A river island. It already sounded magical. I pictured huckleberry Finn adventures, log cabin with a lazily spiralling column of smoke, worn out paddle boats that one used to get to the island, picnic on a patch of sunlit clearing in the middle of a thick woods after a long trek through the forest, while keeping a sharp lookout for a wild fox or mongoose that surely was scampering amongst the bushes. The reality was not too far away.
Kuruva Islands (or Kuruvadweep) is actually a series of small islands the on the Kabini river. A total of nine hundred and fifty acres of wilderness and adventure. It’s a kind of place that one could get lost from reality.
There are two ways to get to this island. Located on the border between Kerala and Karnataka, one can get to Kuruva through either state. If coming in from Kerala, it’s about an hour from Wayanad. Or if you’re driving in from Karnataka, it’s about 120kms from Mysore. The last stretch is a single track mud road from either state and is not too great, and is a fairly bumpy drive. Or one of the best ways to get there is a boat ride from any of the resorts at Kabini lake, if you happened to be staying in one.
My adventure started from a resort in Wayanad. I had thought that a trip just after the monsoons was a great idea - having avoided the deluge of rains and the monsoons having renewed the verdant greens and brimming rivers, making it the best time to visit. Unfortunately I didn’t take into account the bone-jarring conditions of the roads after the monsoons. So an hour long bumpy ride (yes, I am reiterating and cannot emphasise enough) got me to the entrance guarded by the state forest department officials, who take their job fairly seriously. The islands fall within protected and forest reserve areas of Wayanad and Nagarhole, So entrance timings are restricted from 9 in the morning to 3 in the afternoon. Post which, people movement is barred from the road; thoroughfare for elephants only.
After purchasing the ticket, I settled in for a long wait for my ride across the river. The state department folks have thoughtfully provided eco-friendly means of transport. Like I said, they take their job very seriously. So there’s nothing with noise, or diesel or with rudders and propellers. That leaves paddle boats or rafts made of bamboo strung together and pulled with a rope from the other side. Needless to state, both are tedious and take a leisurely glide across the water, giving you lots of time to peer through the thick foliage on either side for monkeys, deer, or maybe a musk rat and lots of birds. Or into the sluggishly moving murky waters for a crocodile, if you can let your imagination run that wild (it might be the most excitement you encounter).
Because the Kuruva islands are home mostly to wild and slightly exotic species of flora, butterflies, a few monkeys, a fox or two, some musk rats, mongoose, an occasional water snake, a deer maybe and some utterly harmless species of small animals and of course, lots of birds.
But one could spend a good 3 hours just rambling through (and getting lost, if you don’t have a guide) thickly wooded landscapes, rivulets (where the river deciding to shake of its ennui of flowing around the island has instead sneaked across it) with mossy boulders in it to provide the excitement of having to skip and balance on them. And if you’ve got the imagination, then an aerial root dangling from a branch could become a swing rope, a log fallen across can get you scrambling on it, or you could go looking for a bird nest for hatching up a mischief, or a rabbit hole to just fall through into adventure. Look up! Fat Cheshire cat could just be just up on the branch grinning down at you.
I spent a good couple of hours doing just that. Letting my imagine run riot while I rambled through the wild. Not having engaged a guide made things more fun.
Actually things were so much fun that I decided to extend the adventure to check out an adivasi village and temple nearby. While initially waiting for my bamboo raft ride, an enterprising guide had attached himself to my curiosity and offered to take me there for a sum.
I’m not sure what I pictured or expected; images of adivasis are usually indelibly transferred and imprinted from documentaries on national geographic. But reality had my excitement leaking like air from slightly punctured balloon, slowly bur certainly. After a hot and really humid trek through the nearby forests and paddy fields, we came upon the temple. Quiet, peaceful and quaint. The village however was a bit of a disappointment and shock. Though some of the women were dressed tribal like and sported appropriate amounts of bead jewellery, activities such as powdering rice with a long staff in a stone bowl or husking rice on a bamboo tray was no different from any village in Kerala. What got my eyebrows up however was a dish antenna that capped one of the houses. And the houses themselves were proper brick and mortar structures. But shouldn’t I have been rejoicing in their progress instead of being disappointed at their still not being steeped in antiquity for my amusement and curiosity?
I've seen a number of travel reviews that rates Kuruwadweep as nothing more than a wild patch of nothing and hence avoidable. But to me it was a place that took me back and allowed me frolic in childhood fantasies. It made me smile and ponder at the same time. And that’s what a good travel should do.
This trip was first published on http://wayfarerontheroads.blogspot.in/