Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Nelliyampathy - an unexpected Nature Haven

A bike trip from Coimbatore towards the Mallu land had always been pending in my list when I came across this small little place called Nelliyampathy in one of the blogs. It was pretty surprising to find very little information about the place but whichever information available further enforced my impression about this place. The place is supposed to be one of the off-beat lesser known and a lower altitude hill station with little or no facilities, but certainly worth checking out if you prefer the isolated stretches of view points and land scapes, road rides and calmness.

With very little knowledge and almost no expectations just two of us - in one bike started out on an early morning 'one day' expedition - 8.30 am - towards the keralan border.  With almost no route details in any websites, the good old google maps came to the rescue and helped me figure out that there were two routes towards the place - one via [Coimbatore - Palakkad - Nelliyampathy] and the other [Coimbatore - Pollachi - Nelliyampathy]. (I have put up the map and routes at the end of this write up). I am sure anyone coming from north kerala or Calicut should also be taking this route - via Palakkad. Our plan was to go straight towards Nelliyampathy in the shorter Palakkad route, spend whatever time available in the day and if we had enough time return via Pollachi, if possible check out the other two reservoirs Meenkarai Dam and Chulliyar Dam on our way back - which are in the Pollachi road.

I have to admit that the road from Coimbatore till Palakkad were pretty bad, messed up with all those trucks, cement lorries, college buses almost filling up the road and leaving just patches and pot holes for bikers to get through. A nice sumptuous breakfast of Appam, kadalai (all time favourite kerala breakfast)  along with some Puttu and Noolappam (Idiyappam in tamil) at a wayside mess after Palakkad, was one of 'the best' satisfying part of the trip. The way and the route beyond palakkad were indeed difficult to identify. There were some particularly awkward and funny malayalam conversations with road side people which almost ceded as there were lesser and lesser people and more and more crossroads in the route with many of the directions and sign boards written only in malayalam. However a GPS enabled mobile handset proved a life saver. The route we took was from Palakkad - Koduvayur - Nemmara - Nelliyampathy.

The roads were much better and had two lanes most of the time, with reasonable traffic along the way. The way side green paddy fields and some interesting houses and coconut trees gave nice backgrounds to our cameras. At 12.30 pm we reached the Pothundi Dam, an almost abandoned park and a reservoir which had a reasonable amount of  water and sightseeing spots. The only visitors were ourselves and a couple who were cuddling behind one of those old park benches. We spent about an hour in the place and after some pictures left toward Nelliyampathy.

The road was indeed a pleasure to ride, freshly laid tarmac and a serene road without almost any traffic - a biker's paradise. The forests were thickening and we found quite a few water streams though it was not a particularly rainy season. A few hair pin bends and plenty of beautiful view points were crossing us by as well as the nice chilly wind as we were climbing up along the road. We reached the Nelliyampathy bus stop at 1.30 pm and had a mallu meals at ITL restaurant which looked like the only credible looking hotel over the entire place.

After some enquiries I got to know that there were indeed many view points and places to check out and regretted that we had'nt landed here early enough.
Below were atleast the main places to cover with each of them worthy of taking an afternoon's time if you are intent on exploring.
1. Poab's estate view point (Sithargunde estate)
2. Manpara
3. Kesavanpara

Among this the last two required a minimum of a 4x4 wheel drive- the good old Mahindra jeeps were available on hire. Manpara seemed to be the most exotic spots of the above and the ride is supposed to be entirely breathtaking with steep climbs in jeep over the rocks. However we settled for Poab's estate view point which could be reached by bike. After a brief ride along a narrow but well laid twisted roads via 'Munnar-ish' looking tea estates and coffee estates we reached the Poab's entry point which infact resembled the famous 'Jurassic Park' entrance gate. The place is owned by private and they were indeed particularly concerned about public visits and strayings inside their estate, however were kind enough to direct us to the route and explain about the place. We parked our bike after a 45 mins ride from Nelliyampathy and started walking towards the view point.

The place was quite beautiful and the landscape was nice. We didn't settle for the early spots and kept going ahead along the view side expecting greener pastures and almost were trekking for about 45 mins when indeed we spotted a big water falls. However the foot track kept going and we didnt have much more time to explore as it was getting late about 4.30 pm. After some pictures we started back towards Nelliyampathy. As it had already darkened by the time we reached the Meenkarai road (towards Pollachi) and we did not stop for checking out the Meenkarai and Chulliyar dams. However we did find a decent mallu hotel and had the famous 'Kerala Parotta and Eratchi curry' and which was as good as it can get. We managed to reach Coimbatore back at 9 pm.
Nelliyampathy - Nemmara Road
Enroute -roadside after Palakkad

A cut road that we entered after vithanassery  relying on GPS's shortcut -
In India GPS does disappoint at times

Poothundy dam

Gen Next :) --  kid picking stray bottles for money

park nearby Poothundy dam

Poab's estate entrance

View point - poabs estate

The waterfalls after the short Trek off Poabs estate view point

Heavy hearted return :)

The ITL hotel - this aint the resort - ITL resort is located ahead of the bustand

Nelliyampathy - Nemmara road

The place did turn out to be a good discovery, one of those places that would give the 'lingering feeling' of not having spent enough time to catch a breather and explore those lovely spots.I would recommend the trip only those looking for a 'difference' and the place is certainly worth exploring two days if you get accomodation in a good resort or local home stays (ITL resort is quite famous there - a google search on ITL resort will give contact information). And make sure you go only during winter or post monsoon as its not those 'evercool' hill retreat and might get warm during summers.

Please note that the route from Vithanassery to Nelliyampathy (the last stretch) has to be covered via Nemmara and not as indicated in the map.

Small Request to readers: Please do comment in the below comment section in case you had visited the place or if you find the article useful.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Chunchi Falls - Sangama - Mekedatu

Info: Chuchi falls  is a lesser known and a medium sized waterfalls, more known for the rocks and gorges around the falls. The ride down the kanakapura road is a bikers treat. Sangama is the joining place of river Cauvery and Arkavathi and the spot is frequented by tourists. Sangama has a vast stretch of Cauvery river where we can take a dip in the shallow free flowing river. Mekedatu which literally means a deep gorge as narrow as a goat’s leap is at a distance of 3.5 Km from Sangama and can be reached after crossing the river Sangama by a Coracle/boat.
Distance: 95 Km from Bangalore
Best time: Post Monsoon (Aug to Feb)
Ride: The roads are decent, right till the Sangama. The chuchi falls stretch is a bit narrow and along the village roads.
Route: Bangalore=> (Bannerghatta Road =>NICE Road )=> Kanakapura Road => Kanakapura => Sangama Road => Chunchi Falls => Sangama => Mekedatu
Ideal trip: Start by 7 am after packing breakfast and lunch. Spend time to relax and explore the places. Start back at 6.30 pm and reach Bangalore by 8 pm.
Chunchi falls, I would say is meant for those looking for a more of a laid back road trip down the country side. The route from Bangalore was simple, down Bannerghatta road/Kanakapura road till Kanakpura and then towards the Sangama and would not exceed more than 95 kms one way. Neverthless the plan was to cover Chunchi falls, Sangama as well as Mekedatu with in the day. 10 enthusiasts turned up for the trip and we started off at 8 am in 3 bikes and a car after a light breakfast.
The road down the Kanakapura road covered beautiful greeneries, paddy fields and the country side. To our luck the rain had gotten over just before we started and the whole way was accentuated by the just ended drizzles. We stopped by Kanakapura in search of a decent hotel and after some local help managed to find a decent ‘Sagar’ near a circle in Kanakapura before the turn towards Sangama road. We realized that we could have packed food for the entire day as there were no good eateries at all, all along the trip. After a round of Masala dosas, rava idlies and puris we also packed puliogare for the lunch.
Kanakapura road
Road to Chunchi falls

Chunchi falls initial stretch

The falls that appears after the trek
Sangama coracle crossing

Mekedatu view

Mekedatu gorge
Nice Road on return during Sunset
Trek down to the falls and up to the watch tower:
 The trip down Sangama road was even more fresh and along the village roads. We had to take a left towards Chunchi falls after about 15 Km from Kanakapura. At 11.30 am, after a 6 Km stretch we reached a completely deserted Chunchi falls, a place that looked devoid of any sign of water.  After a brief trek down, we reached the rocks and could hear the sounds and see the falls flowing down the rocks. We saw some locals diving down to the waters from the rocks but the place looked quite treacherous for bathing. We spotted another stretch of big water falls at about a Km from this place and an old guy around that place guided us to the route to reach the bigger falls. Most of the foot path towards the falls was non existing and had to climb across rocks. Halfway 4 of us got to split in the middle of the trek and realized that the one group was going down to the falls and the other to a watch tower at the peak of the hills. The views from both the places were amazing though we didn’t get enough time to spend near the water falls. The adventure lasted about 2 hours and we were desperately short of drinking water. Going down to these places is not recommended unless there are locals to guide along. We regrouped at the place where we parked our bikes and took a long rest after starting towards Sangama at 2.15 pm.

Road route till Sangama:

View Larger Map

The place Sangama was dotted with tourists and the big river offered a great place for bathing and picnic near the banks. We had to take a coracle ride to cross the river. We spent some time in the water struggling to have our foot in the strong current. And then had a fulfilling lunch - Puliogare and fresh fried fish.
From this side of the river there were public vans ferrying people to the Mekedatu. By 3.15 pm, we managed to rush into the heavily crowded van and reached Mekedatu after a 40 min ride. At this place the river Cauvery flows through a very narrow gorge and offered stunning views. After spending some time and a round of pictures we started back in the van. It was quite crowded that some of us even had a chance to ride the beautiful stretch on the roof of the bus. At 5.15 pm, we started back towards Bangalore from Sangama without any other stops.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Melukote - A pious sanctum for those spiritualites

It had been quite long since we had laid our bikes on Mysore 4 laner when I was suggested by one of my friends to check out the famous temple at Melkote / Melukote. The distance of the place from Bangalore (133 Km from Bangalore and 51 from Mysore) was almost as far as Mysore but the route was a deviation from the Mandya town enroute to Mysore.The route is meant to cover those luscious evergreen sugar cane fields and paddy farms that the Mandya district itself was famous for. Melkote is supposed to house a very old Vaishnavite temple established by Sri Ramanujacharya during 12 th century and also a yoga- Narasimha temple perched on top of the hill. The place is also known for mutts and mathas around the temple providing sanctum for religious devotees. The lake and surrounding pond also provides interest to ornithologists and is a treat for bird watchers.
Without hoping for much we started on a very early ride along the Mysore road, on a weekend and the road was indeed fun to ride especially with very little traffic on a fine early morning. Our intention was to reach Maddur and have the breakfast- with the renowned "Maddur vada" at Maddur. We reached a place called Maddur Tiffanys just ahead of Maddur town. And it indeed was a good treat, the good old Bisibella bath, Idly and Maddur vada.
We started towards Mandya and took the right at the Mandya town towards Melkote. The road leading from Mandya was also a pleasure to ride - newly laid with lots of curves. The place was famous for paddy fields and sugarcane farms and we did come across those endless greens of paddy fields dotted by little villages. Halfway down the road there was a large canal where we thought of taking a respite from the heat. We had a small dip and swim along with a few of the localites there.
We went ahead towards Melukote further and the traffic was almost nil and landsides getting more barren. Along the entry of the Melukote village there was a small lake with plenty of birds which provided some interest to our cameras. We did take some pictures and proceeded towards the hill temple. 
The place did look like a scene taken from the old movies - an ideal temple town with Pujaris and devotees in those white costumes, Namam/forehead marks and kudumis.The square shaped pond along side the temple was also quite unique and provided a nice setting across the temple backdrop.
We started climbing towards the hilltop, the climb along the steps not taking much effort or time -half hour, though the view at the top surely meant that the elevation of the hill was significant. The hilltop provided a beautiful 360 degree view of the town below along with the lake, the temples and the adjoining pond. Both the view as well as the temple was good proving it worth while to visit the place.

Hilltop temple view
Maddur Vada at Maddur Tiffanys

Mandya to Melukote road

 A large Canal enroute Melukote

Interesting bird nests by the lake side
The Kamat highway hotel
Dinner at Kamat

We turned back at around 4 pm, a long ride towards Bangalore waiting ahead of us. And offcourse whats a ride along Mysore road worth if you fail to visit Coffee day or Kamat. We did go to Kamat for our dinner, the restaurant was at its usual best, the traditionally attired waiters, atmosphere and the food itself was quite an experience. We ordered the good old 'Neer Dosa', appam and Puri and indeed savoured every bite. We reached back Bangalore at about 8 pm. 
I would recommend to cover Melukote along with Mysore or adjoining places; just Melukote on a single day might turn out to be uninteresting. One can do a Srirangapatnam or Ranganthittu bird sanctuary along with Melukote on a single day trip. And do take some sun screens or plan your visit during the winters/post monsoon as the place can get hot at the top especially when the sun's beating down.