Wandering in Wayanad

The past week or so has involved quite a bit of monotonous, bus related travel, some amazing forays out into the wilderness, followed by some much needed recuperation.

After my minor beating by a beggar in Calicut, Soph and I hopped on a bus to an area of the Western Ghats known as Wayanad. I say hopped on; it took quite a bit of broken discussion with various people – everyone wants to get involved with what the strange pale people are doing!

The destination of our bus ride was a town in the middle of Wayanad called Kalpetta. The bus itself was another standard Indian bus – no windows, just big industrial sliding shutters; too many people; and an absolute fucking lunatic at the wheel! As the bus hurtled along the road, with the horn pretty much blasting from the moment the wheels set in motion, we were taken from the sprawling, chaotic city of Calicut through some peaceful local villages, and up one absolute beast of a mountain – with 9 hairpin bends, more psychopathic bus drivers round every corner, and about 1ft of pathetic concrete barrier between the road and certain death, which I’m sure would be just about sufficient to stop a runaway hamster wheel, but certainly not a 20 tonne bus!

As we wound our way up the mountain side and reached the peak, the terrain began to level out and we passed a sign saying “Welcome to Wayanad”, which is in fact a sort of plateau area containing more mountains and some epic forests, rivers and waterfalls. After another 30 odd minutes we reached Kalpetta (which Soph amusingly thought was called Cow Patta for some time) and found ourselves in a very local mountain town, with absolutely no other foreign tourists. We were on our own in the Wayanad ‘wilderness’!

After failing to be understood by an auto-rickshaw / tuk tuk driver, we walked through town to find out homestay. No sign, no clues, just a location on a map; so only one thing to do, knock and hope. We thankfully got it right, and after settling in to our very comfortable room with an epic mountain view – it was Valentines Day, and our anniversary on Sunday, so a treat was definitely in order! – we explored the town and had lunch in a nice little restaurant, where we were basically forced to eat a small portion of every curry they had, plus dessert and ice cream, before departing, fucking destroyed!

Sunday, as I mentioned, was Valentines Day and our anniversary – we genuinely don’t know the date of our anniversary, so we thought Valentines Day is as good as any! The order of the day was a spot of hiking. Our initial plan was to try and climb the highest peak in Wayanad, Chembra Peak, however this swiftly broke down when we were told the peak was closed to trekkers past a certain point – that point being the ‘heart-shaped lake’. So with a destination established, we set off on our 15km round trip to the lake and back. Personally, I am seriously glad we didn’t try and climb the whole peak, because I was royally fucked by the time we reached the lake. The walk, the lake, and the views were incredible. What wasn’t quite so incredible was the constant howling, whooping, wailing, moaning and general retarded behaviour of the hoards of rich Indian tourists, dressed in there designer clothes, who were joining us on the climb. Note: Don’t go to tourist hotspots in India on a weekend because Indians know how to ruin a beautiful place.

Nevertheless, it was a great walk, and the name was accurate, the lake was indeed shaped like a heart! After all that strenuous walking, a bottle of wine and curry was beckoning!

We left Kalpetta and Wayanad the next day, and following another nerve-racking bus trip back down the mountain, we landed back in Calicut and joined the long, confusing ticket queue at the train station. I had changed queues 3 times and filled out a pointless form, before being told the train was now full. Great. Back to the bus station then. A mere 7hrs 30mins of a sweaty, uncomfortable, boring bus ride later, we reached Alleppey, where we planned to take a trip out into the fabled Keralan backwaters. We stayed the night and spend the early morning looking for a sufficient boat. Upon viewing said boats, we decided that the seemingly ridiculous idea of lying on a bed on a luxury boat like some sort of emperor / empress, ‘observing the peasants at work’, was not really our cup of chai! Yes the boats all actually had beds on board…

So, fuck that then. And here we are, back in our sanctuary away from the chaos of Indian life, Varkala, after sacking off the luxury backwater trip in Alleppey, and opting for a much more quaint and tolerable option of a morning trip by canoe, with a local villager at the helm, through the Munroe Island backwaters just outside Kollam. That’s tomorrows mission.

Anyway, waffle over. Here we go with some photos from Wayanad:

The sunrise view from our balcony in Kalpetta
An Indian stand-off…
The views of Chembra Peak from the start of the walk were daunting
Off we went along the winding mountain road
Here I am, enjoying the view of the tea fields
There were some epic views of the peak along the way
More views of the mountains
At the top of the ‘halfway’ watchtower.
A group of guys enjoying the view (very loudly, may I add)
And here’s the end point of our walk… the heart-shaped lake!