Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Nights in Nagarahole - Part 1: Route

I've realized now why my fingers were struggling over the keyboard. In my obsession with Bandipur I forgot that there is a world outside it. I would probably have been blind to this Bandipur-less world if it had not been for my sister & bro-in-law.

Friday 25th April, 2012 saw my car heading off in a direction that promised a lot. Wayanad & Nagarahole are a an extremely exciting combination provided we have the time to let it soak into our senses. I realized halfway through the trip that that I needed another couple of days if I had to really explore this lovely piece of wilderness.

Words are now jostling over each other in my head and I'm not sure where to start. I have therefore decided that I'll record my trip in chronological sequence.

First things first. Before any trip I like to "get prepared" and so I went trundling around the net with search strings that read like this "nagarahole national park", "nagarahole map", "nagarahole forest rest house" and the like. Imagine my surprise when I found out that except for the Google map showing a road passing through Nagarahole from Kutta to Hunsur there was nothing to tell me what lay in between!

The first thing I've done is to mark the locations on Google Earth so people interested in a wild vacation in Nagarahole will know exactly where they have to stop. We were booked into the Kallahalla FRH, right in the middle of the forest. If you exclude the road that passes in front of the rest house it will be "deep-in-the-jungle"!

The Route from Palakkad

The road to Nagarahole from Palakkad goes through some really winding terrain. I've recorded myself driving through the shortest route.  Point Zero is my house. (All distances in brackets are from Point Zero).

The first major town is Mannarkad (40kms). Just after Mannarkad, NH 213 takes a left turn at Kumaranputhur junction (43kms). Keep going straight on the Nilambur road. After Alanallur, Melattur, Pandikad (72kms) you will reach Manjeri (85kms). It can be a little confusing here so don't hesitate to ask for help.

Manjeri town has a bypass that appears on your right immediately after the Korambayil Hospital. This bypass curves gently and reaches a junction. You have to turn right here onto the Nilambur-Areekode road. A little further, the road turns right to Nilambur. Keep going straight for Areekode.

Areekode in exactly 100 km from Palakkad. Keep going straight through the town and you will hit Mukkom (115kms), followed by Omaserry (120kms) and Thamaraserry (130kms). At Thamaraserry this road joins the Kozhikode - Mysore highway where you have to turn right for Kalpetta.

After climbing the ghat road which is picturesque by itself you will reach Vythiri ((160kms). You can take an alternate route from here which is a trifle winding so what you make up on distance you lose in time. (I returned through that route so I'll give the details later). Kalpetta (172kms) has a bypass but is best avoided. The road is in pathetic condition and it rejoins the highway in the heart of town! Just out side the town is the Kainatty junction (174kms) where you have to take a left for Manathavady.

The road passes through Kaniyambetta (182 kms) and Panamaram (188kms) to reach Mananthavady (204 kms). In Manathavady get onto the Kattikulam- Tholpetty road. At Kattikulam (215kms) take a left turn immediately after an IndianOil Petrol station onto the Thirunelliy - Tholpetty road. This is the last petrol station before Nagarahole. (You will see the Pancahyat office on your right at the Junction).

Thirunelly - Tholpetty fork

The road divides about 10 kms later the left fork going to Thirunelly and the right to Tholpetty. It is well marked there so you cant lose your way. The Tholpetty WLS entrance (229kms) is only three kilometers from Kutta (232 kms). If you are driving by road better fuel up at Kattikulam because the petrol station at Kutta is defunct and they were drying arecanuts in the yard!!


Kutta Junction

As you enter Kutta, just past the Forest Check post the bus stand appears on your right. You have to make a sharp U-turn to get onto the Nagarahole road. (Between the two posts in the photo. The road on the right is the one that comes from Tholpetty to Kutta)

From here on it is a straight road. After signing in at the National park boundary (236 kms) you drive through dense forests before you reach the Reception center (242kms) where all the activities are coordinated.

Two forest department guest houses are available here, the Kaveri & Gangothri.
Kaveri FRH

Gangothri FRH

Kallahalla (250kms) forest rest house is another eight kilometers away. Located on top of a rise the rest house overlooks a waterhole.
Kallahalla FRH
 This 1924 vintage, British built, forest rest house is an ideal location for a quiet communion with nature. The building has been renovated recently and the first floor has two rooms with attached bathrooms. It has running water but since electricity is unpredictable, you should be prepared for cold baths, warm fridge & dead batteries in laptops and cameras. You can leave your cell phones behind since this place in eminently out of range, even from BSNL's network though the caretaker said there was a corner where you would get a connection.

Keep watching this page.......


Ram Dinesh said...

Mr. Rajesh, I have been scouting around for the route to Nagarhole from Mananthavadi, we will be coming from Tellicherry, which I am undertaking in 2 weeks, and what an extensive description you have given. Excellent. Thanks a ton. Keep up the good work!

Ram Dinesh

Rajesh Radhakrishnan said...

Thanks Ram. Actually if you are coming from Tellicherry the shortest route will be through Iritty - Virajpet - Gonikoppal - Srimangala & Kutta. I traveled to Mercara down that road ages ago. Used to be in bad shape then. Of course, if your trip is through Mananthavady, I'm glad I could be useful.

Ram Dinesh said...

Just to inform you that the road via Virajpet and Gonikoppa is still very pathetic.

Cheng said...

Your journal is very good. Your photographs are excellent. After seeing your journal I have decided to visit these places in this year.
Dolphin House

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