Wayanad, The Green Paradise

As the saying goes “It’s all about the person who is riding the machine.”, it is the other way in my terms, “Spend equal time on setting up the machine that adds LIFE to your days”, the confidence you get on riding few kilometers is more important than anything else to complete a journey and that confidence needs perfect engineers, am happy to have found them who understands what I need the bike to deliver.

Meet the men behind the success of all my trips (Shankar and Laxman from Arunagiri TVS), starting from 2018 to till date, before and after a trip my Apache goes for screening to them.

I have to give it to these guys as whenever I go to them and say “This bike is going on a long trip the upcoming weekend”, their expertise comes into play. Once again thanking Shankar and Laxman for all the support in setting up my Apache. Nevertheless to mention Mathu (Ashwa TVS) from 2016 to end of 2017, oh my goodness, the blog post of 2017 speaks the rest.

Now lets get into the trip.

A trip coming out from no-where. Third trip of 2019 and this time it’s in bike. Though Wayanad was in the 2019 bucket-list, never expected it to be this earlier.

There’s nothing quite like taking to the open highway in summer and no doubts Wayanad is NOT the destination to visit during summer season. Most of the tourist places remains dry and closed between Mar – May due to forest fire. Still there remain few spots in Wayanad which can make a stand out even during the summer. So this blog is all about Wayanad district.

The crew: From left Prashant, Krishna and me (KK)

Course

  • Mysuru – Nagarhole (5 am – 6 pm) – Wayanad (Taken)
  • Mysuru – Gundulpet – Bandipur (5 am – 6 pm) – Wayanad (Recommended)
  • Mysuru – Hunsur – Thithimathi – Wayanad

Tip-off

  • Riding in summer is not that easy, both for the rider as well as the machine. Engines tends to get heated soon affecting the viscosity of the oil, so make sure to re-fill fresh set of oil before a long trip.
  • Keep yourself hydrated, this keeps away the drowsiness, tiredness.
  • Check post to enter Nagarhole and Bandipur closes at 6 pm, so plan accordingly.
  • Keep a low profile while riding through forest, remember not to honk or stop. We are just a passerby.
  • When riding at night/through complete darkness and you are in a group, make sure biker leading has a low beam and biker behind has a high beam, this increases the range for the rider to drive easily. When riding through curves/ghat sections, it is recommended that the rider behind toggles between low and high beam, by this way riders can be aware of the upcoming corners way ahead instead of getting into panic with just few meters to take the corner.
  • Make sure you’re aware of the conditions of your vehicle, tyre pressure, fuel level.

5:30 It was a late start, and crossing half the distance before sun comes up diminished the moment when we reached 100 km mark. It’s going to be a uncomfortable ride from Mysuru, as the temperature was too high, but thanks to coconut shops on the way that kept us hydrated. One could take two routes to Wayanad from Mysuru, via Nagarhole wildlife or Bandipur wildlife, all that matters is the distance.

Let’s read about Wayanad, and best possible options for stay and tourist spots.

Wayanad named as the green paradise of Kerala is nestled among the mountains of Western ghats proving to be enchanting with varied wildlife and culture. Wayanad hills is contiguous to Mudumalai forest in Tamilnadu, Bandipur forest and Nagarhole forest in Karnataka forming a vast land mass for the wildlife to move around in their own natural adobe.

Wayanad District Map

Places to visit in Wayanad

Travelling via Mysuru – Gundulpet – Bandipur then the best available stay option will be at Kalpetta or Vythiri (homestay and OYO rooms are available) and the following are the nearby spots to visit,

  • Muthunga wildlife sanctuary
  • Sultan bathery
  • Edakkal caves
  • Karapuzha dam
  • Soochipara falls
  • Chembara peak
  • Pookode lake
  • Lakkidi
  • Calicut
  • Ooty route adjoins from Kalpetta

Travelling via Mysuru – Nagarhole then the best available stay option will be at Mananthvady or kurvadweep (homestay and OYO are available)

We stayed at Mananthvady (White fort OYO) and places to visit

  • Balle elephant camp
  • Kurumbalakotta peak, best for sunrise and sunset view point. Trek distance of 2.5 (~5 km two way) km.
  • Meenmutty waterfalls
  • Banasura dam
  • Thrissillery temple
  • Tholpetty wildlife sanctuary
  • Pazhassi Raja tomb
  • Thalasery and kannur route adjoins from Mananthvady

Halloween Nagarhole

There could be nothing more to ask for than riding through the forest, it is a 40 km stretch – at halfway point lies the Kerala – Karnataka border. The scene could have not been similar to that of monsoon season but still it was justified, rays of light fell through the canopy of trees, the fresh air free from pollution, elephants 🐘 and deer 🦌🦌🦌🦌🦌🦌🦌 grazing along the greenery with no fear of anything. Children splashing the water and fishing in their mother saree in the pond remembered the golden old days ❤ The wind just brought in scent of pine needles to our nostrils as we sped along in our bikes. Witnessing the tires disrupting the fallen leaves leaving them swirling behind and yellowish trunks of the trees standing tall with leafless branches among them stood a fully grown tree in dazzling green and orange leaves, it was like witnessing Nagarhole in disguise, summers are Halloween days in Nagarhole 

Spot the elephant 😝👇🏼

Safari too is available at Nagarhole, the trails prove them. This can be enquired at Balle forest office.

14:00 Stopped by a shop for a snack and that’s where we came across Ziyad, who was helpful in guiding us on the place to stay and mentioned about Kurumbalakotta – sunrise spot and other destinations in Wayanad, he informed that Chembra peak is closed due to forest fire (this peak was the prime spot for our visit 😠). Information mentioned above are the reverse KT from him 😄

15:00 Slowly riding through the forest, reached Mananthavady, surfing OYO for a stay, confirming the stay at White Fort , would rate it , had our lunch, roamed around Mananthavady in the evening trying out local cuisine, planning for day 2 and rested ourselves to make it early for the sunrise spot.

Day 2:

The Sunrise Trek

4:00 We all were in a deep sleep, as our alarm snoozed for the third time, but it was just a 10 minute delay to what we have planned. Kurumbalakotta was a 30 minute drive from our place.

Note: There are two ways to reach the top, one is to trek 4 kms and other way can be reached by vehicles itself. There were equal crowd for both. We trekked all our way to the top.

5:40 Reached the trekking spot, where a person guided for the parking space, still it was filled with darkness, needed to switch on our mobile torch to settle things at the parking. Ziyad mentioned about the sunrise timings between 6:30 to 6:45, it was quarter till 6, so we had quite a bit of breathing time to reach the cliff.

Trek Distance: ~5 KM (up and down)

Trek Difficulty: Average to Difficult

Best time to Visit: Summer and Post Monsoon (Avoid during Monsoon season)

It is mix of hike and walk, you may also come across a point where you will stand in front of a stretch that is inclined at 80 degree 😱, this one is a test for your stamina. You might feel you have reached the top, but looking ahead stands another stretch that seems to be  more challenging than the one you had taken earlier. It took us 40 minutes to reach the top, and the view that stood in front of us made us feel the worthiness of the trek. It felt like we were standing tall, above the clouds. The clouds were separating the land below and the upper sky, mesmerizing.

Early morning sunrise are always special. You often forget what it’s like to wake up early and just sit back and enjoy the moment of a fresh start of the day. The only thing I saw were the bright orange sun rays passing through the white clouds offering beautiful light. It was a satisfying moment.

9:00 The trek back started, 9:30 we were at the place where we had parked our bikes, took few photos that would suit for the crew and off we started for Meenmutty Waterfalls. From this point it was a complete spoiler 😒

11:00 Reached Meenmutty waterfalls, it was closed due to the forest fire a week back and will not be opened until the end of may, rode back to Banasura Dam, again disappointment stuck at the gates, as it was closed on a local bandh demanding increase in salary by the officials. Checked with people of the village and found out the bandh was declared just a day before. Also inquired on other place to visit nearby, again to our disappointment just to hear the word most of the tourist spot are closed due to the district bandh (we were like why during our visit?)

Wayanad is best to visit during the months of July to January. Its advisable to avoid during summer as natural calamities like forest fire will ruin the plans. We will ride back to Wayanad again.

Our next stop Mysuru, 3 hours drive, visit Mysuru Palace at 19:00 and to rest was our plan, being Sunday the bright gold lighting makes the palace shine like a diamond. Only on Saturday and Sunday the palace will be lightened up between 19:00 and 20:00, no need tickets for witnessing it. Mysuru palace doesn’t need any introduction,

And the chariot ride around the palace, few photoshoot, walk around Mysuru streets before ending our day 😜

Weekend well spent. Completing third ride of 2019 at 644 KM, 🏍 leads 2 trips to 1 🚙.  It is just the starting week of March but it feels like May, summer this year is very bad at Karnataka. Lot more trips to come, it all depends on the weather as to when the trips are going to happen 😅, until then stay tuned and enjoy reading.

Gandikota, Grand Canyon of India

Unlike other trips, this one is a special ride and will be remembered for ages, its because of the people in the group, as this group joins together once in every year during the same season just for one cause “Ride, Explore and Enjoy the moment”. And this time it’s the so called Grand Canyon of India, Gandikota.

Gandikota is a massive structure that is built by Chalukyan King on the Erramala hills, surrounded by natural valleys and huge boulders. The fort is gorgeous and there’s one other thing that has made this location famous for, it’s the Pennar river that flows between the gigantic Erramala hills that has earned the name “The Grand Canyon of India” and no doubt it’s Ginormous.
Surfing through fort reveals a small town with hundreds of families residing for years. Other structures include a granary which shows how they used to store food for the fort in case of an emergency. Then there is a massive Masjid(Jama Masjid) and a temple(Madhavaraya Temple) right beside each other. There is also a jail, one can visualize how cruel and less tolerant the Kings were towards any wrong doers in the kingdom. This place is definitely a symbol for the rich, varied Indian culture and heritage.

What does Gandikota signify?
Gandikota is a single word from Telugu Language, Gandi means Gorge and Kota means fort.
Best time to Visit: September to February (Avoid during summer seasons)

Day 1:
4:00 Meeting this crew after 365 days, handshakes, hugs, hi5, laughs on yelling endearing names, happiness spread all around. I starred at a moment with thought running on my mind “first trip in a car, should I take it?” Before deciding, my friends pushed me in, because they knew what I would decide.

The Crew: From Bottom left Raghu, me(KK), Krishna, Shankar, Hari and Siva

11:00 First Pit-Stop Belum Caves

Tip-off

  • Timings: 10 am to 5:30 pm
  • Transportation – Tadipatri is the nearest railway station, from there one need to hire a bus to ride 30 km.
  • This place is hot during summers, though APTDC had n-number of ventilations inside the caves that doesn’t wipe out the sweat.
  • Accommodation – APTDC Tourism run dormitory that needs to be booked in advance. Near by stay – Anantapur, Kurnool or Nandyal.
  • Food – no good hotels/restaurants nearby, APTDC run canteen is available. Better to carry fruits/snacks and water bottles to be in the safe zone.

Largest and the longest cave system in India well known for its speleothens formations. The cave was formed by the action of water flow on limestone deposits over millions of years and officially it was found on 1884 by Robert Bruce Foote. It was later taken over by Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (APTDC) and removed the debris to built a pathway and made the cave accessible to the public.

The entrance has a huge 40 foot Buddha statue that symbolizes the role of monks in the history of the caves.

The moment one enters the caves his/her adventure begins, though there are markings and the path is illuminated with varied lights, one still gets confused which path he/she had taken earlier. It is a maze built across black limestone’s. The entrance chamber is named after a German speleologist Mr. Daniel Gebaur, “Gebaur Hall” who explored and mapped the caves in 1982/83.

One can witness the spectacular natural creations of what a dense water flow can cause to a rock, sinkholes, narrow path (one need to curl him/her self to go through it), crawl through holes, underground stream and the saint bed. For people who are interested in the study of speleology then Belum Caves is the right place to start with.

14:30 3hrs and 30mins of exploration inside the cave, stunned by the beauty (truth – most of the time spent posing for photos 📸). Our next stop THE GRAND CANYON.

15:00 Jammalamadugu is the near by town before Gandikota, and if you need things to purchase get it from here, once you cross this town then the next 14km it’s driving through a wide spread desert. Had our lunch in Jammalamadugu before moving to Gandikota.

16:30 Reached Haritha Hotel (APTDC, the only stay near Gandikota) the fort is 5 minutes walk-able distance from the hotel. Since we had a contact (thanks to my group that explored Gandikota on sep 2017, officially I was a part of the crew, only for half way through, needed to turn back due to an engine failure then, how can I forget that day – Black day in TLT), his name was Siva, called him and told we have two 3 member tent, need to set it up and also arrange food for dinner.

Tip-off

Haritha hotel is the only stay available at this point of time , and booking a stay is not that easy.

Alternate Option

  • One can carry tent that can be set up near the valley. People from haritha hotel will guide for setting up the tent if needed.
  • There are separate restroom facility for men and women setup at haritha hotel for people who stay at tent. Just that need to walk few minutes from the place of stay and might need to stay on queue. The maintenance is very good.
  • Food is available at Haritha hotel itself, if you need separate food just put a word to the person who sets up the tent, he can prepare it for you.
  • Countable number of charging ports are available at Haritha hotel reception, just wait for your turn to charge your mobiles.
  • Apart from this if you need anything you need to travel back to Jammalamadugu.
  • BSNL and JIO have a strong network connection apart from that Airtel and Vodafone 😖, don’t ever think of it.
  • Kayaking in Pennar river is available, it is charged 500 per head for 20 to 30 mins. For all the information and tent setup contact the persons below.

Tent Setup/Food Preparation and Kayaking Support:

Siva: +91 9398300919 / +91 9985444233

Chelapathy: +91 8500603157 / +91 7989498609

17:30 Grand Canyon – Watch the Sun Go Down

Witnessing Grand Canyon at the first place, for a moment we all were immobile, stunned by the gorgeous valley that stood still between the Erramala mountain. Questioned myself why on earth have I delayed it so long to visit here.

About half-hour before sunset, found a perfect spot for camping preferably to do something unusual. This is a good time to let time pass naturally and without any interruption. It’s always tempting to have a few moments to witness one of the world’s most incredible spectacles – sunset over Grand Canyon, India. As the sun approaches the edge of the rim, the shadows within the Canyon shifts slowly, changing the colors and textures within. Moved to the near by cliff and the view it gave out was breathtaking, watched the sky spin into a color wheel, as the Canyon grew dark the sky above and the river below illuminated with reds, oranges and blues. It was an unfathomable experience.

21:30 Sky full of Stars

Just because it’s dark doesn’t mean Gandikota is completely invisible, lay on your back start watching the dark blue sky with stars sprinkling all over, adding to this was the camp fire, ah what a pleasure! Camping across the valley, with bonfire to soothe the temperature, reading the most adorable book ever (“The motorcycle diaries”, a book that’s so close to me(KK)) and gazing at the stars, it’s a magical moment. I wished this moment could last longer, not more I can expect for.

Dinner was arranged in the mean time, both veg and non veg were available. It was a buffet set up by Chelapathy. After dinner, had long fun discussion before moving to our respective tents and resting ourselves for the upcoming kayaking (Decided to quit the trek at Ahobilam, due to time restriction. Thank goodness considering my leg condition 😅)

Day 2:
5:00 It wasn’t sunrise at that moment, and yet we were awake. It was completely dark out there, but the fun never ended, started from where it was left the last night, in-fact few hours back.

6:30 Sunrise at Gandikota

8:30 Swing in Kayaking 🚣
Needed to trek down to reach the banks of the river Pennar, from where Kayak starts. The trek was around 30 minutes, jumping through the rocks and trees. Once we reached the shore, had our life jacket on and off we jumped on the kayak, the best part was neither of us knew to row 😂 (that’s how best moments are made of) Krishna being the leader, Raghu at the tail end and me(KK) being the photographer (unspoken truth when no body knew to use a DSLR you become tied to your camera) while on the other end Shankar the leader, Hari at the tail end and similar to me it was Siva there. The comedy of errors began, Krishna was with full force rowing, no sync with Raghu, at a moment our kayak started to spin because of our atrocities 😅, we had moved so long that Shankar and team were barely visible.

Shankar and team were right on the mission, row for few meters stay, stop rowing let the flowing river do the rest, take selfie, video and burn themselves in the sun. That was not the case with me(KK), Raghu and Krishna, it was total opposite, Krishna with all enthusiasm rowed sorry splashed the rowers against the flowing river such that when we walked out, our kayak was half filled with water, while me and Raghu cracking all possible dialogues and making fun out of it during the entire kayaking. Chelapathy’s stare on us while handing the Kayak spoke the rest 🤐, thank goodness we didn’t drown ourselves in the river.

11:30 Tents were removed, had breakfast and explored the fort before moving out of Gandikota.

14:00 Our return journey to Bangalore started

It’s a trip I’ll always remember as it was different from other trips – because of the people, the place, and most importantly a trip taken in TLT. And this group will once again come with an entertaining exploration in 2020.

Now comes the best part, How I felt riding in the caravan?

A first trip in a car, featured in TLT. Indeed a different experience, first ride in a car, which I usually never like to do. But believe me at the end of the trip I was fresh as I was when I started the trip, which would have been the opposite when am riding a bike. The comfort is surreal, one thing that I enjoyed being in a car is you don’t need to worry about the space, no need to be choosy on things to carry. Usually when tripping in bike I use to be very careful on carrying clothes as it should get fit in my camera bag so that I can carry the tripod too. But that never was a constraint. All I wanted to carry I did it.

Weather would be a big drawback when riding on a bike, even though when it rained me and my crew use to enjoy and ride, during hot summer that would not be the case. Being in a car, hot out there? turn on the AC, raining? no problem, sit back and stare the droplets flowing on the window shield, free from pollution and no need to stop for power naps, just swap the driver seat and keep moving. Securing things was not a problem at all. It was a hassle free ride 🚙

BUT, there’s always a but when riding in a car. There were situations where I felt riding through a bike would have been more engrossing, especially on the curves and long stretch that was similar to Leh. Wanted to feel each and every bit of the atmosphere while moving through regions, riding a bike touches ones soul, that’s what I missed. And most importantly playing music tracks🎼 can lead to a debate especially when there is an ARR(me), Yuvan and Illayaraja (Shankar) fan in the crew 😅 Usually I use to feel for my Apache not being besides on a trip, but not on this trip, “The Motorcycle Diaries” a best companion, indeed a copybook to my Apache.

Here’s The Beast who was the prime reason for success of the trip

It’s a coincidence that even Shankar has named him the Beast, in my terms the Beast has just evolved (from Apache to TUV 😆)

More trips to come for this year, stay tuned, as always follow and keep supporting. Happy reading guys.

Chitrdurga, Vanivilas Sagar Dam

Will be updated soon