Monday, November 19, 2012

Nature, Adventure and Wagamon

Wagamon, a celebrated, but less frequented destination in Kerala tourist map is a great destination for nature lovers, adventurers, and everyone who loves nature in its purest shape.

A visit to this place was well worth it because it is one of the tourist destinations, where you can listen to the birds, enjoy the stillness and explore some great adventures, including a climb to one of the tallest peaks in South India.

The main points of interest near Wagamon are the Pine Valley, where pine trees grow sky-high in an area of 125 acres, Mottakkunnu (bald-headed hills - 14 of them), Thangal Para (a rocky mountain perched at 8000 ft above sea level), Kurisumala, and a dairy farm.

Apart from them, we stopped at several places on a whim, and each stop proved to be a great new exploration. Lucky for us, we stopped at several places and each stop proved to be a fine destination of its own. Sadly, I can't tell you the names of the places because the places were deserted and there weren't any sign boards telling what the places are.

I can tell you we stopped by a tea-estate en-route to Wagamon, from where we could get a good look at the morning rays seeping through the mist, the long winding roads, the township from a distance, an abandoned tea-factory, and rolling hills far and near. Again we stopped by a tiny lake, a meadow with a circular shaped church on one side, and in the midst of nowhere when a herd of cows blocked our car. The cows walk on the roads; gives milk to the locals and don't care much when we ask them to move away from the road.


This is the only place where you have to pay an entry fee - Rs 5 per person, known as Wagamon Meadows and Hideout, a series of 14 green top hills. On one side there is a small lake, where several hundreds of tiny fish will give you company when you bathe there.

Pine Valley

One of the biggest pine forests in Kerala, Pine Valley Wagamon offers a special treat. In an area of 125 acres, there are thousands and thousands of pine trees, each one reaching up to the skies. The air was still and the sight magnificent as we walked along the trees, taking a fresh breathe and marveling the beauty of this man-made forest.

I strongly doubt I have seen both the Mottakkunnu and Pine Valley in several films I have watched. They are beautiful.

Adventure Point (Also suicide point)

And, next we stopped by the suicide point, where you will find hills even bigger than what you find at Mottakkunnu. Green grass blankets the hills and it is special experience scaling the hills, listening to the wind and feeling on top of the world.

They say this is the place for paragliding adventures. We didn't find any gliders, though.

Thangal Para

It is a mountain. You can reach the top without any steep climb. You can walk along the marked paths and reach the top of the rocky mountain. The wind is strong, and you feel like flying. Be extra careful, the rocks are dangerous. And, you are standing at a height of 7000 to 8000 ft above sea level.

Keep in mind there is a Mosque, and the place is a pilgrim center.

Kurisumala & Murukan Mala

Kurisu (cross) and Murukan (a Hindu deity) hills, face each other. Climbing them is not an easy task. Trek your way up the Kurisumala and the rewards are freshness of air, a feeling of on top of the world and the thrills of adventure.

Dairy Farm Near Kurisumala - Ask for permission to visit this dairy farm, where you will be amazed at the sights of the cows, bulls and the place in which they live.

Well, that was all in a day's trip. And, we started our journey back home.

Travel Tips:

It may be just me, but I found it very difficult locating restaurants or decent hotels. They are very few. So, it is a nice idea carrying your food, water and snacks.

I also didn't find a fuel station. There sure will be some petrol/diesel pumps nearby. Only we didn't see any.

The places described above are the most frequented places nearby Wagamon. There also are several, little-frequented stops along the way. Such stops offer beautiful sights, fresh air and great opportunities to shoot postcard perfect photos.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Weekend Trip to Alappuzha Backwaters

I doubt if I am a real traveller because at times I don't go anywhere special for a long time. Last Saturday was different and I decided to take my lovely wife on a trip through the pristine backwaters of Kerala. We stayed inside a boat plying between Kottayam and Alappuzha, for almost the whole day. Travelling from Kottayam to Alappuzha costs only Rs.10/- per person and we had a great day, enjoying the fresh air, greenery and the most relaxed travel experience of quite some time.

Well, the boat left Kottayam (Kodimatha is the place) at 11.30 AM and reached Alappuzha (Aleppey) at 2.00 PM. The boat would return in 30 minutes.

In between, we fully enjoyed the still waters and felt once again marvelled at the sight of farmlands situated below water levels. I wonder how on earth do they keep water away at the paddy fields of R-Block or Kuttanad stretch. The water, on which the boats ply just don't ooze into the paddy fields. I wonder how they keep it that way.

The lake (Vembanad Lake) contains several islands, which have day restaurants, from where you can enjoy some Kuttanadan delicacies including 'Karimeen' (pearl spot fish), 'Konchu' (freshwater shrimp), 'Kappa' (tapioca), and a lot more. For boozing, there is 'kallu' (toddy). The abundance of coconut palms make sure there is no shortage of this natural liquor. (Well, my wife is a vegetarian and we had a super quick meal at a vegetarian restaurant near the boat yard in Alappuzha).

A houseboat near a paddy field in Kuttanadu Backwaters

Well, I am posting a few photos of Vembanad Lake, the most famous of Kerala backwaters. The camera was new and I was not used to its function. I could salvage only a few of the 400 plus photos I have taken. So, please bear with me on the quality of the photos.
Houseboats are aplenty in Alappuzha
A Church as seen from the boat
OK guys, that is all for today and for a few weeks to come. Special thanks to all my readers who like my little blog called Kerala Traveller.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Bhoothathankettu - A Dam Built by Demons

Bhooththankettu Dam
Bhoothathankettu on Periyar River is a scenic spot, where legends come alive. It was a nice trekking and picnic experience to this scenic spot on the banks of a beautiful river, covered on both sides by thick green forests.

We reached the spot on Sunday morning and our guide, Thankappan, took us on a short trekking trip through the forest. He explained the forest covers more than 100,000 hectre. The forest is also home to almost all kinds of wild animals, including elephants, bears, tigers, and king of snakes - King Cobras.

King Cobras' Natural Habitat

King Cobras caught from different parts of the state are let free in this forest and its population is quite high in this area. He reassures there haven't been a single attack by these kings against humans. And, there are a good number of humans inside the forest too.

Our guide was also an expert of plants & trees, especially climbers. The story of a particular climber named 'Chela' fascinated us. Birds like the fruits of this climber. The seeds would sprout only after going through a bird's intestine. However, the seed doesn't sprout if it falls on land. Its easy stage of life is on top of a tree. From there, there will be several roots running to the ground and branches growing upwards. The sad thing is, the climber will become a tree, killing the tree that has given it the space to grow. The climber will then become a tree, after eating its host.

Well, another attraction was a mineral water source. The water is tasty and pleasantly cold. I never liked cold water stored in fridge. The water here was cold, but not chilling. This water has medicinal properties too.

A Cave for Adventurers

We come to expect caves in forests and this forest was no exception. A cave was there. Only one person can pass through the cave at a time. The guide explained there was one path leading directly into the earth. Legend has it, this is the path demons use to reach the nether land. Twenty minutes' crawling along the other path inside the cave is a thrilling experience if you are not afraid of bats and porcupines.

Periyar is beautiful at Bhoothathankettu

The Legend of Bhoothathan Kettu

Legends tell you the natural dam-like structure was built by bhootham (demons, evil spirits, ghosts - I am not sure about the exact translation). Legend has it Lord Shiva and his consort Parvathi lived here. Once Shiva told his consort that he would return to her after one month's meditation. She waited for more than three months and her husband didn't return. So she went inquiring and found out the truth behind her husband's meditation.

He was having an affair with Ganges. Soon, there was a fight between Parvathi and Ganga. Shiva promptly absconded from the scene. Enraged, belittled and hurt, Parvati planned revenge against Ganga and her village. She conceived an idea.

He called the bhootas (demons) and gave them a quotation to build the dam across the wide river. This would change the course of the river and sweep Ganga's village, Trikkariyoor. Demons were afraid of Lord Shiva, but they didn't want to estrange the Goddess too. So they agreed to build a check dam across the river on one condition. They will build the dam until it is morning. They will stop working once it is dawn.

Demon Carrying Boulder
The demons carried boulders from far and near and was building a dam. Lord Shiva understood this plot through his third eye (or was it sixth sense? I am not so sure). The dam was almost finished. Lord Shiva wanted to distract the demons to save his girlfriend's village. He took the shape of a rooster. When the dam was almost complete, he crawed 'cock-le-doo'. The demons thought it was dawn and they fled the scene without finishing the dam.

You can see huge boulders on both sides of the river (the demons brought them, but left before the dam is finished).

A few hundred meters down the man-made dam, you can see this 'almost finished' dam built by super human forces. The reality can be, floods brought boulders from atop the hills and dumped them at this place.

A Nice Picnic All the Way

Believing or not, the legend was much more beautiful than the scientific explanation. Any way, it was a refreshing trip through the forest.

Later, we ate the lunch we brought with us on the banks of Periyar. The water was crystal clear, everyone took a dip, which lasted hours.

Boating is also available in the reservoir.

Nearby places are: Salim Ali National Park (bird sanctuary at Thattekkad), Idamalayar Dam and power house.

Bhoothathankettu at Google Maps: click here!

More details at official Kerala Tourism site.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Kumarakom Boating, Bird Sanctuary at Kottayam

Located on the shores of Vembanad Lake, Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary in Kottayam is touted as ornithologists' paradise. It will be a paradise of ornithologists only when the Siberian and other birds start arriving here in late November through late January.

I have visited the place two times. I haven't seen any birds on both occasions. Then again, I visited the place off season and I reached the place in the afternoon. Avid bird watchers (evidently I am not one) vouch to visit the sanctuary early in the morning to get a glimpse of birds leaving the nests in search of food. Maybe, I will visit this place once again while in season. In any case, the walk the paved path along the 14 acres of mangrove forest is a hearty experience.

If it is not raining, you can enjoy boating along the Vembanad Lake. There is also water routes connected to Kottayam and Alappuzha from Kumarakom. Boating is always a great experience. You can enjoy the cool tropical climate, rich water bodies, and splendid greenery.

Location @ Google Maps

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Tripunithura Hill Palace Photos

Here are a few photos I have taken while visiting Tripunithura Hill Palace, Ernakulam the other day. Read the post on Tripunithura Hill Palace.

A view of Garden in front of Hill Palace, Kochi

 Getting out and seeing new places has been my hobby, for which I am dedicating very little time now a days.

However, when I feel like it, there nothing stopping me from getting out and reaching the place I plan to visit.

This visit to Tripunithura Hill Palace has been a very unplanned one.

 There seems more than few dozen buildings - all built in the traditional architecture style.

One of the buildings had a thularithara (a platform to grow a tulsi (holy basil) plant, which is a common sight of old houses in the state.

The plant has great medicinal values.
 The carpenters would have done a great job, making the frames on which to lay the tiles. Under the tiled roof, you don't need AC to escape from the boiling sun.
 The photograph on the left and the one above that shows the path from inside the palace to the pond, where the palace people used take a bath.

By the sight of it, the original of this structure was damaged and destroyed, replaced with a relatively new one.
 A scene from the garden. click to see it big.
Another scene of the garden. It is simply great.
 A side of the palace.
 Tripunithura Hill Palace is welcoming with the exteriors filled with plants.
 A view of the hill palace.
 The terraced garden of Tripunithura hill palace. You can see the place on the background.
The trees in the compound keeps it cool, even under sun.

location @ Google Maps

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tripunithura Hill Palace, Kochi

Last Sunday was a nice day with a quick visit to Tripunithura Hill Palace, the largest archaeological museum in Kerala.

We reached the place at around 12 noon. Being advised the museum will be closed at 12.30, we (my wife, Seeja and I) decided to explore the expansive terrace garden. We could enjoy the interiors at leisure when it reopens at 2PM.
Front view of Tripunithura Hill Palace, Kochi

The garden, although showing signs of wear and inattention, is wonderful with several thousands of plants and hundreds of trees. I think they have planted several plants of medicinal value.

There was a place to buy plants too. The claim was you can buy any variety of plants from here, but was disappointed with the dismal collection of plants for sale.

Luckily, you can take photographs of the garden. (You can't take camera or any electronic gadget inside the museum).

The compound houses a deer park, where we saw visitors feeding fallen leaves to the deer. I wonder if feeding the animals is permitted anywhere else. Then again, it is a nice sight to see the large herd of spotted deer.

The surroundings also include a children's park, a pre-historic park (displaying a life-size dinosaur, which I doubt is a T-Rex), a pond (you won't feel like touching the water though), lots of sculptures, and (I think) more than 40 buildings of traditional architecture.

The roofs of the buildings are all tiled. Only skilled carpenters can set the frames for laying the tiles. The roofed walk from the palace to the pond is a nice sight and offers a cool seclude under the scathing sun. It is a wonder the insides of the buildings are always cool - without any AC or fans.

By 2pm, we have finished checking the gardens and got into the museum. It was a palace built by the Maharaja of Cochin in 1865, which was handed over to the Department of Archaeology by the Royal Family in 1980. They converted the palace into a museum and opened it to the public in 1986.

Inside the palace, the floors are tiled. The smooth, colourful tiles feel cold while stepping on. No two rooms appear to have the same design of tiles.

The displays include mural paintings, sculptures, chariots, swords, guns, and several hundreds of equipments that have been in use a long time ago. It also displays kitchen equipments (like wooden chopping board), household items, etc that regular people used at their homes.

The part I liked the most is a vault, guarded by policemen. Inside it, you could see centuries old gold ornaments. There is also a golden crown that weighs more than 1.5kg, decorated with more than hundred precious stones of all kinds. The same vault (or is it a locker) has an Odyanam (an ornament for the waist), which appears to weigh more than 2kg. I wonder how any woman had worn it.

The displays also include depictions of scenes from day to day life, from epics (like Ramayana), and from history.

click here for more photos.

For those who like to visit the place:

Entry fee: Rs.20
Working hours: 9.30am to 12.30pm, 2.00pm to 4.30pm
Closed on: Monday
Location (how to reach): Tripunithura is 12km south of Ernakulam (Kochi), approachable by road.

There is a railway station at Tripunithura (passenger trains and some express trains do stop there).

I am not sure about spelling the place and I am confused with variations like Thrippunithura, Tripunitura, Trippunithura, etc.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Onam Illumination Works TVM 2011 Photos

The illumination work is a regular feature of Onam festivities in the city. I have been seeing the illumination works since I was a child. I still find it amusing.

I have taken a few photos of the illumination works, which I post below. (click on the images to view the pictures in larger size).

Onam Illumination in 2008