Finally, I am back to my beloved 'blog baby'. I have been planning to write this one, but I did not have enough time and space required for concentration. It has been about 2-1/2 years of work of words which keeps this space going, and once again, I thank you for all your support which is the life blood of my blog. During this course of time, I found that I have been writing travel articles off and on. This makes me realize that I have passion and energy to travel and discover those unknown paths of our planet.
This time, it is not about those among '100 hidden spots', (a column that appears in 'The Hindu' on places which are not that well-known) but which is visited by every Tom, Dick & Harry. After spending about a week in my hometown, we planned to spend the rest of our holidays in Thekkady & Munnar. Much awaited visit to these famous tourist spots finally got materialized this year. We booked a Sumo vehicle and decided to go by road instead of train. As we started from Trivandrum, we had to go North to reach any point. Except for very few cities like Kochi (Ernakulam), the State of Kerala is unspoilt regarding the greenery. So it is an immense pleasure to drive and enjoy the surrounding nature.
Our first stopover was the town of Pandalam in Pathanamthitta district. Pandalam is known for the legendary connection with Lord Ayyappa who was said to hail from there. We visited the famous Valiyakoikkal temple where the sacred ornaments (Thiruvabharanam) of Lord Aiyyappa is kept. This is situated on the banks of Achenkovil river. The river and the surrounding place was serene and verdant. Pandalam is also the place where my father had his schooling before moving to Trivandrum. I was glad that I could visit that place after a very long time. Here are some of the views from that special place.
NSS School in Pandalam where my dad studied.
Inside the temple close to were 'Thiruvabharanam'(sacred ornaments) are kept..
After having our lunch near the temple, we headed to Kottayam. This is the place where my grandaunt (my appa's aunt) lives. This was also the much visited place during my childhood. Kottayam is full of rubber trees and estates and is famous for the Malayalam daily, Malayala Manorama which is the third largest circulated daily in India (after The Times of India and Dainik Jagran). My grandaunt's house is right in the middle of 1-acre of land which is full of tall tress like jackfruit, coconut, arecanut, nutmeg(jathikkai). Our relatives used to keep cows before and so, fresh milk and butter straight from the cowshed is a part of my childhood memory. The place remains more or less the same, and I still doubt whether the few hours we spent there was enough to relive those days. We were served with sumptuous delicacies like Elayada (steamed filling of rice batter, jaggery and coconut), dosas, and dinner of coconut-based items. The stay was 'oh short & sweet' but memorable.
The entrance room of my grand aunt's house.
The surrounding areas of that house (below also)
Entrance of the house...
'River' of memories!! Opposite to the house
Orchid flowers in front of the house....
From Kottayam, Thekkady, the famous wildlife sanctuary is about 85 km and it is easier to travel by road as there are no nearby connecting stations. Thekkady is situated in the Kumily district which borders Kerala and Tamil Nadu state. It is placed at an altitude of 1337 m above the sea level. The place is full of deciduous forests, various flora and fauna. The highlight of our trip was the famous boat ride (duration of about 1-1/2 hours) in Periyar Tiger reserve. Depending on our luck, we may or may not spot animals on the banks of the Periyar river. The best time to get sight of animals is said to be either early in the morning or late into the afternoon. So we booked the tickets for the morning boat ride. The duration is about 1-1/2 hours. We could not spot any elephants like the image etched in our mind when we think of Thekkady. All we could spot were some birds on the bare trees in the river and some bison and wild boar from the distance. After sometime, many were seen dozing off in the boat due to the wind and chillness. The boat ride was good, but it would have been more interesting if more animals were spotted.
On our way to Thekkady....
Inside the park of Periyar Tiger Reserve.
Konnapoo or yellow flowers which are special for Vishu
Periyar river .......
Symbol of communism???
The other highlight of the Thekkady trip was jungle scouting during night. The timings for jungle scouting (night walk through the jungle) are from 7-10PM, 10-1AM, 1-4AM. My husband and myself went for this as the family members did not want to join. We were accompanied by the forest range officer and a guide. All of us were given torches so that we could wade through darkness. To start with, it was scary for me as the forest was full of darkness with some eerie sounds. But I was assured by the forest officer that it is not that dangerous. After some distance, we could spot a black and white bird (robin?) with the help of the torchlight. Off and on, we used to switch off all the torchlight to spot countless fireflies all glowing in the dark like stars in the sky. I bet, it was a feast for our eyes. The officer and the guide were alert for sounds and movements and with the help of torch lights we could see the eyes of the wild boars gleaming from a distance and also some deer. There were also guards stationed at a place to check the illegal cutting of sandalwood trees. After some distance, there was nice fragrance of the wild jasmine (which we could not see). We were told that if we wanted to spot leopard or bear, we need to set a tent in the interior of the jungle and sit through the night. Scary!!! Jungle scouting is a unique and wonderful experience offered to the tourists who visit Thekkady. If you are in for an adventure, please do not miss this!
The distance from Thekkady to Munnar is about 110 kms. Munnar means 3 rivers and Munnar is said to be the confluence of 3 rivers. The hill station is situated at the altitude of 5600 ft, and so the roads were winding all through and so driving has to be done very carefully. The resort where we stayed itself was picturesque with waterfalls running behind the place. Munnar is full of tea estates and also home to many spices and so, these things can be bought at a throwaway price there. The places we visited in Munnar were Top Station (or top point), echo point, Mattupetty dam, Eravikulam National Park. While each of these was beautiful in its own way, the one we enjoyed most was Eravikulam national park. After waiting in the queue for about 1-1/2 hours, we boarded the park's bus. The park is home to the highest peak of South India, Aanamudi and also to Nilgiri Tahr, a rare breed of mountain goat. The day we went proved to be very lucky for us as we could spot lot of Nilgiri Tahr. Seeing the highest peak Aanamudi (which we learnt in our school days) was really a scintillating experience for us. Driving through Munnar roads, we felt we were in the midst of clouds as the clouds were literally floating over roads and mountains. The never-ending greenery of tea estates is really something beyond words.
The last in our list was Guruvayoor temple where we had a darshan of Lord Krishna early in the morning after standing in the queue for more than 2-1/2 hours. Then we came to Thrissur station to board the train feeling rejuvenated, but wishing that our vacation had prolonged a little more.
P.S. More photos to follow!!