Travel to God’s Own Country…Kerala – I

We always wanted to do a road trip to Kerala in our black beast Tata-Safari….so we decided to just do it during this Diwali (2014) vacation. I started planning accordingly. Based on the previous experience from our Rajasthan road trip, first we decided the route and got it reviewed by reviewers on trip-advisor. Generally we are of the opinion that you shouldn’t do hotel bookings in advance – it kind of gives you the flexibility in extending/compressing your trip dynamically – based on prevailing circumstances. And this has worked well for us till date – you generally get decent hotels at runtime. But in case of this Kerala trip we were adviced to get hotel reservations done well in advance – at least at Munnar, Thekkday and Alleppey. Take note of the advice, I started looking for hotels mainly for Munnar and Thekkday – Diwali being peak season advanced booking was recommended . I inquired almost all top rated hotels from trip-advisor  but all were sold out. So I called up Mr.Ajit from Landmaster Holidays – pune based tour operator and got hotel bookings done for Munnar, Thekkday and Alleppey – after he had arranged our uttar kannada trip and he did find good hotels for us in spite of hotel sites showing it as sold-out.

Since my father in law and mother in law had already visited Keral, it was just me, my husband Abhijeet and my 5 year old daughter, Saee. All set to get started.

Below are the details of our 3750 kms journey, completed in 10 days.

Route followed – Pune-Mysore-Wayanad- Kozhikode-Angamali-Idukki-Thekkady-Munnar-Alleppey-Kanyakumari-Thiruvananthapuram- Guruvayoor-Kozhikode-Manglore-Udupi-Gadhinglaj-Pune.

On 24th we woke-up early morning and it was Diwali Padwa day. After performing Padwa rituals, we started our journey for Mysore at 5.40 AM. The plan was to drive throughout the day (900 kms!!) and reach Mysore in time – so that we have sufficient time to find a hotel for stay.

32 KM before Kolhapur, we filled up fuel tank. We crossed Kolhapur at around 10 AM. We had our lunch at dhaba near Dharwad.

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At around 3 PM we took right at Hiriyur towards Mysore. The Mumbai pune express highway is such a pleasure driving. Image 700 kms in 9 hours (including breakfast and lunch time) Not bad huh!!

But after the diversion at Hiriyur, things changes – 1. no more express highway – road going from small towns and villages. 2. language problem – many of the times the boards were written in local language. While language was a problem, people were not – ask for directions and we got tons of instructions. We reached Mysore at around 7.30 PM. With no hotel bookings in Msyore and we called up Ginger hotel and rooms were available so we directlty headed to hotel and checked-in. After check-in, we just thought of taking look at Mysore palace from oustide. We visited the palace just to see from outside.

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After having dinner we were off to bed as there was lot more waiting for the next day.

Next day morning we started at 7 AM from Mysore. Filled up fuel tank and left for Kochi. Had breakfast on the way. We crossed bandipur national park, on the way we spotted few deers in the jungle.

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The same stretch got connected to Wayanad sanctuary and we entered God’s own country Kerala. We drived through Sulthan Bathery  and it was raining. What a majestic welcome by the rain god in his own country. Our initial plan (based on google maps) was not take the Wayand route. There was supposed to be a diversion somewhere – that route was supposed to be faster than that from Wayanad. But we never saw that diversion. We ended up taking the Wayanad route. And boy what a mistake to make. It turned out to be one of the best routes we have ever driven. We drived through the ghat road – it was awesome drive – very scenic drive. There were waterfalls on one side and on other side beautiful skies with clouds and valley. We had tea in the ghat road.

On the way we went to see Edakkal caves (some 7  kms inside from the main road), With time in hand we thought of adding it to our initial plan but on reaching the foot of the hills we learnt that it takes around 1 and half  hour to climb up. It started raining heavily so we dropped plan to going up to see caves.

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We had lunch near Kozhikode on the way to Kochi at Hotel Minar Biryani house at around 2 PM. We asked the restaurant guy for the duration to reach Kochi, he said around 5 to 6 hrs drive from here. Our plan was to reach Kochi by 5 PM. At first we thought being national highway we can at least drive 60 KMPH..but this was our first learning in Kerala – Never over estimate the driving speed on Kerala roads – Generally all roads are single lane – and appeared like all traffic in Kerala was right in front of us. Moreover the national highways went through densely populated areas – you can hardly catch-up speed of  35 KMPH. Moreover we already spent much time in Bandipur and Wayanad…drived slowly enjoying the nature.

By the time we reached Kozhikode, it became clear that we simply could not reach Kochi by 5 PM. So we decided to drive as much as we can before sunset. We passed by Thirssur  and then onwards the road was double lane. We reached Angamali at around 6.30 and it was already dark due to clouds..on the way we found Hotel Elite Palazzo and we stopped there, We inquired for the room..room was available with CP plan and we checked-in.

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Our total drive from Pune to Angamali was 1360 KM. Just to set things in perspective – first 950 kms on day one and just 400 kms on day 2.

After having breakfast at Elite Palazzo we started to Thekkady at around 8 AM.

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Enrouted Idukki dam on the way to Thekkady. It is build on Periyar river. Nice view from Hill view park.

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We reached Thekkady at around 1 PM, we had our booking at Abad Green Forest. We checked in.

After having quick lunch we went to Periyar Tiger Reserve park and rushed to ticket counter for periyar lake boat ride.

What I read from site and other travel sites that tickets are sold 90 minutes before the time of departure and around 30 tickets are reserved for online sale. We reached their at 2 PM and we thought we will get tickets for 3.30 PM slot. But when we reached the counter all tickets were sold out and they asked us to come next day early morning at 5.30 AM. Then we thought we will spend some time here and go to elephant junction. There was one more group from Pune sitting next to us and chatting in Marathi – Generally we observed over the nest week or so, there were more Marathi speaking people (visitors) than Malayalam speaking people. Of course an exaggeration but you get my point. Right?  – So we inquired with them they said even they did not get tickets and they will also do the boat ride in morning. One lady from their started sharing her experience in Munnar. She gave us an excellent tip for our next day Munnar trip.

In Munnar, she said, they had to stand in queue for almost 2 and half hours to get the tickets for eravikumlam national park and then after getting tickets they came to know we can do advance booking in munnar town – from forest office by paying some extra rupees and can avoid the long queue. It indeed saved us a lot of time in Munnar. We were generally chatting (not much to do since we both could not take the boat ride)when her daughter came and said that they got the boat ride tcikets. We were like…how is that possible…all tickets were sold out? she said few people cancelled the tickets and they got it. We again went to ticket counter to try our luck. The guy said no more tickets are available. Then we requested him and asked them how other group got tickets..and we need only two. Don’t know what they did and they gave us two tickets – that upper deck 1 and 2nd seat. Now this was sheer luck – from no tickets available to seat# 1 and 2. Who says luck does not play any role?

And went on the boat ride. While our luck was high on getting the tickets but it wasn’t strong enough that we could see any elephants or tigers. Although we did see a bunch of deers and a group of bison. And of course so many birds – so many that you simply cannot miss them 🙂

3:30 pm seems like the ride would not be an easy one – it got to be hot and humid – we were wrong – Cool breeze, pleasant atmosphere and great ride overall.

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Boat ride finished by 5 PM.  As we came out of periyar tiger reserve we asked one guy standing next to gate for the way to elephnat camp. He said he is marketing person of the camp and he can take us their. He came along with us..after reaching elephnat camp he came to know that since it was getting dark they stopped selling tickets for further elephant rides. Could you imagine my daughter Saee was not going to get an elephant ride after waiting for 3 completes days – since the trip started. She was agitated and simply not willing compromise anything less than an elephant ride. The guy spoke to some other elephant owner and got us a ride there. There was only one elephant and the ride was through the spice garden. Of course it did cost is Rs 200 more but then nothing compared to Saee’s happiness.

She was extremely happy and jumping with joy and also feeded the elephnat and was super excited.

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After elephant ride in the spice garden we visited Mudra cultural center to watch Kathkali dance. It was nice show even Saee enjoyed it lot. After that we had buffet dinner at green forest resort,  it was nice with variety of food items and taste was also good.. and were off to bed.

 

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Our next destination was Munnar. We had our breakfast and left for Munnar at around 8 AM.

On the way to Munnar we visited Ramakkalmedu – Cradle of wind. Ramakkalmedu is another small hill station in kerala. Also known as The Cradle of Wind. Here wind blows at a speed around 35 km per hour throughout the year irrespective of the season and it is the second place in Kerala where a wind energy farm is installed. It has huge statues of Kuravar and Kurathi, which depicts the sangam period and sangam landscape of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. From the top, one can view beautiful panaromic view of village Theni in TamilNadu. It is believed that lord ‘Sree Rama’ had set his foot on this rock and hence the name Rama-Kal-Medu. When we went here there was no one – it seems its not very popular place – may be because of lack of basic facilities near by. But then we enjoyed the scenic beauty and views from here.

After spending some time we started our journey to Munnar.

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Road to from Thekkady to Munnar is awesome very beautiful scenic drive.  Every day we spent in Kerala it became more and more clear by they call it “God’s own country”

On the route we visited tea gardens, lockhart gap. Drive through ghats with the view of widely spread tea gardens was one of its kind. We have been to Darjeeling and this was nothing less than that. And driving on these curvy roads was such a pleasure that Abhijeet said the journey was far more beautiful than the actual destinations for him.

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We reached Munnar by 12. After reaching first we filled up fuel tank and then went to forest office to buy Eravikulam national park tickets to avoid long queue. Hotel booking was done in advance at Abad Copper Castle. Its located 3 KM from town towards Kochi road. The hotel is located in the hills in a secluded place – the view from our hotel room were simply amazing.

 

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After check-in and lunch we visited Eravikulam national park. Eravikulam national park is famous for Nilgiri Tahr (an animal that resembles part goat, part donkey). Its located in the Kannan Devan hills.

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There was long queue for the entry tickets, we already had tickets so went directly to the counter and bought bus tickets and entered the bus. Private vehicles are not allowed in this park and one has to go in buses provided by the park authorities. Bus takes you inside the park i.e. around 4 KM from the ticket counter at this point there are facilities like cafeteria, amenity centre, eco-shop, toilets. The bus drive to park is also beautiful with view of tea plantations. Mind you the whole hilly area is plastic free. Also we spotted waterfall along this way.

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From this point one has to walk for around 1 KM to spot and get close view of Nilgiri Tahr.

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We went up-to the end point but did not spot any Nilgiri Tahr may be because of rains. But this point gives very beautiful view. My daughter Saee got upset as she was very much excited to see the Tahr and we did not see any.

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We were back to town at around 6 PM…roamed a bit in town and were back to hotel.  It was overall a very nice day and were tired so relaxed in hotel. There was buffet dinner and we wanted to try some local food. So we ordered Alleppey fish curry and Fish Polichathu…very tasty just loved it.  One thing I missed during this trip is getting snaps of food dishes.

Our next destination was Alleppey. We had breakfast – it was buffet not that good as compared to abad green forest at Thekkady. Till Munnar our drive was 1715 KM. We left for Alleppey at around 8 .35 AM.

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On the way we visited Valara water falls , Cheeyappara and power house water fall. It was a very scenic drive.

 

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Abhijeet couldn’t ask for more – what a drive it was. Picture perfect roads and scenery – seen never before. I simply cannot avoid comparing this to our north east trip. 2 places geographically so apart but so similar in these aspects. India is such a beautiful country!

 

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Reached Alleppey at 1 PM, hotel booking was done in advance at Haveli Backwaters. This was a new hotel opened just few days back.Theme of the hotel is Rajasthani haveli, nice concept. Rooms were good spacious and had rajasthani paintings. It is located right next to the back waters.

Mr .Ajit did an Excellent job in finding all 3 good hotels for us – inspite of they not being available on the hotel’s website itself.

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After check-in we went directly to Shree Krishna day cruise as recommended by many people on trip advisor. There we booked shikara for 3 hours ride in back waters.

Shikara ride through backwaters was nice. We passed by Nehru’s Statue at Finishing Point and then passed by water sports center.

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There were many houseboats parked in the lake. And many were sailing there was huge traffic of houseboats in the lake.

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We passed by petrol pump – I never imagined a petrol pump only for houseboats – Abhijeet and I were really excited to see that.

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And also a NO PARKING board – awesome!!

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Then we entered a narrow canal…to see village life and paddy fields along the lake side. It was very nice experience.

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Ducks swimming-in

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Every home has their own kayak parked in front of their house.

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Fishing done by ladies for dinner

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People practicing for boat race

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Old ladies rowing while the young one is sitting. Huh!!

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Overall a very nice and beautiful experience.

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Did I mention, these is not someone’s imagination put in some paintings but real photos –

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After boat ride we went for a walk and purchased souvenir and went back to hotel. Restaurant manager told us dinner will be served 8.3 0 PM onwards and  Saee was very much hungry. So for dinner we went to near by restaurant and had fried fish and fish moilee – yummy, very tasty.

Went back to hotel and were off to bed.

Next destination was Thiruvananthapuram-Kanyakumari. Plan was like, if we reach Thiruvananthapuram before 12 then we will  go for Padmanabh swamy temple or we will proceed to KK and visit the temple on our way back.  We continued our journey and left Alleppey at around 8.30 AM after having breakfast. Breakfast served at the hotel was buffet with very limited items and was OK.

Next part continued….

 

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Categories: Hill Station, Historic, Monsoon, Religious | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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