Wayanad has always been a surprise package – a neatly tucked away hill station in the otherwise plain Malabar region of Kerala. Our journey begins fromKozhikode, the nearest point for a railway station or airport. It was a nice warm March afternoon. We rented an Alto and decided to go explore this secret hideout.
It’s a lovely drive from the winding roads of Thamarassery to the nine hair pin bends that you have to tackle while zig-zagging the Wayanad mountains as you traverse the steep slopes. The view from these roads is breathtaking, but scary. We stopped our vehicle on a wide stretch to see the misty clouds. At that height, it was quite a sight to see the tiny cars and people below.
Our first stop was a resort at Lakkidi, where we were welcomed by Jomon, the Tea Tree Resorts caretaker. It had a few cottages and we were lucky to get one with a great view, that too at a decent price. Our cottage had a hall, two bedrooms, a kitchen and a large courtyard. We were surrounded by lush green tea plantations. It was a bit chilly at night and Jomon was good enough to light us a bonfire. For dinner, Jamon eagerly recommended the local delicacy - chicken, rabbit and a variety of other curries with the quintessential porotta.
The next day, we headed for a more adventurous day-trip to Annapara – a hideaway mountain range cocooned in the lap of nature. The Chembra peak here, is the highest in Wayanad, towering over 2100 metres. Saju, our guide, led the way. The hike to the top of the peak was really surreal, with bushes and brambles and loose stones coming our way.
There is a sad side to this hike as well. Most of the mountain was burnt down by arsonists. Soot and dry bushes too fell in our path. But when we reached the top of the peak, little did we expect a heart shaped lake. Straight out of a Tolkien landscape, it really made our day.
After dipping our legs into the cold water, we explored the forests adjoining the lake. The forests have been untouched by man for centuries and the thick layer of moss on the trees was enough evidence of the virginity of the area. That’s when Saju came over with what looked like an overgrown orange in his hands. Turned out it was wild oranges after all, locally called bamblimoos. It was difficult unpeeling these oranges that had a thick skin. But it added to the fun and excitement. After climbing a few trees ourselves and collecting more bamblimooses we decided to head back. Little did we realize that we had spent an entire day at Annapara. Time just flew.
Later in the day, we were treated to some exotic malabari cuisine this time around with rice bread, beef fry and chicken 65, a spicy dish sautéed with onions and coconut oil. After the dinner, chilled beer and a bonfire just made our day, with dance and song doing the rounds.
Our next day started off with a trip to Soojipara, one of the many waterfalls found in Wayanad. It is a 38 km drive from Lakkidi. But these waterfalls stand out for their striking splendor among the dark and green woods. We had to again hike almost three kilometers to reach the waterfalls. The gushing waters looked inviting but some government guards were around to warn the adventurous ones.
At the mouth of the waterfall, an enterprising father and daughter had set up a small shop selling foodstuff and other basic things. They also made good kanji and poola (rice gruel and boiled tapioca). After having that with a good serving of mango pickle, we hiked back. By the time we got to our car, we had burnt all that we’d eaten.
We turned back and decided to spend the rest of the evening atPookotLake. This natural lake surrounded by hills and meadows provides an excellent picnic spot or opportunity for a relaxing boat ride or fishing expedition. Though we did not fish, we were able to walk around the lake along a wild path and enjoy our last day in this haven.
This is a trip one shall always remember as it will be full of exotic memories of what nature’s beauty is all about. Wayanad has many more places to explore and hopefully the next time we shall be able to do it. After a trip to Wayanad, you will remember what Robert Frost once wrote:
“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
two roads diverged in a wood, and I -
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”