which the visitors are strictly not allowed to pluck!

The visitors can also walk along the path or just stay put – like I did. Pookode Lake is a “Plastic Ban Area” where you will find shops selling water bottles, cool drinks, chips and other packaged foods. Thankfully there’s also a botanical garden-shop selling plants with exotic-looking flowers and herbs. And ah… how can I forget the rather mild-mannered monkeys? The visitors have to pay for entrance tickets, camera charges and boat ride charges. So be prepared to spend at least Rs. 100 per head if you have a camera and intend to go for a boat ride.

This was not the start I wished for, from the “exotic” Wayanad. Things get only get better or worse. Which one will it be?

Getting-there: Pookode Lake is about 3kms from Vythiri.

Must-Do: Kalpetta (district headquarters) is the ideal place to stay in Wayanad since all places are at a convenient distance from here. Avoid this place if you are running on a tight schedule.
Must-Don't: Pollute and litter the lake and its sorroundings.
My Rating: 3/10

Monday, November 07, 2011

Mysore Palace, Mysore

The 20km ride from Srirangapatnam to Mysore Palace was covered in quick time. But before we fill our hearts with images of the grandeur of Mysore Palace, it was time to fill our stomachs. After driving round the blocks we stopped at Hotel RRR, totally oblivious of its reputation. To our dismay we found that it was left to the customers to “grab” a table in the overflowing restaurant. And that meant breathing down the necks of customers who appear to be at the fag end of their lunch. Either we were very hungry or the food was really good. Nobody really complained about the quality of food.

Wasting no time after lunch, we headed towards Mysore palace. Arriving at the wrong gate (one among six gates), the Tonga-wallas tried to cheat us by saying there was no parking available at the Main gate and hence it was advisable to park our car there and ride with them. But it was hard to fall for such a cheap trick – it’s impossible to believe that a destination as famous as this, which is visited by thousands of people, doesn’t have a parking lot! And sure enough we were right. There was a parking lot near the Main gate that can accommodate at least a hundred cars. After paying a nominal Rs.20 for entry and depositing our camera (not allowed inside the Palace) and footwear (both free service), we engaged an ASI (Archeological Survey of India) guide for Rs 350 (for five people).

Do you really need a guide, you might ask? And the answer is, if you really need to enrich your experience, then yes, you do need to engage a guide. Without the services of a guide you might easily walk past the umpteen 3D wall paintings, some of which took 5 years to complete, without as much as a second glance. You would also probably not think about the various tiles imported from different parts of the world. Or the expensive gifts showered on Mysore royalty from different Kings and Generals both in India and from abroad. Or the richness and extravagance of the Mysore Maharajas. Or the more than 100 year old photograph which you might mistake for a painting.

Once we were done with the guided tour of the palace, there was only one thing to do – wait for the lights to come on. On weekends and special holidays the Palace is illuminated with more than 1 lakh bulbs. It is only appropriate that this palace gets this illumination since it was under these rulers that the first Hydel Power Project was launched in Asia from Shivanasamudram.

The semi and fully lit Mysore Palace is a sight that will remain etched in your heart for years to come.

Getting-there: Bang in the middle of Mysore city.

Must-Do: Engage a guide, visit on a weekend to watch the Palace fully lit up, utilize the photo-op.
Must-Don't: Vandalism.

My Rating: 8/10

Srirangapatnam, Mysore.

Jamia Masjid
As mentioned here, Srirangapatnam deserves a separate mention or two. Being Tippu Sultan’s capital the landscape here is dotted with monuments in connection to this great ruler of South India. One of the first monuments you’ll notice once you enter Tippu-land is the Jamia Masjid. Built in 1787 A.D., the mosque has two Octagonal minarets. A few meters down the road and one can find the place where Tippu’s martyred body was found. There’s a commemorative stone placed here, in memory of the King who stood against the mighty British.

Col Bailey's Dungeon

A kilometer ahead is the Colonel Bailey’s Dungeon. If you thought Colonel Bailey used this dungeon to imprison Tippu’s soldiers, then you are wrong (as was I). The dungeon is so named because this was where Col. Bailey died while being a prisoner of Tippu. This dungeon also housed other prominent British figures like General Baird and Colonel Brithwite among others. Apparently prisoners were chained to the walls in a standing position and dungeon flooded with cold water till waist height. Quite ironically there’s a canon bang in the middle of this dungeon. Legend has it that the canon fell through the roof while it was being used against the British. There’s still a gaping hole in the ceiling, which is testimony to this theory.

Daria Daulat Bagh
 Daria Daulat Bagh (Tippu’s Summer Palace): You cannot come to Srirangapatnam and not visit Daria Daulat Bagh. Even though this is Tippu’s summer palace, it is more of a garden than a palace, as the name suggests. This summer palace of Tippu is nestled in thick green cover and lush carpet of grass. And keeping with the color all around, the palace is painted green. The exterior painting of the palace is just an example of the things to come inside. It wouldn’t be unfair to state that, not an inch of the walls and the ceilings have not been touch upon with a brush. And this is not just a coat of paint. Every wall and ceiling is adorned with paintings of the Tippu’s armies and gardens and flowers and random patterns. The palace is now converted into a museum containing artifacts and paintings – both by locals and Britishers.
The garden here double up as playground for kids who are bound to have a gala time. Must-visit place if you are in Srirangapatnam.

Nimishamba Temple
Next up – Nimishamba Temple. Well, this temple has hardly got anything to do with Tippu and his kingdom. But it was in the heartland of Tippu and on the way to Gol Gumbaz. Hence we stopped by. This timple is situated in the banks of River Cauvery and about 1km from Daria Daulat Bagh on the way to Gol Gumbaz. Now, here’s why you must visit Nimishamba. It is believed that Nimishamba (re-incarnation of Goddess Parvathi) removes all obstacles in your life within a minute and hence the name (Nimisha = Minute in Kannada). It is also believed that whatever you pray for here will be granted. So who doesn’t want to visit here? Let me also mention why you might want to skip this temple. Well for starters, this looks like an average Indian temple. Nothing spectacular in the architecture or the atmosphere. If you are lucky you may get a “darshanam” in half hour. Also watch out for the crows who replace the monkeys as the traditional bullies at sought-after picnic spots. These skilled crows can grab food from right out of your hand while you were contemplating on less important matters like hike in petrol prices.

Gol Gumbaz
 Gol Gumbaz – A fascinating name for a not so impressive tomb. I say this in comparison with the Qutub Shahi tombs of Hyderabad. There’s a single tomb which has the remains of Tippu Sultan and his parents. The complex also houses tombs of various other relatives of the king. By this time the Sun was out and doing a good job at sapping out energies. Considering that we still had to complete our next leg of our tour - Mysore Palace (a.k.a Amba Vilas), a much needed revitalization was in order. The women indulged in some shopping to regain their energy while I hydrated myself sitting in the air-conditioned confines of the car, before hitting the road again.

Getting-there: 130kms from Bangalore. 20kms before Mysore.
Must-Do: Have plenty of time on your hands to have a leisure trip.
Must-Don't: Vandalism.

My Rating: 5/10