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Old 5th June 2010, 00:50   #1
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Default A SwifTrip travelogue : Started with Wayanad, but ended up at Vagamon.

Quite some discussions happened at home about where to go for a short vacation during the summer holidays. I suggested Wayanad for various reasons - would get to drive for long (7-8hrs) on the highway + have never been to North Kerala + wife had spent her childhood there etc.

But somehow nothing came out of it and finally, we were in the last 2 weeks of June with school vacations about to end. That's when I thought of visiting Vagamon. I have never been to Idukki district of Kerala before. Also, it is only some 110kms from home - so not strenuous for the family.

I checked out the tbhp travelogues of Riju and sps, who had both stayed at Vagamon Heights and decided to stay at the same place. I also liked the looks of the Woodside cottage where Riju & party stayed.

And that was how I emailed the folks at Vagamon Heights and was led to the manager (a helpful Mr.Kurien). Transferred 1K as advance to him over the net. He quoted 8K for a 2-bedroom cottage, but reduced to 7K given the monsoon season etc.

Since schools were about to start at the time we were planning this vacation, the resort was mostly empty and he left the choice of cottage to us, to be decided on arrival.

Sunday 30-May-2010 ;
I had looked up the route on Google Maps and it said 110kms in 2 hours.
Knowing Kerala roads and traffic conditions, I knew that was too optimistic and thought we should be able to do it in 3 hours. But it took us 4 hours.

Route : Mavelikara - Changanacherry - Kottayam - Pala - Erattupettai - Vagamon.

We leave at 11:20AM, reach Kottayam at 12:20PM and have lunch there.
Leave at 1:20PM and reach Vagamon by 4:20PM.

Why Vagamon ?
Till a couple of years ago, I did not even know that there was a place called Vagamon in Kerala. Not surprising given that I am an NRK (Non Resident Keralite).

And when I heard of this place, what followed was that it was the "Scotland of the East". Hmm, I have never been to Scotland, though I do regularly use one of their most famous produces.

So, why not see how a replica of Scotland looks ? My mind threw up visions of meadows, lazing cows etc. With schools re-opening on 1-June, we just had 1-day at Vagamon. All we hoped was, let not the Kerala monsoon spoil our time at Scotland err, Vagamon. And well, God did hear our prayers.

Somewhere near Erattupettai, it started drizzling and down went our hopes.

I shot this through the wind-screen of the Swift. The red-and-white blob is a KSRTC bus.
A SwifTrip travelogue :  Started with Wayanad, but ended up at Vagamon.-dsc02975.jpg

A little after Changanacherry itself, the terrain becomes hilly and it is rubber-trees on both sides of the road. Yeah, the same trees that get us our Michelins and Bridgestones.
A SwifTrip travelogue :  Started with Wayanad, but ended up at Vagamon.-dsc02977.jpg

And then we get onto the ghat roads. There are waterfalls trickling down the mountain sides.
A SwifTrip travelogue :  Started with Wayanad, but ended up at Vagamon.-dsc02979.jpg

To be continued...
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Old 5th June 2010, 01:02   #2
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Default It's clear when we reach and then gets misty...

We reach Vagamon Heights around 4:20PM and park near the reception. It is a clear day and we are thanking our stars for that, when suddenly it turns misty and visibility drops to just about 20 metres. And after 15-20 mins gets back to all-clear as if it was just normal.

Our steed parked at the reception just as it was misting over :
A SwifTrip travelogue :  Started with Wayanad, but ended up at Vagamon.-dsc02987.jpg

The open-air mini-dining area where you could choose to have your BFast/Lunch/Dinner :
A SwifTrip travelogue :  Started with Wayanad, but ended up at Vagamon.-dsc03005.jpg

A bird I spotted. Not sure what it is since am not really interested in chicks of the feathered kind, but ornithologists amongst us might know.
A SwifTrip travelogue :  Started with Wayanad, but ended up at Vagamon.-dsc03008.jpg

A view of one of their cottages - WoodPecker. This has a bedroom at basement level, a dining-cum-lounge at Ground-level and another bedroom at F1 level. The din of the frogs and other creatures around this place is deafening. Gives a secluded experience, though just 50ms away from the reception.
A SwifTrip travelogue :  Started with Wayanad, but ended up at Vagamon.-dsc03009.jpg
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Old 5th June 2010, 01:11   #3
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Default Cottage selection...

We go around the Woodpecker cottage and it is good - atleast I like it. But the stairs could be too much of an issue for my Mom. So decide to check out the other cottage in the vicinity ie. Windshadows. We are told that Windside is available, but a little away from the reception/kitchen. So we drop that option, only to regret later.

This one is really big - a living room, 2 bedrooms, a big kitchen and a foyer etc. And not many stairs involved. So we choose this one. It also has a nice swing in the sitout area. Ofcourse we dont know that this happens to be the favourite place for the resident horse - we called her Mothi.
A SwifTrip travelogue :  Started with Wayanad, but ended up at Vagamon.-dsc03012.jpg

The Swifty parked near Windshadows.
A SwifTrip travelogue :  Started with Wayanad, but ended up at Vagamon.-dsc02999.jpg

The staff get tea and banana-fritters (just a fancy name for our good old Ethekka-appam or Pazham-pori).

Since all activities (fishing, jeep-safari, boating etc) is to happen only next day, we just spend time at the resort.
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Old 5th June 2010, 01:51   #4
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Default Waiting for morning, like never before...

There is nothing much to do for the rest of the day. So we all rest and relax. Its a decent dinner at 8:30 PM - rice, chappathis, chicken curry etc.

Post-dinner my parents, sis & her kid (Amy) decide to hit the bed, since the first activity planned the next day is fishing at 6:30AM. There are no fans in the cottages - ofcourse they are not needed. So a/c is anyway ruled out.

I try connecting my Reliance datacard, but give up since there is no signal. Wifey and kid are soon asleep, while I am engrossed in the pages of "First Contact" - a novel by Patrick Woodrow. Its about a brother and sister getting lost in the jungles of Papua New Guinea. Very engaging book. I read till midnight and decide to get some sleep, since the next day is going to be busy. Set the cellphone alarm to 5:45AM and hit the bed.

I am not a morning person - left to myself I can sleep easily till 9AM or more. But not this time. I wake up at 3:30 AM, check the time and sleep again only to be awakened by the phone. Try to wake up wifey & kid, but no, they are deep in slumberland. Get ready and then somehow wake them up. It's easy to wake up my son - just mention fishing and he is up.

We get ready around 6:30AM, have tea/coffee and proceed in the MM-Major to the fishing area. It offers a nice view of the meadow-ed hills + ample opporunity to fish.
A SwifTrip travelogue :  Started with Wayanad, but ended up at Vagamon.-dsc03019.jpg

This was the fish we kept catching. Don't know what it is called in English, but the locals referred to it as Silopia.
A SwifTrip travelogue :  Started with Wayanad, but ended up at Vagamon.-dsc03018.jpg

Fishing I knew from experience was an interesting activity. But I did not imagine it would be such a hit with the folks. The last time my Dad fished would be some 45 years ago when he was in his late-teens. But this time, man, he was hooked. So was my sis, who was fishing for the first time and caught the max. fishes - some 15 odd.
A SwifTrip travelogue :  Started with Wayanad, but ended up at Vagamon.-dsc03026.jpg

My Dad came 2nd at 10-odd, while the so-called-professional aka me came in at 3rd with some 5-odd. Amongst us, we caught some 30 fishes, and while we released the smaller ones, the rest were served as fish-fry for lunch.

Poor Aman - he could not get even one fish. But he did love the experience.
A SwifTrip travelogue :  Started with Wayanad, but ended up at Vagamon.-dsc03028.jpg

Me and Aman trying our luck.
A SwifTrip travelogue :  Started with Wayanad, but ended up at Vagamon.-dsc03034.jpg

Another view of the meadows.
A SwifTrip travelogue :  Started with Wayanad, but ended up at Vagamon.-dsc03041.jpg

All the fish we caught - in a bucket.
A SwifTrip travelogue :  Started with Wayanad, but ended up at Vagamon.-dsc03036.jpg

The steed that got us here.
A SwifTrip travelogue :  Started with Wayanad, but ended up at Vagamon.-dsc03044.jpg
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Old 5th June 2010, 09:25   #5
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sb nice start with the travelogue , am hooked and wanna see how the place looks now during the onset of the monsoon. Did Mr.Jose quit ?

Quote:
It is a clear day and we are thanking our stars for that, when suddenly it turns misty and visibility drops to just about 20 metres. And after 15-20 mins gets back to all-clear as if it was just normal.
Oh yes , ask maggie about it. During the 2nd day in about 3-4kms of driving we saw heavy rains, sunlight, mist and then visibility drop to a complete zero.

Quote:
[This one is really big - a living room, 2 bedrooms, a big kitchen and a foyer etc. And not many stairs involved.
There used to a be a neatly done up handcart there, missing now.

http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/attach...n-dsc03034.jpg

The water level seems to be low. When we reached the place it was quite dark and drove over the same bridge not realizing that we are driving past a small lake there. Only after I took the turn ahead maggie went inspecting and we had our hearts in our mouth . It was next to impossible for me to see anything then realized I had just driven past this concrete thingy on the lake which had no side rails or anything . Nothing to prevent you from taking a free fall into the lake. But I loved the whole experience.

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And please don't tell me you missed going here

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Old 5th June 2010, 10:36   #6
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Great pics there, SupremeBaleno. Such a wonderful place, just makes me yearn to go on a trip. And all those fish! Your lunch must have been awesome.

By the way, the feathered beauty you featured is a red whiskered bulbul. A sweet chirper.
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Old 5th June 2010, 11:32   #7
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Keep them coming, one more to the list of places to visit post monsoon...

Lovely pics SB..thanks for sharing
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Old 5th June 2010, 15:39   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rjstyles69
sb nice start with the travelogue , am hooked and wanna see how the place looks now during the onset of the monsoon. Did Mr.Jose quit ?
Thanks, Riju. You were the main inspiration behind choosing this place to visit. Did not see a Mr.Jose there - it was Mr.Kurien at the reception.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rjstyles69
Oh yes , ask maggie about it. During the 2nd day in about 3-4kms of driving we saw heavy rains, sunlight, mist and then visibility drop to a complete zero.
Yeah, its mindblowing how in a matter of minutes it changes from clear-day to zero-visibility.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rjstyles69
There used to a be a neatly done up handcart there, missing now.
It is still there.
A SwifTrip travelogue :  Started with Wayanad, but ended up at Vagamon.-dsc03000.jpg

Quote:
Originally Posted by rjstyles69
And please don't tell me you missed going here
Nope, we did not. But we did miss staying there. The view from the balcony was too good - we did get the keys to the cottage from the staff and had a look around inside. My sister was smitten by the looks and made me take tonnes of snaps of the cottage from all angles - intention being that she would someday like to build a home like that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by pjay_in
Great pics there, SupremeBaleno. Such a wonderful place, just makes me yearn to go on a trip. the feathered beauty you featured is a red whiskered bulbul. A sweet chirper.
Thanks. And it sure is a nice place to visit. The bonus being the drive up the winding ghat roads.

Quote:
Originally Posted by pypkmsrikanth
Keep them coming, one more to the list of places to visit post monsoon... Lovely pics SB..thanks for sharing
Thanks, Srikanth. Yeah, its amazing how many awesome places are there just in your backyard, that we are unaware of.
-------------------------------------------------------------------

Fishing done, we get back to the resort for a hot breakfast of idiyappam and egg-roast with hot tea/coffee to go with it. Post breakfast we rest for a while before it is time for the Jeep Safari.

The first stop was at a viewing point on their property from where you could see the hills and valleys. And the roads far away with vehicles as tiny specks. Being acrophobic, I stayed clear of the edge of the viewing point.

A tea-factory now in ruins - the guide told us that all machinery and anything else valuable had been stolen from the plant.
A SwifTrip travelogue :  Started with Wayanad, but ended up at Vagamon.-dsc03062.jpg

A KSRTC bus plying on the roads faaaar away.
A SwifTrip travelogue :  Started with Wayanad, but ended up at Vagamon.-dsc03063.jpg

A white Sumo on the ghat road.
A SwifTrip travelogue :  Started with Wayanad, but ended up at Vagamon.-dsc03111.jpg

Step-cultivation (that we read about in school) done on the hilly slopes.
A SwifTrip travelogue :  Started with Wayanad, but ended up at Vagamon.-dsc03066.jpg

A waterfall somewhere far away.
A SwifTrip travelogue :  Started with Wayanad, but ended up at Vagamon.-dsc03102.jpg

Though the valleys look all green and devoid of human-inhabitation, the guide does point out some homes to us in between the greenery. The camera's 15x zoom helps find these tiny specks.
A SwifTrip travelogue :  Started with Wayanad, but ended up at Vagamon.-dsc03112.jpg

Another home with a road cut out just for it's inhabitants.
A SwifTrip travelogue :  Started with Wayanad, but ended up at Vagamon.-dsc03113.jpg


Next stop was at the boating lake. They had 3 pedal-boats and a fibre-glass canoe. Everyone had fun pedalling the boats around the lake.
A SwifTrip travelogue :  Started with Wayanad, but ended up at Vagamon.-dsc03077.jpg

They had enough life-jackets for all of us. Aman all kitted up in his life-jacket. He and Amy loved the boating experience.
A SwifTrip travelogue :  Started with Wayanad, but ended up at Vagamon.-dsc03080.jpg

Since I love rowing, I took the canoe for a spin around the lake. Lightweight and easy to row & manouevre, but the lightness also means that it is easy to tip over. Which was why I went alone without taking wifey and kid with me.

To be continued...
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Old 5th June 2010, 16:32   #9
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Default The safari continues...

After boating, the Jeep sets off again through the resort. Now we are travelling on a road that runs just alongside the edge of the hill. Quite scary because all that separates us from the deep valley is just a few metres.

I don't know how much of the situation this snap conveys. But this calf is grazing on a sloped surface which is just a metre or so away from the deep valley and if it were to loose its foothold, it is curtains.
A SwifTrip travelogue :  Started with Wayanad, but ended up at Vagamon.-dsc03103.jpg

We asked the driver whether cattle fall off into the valley and he says it is quite common. He has lost close to 20 cattle, with an average frequency of 1 per year.

A view of cattle grazing on the hilly meadows a la Scotland.
A SwifTrip travelogue :  Started with Wayanad, but ended up at Vagamon.-dsc03123.jpg

After spending some time here, it is time to move on. Some of us decide to walk down what looks like a steep slope, but it is tough to get a foothold on the gravel.
A SwifTrip travelogue :  Started with Wayanad, but ended up at Vagamon.-dsc03114.jpg

Though it might not look very steep in the snap, in reality it looked dangerous to be in the Jeep also. But the driver assures us that it is a walk in the park for the Jeep and we get in. The descent was quite frightening.

Another viewing point - check out the kutcha jeep-track that runs so close to the edge.
A SwifTrip travelogue :  Started with Wayanad, but ended up at Vagamon.-dsc03105.jpg

And then comes into view the sight which made me come to this place - the uniquely designed Woodside 2-bed cottage and the smaller 1-bed Nestling beside it.
A SwifTrip travelogue :  Started with Wayanad, but ended up at Vagamon.-dsc03120.jpg

The Woodside cottage. Just sheer delight. If you are a group of 2 families, this is the cottage to stay in. Cons are that it is some 300-400 metres away from the reception/resaurant and given the frequent powercuts in Kerala, it can be scary if the lights go off at night. But the view from the balconey is awesome.
A SwifTrip travelogue :  Started with Wayanad, but ended up at Vagamon.-dsc03117.jpg

A view of the Balcony of the Woodside.
A SwifTrip travelogue :  Started with Wayanad, but ended up at Vagamon.-dsc03121.jpg

Nestling : The only 1-bedroom cottage at Vagamon Heights. At Rs2500 for a night, this is the cheapest option at the resort.
A SwifTrip travelogue :  Started with Wayanad, but ended up at Vagamon.-dsc03118.jpg

We decide to come back and explore Woodside in detail later. For now, the Jeep moves on to take us to another interesting place in the resort - a platform on top of a tree.
A SwifTrip travelogue :  Started with Wayanad, but ended up at Vagamon.-dsc03133.jpg

Except my parents and me (damn the acrophobia), everyone else scampers up the steps leaving me to take snaps of their heroism. Another view of the 'machan' - not to be confused with the Tamil machan.
A SwifTrip travelogue :  Started with Wayanad, but ended up at Vagamon.-dsc03147.jpg

To be continued...

Last edited by supremeBaleno : 5th June 2010 at 16:39.
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Old 5th June 2010, 16:39   #10
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Nice log supremeBaleno, Kerala is so admirable with greenery all around, I love the place always and esp when it rains you just need to keep on watching the nature.
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Old 5th June 2010, 17:50   #11
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Excellent photos and log! If you've been to kemmannugundi and visited the Hebbe falls, you will see steeper kuccha roads that give you the fright of your life, but the MM seems to handle them like a piece of cake.
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Old 6th June 2010, 00:02   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ranjith.rajaram
Nice log supremeBaleno, Kerala is so admirable with greenery all around, I love the place always and esp when it rains you just need to keep on watching the nature.
Thanks, Ranjith. And yes, Kerala=greenery. All you need when it rains is a hot cup of tea/coffee and just watch the rains. Not to mention the intoxicating smell of rain hitting the earth.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ExtremeTorque
Excellent photos and log! If you've been to kemmannugundi and visited the Hebbe falls, you will see steeper kuccha roads that give you the fright of your life, but the MM seems to handle them like a piece of cake.
Thanks ET. Yeah the MMs handle it well, just that we doubt its capability. You know sort of like riding pillion behind someone when he is taking a fast curve.
----------------------------------------------------------------------

OK, onto the rose-garden which is maintained by the resort-owners. There was a gardener working away, but this was obviously not the best time to see all the different varieties (they mentioned 100) of roses in full bloom.

Anyway, I captured on film/memory some roses - this being a red one.
A SwifTrip travelogue :  Started with Wayanad, but ended up at Vagamon.-dsc03094.jpg

Another white one.
A SwifTrip travelogue :  Started with Wayanad, but ended up at Vagamon.-dsc03095.jpg

Amy and Aman posing for the camera in the rose-garden.
A SwifTrip travelogue :  Started with Wayanad, but ended up at Vagamon.-dsc03092.jpg

With that, the Jeep safari comes to an end and we return to the resort. Amy finds the fireplace (not used) a good place to rest her tired limbs.
A SwifTrip travelogue :  Started with Wayanad, but ended up at Vagamon.-dsc03167.jpg

While my parents await lunch, I get out with Aman and Amy to walk around the resort. Aman tries his hand at Jeeping. A potential member of JeepThrills.
A SwifTrip travelogue :  Started with Wayanad, but ended up at Vagamon.-dsc03157.jpg

And then we chance upon Mothi - the resort horse, grazing away. He is always left untethered, which means he is a harmless sort. But he could do with a bath though - BO was bad.
A SwifTrip travelogue :  Started with Wayanad, but ended up at Vagamon.-dsc03161.jpg

We decide to walk again to the Woodside cottage and on the way come across these tomato-like fruits.
A SwifTrip travelogue :  Started with Wayanad, but ended up at Vagamon.-dsc03176.jpg

And a snake with a golden crown. It was a baby snake just 6-7 inches long and maybe 1/2-inch around. But what intrigued us was the golden patch on its head. Did we discover a new species ?
A SwifTrip travelogue :  Started with Wayanad, but ended up at Vagamon.-dsc03173.jpg

Another view of Woodside cottage. Man, I can never tire of this cottage.
A SwifTrip travelogue :  Started with Wayanad, but ended up at Vagamon.-dsc03181.jpg

And then I see a rare spectacle of brother-sister bonding. Instead of fighting like they usually do, Aman and Amy are bonding. What a relief, given their constant fights. Amy was the youngest kid in the family till Aman usurped that place, which she could not really accept. Don't blame her though.
A SwifTrip travelogue :  Started with Wayanad, but ended up at Vagamon.-dsc03160.jpg

Anyway, I have some 150 odd snaps more. Need to sift through them to find good ones to post here. Till then, adieu...
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Old 6th June 2010, 00:21   #13
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Nice log, nic pictures and very nice place

Could you give some details of the costs of Woodside cottage and the jeep safari.
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Old 6th June 2010, 00:27   #14
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All cottages other than Nestling (Nestling is 2.5K and is single-bderoom) cost 4K per room. Since Woodside is 2-room, that means 8K. Food, fishing, jeep-safari all included in this price. Ofcourse you can bargain to reduce this.

BTW Riju, where did you see the rat-snake coiled on the roof-rafters ? Was it at Woodside or the reception ?

Last edited by supremeBaleno : 6th June 2010 at 00:28.
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Old 6th June 2010, 00:34   #15
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Default Return journey

We were talking to Mani (the Jeep owner/driver) whose sister happened to be staying at Olaketti which is just 3-4kms from our place at Mavelikara. We asked him which is the shortest route and he said going via Kanjirapally would save us atleast 20kms. So we try that on our return.

So, it is Vagamon - Erattupettai - Kanjirapally - Changanachery - Mavelikara.

But guess what ? It was also 112kms and took the same 4 hours. Atleast the Palai-Kottayam roads were a little better.
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