Our second team trip to Wayanad. With good memories of our past trip, we left on a bright beautiful Saturday morning in a Force Traveller which we had hired to transport us during this trip. Some members of the team had'nt visited Wayanad and so our plans were to cover two of the same places we visited last time viz. Muthanga wild life sanctuary and Edakkal caves. The other place we planned to visit was Soojipara falls. We intended to stay at the same place we stayed the last time.
The journey was great which was not unexpected considering the group I was with. We stopped for break fast at Tiffany's on the Bangalore - Mysore highway. We reached Wayanad in the afternoon and decided to have lunch at Sultanbathery town. After a nice & heavy lunch, we went to visit the Muthanga sanctuary.
Our experience of Muthanga, the last time around was not too great since we did'nt really get to see much wild life. Of course, last time we did encounter some deer and foxes. We were now hoping to do better and off we went. We were allowed to do the safari using our vehicle instead of hiring the jeeps (vehicles normally used for safaris and can be hired at the entrance of the wild life sanctuary). Just as we entered the sanctuary, we smelt something burning and within seconds our entire vehicle was engulfed in thick white smoke. We managed to open the doors and rush out - apparently the vehicle's electricals were fried, but not completely. Interesting experience indeed ! Couple of us trekked back to the entrance of the sanctuary to hire a couple of jeeps (should've done that in the first place, probably !) while the driver of our vehicle was trying to figure out the extent & nature of damage. We hired two jeeps and resumed our safari, leaving our vehicle's driver to get the vehicle fixed.
With fingers crossed, off we went - our cameras were on and ready to capture any trace of wild life which crossed our path. A short while into the trip we encountered a wild elephant that looked pretty dangerous. The drivers of the jeeps we were traveling in did not stop and continued lest the elephant get into a playful mood with us. After a while we took a less traveled path inside the jungles and stopped in a clearing. Apparently there was some wild animals at a distance. Straining our eyes, we could see a bison and some deer far away. This was one time i wished i had a camera with better optical zoom (my point and shoot had just 3x optical zoom which seemed woefully inadequate here).
We resumed our journey and met a group of tourists who were returning from their safari and we stopped them to ask if they had sighted any animals. The forest guide in that vehicle said that a tiger had crossed their path a little while ago. The first thought that passed my mind was he probably must've been hallucinating or making things up to raise the levels of our curiosity. Ok, its not that there are no tigers here, there supposedly are tigers and i don't deny that. But the possibility of sighting of tigers during the day (considering my past experiences here plus conversations with some of the folks around) seem akin to sighting of large pools of cool fresh water in the middle of the Sahara desert during noon.
Anyways, giving them the benefit of doubt we set forth on our endeavor to sight the large cat, or at the very least some other wild denizens of these forests. We reached a large clearing next to a placid pool of water in the midst of the jungle. Parking the jeeps there we wandered around the place and took a few pictures. I must admit, the scenery was beautiful. After loitering around for sometime, we left again and after traveling some distance we saw some deer and another elephant in the distance. Soon, we returned and completed our safari.
The one thing to note when compared to the last visit, was the timing ... last time it rained and there was a lot of lush greenery plus water everywhere. The scenery looked very beautiful. Forests in the rain are beautiful indeed ! This time it was summer and things looked a little dry. The open vehicles we traveled in kicked up clouds of dust that required some of us to cover our noses ... makes me feel that visiting the place when there's a light rain would be better. Anyways, it was a refreshing experience for us city dwellers.
After Muthanga we took the jeeps to Sultanbathery town to catch up with our driver who was getting our vehicle repaired. The vehicle would need some more tinkering and could take some more time to be ready. So, we went walking around town in smaller groups of two-three members. I had a bit of shopping to do too. By this time the vehicle was ready and we left to the resort where we would be spending the night. Its about 10 kms from town and after a nice drive, we reached the place. After a bit of freshening and relaxing we decided to start our evening and night activities on the lawns of the resort. There was a lot of food and drinks going around. The amount of energy in the team needed to be seen to be believed. We had a lot of fun; we tried our hand at playing mid-night volleyball (using a very light but large plastic ball) which turned out to be very entertaining, followed by other group activities ... all of these fun activities had made folks hungry and after a real nice dinner we ... continued our interesting activities ... by early morning (1:30 - 2 AM ish) we decided to call it a day and grab some shut eye.
Woke up early on Sunday morning and after some folks had a splash in the pool, literally speaking ... we bid adieu to the resort and began the rest of our tour. Our first pit stop was the hotel in Sultanbathery town for breakfast. After a typical Kerala style breakfast, off we went to our first destination, Edakkal caves. Some of us, me included, had seen this place earlier. However all of us were game to go see it again, for the benefit of the folks in our group who had'nt seen this place.
The trip to Edakkal requires parking your vehicle at a designated parking spot and then going up to the entrance of the caves, where you purchase tickets for your entry into the caves. However, one thing to note is the journey to the entrance of the caves can be very tiring and exhausting especially if you are'nt the regular trekking enthusiast or marathon runner types. Ok, i was probably exaggerating that a bit, but not too much. What I would advise is for folks to hire a jeep (again the same kind of vehicle we used for our safari). Yes, thats the only vehicle that seems qualified to do this uphill journey to the entrance of the caves. There are jeeps for hire a little distance further from the parking slots and you'd be advised to conserve your energy and hire these vehicles. Of course, if your plan is to only visit Edakkal all day and don't plan to go around anywhere else, then walking all the way up is probably a good idea.
However, to save time and energy, hop on a jeep and if you are lucky, you'll get a jeep driver who's gonna treat you to an experience that can leave your adrenalin pumping ! Yep, some of the drivers in this area make me think these guys really wanted to participate in Formula 1 racing, yet due to some unfortunate circumstances probably ended up here driving jeeps on these narrow mountain paths and boy they sure can make the roller coaster ride seem like a drive in the park ! ... again., depends on the driver you get. One of the jeeps we hired (the one I was traveling in) had this young driver who appeared before us with tyres screeching to a halt and beckoning us to get on board for an exciting ride ahead ! ... our expectations were not belied and off we went with wheels spinning wildly on rock and gravel via narrow paths upto the entrance of the caves.
When we reached the entrance we saw a large number of tourists. Looks like weekends and holidays can get to be very crowded. Once you purchase tickets, you then make your way up to the caves. The cave area is a little spacious and you can see inscriptions made by the Neandrathal man. We took pictures, savored the scenery and crowds! and left the place. On our return from the caves, we again took the jeeps down to the base of the mountain, a little distance from where we'd parked our vehicles. The visit was good and the scenery plus views are very good. Crowds were a little too much and seemed very much like traffic back home, on the roads of Bangalore. Not sure if this is a regular weekend phenomenon. During our last visit the place was not crowded. By the looks of it, it seems this place is getting to be fairly popular with the average tourist ... what with man's quest to see what his ancestors have been upto !
We set off to our next destination, Soojipara falls. In summer we did'nt expect much water though. Anyways, at Soojipara we need to trek a little distance to reach the water falls. The walking path is well laid out for most of the distance and could take about 15 - 30 mins depending on the walking speed. Carrying drinking water is very much advisable since walking during noon / afternoon times can be pretty hot and tiring. However, with our group, the fun quotient is pretty high and we spent a lot of good time as we walked. Fortunately, there was some water at the falls and many of our team members decided to bathe in the falls. After some fun times there, we trekked back to our vehicle and left to reach Sultanbathery town for lunch. After a fairly heavy lunch we set off on our way back to Bangalore.
The journey back was great fun too, again not surprising considering the enthusiastic & fun loving bunch of folks I was traveling with. By evening we reached Mysore and some folks got off there whilst the rest of us continued our onward journey to Bangalore. Barring a minor incident (our vehicle had a flat tyre near Mysore ... gave us some time to get out of the vehicle and stretch our limbs), we reached Bangalore by ~11 PM on Sunday night. Looking back, it was like all our team trips - simply super !
Here are some pictures ...