Today is the day we end our wonderful trip and it started a little as usual. We had the complimentary breakfast, but this time I was smart enough to not feel full just in case. They told me that Soochipara falls is not that difficult, but I don’t want to take a chance. I know my body’s limit now. We got checked out after the breakfast and left the hotel at around 9-9.30 am if I am not wrong. We had to take a route which almost goes to the Chembara Peak but almost near to the road that would lead to Fatima Estates , we have to go ahead and turn. Since Soochipara was closed till Saturday (the previous day), there was a board kept in the entrance of the road. Now we werent sure if it was still closed or else they would have removed that board (logical thinking huh?). But we know what they do around here. That board will probably be there till next week until someone notices and removes it from the department. So we do what we Indians usually do. Get down and ask some locals there :). When we asked a person he was confident that it was opened today. So we proceeded ahead. But after one point the road was so bad , sorry , I stand myself corrected, there was no road at all. It was as if the recent rains robbed the road from that place. Thank God, I wasn’t driving. ‘C’ was driving, it was his car and he can do anything with it naa… I would have literally stopped and pushed the vehicle ahead rather than punish it by driving it in that road (or the lack of it). But ‘C’ was driving it with the A/C on. Poor car. It was struggling so much to climb. And one portion was too steep for the climb. There was a sort of parking lot on the left hand side after a cut road which goes to a resort. Finally after the struggle to climb up we reached the entrance and they had a bigger parking lot there, just near the office. And we saw that there were enough cars (not too many but around 6-7).
The weather was bright and sun was shining high & bright. If there is any walking or slight trekking involved it is going to take more energy, for me, than these people let it on. And since I didn’t want to rely totally on these guys, not that I don’t believe them, but their info might be a big outdated, I asked the guy in the entrance (sort of a security guy there) about the roads that goes to the falls. He said that it was a stone laid path so not to worry about it. Thank God. And there is another entrance where you need to show the ticket and show the bags for checking. We were carrying four water bottles. So obviously they were concerned and drank from one to check if it really was water :). And let us in. Then started the decline. Yes you have to walk down. And it indeed was covered with stones and had long and big stairs also. Now I know that this climbing down is easy and I will have to struggle a lot while climbing up. But it is much much better than the other two day’s efforts. But there was a turn where we need to climb a rock and the path was small and I got a little apprehensive because of the height and ‘C’ took my bag from me, leaving me with the camera.
We could hear the water even before we can see it. And it sure did look like there was enough water. But we did not know that they did not allow us to enter the water (not that I was inclined and ‘C’ was inclined that it should be banned and not contaminate it , but enjoy it, but ‘A’ was disappointed). In fact you cannot even dip your feet in the water. All you are allowed after the final descent of the stairs is to sit on the rocks or may be climb down and then sit on the rock there. I did not go that far because they were bigger ones and I was like ‘it wouldn’t matter to me if it was this rock or the rock down, its all the same, I would rather save energy and sit here’. But the other two went down and enjoyed the view a little closer. I was playing with the views and the photographs and was experimenting on the milky water shot. Near the waterfalls, there were two guards who were controlling the people who seemed too adventurous and tried to go near the water.
It is always a pleasant thing to be near water with greenery surrounding you and the water’s speed was too much that we could get it in our faces even when were so far apart. There wasn’t too much crowd, but since the place was small, even 10-15 people seemed to be too crowded. After some time, they both climbed back up and we rested for a while. We had all the time in the world today. And after what seems like around 40 mins of our stay, we started our way back. It was a tough climb and I took my time and climbed slowly. We stopped in between for some pictures. Almost near the entrance (around 5 mins walk before that) there was a place where we can stop and rest for a while. We sat there and thought of what to do next. There was this Kanthanpara falls, but no one seemed to know about it. There were two lady guards there. So I went to them leaving these two guys to use their maps to find out the next destination. I had a chat with them in my broken Malayalam about the falls. Seems like there was an accident and one guy died in the falls so they have closed it and one another falls was closed for more than a year after a similar accident. I was checking with them on what other places were there to see and I ticked one by one where we have been already. The only ones left were the ones we had plans for already. They advised me to go to Tirunelli by 4 cause that is when the temple opens.
After my chit chat with them, started back to our car. We stopped in between in the estates for the guys to take some photographs in the estate surrounded by the trees. Thankfully we were spared by the leeches. Our next stop was for a quick and early lunch because there wasn’t any near by place to cover and the ones pending are at the northern side of Wayanad. So we went to Kalpetta again to the same Woodlands hotel for our lunch and packed some chocolates and plum cake (we did the same the previous day also and the matured plum cake was too good 😉 ). After that we started on our way to the Pazhassi Raja Tomb. On the way, we saw a huge elephant along with his mahout walking their merry way on the road. The elephant looked half wild and it was cool cause I stopped and got down to take a snap, much to the fear of ‘A’. Till now there were enough boards and signs for all the places we have been so there wasn’t any issues. Even if there was a hitch in the GPS we could still there with little effort. But once we started on our way to the northern part, we saw that the sign boards were much lesser. And for a person who died for the place, Pazhassi Raja’s Tomb is without any sign. I have no clue why. We had a tough time finding it and use the same old Indian way of asking people around and finally when we parked it in a Hospital, which looked like a local Government Hospital, we never thought that this place near the hospital which looked like a inspection place hosts the Tomb. We still didn’t know what we were going to see until we saw it. It is not a tomb, but a place dedicated for him. It would have been good if they were some signs about the place.
The memorial’s museum had the swords and a little bit of history that had happened when the Raja was here and the letters to the then Collector (British) about the uprising and all the stuff, along with the tribal art form sculptures etc. There were two ladies, who started their chat with me in Malayalam and I was glad enough to reciprocate and try my hand with the longer conversation in the same language. I was glad that I was able to make them understand what I wanted to convey. She also suggested us to go to Thirunelli after 4.30 pm. She also suggested the places and I told her that we were on our way back to Bangalore with the last stop in Thirunelli. After that when we came out, we saw that the memorial had lot of Terracota paintings. When we were seeing it, the same lady came forward and explained the whole story of Pazhassi Raja which was painted there. It was not her job but she was generous enough to explain the details to us, since we were interested. Did you know that he was killed by the same people for whom he fought the British. And this Raja was only a little over 5 feet it seems (not the Malayalam movie star Mamootty’s version, in the words of that lady 🙂 ). There are still tribal people living but they are much settled in the inner parts of the Wayanad Forests. When we tried to give her some tip, she refused it, which was a surprise for us, because elsewhere they expected it. But since I was the only woman in the group, I had to force her to take it and asked her to share it for some snacks with her friends who were managing the museum.
After that we started on our way to Thirunelli, which goes through a forest area. And this road was sort of desolated and quite. We had some rains in between but it was more of drizzling. There were lot of vegetation which was sort of dried up and lot of trees uprooted, I guess, due to the recent heavy rains. It was a little longer drive. We had to also think about how we are going to go back to Bangalore. If we want to go all the way back to the same root or use the Nagarhole route via Mysore. ‘A’ and ‘C’ were having some serious discussions on the pros and cons, since I wasn’t aware of these routes and have no clue of how the traffic would be in them.
Finally after the long drive, around 3.30 or so we reached Thirunelli. Even though we thought that it was a secluded place, the temple actually has a lot of hotels and rest houses near by (at least 2-3 near by and a few getting built). There were two to three hotels. And washrooms were also made available and they were very clean too. We were in the mood for a tea break and since the temple was closed, we cleaned up and went to check out a small older temple on the way and since it was not opened , we came back for our Tea in the near by hotel. They were just opening up after the lunch and we were the only people there having Tea and Bajji. But by then the rain picked up speed and it was literally pouring. We had our Tea Cake and once the rain stopped a little, we went to the temple to see if it was opened inside. But seems like it will be opened only after 5.30 pm. We were informed wrong. Also we have to get down through the other side and go to a stream called Papanaisini (destroyer of sins) to which you can go. But since it again started to rain badly and since it was almost beyond 4.45 pm we started to our car after saying our Goodbyes to the God and the place.
‘A’ and ‘C’ decided to take the route from Thirunelli via Bavali i.e the SH33 route to Mysore and then Bangalore. For that we have to go through the Nagarhole Forest area. We started our drive by around 5-15 pm and the drive was good except that inside the forest area we had to go a bit slow because of the bumps and the road being a little narrow. Also there were so many signs about wild animals but lot of people also around. I wonder if the wild animals did come there with these settlements there. Through the forest, when it was almost to get over in another hour or so, there was a diversion and that leads us to the muddy road. Now started the tough ride. It was muddy and filled with pot holes, it was such a mess. And to really come back to the main road, we had to go through so many small villages which really did not have any roads to them. We passed the entrance which was the route for the Orange Country also before 6 thankfully and then through the villages, finally hit the main road almost an hour and half later than we had expected. This was an unexpected delay in the travel. We also saw the Kabini Reservoir from a little away and it was full even from a long distance view.
After that ‘A’ took over the drive in the SH 33 almost till we had the sun set on us. We even stopped for a sunset photograph which came out very well. After that ‘C’ took over because ‘A’ was little skeptical to drive at night. They both were worried about the traffic in the Mysore Bangalore road. The drive was through Mysore (my first) and I saw the palace lit up from outside. But then again the drive slowed down because we were inside the town. I even gave a wrong route to ‘C’ and then had to relinquish the navigation through GPS to ‘A’. Then comes the nightmare that is called Mysore Bangalore highway. God, it was worse than the city traffic. Being a 3 day weekend and lot of people returning to Bangalore after holidays, it was too much. ‘C’ was really frustrated with the traffic. We couldn’t help it. We had already our delays which will extend our reaching time beyond 10 pm which was our original ETA. But we did have some fun moments. There were times when the road was empty and we raced a Volkswagen 🙂 I was so thrilled. I liked it when we can drive in at 120 kmph. I know it is not right and we have to be careful, but ‘C’ had total control and after my brother, who can do these kind of stunts, I sort of felt comfortable with ‘C”s fast driving. ‘A’ was in total panic :). But then from Maddur to Chennapatna, the traffic got worse. So worse that it was moving in inches. ‘C’ was so frustrated and decided to take the reroute via SH 94 and then joining SH 209 to Kanakapura to join the NICE ring road, because we had to go to my other friend’s house to get my house keys. This rerouting added more kms, but we were speeding as the roads were totally empty. We reached my friend’s home at around 11.30 and then finally reached office by around 12.10. We said our good byes. ‘C’ was on leave the next day, but ‘A’ and myself had to come to office. We took our cars from the office and I reached home by 12.30. But after reaching home I couldn’t sleep before 1.30 am.
I really felt very bad for ‘C’ because he did most of the driving during the trip and the return journey, no matter what he said, was really strenuous. Thank God, he had a leave the next day to take rest.
Soochipara Falls: Opens from 8 AM to 5 PM. Try to go there earlier . Stones are laid out and its the easiest climb down (even though climbing up might take some effort). Bathing or going in the water was not allowed when we were there because there were a few accidents. In fact we were literally left standing on the rocks. I have no complaints anyways.
Pazhassi Raja tomb: There is no sign anywhere on the way to go to this place, even though GPS was pretty close. This place doesn’t even have a board when you reach it. It has a small museum and the entrance is free. You might have to just make an entry in a register before you go inside.
Update from ‘C’: The place is in District Medical Office, Manathavady. Just in case you want it for your GPS.
Thirunelli temple: We were informed that it opens at 4 pm, but that day on Sunday, the temple officers told us that it would be opening after 5.30 pm. The road is via a forest area and it is a nice drive. It is a Thirumal temple and there is a river Papanasini also, which we did not visit because of the rain.
While returning back, if you are returning on a Sunday, do not take the Mysore – Bangalore Highway. Better to take the Kanakapura road which is relatively free. Also the road in the Nagarhole Forest Area with the deviation to come to the SH 33 is such a mess. So check it out before you start. Else better to take an alternative route, if you are coming from Thirunelli.