KUMILY - MUNNAR - PALAKKAD
This post should actually come at the end of this series but since I returned through a completely different route (which I regretted partially) I thought for the this is the logical sequence.
I had thought in my mind that I would do the return trip through a different route for two reasons. One was that a trip to Idukki district would be incomplete without visiting the Idukki arch dam and the other reason was that we were returning home so time was not an issue. The problem was that I had two choices.
After Idukki I could go to Kothamangalm and thereon to Angamaly where I could get onto the NH-47 to Palakkad. This I wanted to avoid because the NH-47 is a nightmare for people who enjoy driving. The other option was to go to Adimali from Idukki, get on the NH-49 to reach Munnar. I could then drive through the Chinnar WLS to Udumalapet and Pollachi.
The evening before we left we had some spare time in our hands and decided to explore around Kumily. This took us to Chellarkoil view point, where there was nothing much to view in cloudy weather except beer bottles and cigarette butts thrown by careless picnickers. There was this gentleman there who knew the area well and he suggested that we take the Kumily - Munnar road which according to him was very picturesque. It was then that I realized two days was too less to explore Idukki. Here kilometers were mere numbers. We had to ask distances in time!
16th July, 2012. We were out of the resort at 8.20 after an early breakfast. Kumily was just waking up to a languid Monday morning. Off season, according to the Kashmiri merchant we met on our walk down the streets.
This part of the world is famous for its spices and every other shop in town has a spice counter! The demand for spices is so much that all along the Kumily - Munnar road you have spice shops attached to houses along the road side.
Some 13 kms out of Kumily is Anakara. The Chellarkoil view point is a 5 kms deviation to the right, which I personally didn't find worth a detour. You pass through Vandanmedu (23 kms) to reach Puliyanmala (29 kms). This is where the road to Kattapana splits off to the left. The road is now more narrow and winding as you pass through acres of cardamom that slows the pace considerably.
Kattapana (35kms) is a busy town with many narrow twisting lanes that can confuse. Ask the friendly policeman or auto driver for directions as there are many one ways here. The road widens a bit after Kattapana since it is the highway connecting this town to Kothamangalam. You cross the Idukki arch dam before reaching Cheruthoni. There is a tourist information center & dam view point under construction. It is expected to be ready by the 5th of August. The view of the dam is not really the best from there.
To compensate for the poor view you get some excellent, freshly brewed lemon tea from Khadeeja's little shop opposite this visitors center. She also gives you information about the place as well as divulges her secret of making lemon tea. If the jack-fruit chips are still there, don't forget to try it. It is home made!
Cheruthoni (61 kms) is just a turn on the road. The main highway appears to turn right after the bridge but in realty you have to keep driving up the slope in front of you past long line of autorickshaws.
Munnar is only 32 kilometers from Poopara but the narrow twisting road makes driving a slow affair. Enjoy the scenery as you pass by. Look at the cardamom plants, see their roots and learn where this exotic spice comes from.
The other obstacle as you reach Munnar is the fog, which I hadn't accounted for during my research on the route! Once you cross Periakanal, about 20 kms before Munnar the fog rolls in, irrespective of the season. It was nearly 2.00 PM and our tummies were growling. I was getting a bit snappy since the last edible thing I had was Khadeeja's home made jack fruit chips almost 4 hours before. Munnar was still a 45 minute drive away and the fog wasn't making things easy. I was worried that lunch would be closed by the time I got there. Then, through the lifting mist I saw a sight across the valley. Nestled on the side of a rocky outcrop was the Club Mahindra's Lake View resort.
...............only to appear around the next corner.
Our long day ended at home in Palakkad (276 kms) at 9.30PM. This route was actually some 20 kilometers shorter than the route I had taken to reach Thekkady, but I had been on the road six hours longer!
Ask me if I was tired, I'll answer with an emphatic 'NO'. I enjoy my driving and I hope to keep at it for many more years to come.