This trip to Thiruvananthapuram (or Trivandrum), via Thekkady and Kumarakom was done during the last week of Jan, 2006. Since, republic day fell on a thursday, we could combine it with a weekend to eke out 4 days for a trip :) The usual route from Bengaluru to Ernakulam had become boring by now and we decided to take the NH209 (Bengaluru - Dindigul, via Kollegal, Chamarajanagar, Satyamangalam and Coimbatore). Ofcourse, the road till Chamarajanagar was pathetic and so we took the Mysuru road to save time. Well ... there was a very close shave near Mandya, when I was overtaking a KSRTC bus, only to find an ambassador car coming on the wrong side of the divided road at a good speed. A head on @ 120km/hr would have been fatal, but Versa somehow squeezed through!!!
|Karnataka - Tamilnadu border near Satyamangalam
The Bangalore - Mysore road 4 laning is making good progress and we could reach Mysore in less than two hours and Nanjangud in half an hour more. At Nanjangud we took a district road to cut to NH209 @ Chamarajnagar. This road was a bit bad, still we made it to Chamarajanagar by around 8, where we had breakfast. Rest of the journey was exciting through a reserved forest and a ghat section with 27 hair pin bends, just after the Karnataka - Tamil Nadu border. Past Satyamangala, by about 10 and Coimbatore in one more hour, we entered NH47 and had lunch past Palakkad. By about 3 afternoon, we were past Thrissur (or Trichur or Thrissivaperur) and found ourselcves in Angamali, from where the MCR (Main Central Road, SH1 Kerala, connecting Angamali and Thiruvananthapuram, via Kottayam and Thiruvalla) begins.
MCR was pathetic, since, like many other roads, it was also undergoing a 2lane - 4lane transformation. Kottayam was about 90kms from Angamali and we took more than two hrs to reach there. In between, we checked out few road side fruit juice outlets, were u cud get very fresh and thick pineapple and sugar cane juices for very economical rates. Pineapple juice was especially one of the thickest juice I ever had!!! The days plan was to settle down at Kumarakom for the day and we took the deviation from Kottayam.
Sunset @ Vembanad Lake, Kumarakom
Kumarakom turned out to be a costly place both in terms of acco and food. Boating was costly too. Finally, we hired it for half an hour and got a look at the sunset. After checking the rates ... etc once again, we were actually planning to go back to Kottayam for the evening. But, just outside the town, we noticed a new hotel called Dubai Hotel. It turned out to be a good hotel with good food and decent pricing. They also were arranging boating trips to "Pathiramanal", a tiny islet in the Vembanad lake. We decided to settle down at the hotel for the day and ended up hogging fish curry and fried fish for dinner!
On day 2, we had a scare after noticing a flat tyre on Versa. This never happened until now, and considering that Versa was fitted with new tyres during the recent servicing, it was indeed an irony! The problem was solved quickly, since the manager at Dubai hotel agreed to send someone to fix the tyre, by the time we are back from boating :)
Birds at Vembanad Lake
Boating was a good experience too, with lots of greenery and birds around us. But somehow, it wasnt as exciting as I expected after hearing from all the people who went there. Just got a feeling that Kumarakom was over hyped and over priced. Or may be ... is it coz I am a mallu and is already pretty familiar with the greenery? Or, is it that I prefer the sea over lakes? Dunnno!
After we were back from boating, it was good bye Kumarakom. We took a small road to Alappuzha via the Thanneermukkam bund and entered back in to NH47 @ Alappuzha. Lunch was just past Alappuzha @ Punnapra (famous with the Punnapra - Vayalar agitations) and extremely tasty and economic. Well ... kerala rocks !!! Back on highway and it was quick ... past Karunagappally and Kollam in a flash, we entered Thiruvananthapuram district by abt 4. There, we had another rejuvenating juice session - this time water melon, which powered us past Attingal and into the TVM outskirts by about 5. We took a small cut road leading to Veli and reached there before 5.30.
From a Park @ Veli, Thiruvananthapuram
Veli turned out to be a good beach (but people not allowed to swim and life guards blowing whistles to prevent this), with an adjoining lake, a garden with some interesting sculputres. Some shooting was also going on there. It looked like a pretty good destination for an evening chat! Next was Shanghumugham, abt 4-5 kms from there. It had a famous sculpture on its shore done in white (stone or plaster of paris ... am not sure). Well ... am not telling u what the sculpture was ... but wud just say dont miss it ;)
|Sunset @ Shanghumugham, Thiruvananthapuram
Day's halt was @ a hotel just next to the beach. A trip to the city in the night started badly, since Sree Padmanabha temple was closed by the time we reached. Even if it was open, we could not have gone in without proper attire. Well ... we headed to the nearby theatre and watched Suresh Gopi doing a "Tiger" act :)
Grove's beach @ Kovalam
Off to Kovalam on day 3 morning. Kovalam is a mini Goa, with couple of nice beaches (the Grove's beach and Eve's beach), many resorts, handicraft shops, westernised menu cards and a good foreign tourist population. The Eve's beach looked like a shallow beach where swimming could be fun. On contrary, Grove's beach was kinda rocky.
While returning from Kovalam, we continued on NH47 and did not go to TVM city and this turned out to be a costly mistake. Our plan was to take MCR and get to Thekkady by evening and MCR starts from somewhere in the city. We realized the mistake only after reaching Kazhakkottam, about 10kms off the city. At Mangalapuram we took another short road, expecting to reach MCR and ended up losing our way. Finally, after circling around for so much time, we finally entered MCR near Venjaramoodu, only @ about 12.
Vavar Mosque @ Erumeli
The time pressure was back and we had to reach Thekkady by atleast 4. MCR was not in the best of conditions either. We reached Kottarakkara by about 1.30 and Adoor by 2. There we took a deviation to Pathanamthitta, which turned out to be good, since this road was smoother than the MCR for now. We had lunch just before Pathanamthitta and then headed towards the Erumeli road. "Petta Thullal" happens in Erumeli, which makes it a very important place in Kerala's pilgrim map. Also, the presence of the pretty Vavar Swamy mosque makes it a place of Hindu-Muslim unity.
Well ... the hilly terrain and estates around these places were really breathtaking with some really nice views. Alas ... all due to losing our way @ TVM we were running out of time. The views became even better past Erumeli, from where we entered the NH220 (Kollam - Theni highway). The whole route around Kuttikanam and Pirmedu was strewn with breath taking hill ranges and coffee estates. The road was also of good quality, typical of any other NH stretch in Kerala.
Last boating session at Thekkady was @ 4 and it was about 5.30 by the time we reached Thekkady. We were again in two minds, whether to stay in Thekkady or head back to Kumily and back home from there next day. This time also, it was a good hotel with economic pricing that made us stay. They also arranged dinner for us and the room had a view of the Periyar wild life sanctuary.
Boating in Periyar Lake, Thekkady
We got up early morning next day and reached the gates of the sanctuary by 7. The sanctuary had a very serene air around it and we already started feeling that it was a good choice to have stayed back. Once the boat took off, all doubts were removed. I also discovered that lakes are much more interesting than I thought in Kumarakom. The Periyar lake was a beauty meandering through hills and thick vegetation on all sides, which houses wild life. Spotting wild life is a rare event here, but the boating trip itself was enchanting. Adding to the beauty of the surroundings, sun broke out from behind the hills bringing in a lot more light and life in to the chilly - breezy atmosphere.
After a memorable two hours in the Periyar lake, we headed back to Kumily, NH220, and then soon crossed over to Tamil Nadu. For some time, we had some vegetation and a few more views, but the terrain became flat pretty soon and we found ourselves driving with paddy fields on both sides. We reached Theni pretty quickly and then entered the NH45 extension to Dindigul. There was an alternate plan to go to Thiruchirappalli which we scrapped and entered the NH7 @ Dindigul bypass. Karoor and Namakkal bypasses soon followed and we had our lunch done @ the latter.
Namakkal bypass was not complete the last time I was there and I remember doing some circus to there. Past Namakkal, the only exciting point for me after that was the junction near Rasipuram, where me and Soorji had an accident during our Kanyakumari Trip. Well ... the rest of the journey was pretty predictable. Salem followed soon after, then Dharmapuri and bad roads all the way to Krishnagiri. Guess, upgrade to North South corridor has already started on this stretch. A good stretch of road near Salem is already made 4 lane and some work was going on through out this stretch. At Krishangiri we were back to the 4/6 laned GQ section and soon in to Hosur and Karnataka border. By 9 we were having dinner at Mas restaurant after about 1900kms.
It was a shame for me not to have travelled to these famous destinations in Kerala. After this trip, I could tick all districts in Kerala as visited and once more ratify that in terms of natural beauty Kerala is second to none. Well ... looks like there are lot more treks and trips to be planned to Kerala, but this was good start.