Saturday, September 01, 2012

Misty & Mysterious Munnar - Part 2: Marayoor, Kanthaloor & Anaimudi Shola

 See Part 1 of the series here

26th August, 2012.

After a long while we were on a trip with no fixed schedule. Past experiences in the High Ranges of Idukki has taught me that distances here are measured in time, not in kilometers. We had four days at our disposal so we thought we'd do it in stages.

Marayoor is close to Chinnar so it is a good place to stop if your expectations are not very exotic. You can get decent accommodation and basic food. We reached Chandana Residency in time for lunch. Mr. Jayaram was expecting us, one of the rare guest I guess because there were no others in the hotel when we reached. He seemed a harried man. Most of the staff had gone on leave for Onam and he was doing duty as receptionist,room boy,steward & waiter!

My son found the bed interesting and he went about testing it out, like Mr.Bean in one episode, jumping up and down on it! After it passed scrutiny he settled  down with his tablet. A little siesta was in order and I caught up on my sleep while he was playing. A little after 3 PM we decided to explore around Marayoor.

Pretty decent bathrooms with running hot water all day!

Marayoor is famous for it's sandalwood plantations, fenced and protected by the Government. We have to pass through this sandal forest to reach Munnar. That is, if you take the road to Munnar through the Vaguvarai tea plantation and Eravikulam NP.

There is another route to Munnar from Marayoor. It is not used by regular tourists because there is a stretch of 8 kilometers that pass through a shola forest with no tarmac. We had stayed in Marayoor to see this beautiful patch of green, the Anaimudi Shola National Park.

As you climb up the last turn to reach Marayoor there is a petrol station on your right. The road that splits off to the left after that, has a board pointing to Kanthaloor. Kanthaloor is 15 kilometers from Marayoor and famous for it's apples, oranges, strawberries and sugarcane besides a lot of other vegetables and fruits. There are people who do 'farm tourism' to see and experience life on a farm.

After you cross the valley and climb up to Kanthaloor you can see Marayoor on the opposite side. All along this road, on the rocky outcrops you have dolmen, the tribal burial sites dating back to a few thousand year. There are no bones or skeletal remains now, but they are utilized by agama's and hares as shelters!

A couple of kilometers uphill the tarred road ends abruptly after Easwari's little shop. We went upto the first curve, not sure if my Punto was capable of handling that sort of rough terrain.

 The forest guard had just locked his cabin and was off for some refreshments before returning for the night. He said we could make it if we went slowly but a jeep would be a better option. We told him we were not going all the way to Munnar since we had to return to Marayoor for the night. He then suggested we go up to a small bridge a little further up.

So off we went, nudging and coaxing a reluctant Punto. I had anticipated a drive like this so I had inflated my tyres a little more than usual. It seemed to be helping. The road was rough but it was worth the trouble despite the leeches. (See previous post)

It was like a scene straight out of the movie Predators, except the only predator we encountered were the hungry leeches!

As we turned back not wanting to torment the car any more a jeep came bumping along, the driver stopped, looked at us quizzically and asked if we had any trouble with the car. I told him the Punto was a little more capable than he thought. He looked disappointed but he had to have the last word. "Sir, you need a jeep to go up this road" he said, and rolled off with his load!

We stopped at Easwari's little shop to buy some pears and she told us that cars smaller than ours would use that road to go up to Munnar! It is just that the jeep drivers wanted a fare so they discouraged adventure seekers hoping to get hired for a round trip!

When we drove into the hotel a worried Jayaram was at the door. "Have you had dinner, Sir?", he enquired.
"No", I said, and he broke into a relieved smile. Obviously he thought he lost two customers for dinner! We went to bed after an early dinner. Tommorow was for Eravikulam.

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