04 May 2010

Wayanad and Alappuzha

Another short trip to Kerala as a guide, this time with dear friends (and fellow architecture-addicts) Saurabh (of Urban floop fame) and Nora. This is was the first trip to Kerala for both of them so I decided to chose a route that covered all the different landscapes of the state - the beaches, the mountains, the backwaters, the paddy fields and of course some of the important cities.

The route started in Kozhikode (Calicut)... moving up the hills in Wayanad... then to the most amazing backwaters down south near Alappuzha (Alleppy) ...and further to the enchanting Fort Kochi(Cochin) before flying out...

Since I have blogged about both Kozhikode and Fort Kochi before (Here and here) I shall focus only on Wayanad and Alappuzha in this posting.

Wayanad:

We made a day trip from my house in Kozhikode as our base to take a quick look around the mountainous Wayanad District in north-east Kerala. We drove up the steep ghats near Vythiri initially planning to stop at the Pookode Lake - but sadly when we got there I remembered why visiting Wayanad during the weekend is such a horrible idea. Seeing the never ending lines of noisy tourists getting out of packed buses we decided to turn away and head further up the hills to our next stop - Soochipara falls.

Until very recently this was one of the last stunning waterfalls in Wayanad that was not mobbed by obnoxious loud groups of men getting drunk while wading in its fresh waters, although this has all changed for the worse I was determined to show my friends the beauty of the Western Ghat forest so we decided to ignore the mob and headed down the to the falls.

So once again the lesson learned the hard way - avoid weekends while visiting anything in Wayanad that could be classified as a 'tourist destination'!

We had one more destination that I had decided to show these guys .. the danger of the mob loomed large but of all the places in Wayanad this was the most special so once again we decided to go for it.. and we headed further up into the Western Ghats almost to the Tamil Nadu border to a place that had been visited by humans for over 8,000 years - The Edakkal caves.

However before we got there we decided to take slight detours driving thru some of the tea plantations, soaking in the pure mountain air and stopping every now and then for me to photograph a few birds.

By the time we got to Edakkal to add to the chaos of the crowd we were also hard pressed for daylight which was fast disappearing. Braving the crowd, a sudden gush of monsoon and the darkness we scrambled up the precarious steps and ladders leading up to the cave which has the main Petroglyphs which are believed to be from the neolithic age!
Although the engravings are not very clear we could make out a couple of human figures and an Elephant (in the center of the lower image)read more about the caves here.

After this we headed back home to get some rest before we headed down south to the heart of the backwaters and the land of paddy fields.

Alappuzha:

In all my recent trips crisscrossing Kerala I had strangely missed Alappuzha. Finally I had made it here and we were here for a very specific experience - to spend a day on a houseboat in the extraordinary landscape of the Backwaters. As our boat set off from the jetty and headed into the smaller canals that form a network of waterways surrounding the paddy fields it became clear why this landscape has come to define Kerala.
Although staying on a houseboat at Alappuzha is one of the most cliched things to do as a visitor to Kerala its a lot more special and genuine than taking a Gondola ride along the Grand Canal in Venice : )
As we sailed past the small villages where people went about their daily life's it was very easy to imagine that an ordinary day here hasn't changed much since man devised an effective way to use this high fertile soil even though its a few meters below the sea level.
Life around here seems to have been stuck in time!After a few home made meals and a beautiful night on board the boat, we were off to Kochi to catch up with some history before flying out. But some how I get the feeling that Alappuzha is going to feature as a regular on my future trips to Kerala!
Read Saurabh's take on this trip on his blog - here.

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