Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Trial of the Tusker - Periyar Part 1

As I had mentioned in my last post the trip to Periyar tiger reserve, better known as Thekkady was long overdue. I had been trying to find the the easiest (but not necessarily the shortest) route from Palakkad. The route through Tamilnadu was the best option in front of me but I was determined to return through a different route if time permitted, and that was what I did.

14th July, 2012. Starting fifteen minutes later than planned was not worrisome as most of the route was over flat terrain. The road from Palakkad to Pollachi is excellent till the border at Gopalapuram. The entry point into Tamilnadu makes you think that you are going to shift from a two lane highway to a four lane one but that thought lasts only for a few 100 meters. The road then breaks up into potholes all the way till you reach Pollachi. I guess that is a deliberate ploy to slow down drivers trying to evade taxes!

The first stop was for breakfast at Pollachi (48kms). There are a few good hotels in the town and on the Udumalapet road that serve good South Indian menu so there is no need to take a packed breafast and eat it cold. From Pollachi the road (NH 209) is good for cruising, passing through Udumalapet (78kms), Palani (119kms) and Ottanchtram (145kms).

About 6 kilometers outside Ottanchatram at the Puduchatram junction (151kms) the road to Theni peels off to the right. It is a fairly straight road that I was told, was under repair. The repairs were probably over and the only reason to slow down were the rather frequent speed breakers on either side of every little village (nearly 20 in the 25 kilometers!), most of which had a name ending with "...patti". This road meets the NH 183 at Sembatti (176kms) where you have to turn right for Theni.

After you get on the highway it becomes an almost arrow straight road except in the towns or large villages. The only problem is that this stretch is undergoing widening works all the way up to the Kerala border and that makes driving an effort. To my credit I managed to cover the entire 125 kilometers without once scraping the nose of my Punto, a habit the car has due to it's rather long overhanging snout! 

The next major town on the route is Vattalakundu (195kms). This is place where the travelers to Kodaikanal take the deviation to this scenic hill station. For those coming from the Palani side there is a direct route from that town. It can be a bit confusing here but just keep going straight (and don't hesitate to ask for directions) till you cross a small bridge to reach this junction. The temple is the landmark for the right turn to Theni through a rather congested  main street.

Once you cross Vattalakundu the road broadens out and you can make up for lost time.

Occasionally you get reminded that the work isn't complete when you get caught in a traffic jam caused by road building equipment trying to squeeze through bottle necks!

The next town is Periyakulam (221kms) where you need to take a right turn followed by a left immediately afterwards. It's all very straight forward if you can read Tamil otherwise, stop & ask!!

Theni follows (235kms), not long afterwards, and it is a straight drive through the town unless you want to stop for food. You get onto the NH 220 from here so road signs are more 'readable'.

The rest of the journey is though the fertile Cumbum valley and you pass through plantations of banana & coconut, with an occasional Ganesha benignly guarding them.  Cumbum (276kms) is also a straight drive through.

The last major town on the Tamilnadu side is Gudalur (not the town in Nilgiris by the same name!). The road till the border is still being worked on.

Lower Camp marks the Kerala-Tamilnadu border. Kumliy is separated by 6 kilometers of ghats. Midway up the ghats you can see the 4 Penstock pipes carriying the water from the Periyar reservoir to the Lower Camp Power House.

As Kumily nears you are greeted by the familiar sight of bonnet macaques waiting to be fed, a bad habit, but one that refuses to go away.
 2.20PM as we reached the resort in Kumily (299kms) for a well late lunch and a long wait for our room to be readied.

Watch this space....

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