Wayanad had been calling me since long. So imagine my surprise when I found one of the readers (link) at Shail’s Nest is the man behind The Treasure Trove (link) initiative. I looked up the site, noted the details, read the rave reviews on Tripadvisor.com and decided it was time to heed that call from Wayanad. I gathered together a couple of friends, one older and the other younger, a mother-daughter duo who were equally interested in making that trip, and one night, the three of us headed north.
Early morning found us getting off the Mangalore Express at Kozhikode railway station. We were received there by another of my (virtual) friends. Ha, and people say the ‘virtual’ can never replace the ‘real’. Get a life people. Real or virtual, relationships depend on the people involved. So anyway, here was this friend, who had woken up really early on a weekend, to meet us, with a cab all arranged for our onward journey. And so began our drive that misty morning, through an as yet not fully awake Kozhikode city, to the dream destination of Wayanad.
One starts feeling the magic from the moment the car rolls out of the city limits. Mist and greenery all around creates that otherworldly feeling which only intensifies as you travel further. As you reach what’s called the churam (ghat) and the climb begins, the breathtaking beauty of the surroundings assault you. It is a visual feast which you can never tire of.
In my youth I have heard spine chilling tales of dacoits and killings on this very same route. The forests around have been home to dreaded bandits. Vehicles went in convoys for safety sake. The road was extremely narrow and difficult to maneuver, and accidents common. In the present, there is traffic 24 hours of the day. The roads are much wider too and you hardly feel the 9 hairpin bends you take to reach the top where Wayanad begins. But before that…
On hearing that we were first time visitors to the area, our friendly (and I must say pretty informed from the political history of the area he talked to us about) driver Suresh, told us the story behind how the churam (or Thamarassery churam) road, was constructed. It seems the British were worrying over the best and most efficient way to build a road to cross over to Kozhikode through this tough forest and ghat terrain. A paniyan (tribal) supposedly drew the route on sand for the British engineer. But what did they do? They had the road built, and the man killed.
Things allegedly took a bizarre turn after that. Vehicles passing through the churam met with mysterious accidents and people too met untimely demise. A kaniyan (astrologer) was pressed into service to look into the matter and he revealed it all to be the handiwork of the ghost of the tribal who was killed by the British. So some rituals were performed and the ghost was allegedly ‘chained’ to a tree. The tree and the chain can still be seen at Lakkidi. What’s amazing according to the cab driver is the fact that in all these years, neither the tree nor the chain (in spite of being made of iron) been affected in any way. Interesting, eh?
So finally we entered Wayanad, the 12th offspring of the state of Kerala, born on 1st of Nov 1980, carved out of portions of the neighboring districts of Kannur and Kozhikode and fused into one. Did I say (link) that lush and verdant take on a new meaning, when I wrote about the visit to Athirapally? Well, I think we need to coin entirely new words to describe the lushness of the Wayanad countryside. It came as no surprise at all to know that this region was known as Mayakshetra (Maya’s land) in the earliest records. Mayakshetra evolved into Mayanad and finally to Wayanad. (Wiki) Of course, it also says, the Folk etymology of the word is a combination of Vayal (paddy field) and Naad (land), making Wayanad, ‘The Land of Paddy Fields’ (source Wiki). But I personally stick to the first explanation.
Anyways, it is mayalokam of a different kind up there. Mist covered mountain tops, tall trees and lush undergrowth, coffee and tea gardens, those startlingly bright colored flowers that grab your attention, growing wild by the way side. If you ask me what paradise looks like, I’d say Wayanad.
Paradise or not, we were by then hungry and badly in need of the cup that cheers and some breakfast. So when we drove into Meenangadi town and took the turn that would take us to our hosts’ house, we were glad. A warm welcome from Reena (Sunil had gone to drop his daughter), tea and a tasty breakfast of dosas and chutney awaited us. A word about our abode: it took our breath away.
Well, what now? Reena suggested going to Edakkal caves and may be we could take in the Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary as well? She also suggested a reliable person to show us around. That is how Chandu entered the picture, in his tuk-tuk or auto-rickshaw. But then, Chandu is not someone who can be fitted in as a footnote in an already long post. So I shall keep that for another day.