We were failing to book a self-drive car for the last three weeks – sometimes due to license issues, or sometimes due to sheer bad luck. But not this time. We booked a Ford Figo(never book these, it will be the driver’s worst nightmare) from Zoom Cars well in advance. And since we had paid the money as well, there was no turning back. Thus, finally, Wayanad it was.
Firstly, Wayanad is a big (very very big!) district in northern Kerela. You cannot cover everything just in a weekend because of the ridiculously large distances between the spots. There are three major towns in Wayanad – Mananthavady , Kalpetta and Sulthan Bathery. Surprisingly, everything, believe me, everything closes down by 6 in the evening, so plan your trip accordingly. There are no specific spots that you HAVE to cover in Wayanad. The road and the beauty of the place will leave you speechless and I am sure your heart wouldn’t allow you to leave. We missed out on Edkal Caves, so I cannot comment on that. Rest, do visit the Chembra Peak, which is a 3-4 hours trek (both ways).
Planning the Trip
I can bet my life on this – If you are planning to visit Wayanad, it HAS to be a road trip. No questions asked. It may get a bit heavy on the pockets, but believe me, it is worth the effort and the money.
There are primarily 2 routes to reach Wayanad from Bangalore (we took both, went through route A, and came back via route B) –
Route A – NH 212 ( Bangalore – Mysore – Gundlupet – Muthanga – Sulthan Bathery ) Click here to check it out on the maps
Route B – (Bangalore-Mysore-Hunsur-Nagarhole-Kutta-Mananthavady) Click here to check it out on the maps
I strongly suggest you travel by both routes because both have its own beauty. Moreover, you will be avoiding many up and down travel within Wayanad. Both the routes pass through thick forests, and if you are lucky you can spot a few animals too.
We booked dorm rooms in Vedanta! Wake Up, which is a backpacker hostel chain in South India. It is located near Edkal Caves and the view from the terrace is breathtaking.
And now finally, about our trip
We had booked the Zoom car from 6AM with the sole hope leaving the city before the dreaded Bangalore traffic ruins our trip. After having a hasty breakfast, we started on the road-trip but unfortunately got stuck on the Mysore-Bangalore road. There is this funny way of naming towns on this route – City of Toys(Channapatna), Silk City(Ramnagara), and if they failed to find a proper adjective, we have the historic city of Mysore. Ramnagar is the town where Sholay was shot and the hills surrounding this Bollywood town are pretty mysterious. They are rocky, full of stones and an occasional lone tree along with a saffron flag on the summit.Apart from these sights, the road till Mysore is nothing extraordinary.
We took the ring road to bypass Mysuru and then the real beauty of this road trip begins. It would be very difficult to articulate on how the roads were, the beauty, the serenity, the nature and the green!
Slowly as we continued on our way, with some music and amazing conversations – four lane roads changed to two lanes and we entered the Bandipur National Park. A corrupt forest guard stopped us and asked for a bribe and when we refused, I (being the driver) got clicked on this phone after threatening us to be taken to his superiors. As soon as we entered the thick forest, it started drizzling. A perfect combination – rains, forests, and a road trip. If you love driving (like me), this road would be nirvana!
By lunchtime, we had reached Sulthan Bathery, which turned out to be very congested town. Food would be a big problem in Kerela! The only thing we could find there was a Kerela Thali, and I don’t have a clue how my friends ate that shit. I had some homemade theplas and we were off to our first destination – Neelimala Viewpoint.
Our only mistake on this trip was that we had not planned for anything. Wayanad being a big district needs meticulous planning otherwise, most of your time would be wasted in traveling. After traveling for an hour we reached the Neelimala Viewpoint to find out that it was closed for the day. And because it was totally out of the way, visiting it the next day was senseless. Thus, we had to content ourselves with the vast tea plantations – Kerala’s unique seduction!
Being the lone driver in the pack, fatigue had started to build. We decided to reach our hostel and relax there. And luckily, Vedanta Wake Up!(our hostel) turned out be in a very secluded area with some bewildering views from the terrace. After checking in we spent a good hour on the terrace, reminiscing our three years of college, clicking crazy pictures and just being satisfied with life.
As the sun started to set, we started playing carom in the common room! God, I had not played this game since years. I and Anirudh convincingly won every game we played! (poor Sikaria & Raina :p ) After having a good dinner, we went to sleep because we were climbing the Chembra Peak the next day.
Chembra Peak, which hails a staggering height of 2050 meters, is the highest peak in Wayanad district. The trek to the summit is closed to tourists, but there is a heart-shaped lake in the middle which is a big tourist attraction. The trek is steep and challenging, but the view from the top is worth the pain. It took us 3-4 hours for the whole trek (up & down). The road to the place where the trek starts is in a bad state and thus it is always safe to park the car down and take a jeep up(Rs 700 for one up & down trip).
Kerela bananas are all we could find to regain our energy after an arduous trek. My legs had started to shake whenever I pressed the clutch, so after giving my legs a break for some time, we started our return journey. We decided to take a different road on our way back, in spite of all the locals and Google Maps showing otherwise. In the end, the risk paid off.
This route passes via Rajiv Gandhi National Park and the regular sighting of deer made it more appealing. This is one of the most enchanting, surreal, breathtaking routes I have ever taken. It was pure bliss. You really need to travel through this road to understand what we felt. En-route, we took a small detour to visit the Asia’s largest earth dam – Banasura Sagar Dam.
We had to be back in Bangalore by 11pm. And without realizing, we were going very slow through the forests, stopping at every animal spotting! So as soon as we left the forest, I had to speed up a little bit, because we could not ignore the Bangalore traffic. Fortunately, the Bangalore-Mysore road had light traffic and we entered Bangalore by 10pm. The most difficult part was the 2km walk from MG Road(where we had to return our car) to our PG, but somehow I managed to reach home.
This way, we ended another of our exciting weekend getaway.