A little more than three and a half months ago we had discovered a lovely little place during our trip to Munnar. (Link here).
For two people who had been used to sitting in a safari jeep and going around the same tracks in the hope of catching the eye of a predator it was a new experience.Here was a scenario where we were in the wilderness we loved so much, but instead of getting driven we were driving ourselves. That meant we were in control of where we stopped, how long we stopped and what we could do. That evening we spent in Maryoor had left an indelible impression on both of us. We had be limited by our transport and the opinions of a few people who probably had some ulterior motives to prevent us from going ahead. Despite encouragement from some unexpected quarters we weren't sure of testing the terrain in a hatchback with less than ideal ground clearance.
1st, November 2012, I took delivery of our Duster. It was a vehicle that had appeared in the horizon earlier in the year and we had booked in July. It had been a long wait but we had to ourselves a gentle beast to carry us to place we had never been to before. I had tested it out in and around Palakkad (link here) but there was nothing here like the Anamudi shola.
So on the 18th, November we were off to see how the Duster would handle the shola. There was a full complement of five passengers and a boot full of photography gear and food. We left at 6.30 AM because we had to be back by nightfall. I hate driving after sunset these days, and since our route was to take us through an area I had not traveled in I could not really predict how long I had to be at the wheel.
The sun was still hiding when we crossed Pollachi (45 kms) onto Udumalapet (75 kms). The wind turbines stood like sentinels in the maize fields and the road was tempting. I'm a sedate driver normally but I succumbed to temptation and let the Renault K9 engine have some fun. The needle was nudging 130 kph when I ran out of road for speed test, besides I thought the people in the back seat were making noises, so I eased off. The memories of chasing a Santro on NH 47 weren't too pleasant. The Duster was rock steady at that speed. Absolutely no feeling of the wheels going out of control anytime or the engine straining.
We stopped for breakfast at the Chinnar checkpost (105 kms). The EDC canteen does not have breakfast unless you pre-order but they let you take your packed food and use their dining area. Of course, you won't believe if I told you they couldn't even provide a cup of tea! Please keep a fiver ready if you want to use the toilets; they rarely have change! (Fuel efficiency shown by the instrument panel FE calculator was 17.5 till this point)
If you want tea, stop at Karimutty (118kms). The little tea shop at the bridge serves nice tea.
The road to Anamudi shola splits off to the left at Marayoor (120kms), just after the petrol station as you up come up the last curve. The rocky slopes on either side of the road from Marayoor to Kanthaloor are dotted with 'muniyaras' or dolmens, the ancient tribal burial sites. These simple tombs are empty now and are worth a brief stopover if you have time to spare.
There was no rain so it would be relatively easy. Absence of flowing water on the track would mean less chance of deeply eroded parts filled with slush or mud that could hide invisible dangers. I would know where my tire was going exactly. The last thing anyone would want is a tire burst! I had reached a bridge with a little cascade on my previous trip and that was my first destination.
Outside the shola the landscape changes instantly. Within a few feet of the forest check post the the vegetable farms and tea estates start. Though there is a fencing between them there was a distinct possibility of curious animals straying out of their territory.