Have you ever imagined zooming out from where you stand and trying to plot yourself on a map? On the morning of Day 2, that was the first thought that came to the mind, imagining a life-size map of India and plotting ourselves somewhere in the North-west corner of the Southern most state of India and at the opposite end of the country, two states away from home. It was wonderful to imagine all that as we woke up to a pleasant morning at Vadakara.
First on the cards was the colleague’s wedding. Quickly dressed for the wedding in all traditional finery, we drove to the groom’s home, a beautiful bungalow located in the middle of a coconut grove, how lovely it must be to be living in such green surroundings !
We were given the warmest welcome amidst the glitter of an Indian wedding household, it is not the house but people who make it beautiful. We bonded with them over delicious Kerala Idlies, Sambhar, coconut chutney and tea, striking up conversations in a mix of English, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam, each of us not familiar with the other’s language but understanding what was being said. India, they say is a land of unity in diversity, this was just a glimpse.
Then the groom’s procession began to the wedding avenue at Kannur, 42 kms away. Our 2 Figos were joined by two more Figos, together it looked like a Figo fair !
We always believed Hyderabad’s drivers were a class apart and nobody could match their insane driving skills. At Kerala, we discovered a perfect match for Hyderabadi drivers ! Kerala drivers are not just rash, they are scary, they just don’t seem to bother who else is on the road, the road truly is their father’s property ! The two drivers from Hyderabad bowed and surrendered to their Kerala counterparts. After many heart-in-the-mouth situations, we reached the wedding avenue.
Kerala weddings are very simple and elegant, no elaborate rituals where the bride and groom are on the verge of fainting, just the meaningful essentials of a Hindu wedding with close family participating in the rituals and smiles all around, it prompted some of the guys to look for Kerala brides !
Let the feast begin !
The wedding was over in less than half an hour and the wedding feast began. It is no secret that the Kerala Sadya was one of the primary reasons behind this trip. Sadya is the traditional Kerala feast, a vegetarian meal served on a banana leaf, the feast has more than 20 different dishes served along with rice and warm herbal water. Almost all the dishes are cooked in coconut oil, while a lot of people are apprehensive about the taste of coconut oil cooked food, we’d say, just go for it. Try out different cuisines, it is fun !
Coming back to the Sadya at the wedding, what can we say about the the food? The place was crowded at the beginning of the feast and we thought we’d give it a miss but we were glad we stayed back, the food was heavenly. There is something to the white rice surrounded by curries, pickles and sweets of different colours and flavours, topped with Sambhar and accompanied by a crunchy appalam and payasam which is an earthly substitute to the divine nectar, all laid out on a green banana leaf. For a foodie – This. Is. Life ! Even the great Ghatothkacha couldn’t resist a wedding feast !
Relishing every bite, we felt the entire purpose of traveling 900 kms, had been fulfilled !
The pleasant morning had turned into a sultry, coastal afternoon by then. Our next plan was to check out the beaches of Kannur, the main attraction being a drive-in beach.
We first visited the Payyambalam Beach, mistaking it to be the drive-in-beach. Nevertheless, a beach is a beach and we stepped into the cool waters for a few minutes. The Payyambalam beach is a pretty looking beach. For some of us it was a momentous event because it was the first time we were setting foot in the Arabian Sea.
We presented a hilarious picture in our traditional kurtas, silk sarees and jasmine flowers and taking a stroll along the beach on a hot, sultry afternoon !
Muzhappilangad Drive-in Beach
Google, the Lord of the internet, told us the drive-in-beach, called the Muzhappilangad Drive-in Beach, was 18 kms from where we were and very much on our way back to Vadakara.
Muzhappilangad Drive-in Beach is one of its kind in Asia, a drive-in beach as the name indicates, is a beach where you can take your cars on to the beach and drive on the shore. If your car is rugged enough, you could even drive in the sea water.
The cars simply had a blast !
We do not know if it was the drivers and the passengers or the cars themselves, who looked like excited little kids visiting a beach for the first time, the cars suddenly seemed life-like and enjoying themselves. Vroom, vroom they went, as they drew circles and patterns on the shore, gleefully zoomed by splashing water, chasing these little birds who seemed busy in the middle of a meeting,
and posing for pictures. Check out how pleased they look !
The two white Figos were the celebrities and had the time of their lives, it was their day out ! Muzhappilangad beach is a fantastic experience, not to be missed ever !
Dizzy with excitement, we drove back to Vadakara. The drive is along the coast and very scenic with beautiful blue backwaters bordered by green coconut trees everywhere.
Cost benefits of Union Territories
Half way through the journey, we spotted some petrol stations selling diesel at Rs.42, much less than what we were used to. We praised the Kerala government for low taxes only to realise that we were in Mahe, a Union Territory which meant that the taxes were either nil or very nominal. Mahe, a tiny Union Territory falling under the administration of Pondicherry, is located in the heart of Kerala – such geographical confusion, you can’t blame students for disliking geography ! A golden opportunity like couldn’t be missed and we promptly filled our car tanks to the brim – Economics lessons, anyone?
Back at Vadakara, we refreshed ourselves and by 3.30 PM, we were on the journey to our next destination – Wayanad. We took the exact route of the previous day via Thamarassery, as it was on the NH and though a longer route had good roads. We wanted to avoid the scary night drive on the ghat road and hoped to complete the 85 km journey before nightfall.
One of the good things about the part of Kerala we visited, was that the roads were very good. One can’t say much about the traffic though, the buses and the lorries continued to harass us with their rashness. To make matters worse, the highway passes right through villages and houses are so close to the road that if the road extends a little more to the left or right, you could be driving into their living rooms ! But, the refreshing greenery around makes you forget everything else.
As the evening drew on and we were climbing on to higher altitudes, it became cooler and even drizzled for a bit. We stopped for a cup of tea, which was made in the most unique style. Boiling hot milk was poured directly over tea powder and sugar, stirred and served. It tasted weird at the start but as we reached the bottom of the glass, the tea powder had dissolved and gave out a great taste. We also found bottles of Citra, the popular soft drink of our childhood (how we all loved the jingle, “Citra, super cooler !”). The drink had disappeared from the market many years ago. We were so happy to find it again in that remote country side, it was like meeting a long, lost childhood friend. Whether the contents of the bottle were really Citra or something else, we do not know.
Moving onward, we caught the first glimpse of the Western Ghats in the fading light.
We had just about enough light as we started on the dreaded ghat road. We could make out the route we took the previous night, the slightly narrow road going right over the edge beyond which lay deep valleys, we were thankful, we couldn’t seem them the other night. The sight would have freaked us out ! Having been through the exercise once, this time we were more prepared for the shockers.
Finally, we reached Wayanad around 7 PM, the 85 odd kms took us almost 3 hours, breaks included. We were going to stay at Valley View Avenue, a homestay near Wayanad. The famous Vythiri Resort is in Wayanad, we chose Valley View Avenue because it was easy on the budget and the pictures on the internet showed it had some great views.
The owner of the homestay met us near the village and took us through some eerie paths that made us wonder if they were leading us on to some unknown place and kidnapping us ! The thing is, these homestays are located somewhere in the middle of tea/coffee estates and totally cut off from the villages and towns. If you reach a homestay at night, it will look creepy in the beginning.
We found the homestay very pleasing, a lovely red bricked building, large, clean rooms and sit outs. In the distance we could hear a waterfall, from the website’s pictures we knew the homestay had a view of the mountains and a waterfall. We tried to look for it from the sit out but couldn’t see anything in the darkness, the sound of the waterfall in the stillness was like music to the ears.
Dinner, consisting of yummy Kerala cuisine was served outside under a canopy, we loved the open air dinner as much as the food. When we finally retired for the night, we couldn’t wait for it to dawn and to meet the waterfall that kept calling out to us through the night.