Kerala: The finale

Tripoto
15th Jun 2015
Photo of Kerala: The finale 1/12 by Salim Islam
Chembra Peak Trek
Photo of Kerala: The finale 2/12 by Salim Islam
Heart-shaped Lake at Chembra Peak
Photo of Kerala: The finale 3/12 by Salim Islam
Kanthampara Falls
Photo of Kerala: The finale 4/12 by Salim Islam
Kalpetta to Manathavady
Photo of Kerala: The finale 5/12 by Salim Islam
Valiyaparamba public ferry
Photo of Kerala: The finale 6/12 by Salim Islam
Valiyaparamba public ferry
Photo of Kerala: The finale 7/12 by Salim Islam
Valiyaparamba Village
Photo of Kerala: The finale 8/12 by Salim Islam
Rough sea at Valiyaparamba Beach
Photo of Kerala: The finale 9/12 by Salim Islam
Valiyaparamba Village
Photo of Kerala: The finale 10/12 by Salim Islam
Bekal BEach
Photo of Kerala: The finale 11/12 by Salim Islam
Bekal Fort
Photo of Kerala: The finale 12/12 by Salim Islam
Magical Kerala

Read the first two parts here :

1. Kerala : the first glance

2. Kerala: The Second Desire

Abhijit had arrived and straightaway had to board another 6 hour ordeal to reach Coimbatore. Aboard the Chennai Express, Abhijit and Shikha had short and unevenly distributed naps. We had no reservation and hence people kept claiming their seats. Dead in the night we reach Coimbatore and we thought of booking a hotel when someone mentioned that they have buses going to Ooty even post 12 at night.

So we began another sleepless and rather cold journey and reached Ooty at around 3:00 am in the morning. It was cold and was drizzling with the wind slapping across our skimpy clothes. I went out to find a hotel room and had to literally break in to wake up the sleeping staff. Slept in a stuffy and smelly room, hoping that the day-break would bring some great sights, but, the morning brought rage.

I had planned 3 days for the Ooty, Coonoor and Kotagiri circuit but we left the very next day and the only enjoyable thing that we got to do was to take a ride in the toy train from Coonoor to Ooty. That too was marred by the madding crowd. It was a really bad decision on my part to equate Ooty with the likes in Kerala. Ooty probably is a great destination but I really had different expectations and so did the others. So the bad part is better left unsaid.

The morning after, we took a bus to Gudalur then to Pattavayal and finally to Kalpetta. You realise you are in Kerala again when all the randomness and chaos ends, especially when you enter the most beautiful part of Kerala; Wayanad. Paddy fields, forested hills and misty mountains welcome you to Wayanad. Jeeps suddenly dominate the roads.

As soon as you enter Wayanad, you realise you are in the elephant country. The man-animal conflict becomes more apparent. Electric fences dominate the landscape of the forested part. Balan's (whom I had mentioned in my first post) words strike my heart. The paths that they were using to migrate for ages now have been fenced and the newspaper report says "Elephants break fences and destroys crops".

INR 750 for a 3-bed room in a motel made our day after a long travel plus the amazing biryani at the New Hotel. The monsoon was now in full swing. It rained throughout the day halting only for a couple of minutes or so. We woke up early to make our way to Meppadi and from there on to start our trek to the Chembra Peak. The auto driver was kind enough to arrange for some salt as he warned us of the leeches that we would encounter.

One has to take a guide provided by the forest department for this trek. The forest department has prohibited trekkers from going atop the Chembra peak since it is home to a number of endemic and endangered species of birds. One can now only go as far as the heart-shaped lake. The trek is easy but what made it difficult was the incessant rains and strong winds.

The path turned rather slippery and our shoes were filled with water. Leeches were an added bonus, however, they somehow left Shikha alone. Once we crossed the forested part and reached the grasslands, the wind picked up and the rain started to pinch real hard. We could not expose our bare skin to the fury of the arrows of rain droplets. Raincoats did not matter, it pinched right through and at times it felt we were losing balance because of the strong winds. We were drenched to the skin and with not an inch of dry patch on our clothes beneath our raincoats. Water flowed heavily downhill and it became difficult to step on the slippery stones without a helping hand from each other. This monsoon fury I shall never forget. But the sights were wonderful. The rains stopped for 3 times for about a minute each and that's when I could take out my camera to click pictures. What seemed to be a fairly easy hike turned out to be a wonderful adventure.

Photo of Chembra Peak, Kozhikode, Kerala, India by Salim Islam

The adventure did not tire us and we went to Soochipara and Kanthanpara waterfalls and the rains did not relent. Kanthanpara Falls which is tiny as compared to the Soochipara falls was now roaring.

Since Abhijit had not witnessed the backwaters, we headed to Payyanur in the north. I had read about the Valiyaparamba beach and decided that along with a ride through the backwaters, we would spend some time at the beach. The northern backwaters of Kerala is completely tourist-free. There wasn't a single houseboat in the backwaters of Payyanur. These are huge channels of backwaters and one can see the sea through the thin stretch of land that divided the two water bodies.

We went to Kotty jetty to catch the lone ferry that makes the round trip in approximately 2 hours and 40 minutes. Valiyaparamba lies about 1 hour 40 minutes from Kotty and they charge you a sum of INR 12/head. The ferry is really rusty and might not have much left in it but the route is one of the best that one can experience in Kerala. Most of the people were curious to see us; first because they didn't have much tourists and second, it was the off-season.

Valiyaparamba is a thin stretch of land that divides the backwaters and the sea. The entire stretch has just one non-functional streetlight. We reached the beach, but the sea was furious and muddy. The shifting sandbars did not even offer us a chance to sit for sometime. This was the first time I had seen a monsoon induced roaring sea. We walked through the village and took an auto back over the bridge and then a bus from there onwards.

Photo of Valiyaparamba, Kerala, India by Salim Islam

The trip was at the last stage now and we moved out of Payyanur towards the northern town of Kasaragod. The main aim was to visit the Bekal fort and the Bekal beach. Dominated by resorts, Bekal had only two options for budget travellers like us. We finally took the motel near the flyover. A pre-dominantly Muslim town but they let the tourists be and we didn't encounter many awkward stares as we had expected.

The Bekal Fort has a lovely architecture and a brilliant placement out into the sea. I had seen the Aguada Fort in Goa but this is something spectacular. (Read my Goa blogs here : North Goa and South Goa)

Kerala never did end actually, for all of us. The windowless buses, the cheap public ferries, the backwaters, the tea-gardens, the mountains, the beaches, the spice plantations, the forests and the spirit of Kerala. I can hardly find words to explain what this state does to you. It's magical.

Photo of Bekal Beach, Kerala, India by Salim Islam

We had reached the end of our month long tour of Kerala but I still had a few days left. Shikha and Abhijit had a train back to Cochin after which they would fly out to Delhi. I was solo again and headed out to Karnataka to witness Coorg, Mysore and Hampi.

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