Road Trip: Certified ‘U/A’

Toward journey: Trivandrum – Cochin – Calicut – Wayanad – Coorg

We (a friend and I) embarked on our 1200+ km journey (what’s mentioned above is just half of it) all the way from the southernmost district of Kerala (i.e. Trivandrum, where we both hail from) on the evening of the 4th of September. Since it was Thiruvonam day, the traffic on the roads was relatively less, as everyone was probably chilling indoors after the palatable, filling Onam sadhya. We cut across Alappuzha-Changanacherry road, into the National Highway and made our halt for the night at my friend’s place in Kochi.

When morning beckoned (on 5th of September), we set off on a nearly 400 km drive (that would go on to span nearly 14 hours) all the way to Madikeri, Coorg. We’d decided to take the coastal route (covering Guruvayur and Ponnani) but realized quite soon that the roads were terrible and we were simply contributing to breaking both our backs and the vehicle’s axle (Thank you Kerala government!). A slight afternoon mizzle had just about commenced. The passage through Calicut was almost immediately followed by a diversion into the infamous Thamarassery Churam – a scenic (well not so scenic when it’s rainy) hillside highway that comprises nine deadly hairpin bends. The rain was lashing in heavy, and almost every vehicle on the road had their emergency lights on, along with the headlights. Private (and govt.) buses making their way down the slope would exhibit negligible concern for the oncoming traffic, resulting in way too many close-calls. They just didn’t seem to possess a brake pedal!

Thick clouds of mist soon encompassed the entire landscape, yet we could notice a bunch of vehicles shoddily parked at the hair-pin curves, for people to step out and click their “glorious selfies” and get drenched in the rain. Heck, we even spotted a multitude of men get off a mini-bus, strip down to their chaddis (ahem *boxers*) and engage in the most awkward of bops while the heavens came crashing down, like nothing mattered. Once we’d crossed Kalpetta (a town in Wayanad), the roads started to get a lot better. So, did the weather. The viper blades were finally getting a little time-out (I dunno.. every time someone mentions “time-out”, I feel like doing the T-sign with both hands, like a sports coach!). We stopped at this little village called Panamaram where we clicked our first panoramic (no pun intended!) snap.

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Nature in all its glory!

Once we’d reached the Kerala-Karnataka border, the roads became narrower and the surroundings quieter. We were passing through a forest reserve with boards that suggested not to halt/park anywhere, to keep our windows shut and to refrain from eliciting any kind of reaction from animals that we’d spotted or attempt to feed them. Being city-bred, the absence of honking horns and street-lights made us feel alienated for a bit. But pretty soon, calmness took over our exhausted selves and we started to relish the voices of nature – crickets chirping, night-birds chittering, rain-drops falling off the leaves onto the ground and the like. On straight, non-bumpy stretches, we even tried switching off the vehicle’s lights and it was PITCH-DARK. Not a single ray of luminescence in sight. Some houses could be spotted on the side, but even they looked uninhabited.

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Twilight zoning!

We even thought out a few horror movie plot-lines suited to the ambiance: a) A bunch of cannibals attacking us while our car breaks down in the middle of the woods b) A monstrous creature that targets humans at night c) Getting lost / separated in the “supposedly-haunted” woodlands, and so on. Traversing empty, desolate stretches of forest (or estate maybe), the scariest bit was when we’d just passed a little town and on its outskirts, as we were crossing a bridge, we noticed the derriere of an elderly woman just standing and staring into a nearby bush. We slowed down to see what the scene was, when she suddenly turned around and revealed a partially disfigured face with no eye-balls and toothless gums (no kidding!). I told my friend to hit the gas pedal and drive as far away from her as he could. I’m not someone who gets spooked easily but I’m pretty sure I won’t forget what I’d witnessed that night, almost surreal. Oh, I almost forgot, KA registered vehicle-owners were kind enough not to give us the ‘high-beam’ treatment, unlike wretched KL ones.

The funniest bit arrived when my friend got a call from his mom asking his whereabouts and he screamed out loud “Gonikoppa! Gonikoppa!” as if that’s a place all Keralites were supposed to know, instead of trying to explain how far ahead Coorg was lying. As we ascended the hills of Coorg, it was almost 9 PM, and by the time we’d reached our home-stay (https://www.tripadvisor.in/Hotel_Review-g503697-d3803338-Reviews-Chuppi_Home_Stay-Kodagu_Coorg_Karnataka.html), it was 10 PM (and still drizzling). After the painstakingly long drive, all we needed was a bed to lay our butts on, and get some beauty sleep. The owner Sharath let us utilize the entire first floor on the second and third nights and was quite a resourceful and hospitable person. For a place that charged just INR 1000(+GST) for a night, there was hot water available 24*7, TV (w/ all channels), two large beds, an open terrace, and no instances of power outage. The only thing to note was that breakfast had to be ordered separately.

While at Coorg

The next morning, I woke up pretty early (I think it was 7 AM?) thanks to my biological click doing its job. Since I couldn’t go back to sleep, I decided to take a little jog and capture the morning essence of Madikeri on the DSLR. The dew drops were still settling, the sun was still rising, and birds were just tweeting away. I came across a broken-down factory and a sort-of (play)ground located right next to it. Here are a couple of snaps from the mist-filled morning:

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7 30 AM No-filter!
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When mist takes over!

We befriended a black stray-dog while playing catch that morning at the ground and christened him ‘Rambo’. Such a chill woof he was!

Day #1 at Coorg officially began with a visit to the Raja’s Seat Viewpoint in Madikeri. It appeared amusing that the parking charges were 10x the entry ticket price at the place (then we realized, a few guys had been stationed at the spot to wave at every passing vehicle on the road to ask if they needed parking and rip them off once they did). The viewpoint however, was magnificent. The usual ‘selfie gang(s)’ were everywhere but I did manage to capture some neat pictures of the scenery in between. Here they are:

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‘Bright, sunny morning’ as Sunny Gavaskar says at the start of every cricket match!
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Bird’s eye view!

Next stop was the gorgeous (and extremely popular) Abbi Falls. A not-so-lengthy walk down a walled path led us to this thing of beauty. You can feel tiny water droplets rushing onto your face as you walk past it. One could also notice folks (men, of course) trying to pull off perilous moves at the plunge-pool area while clicking their ‘awesome selfies’ and recording ‘boomerangs’, ugh. This in fact, led to a cop making his way down to the ‘restricted area’ and give these guys the ‘ass-whooping’ they rightfully deserved, and even levying a fine on a few of them for trespassing into dangerous waters.

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Such eye-candy!

We returned to the Madikeri town area to explore the Fort and Museum, a sneak-peek into the history of the place just to get ourselves acquainted with its illustrious bygone eras. Next stop was lunch at Taste of Coorg. Well, everyone knows how Coorg is synonymous with its renowned pork dishes. We ordered a portion of dry and chili pork and savored them along with chappathis – a mouth-watering combination!

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Insert *drool* smiley!

After the above-displayed was devoured in no time, we decided to head to Chelavara Falls in the hope of finding some unfrequented solace (in contrast to Abbi, which was crammed with people) and our decision, although initially felt as a tepid one thanks to the pot-hole filled roads, ultimately ended up being the “perfect mistake”. On the way, we came across a lush green hillock apparently adjudged the ‘holy hills’. The place made for a good halting point just to stretch our backs and take a few shots [pictures I mean ;)].

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NOT.A.GOLF.COURSE!
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Beautiful cotton-candy skies!

As we resumed our journey to get to the waterfall, passerby told us that it’d be a difficult task to turn the car around in the uphill area due to the unavailability of space; hence their suggestion was to park at the foothill and trek up the rest. And so we did. We walked almost a kilometer up a slope that had dense forest on both sides. It was around 5 PM in the evening and the sky was shaping up for an excellent sunset. We followed the noise (of the moving waters) and a stray dog accidentally showed us a way of getting into the powerful and steady stream of pristine aqua. We basked in the lovely sunset views and dipped ourselves in limpid, ice-cold water – a thoroughly rejuvenating experience. The fact that the placed almost looked deserted (apart from a few jeeps that were moving across the fields on the other side of the river) was the best part. Pictures given below:

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No people? No problem!
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The boons of nature!
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Go Greeeeeeeen!
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The best kind of therapy!

Day #2 was our scheduled visit to the Madenad Quarry for some blood-pumping escapades, as offered by http://www.thequarryadventures.com/ 

We chose the Rainforest Trek + 2 Ziplines package (for INR 1499/-). The curator, Mr. Sid and his comrade Mr. Darshan, provided us the gear required for said activities before our group (of six, including the instructors) commenced the rainforest trail, proceeding from one end of the quarry, through a thicket – one step at a time, holding onto the roots or branches of a nearby tree, slowly but steadily ascending the hill. Here are the views en-route:

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It’s a long, rocky way down! #Zipline
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The trekking path!
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The rock-face!
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Redefining adventure!
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The most natural way of chillin’!
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The team!

Check out our zip-line videos belowπŸ‘‡:

https://www.instagram.com/p/BYw4WelHnUj/

https://www.instagram.com/p/BYvQjdkBD0n/

Hint – Watch with voice ON + headphones for maximum effect! *wink*

The weather was pitch-perfect. Faint drizzle and cloudy skies – appropriate for a rendezvous with nature. Once we were done with our ‘little adventure’, we unwound for a while at the sunset deck (an ideal spot for couples to go on a date / a drinking+bbq night with friends), exchanging pictures and videos taken on each other’s phones via SHAREit, having friendly conversations, and sharing feedback on our experience, shortly after which we dispersed.

Return journey: Coorg – Kasargod – Kannur – Calicut – Kochi

Days #3  & #4 were designated for our return trip to Kochi, with halts at Bekal Fort (in Kasargod district), St. Angelo Fort (in Kannur district) and Muzhappilangad Drive-in Beach (again in Kannur district) – to sum it up, a very ‘beachy’ couple of days.

  • Bekal Fort – The largest fort in Kerala offering plenty of viewpoints extending into the Arabian sea.  The fort was one of Tipu Sultan’s major military stations during his annexation of the Malabar. It is frequented by thousands every day.
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The seas have their own history to unfurl!
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Being a peeping Tom!
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North-Kerala serenity!
  • St. Angelo Fort – A comparatively smaller but well-maintained fort, the architecture of which is similar to the fort at Bekal. It houses a large variety of decorative plants, flourishing greens, grave-stones with Dutch inscriptions, cannons, a watchtower and even a (restored) chapel. Another noticeable aspect here is a cluster of dilapidated, mossy houses lying right outside the fort. It is also known by the name Kannur Kotta (Fort).
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Sit down and introspect!
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KABOOM!
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Wet, glistening rocks!
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Fascinating find!
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CIK – Comrades in Kannur!

And with that, a week-long travelathon comes to a close (covering almost 11 out of the 14 districts in the state of Kerala), and a horde of memories remain. There’s plenty to cling on to, till the next trip gets sorted. I hope y’all found the article to be an enjoyable read, just as much as I enjoyed experiencing every little fragment of it.

For more picture-updates, visit the following link:

https://www.instagram.com/arungeorge13/

34 Comments

  1. Thanks Arun…reached here a bit late, as usual, but thoroughly enjoyed your post. I remember having been at Coorg a couple of years back, when the coffee plantations were flowering away to glory and the mist that hung around all the time smelt of coffee blooms!! πŸ™‚

    PS: How did they finally get your friend who was hanging around on the landing board at the zipline? πŸ˜› Have taken note of their website; would love to visit some time. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Sir. The place offers such an enriching experience, as you’ve rightly mentioned. Haha, the curator and his aide are extremely good at what they do. The safety measures they provide are excellent as well. The quarry is a must-visit by all means!😎

      Like

  2. Loved the detailing!πŸ“„ I guess not even a long term memory loss could rip me off the experiences we had during this trip, as long as i have the link to this article πŸ˜πŸ‘

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow! Now that was a complete treat. I loved every bit of it.
    You have beautifully typed it all down. The photos captured were amazing and was added to one’s imagination, making the entire blog very refreshing. πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘
    All the best and thank you very much for sharing your experience.

    Liked by 1 person

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