About ‘travelling’, Ibn Battuta reportedly said that ‘it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.’ I guess this is true of every place on earth… and I can vouch for this as I have travelled to many places both within and outside India and have been building my treasure of stories slowly and steadily. Let me share a secret here… I sometimes search the internet and let my mind dream of all the stories that I could find in a place that I have not visited yet. One such place that I have been dreaming about for quite a while now is Wayanad in Kerala.
This is one district that has been attracting people for its outdoor charms, endearing wildlife, awesome heritage, all-encompassing leisure, magnetic nature, pilgrimage, and an experience that will fill a mind with stories. I asked one of my friends from Kerala if he could tell me something about Wayanad.
‘Aha! Wayanad is magical,’ he said, ‘and it appeared almost like magic as the 12th district of Kerala in 1980. I say magic because the common man never expected this to happen.’
‘You’re right,’ I said and showed off some of the knowledge that I had acquired from the internet, ‘Wayanad has Mananthavady, Sulthanbathery and Vythiri Taluks.’ My friend smiled and added that the word Wayanad was derived from Vayal Nadu which is another expression for paddy fields.
‘Interestingly,’ my friend added, ‘you will find these paddy fields on a plateau with heights varying from 700 to 2100 metres above sea level.’
But then, it isn’t just paddy fields that one sees here… there are the mesmerising tea gardens that make for an unforgettable experience. There is a lot for the tourist who seeks stories in outdoor life and loves trekking. There is the Chembra Peak at 2100 meters, the Neelimala view point, Meenmutty falls, Chethalayam falls, and the Banasura Sagar Dam … and all these are from 17 to 37 kms from Kalpetta.
Like me, if you love the outdoors, you will surely want to explore the wildlife options that the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary at Muthanga offers. This place is 18 kms East of Sulthan Bathery, and is connected to both Bandipur National Park and Mudumalai Sanctuary in Tamilnadu. Project Elephant is something that can lend fascinating photo opportunities to the shutterbugs… with possibilities of sighting other species like Leopards, Gaur, Sambar, Cheeta, Barking Deer, Hanuman Lengur and Slender Loris. Muthanga is around 42 kms from Kalpetta. As I browsed the internet one of my initial realisations was that every form of interest was easily accessible. As a tourist this is one facet that I fell in love with because I knew I wouldn’t have to travel hundreds of kilometres to hop from wildlife to tribal exploration to tea gardens to heritage and then to any of the other attractions.
‘Imagine’, I said to myself, ‘all the stories that wait for me as I talk to the forest guards, tribals, and locals. They will all have a mix of a bit of realism and a bit of fantasy to share.’ By the way, one can get an entry into such stories only if one cares to step out of home and travel.
Staying here in Wayanad did not seem to be a problem as I could see a lot of resorts and hotels on various sites. One that I discovered in the virtual pages was Vythiri Resort, an eco-friendly jungle getaway in the heart of Wayanad. But this is just one of the hundreds of options available, and each of them has one or the other advantage built into it.
Now if you think I don’t care for museums and heritage sites, you’re mistaken. I have already listed all the sites that I would love to visit because these are places that have stories in every stone and on every wall, so to speak. The one thing I will never miss is the trek up the Ambukuthy hill near Ambalavayal town to visit the neolithic cave site of Edakkal. As I have already made it obvious, it is the outdoor that fascinates me… and so the other thing I would not want to miss in Wayanad is the Chain Tree. This massive Ficus tree bound by chain has an interesting tale connected to it. Yes, I have read about it on the web, but I want to be there and connect to the soul of that Adivasi youth Karinthandan who was murdered because some British Engineer wanted to take the credit for discovering an intricate mountain route in the area.
These are myriads of fascinating stories that the 12th district in Kerala is awash with. No wonder then that I wish if someone decides to send me there to discover it all, take pictures, and then write about these stories, as I interpret them. Yes, I’d love to be the storyteller of Wayanad.
24 July 2015