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|1st August 2007, 20:00||#1|
Temple Visiting Spree in TN-Part II. Ended up @ Munnar! Am I tht bad @ directions?
It all began here.
Time: 1am, odd time ain't it? Luggage is packed in the car and we are all set to go. Picked up my mom's colleague from Ulsoor, tanked up at Nagpal's and we were all set to leave.
Destination: One of the most beautiful but untalked places in the country. And perhaps the closest part of Indian soil to Sri Lanka. Locals say it is just 14kms to Sri Lanka. I think that with a so so telescope you can even see the tiny island (or a country as most call it).
So we set off from Nagpal's at 2am. 5 of us, dad, mom, younger brother, mom's friend and myself. Route taken was Hosur - Krishnagiri - Dharmapuri - Mettur - Bhavani - Namakkal - Karur - Dindigul - Madurai - Ramnathpuram - Rameshwaram.
Avoid taking the route from Dharmapuri - Salem - Namakkal (or Erode). Road is under construction with too many potholes and heavy traffic. Krishnagiri turn off to Dharmapuri stretch is equally bad but unavoidable.
It was a pleasant drive till Madurai. We reached at about 9am. Few stretches had heavy showers so considering the fact that we had to cover close to 400kms we had done well so far. We stopped by the famous Meenakshi Sundareshwara Temple at Madurai. This temple is HUGE by any standards. It took us a good 1.5hrs to get out of the temple. A must visit for those who love going to temples. We had food at a small hotel and by 12pm we were set to head off eastwards. We passed through Ramanathapuram and landed at Rameshwaram at about 4pm which is about 200kms from Madurai. Got ourselves checked into a lodge closeby which had some scenic ocean view and headed to this place called Dhanushkodi.
On the way to Rameshwaram, we passed by a bridge called Pamban bridge. Its long and can be considered to be one of those few bridges in the country which has a "to die for" view. For those who liked the scenery at Marawanthe with the ocean to your left and the river to your right or vice versa have to visit this place. It makes Marawanthe feel ordinary. Best way to travel here is by train. The view from the bridge is to die for and scary too. Vast expanse of ocean on either ends with tiny islands visible makes it a pleasant sight to the eyes. Actually its more than just pleasing.
Here are some pics of the view from the bridge.
A pic of the railway track. Look at the bridge. It opens up to let the ships pass. Looks scary, but an engineering marvel nonetheless.
Dhanushkodi is a place that comes with a lot of important historical and religious background. Lord Ram & Co is considered to have started their mission on getting Sita back by building a bridge from this very place to go to Sri Lanka. It goes without saying that the beauty of this stretch of 18kms from Rameshawaram is unparalleled. It was getting dark and taking pictures was hard but no words can describe the view. There is one stretch of road which is about 5km long and is probably the longest STRAIGHT stretch of road I have come across till date. Single, narrow piece of road that doesn't even turn 0.01deg in any direction. Top speed testing anyone? What was more surprising was the fact that along this road there were vast spaces of barren land filled with sand. Nothing else. And within the wink of an eye you found the land narrowing down and the ocean engulfing your sight. For the uninitiated here is the place I am talking about. Pick up your local South India map for a better view.
We got back to Rameshwaram, had a good sleep, woke up at 3am, had bath in the freezing cold water and headed off to the temple. We were on time (I consider it way early) to join the long queue we expected. Surprisingly we were the first ones to arrive at the temple. Soon we got the tickets and at sharp 4am we were let into the temple to witness the "Sphatika Linga Darshanam". Special entrance priced at Rs.50/- means one can sit for a good 3-4mins watching the poojari's perform the early morning poojas.
Then we were asked to go to the sea and take bath. We did, though I must point out that the sea water at Rameshwaram is the saltiest I have tasted ever in my life. We soon returned to the temple to take bath from each of the 22 wells situated inside this prestigious temple. A sum of Rs75/- per person meant we had our own exclusive guide who would take us to each of these 22 above mentioned wells and pour a bucket of water over our heads. Standing in queue in other words meant waiting for atleast 5-6mins at each well. Within 30mins we were through with all the wells. Surprising and interest fact is that the water from the wells (some situated right next to each other) all tasted different. Water from no two wells tasted the same. Out of the 22 wells only two wells had salty water. Now imagine that the sea is just a couple of hundred metres away. And in all these years the water level never seems to have receded. Or so were were told.
We got out of temple, checked out of the lodge and headed back. Next destination was Kodaikanal....
|1st August 2007, 20:03||#2|
For almost a good part of the last evening I was debating with my dad to spend a couple of days sightseeing at some of the most sought after locations in South India. Being a businessman meant he could not stay away from work long. So we decided to drop by Kodai at noon. And head back late evening or night. We headed back to Madurai.
All this while I had something running at the back of my mind. I had let in on a secret mission I was planning on only to my mom. And she loved it. One destination, one name. "MUNNAR" and that was the end of it. A distance of 180kms from Madurai meant it was a must watch. Besides I have been longing to go there for ages now. A quick SMS to akroy who said Kodai would be a better place specially at this time of the season with better roads too. I somehow went by gut instinct. And my views didn't agree with Abhi's. Good decision or bad decision? You will soon find out.
Tanked up at Shell Madurai (yes there is one for those who are unaware right opposite to the bus stand) and decided to go to Munnar (dad is still unaware of my plans). Within the next 5kms I insisted that we go to Munnar and start by noon next day from there and get to Bangalore by night. He gave in finally. Overpowered in the ratio 3:1 favouring Munnar.
Route to be taken was Madurai - Andipatti - Teni - Devikulam - Munnar. Distance is 170kms. Somehow asking for directions in a language you don't speak or understand meant I had taken a wrong turn along the way. We were now headed to Thekkady. Another beautiful hill station. By the time I realized we were on the wrong road we had already travelled a distance of 15kms. We inquired our way back and were soon headed to Bodinayakkannur from Uttamapalyam.
Roads were good, though being State Highways. The unfinished GQ part near Salem and surrounding areas felt pale in comparison. By 7:30 pm we had reached Bodi. Munnar was a good 70kms ahead. Complete ghat section. One and half lengths wide road with just about enough space to adjust two cars or a car and half a bus. Extremely foggy and rains added to it meant staying on the vigil every second. Abhi had warned me about the roads and the weather too. Was it just the beginning of a bad visit at a bad time? If nothing, I would be getting a serious stick from dad.
3 check posts and some 40kms later we started seeing lights. It looked magnificent. And there stood a board which read " Club Mahindra". From far it looked huge, it looked wonderfully lit. It was a pity that we couldn't make it here during broad daylight. We ventured further, took the turn and stopped by the front desk. The place I must say is magnificently built considering the surrounding landscape. But to our dismay, there were no rooms available. Yes, its off season. And the tariff begins at 4k + taxes. A link to club mahindra resorts.
I can imagine the breath taking view it would have had but alas the non-availability of rooms meant we had to go to the town as I did not want to keep venturing looking out for cottages or resorts and get into a catch 22 situation where we would have had to sleep in the car itself. A good 25kms later I think we landed up at Munnar town. We crossed the bridge and checked into this place called Munnar Inn. A sudden visit meant we had no reservations, no background search on the place, nothing. We had a quick dinner at the food court and went to bed. Here is where we lived.
Woke up by 7am next morning. Decided to head back to Bangalore and see whatever we could on the way. We were out of the restaurant by 8:30am and were checking out when a guide came to me and handed me a pamphlet. It contained all the must see places around Munnar and for some reason my eyes lit up. Some of them were on our way back to Bangalore. A quick chat with mom and we decided to hire the guide who would come with us all the way to Marayoor and show us some places of interest. He however came up with a better idea. He said he would take us on the new Kodai route and show us some places one should not miss out in a lifetime. I agreed, so did mom. Dad gave a grin and said ok lets go then.
|1st August 2007, 20:35||#3|
Soon we were headed in a direction totally opposite to what we had planned. We were heading back towards the new route that leads to Kodaikanal. I am told that this new road is complete on the Kerala side, with the Tamil Nadu govt is yet to pull up their socks and complete the work. Once this road is done sometime next year I am told it would be one of the most scenice motorable roads in the country. Imagine going from Munnar to Kodaikanal or vice versa through hills, waterfalls, valleys. Blissful sight ain't it?
Soon we visited the following places in the Matupetty Direction. Pics from cell phone do no justice to the actual sightings. Infact no camera will. Its a sight to behold the naked eye. Something that one will have to see to believe it. Now I was beginning to understand the grip of why it was being called as one of the most sought after holiday destinations in the country. It was slowly sinking in. And did I forget to mention that it was still raining in Munnar?
The road was beautiful. And as the guide had promised the weather was clearing up. There was not a drizzle anymore. And we had just done 3kms from town. How drastically weather changes in these parts.
First in line was the "Photo Point". With green tea plantations at the background makes a good picturesque view.
My family at Photo Point.
Next in line was the "Honey Bee Tree". Couldn't get any pics but as the name suggests its a tree that is always covered with bee hives.
Then comes one of the most scenic views I have come across in my life. The "Mattupetty Dam". Its an artificial dam built where the "actual" Munnar town existed long back. Before it got shifted to the existing location. A must see and I almost missed this.
We spent a good 15mins here waiting for the feeling to sink in. The water was clean as if it was out of an acquaguard. The background breathtaking. Clouds, high rise hills etc. And one will never get tired of watching this dam. Also, one can rent speedboats at Rs.300/- for 15mins but as we had no time I had to let it pass.
We were continuing further when we spotted this.
3 wild elephants. And this was when the guide was telling us that if you are lucky some will get to see wild elephants. And my brother said " I have never seen wild elephants". 50ft further he has his first encounter with not one but 3 wild elephants.
A km down we spotted something more marvelous. A lonely, white tusker. Are we lucky or what? Look at the weather. No hint of rain.
Then next spot was called "Shooting Point". I am told that there is a combined effort by the Swiss & Indian Governments to grow Swiss grass and breed cattle ala Swiss style. In short its India's own Switzerland minus the snow clad Alps. All movie shootings happen here and general public is prohibited. So no pics, but I can imagine.....
Next was "Echo Point". As the name suggest, from this place any sound made, echoes. A whistle could be heard several kms further. A pic of what it looks like.
From the above pic you can see that dad is damn pleased that he decided to take this trip.
Sadly there were other points like "Elephant Arrival Spot", "Kundale Lake" & "Top Station" we couldn't visit due to lack of time. We left, me wishing "I will be back soon". I can't wait to get to Top Station.
On the way back I managed some pics.
The retro look.
We then headed back to town. Sad we had to leave so soon.
|1st August 2007, 20:54||#4|
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Nice report coupled with beautiful pics. Munnar is a lovely place and i had visited it last december. Was nice and cold and i wish i stayed longer than 2 days.
Loved the pic of the 'leno in front of the tea estates.
P.S. get a GPS
Last edited by n_aditya : 1st August 2007 at 20:59.
|1st August 2007, 21:02||#5|
We headed back into town. A good 2hrs later. We were all glad to have taken this detour. Mom bought some spices, banana chips etc and we were on our way back to Bangalore with some more places to visit.
First in line was "Tata Tea Museum". Public is allowed to go and see the tea processing but we were already running on a tight schedule.
We landed at "Eravikulam National Park" hoping to see some mountain goats. But all the forest dept buses were already on tour and they said it would take a good 3hrs for us to get done. So kicking myself I started to drive.
"Anai Mudi" the tallest peak in South India is situated here. A pic of the same covered in clouds. Its supposedly 8842 ft above sea level.
Then the guide showed us the "Orange & Pepper Plantations".
Lakkam Falls. One of the views.
We then passed by the "Sandalwood Forest". We didn't dare take photos or stop anywhere. There were forest dept cops everywhere. We saw some tourists in a Qualis chipping some sandalwood from a tree.
Next is Muniyaras, a meditation shed of sages. Though all the caves can't be seen these days its rumored that some Muni's travelled as far as Munnar from the Himalayas.
"Valley View was next". We then entered the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary and into Tamil Nadu. Soon it began to sink in that Munnar was over. I felt sad, I felt miserable to get back to the daily chores.
Then I thought over a route plan to head back to Bangalore. Decided not to go to Salem as the roads were bad. Instead took the following route.
Munnar - Marayoor - Udamalpet - Palladam - Tirupur (tanked up at Shell) - Perundorai - Bhavani - Mettur - Dharmapuri - Krishnagiri - Hosur - Bangalore.
I suggest all those going to Munnar from Bangalore to take this route. Only bad stretch is between Dharmapuri to Krishnagiri. If one takes the Salem route roads are bad from Krishnagiri to Dharmapuri. From Dharmapuri to Salem & From Salem to Namakkal is ok.
Also, one more thing that caught my eye. All those who have been through Udumalpet must have seen the large number of wind mills. I lost count, guessing there should be atleast 500 plus of them in numbers. They were there almost everwhere. And the wind here was so strong that it kept pushing the car off my lane. No wonder. Here is a pic.
We landed up at home at 2:30am today.
Last week it was a 700km drive to a few temples in TN. This week we almost covered close to 1500kms. Dad seems to have taken retirement from driving on the highways which means I drove 99% of the journey myself. He drove sometimes in the city. All that day & night driving (sometimes in rain and fog) plus walking endlessly in these huge temples, early morning wake ups, taking bath in freezing waters in seas, rivers etc hardly seem tiring coming to think of it now. Infact, this is just the beginning. Next week it will be yet another temple in Chennai followed by a track day. Until then.....
|1st August 2007, 21:02||#6|
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SIGH! I come from such a beautiful place...what am I doing in this desert thats roasting at 50 degrees and is filled with artificial plants, scenery and people?
|1st August 2007, 21:04||#7|
Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: auckland, new zealand
was waiting to see this tread so all the spree over nice pics.the white tusker is amazing.
|1st August 2007, 21:29||#11|
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Another good one rahul. so i do hope you are cleansed of all the evil now.
|1st August 2007, 21:31||#12|
Steer, we could do a similar trip when you come down next time. I am going with my entire family of 30+ members sometime in October. Already have all the details if you are interested.
Adi, I am told that one has to live for atleast 3 days at Munnar. Rent private cottages along the Cochin route amidst the clouds, cook your own food, visit all the mentioned places by me plus a few more along the Cochin route. Also other places of interest close to Munnar are:
1. Idukki - Consists of a dam, hydro electric station and a wildlife sanctuary.
2. Thekkady - A tourist spot much before Munnar came into existance. The guide told me its a must watch. Also has a wildlife sanctuary, a breath taking boating location.
3. Kodaikanal - As already mentioned, once this new road is complete the two of the most scenic hill stations in South India will be soon be connected by some beautiful roads.
Fiery, I completely agree with you. We are hardly aware of the existence of such places until the firangs start dropping by. And they were there by the herds. Infact they were the ones who spotted the white tusker.
aadix, the rims are indeed off the Corolla. Just got them painted in black. Glad you liked them.
Riju shot all the pics with my cellphone. A Nokia 6233.
1. Bangalore - Madurai - 399kms.
2. Madurai - Rameshwaram - 202.
3. Rameshwaram - Dhanushkodi - 18kms.
|1st August 2007, 21:53||#13|
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Great writeup there rahul, the scenery is breathtaking.
Had put off a trip to Munnar for a long time now. After reading your travelogue, I am determined to go there next month.
|1st August 2007, 23:53||#15|
Join Date: Jan 2006
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Hi. These pics have stirred me up!!
I have been to Top Station. I was there for about a month. My bestest friend's elder brother was posted there as Plantation Manager by Tata Tea.
I can bet anything that even Switzerland would appear insignificant compared to the beauty that is known to very few people - Top Station.
The elder bro i was staying with had a maruti 800, a mahindra jeep and a splendor at his disposal. But neither was used by me and my friend for even a minute. The air up there is so invigorating that walking doesn't even seem like a chore.. its a pleasure.
O munnaraaaa i'll be back soon
p.s.: Aint you glad that you are bad at directions. hehehe
Last edited by rev_hard : 1st August 2007 at 23:57.
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