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Old 3rd January 2011, 21:23   #1
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Default Southern Odyssey : 5000 kms through South India

If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay home. - James Michener

I read this quote somewhere just as I was mulling over what places to visit and where to stay on a vacation to South India. I was a bit apprehensive about homestays and how people would interact when a total stranger goes visiting them at their homes, stays with them, eats with them and basically shares a day in their life. James Michener gave me clarity and I went ahead, took the plunge and booked a few homestays across Karanataka and Kerala. I must say that it didnt go wrong and I met some of the most warmest and hospitable people I could ever hope to meet.

At the outset, I would like to thank all the people I have met and come to know on this trip and hope that our paths cross again soon!

This is the story of my vacation...
Dates : 4th - 19th Dec
Destination : Mumbai - Mumbai via Soutn India.
Vehicle : Xylo.


Day 1 : Belur.

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Started from my pad in the western suburbs at exactly 12am and made our way towards Panvel via Powai. Reached the expressway at Kalamboli in an hour and dashed across the country side towards Kolhapur. Made it to Kolhapur by around 6am and had a "chai" break on the highway. Tea, somehow, feels amazingly rejuvenating at these small joints.

Having had the early morning cuppa, we resumed the dash and somewhere near Haveri, we stopped at a small hotel (I guess the name was 'Ashok') for brunch. Trust me when I say that these were the lightest, puffiest and best idlis I have ever had, served with an amazing assortment of chutney's...all for Rs 20. Moving on, there were some diversions near Ranibennur but nothing major to cause any time loss.

Sunrise over NH4
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Guess this is the Navgraha Teerth Mandir ( correct me if I am wrong)
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Reaching Davangere, we took a premeditated turn off into town to locate Bapuji Dental College, its a straight 5 minute drive to reach Shri Kottureshwara Benne Dosa Hotel located opposite the main gate of the college. We had decided to stop here after hearing lots of stuff about Davangere Benne Dosa and none of it was misplaced. The dosa's, which are roasted on a wood fire, are dripping with butter and served with dollops of delicious chutney and mashed potato. We wolfed down a couple each and got back on the highway but not before being fined Rs 100/- for parking in a 'no-parking' zone near the dental college.

I have been fined every time I travel, in Goa (no helmet on a hired bike), Jodhpur (no seatbelt), Ahmedabad (one way no entry zone) and now here....and except in Jodhpur, everyone gave me an official receipt!!!

Yummy!!
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This is how they make it Yummy!
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And this is where they serve it...
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Well...after Davangere, the diversions too taper off till Chitradurga and it was a quick run till the turn off just before Chitradurga town to get onto NH13 to Bhadravati at around 1pm. The road, although not pathetic, isn’t in great shape but the Xlyo comes into its own on such terrain and we made good time till Tarikere where we branched off again towards Kemmanugundi as the plan was to drive through Chikmaglur to Belur and then onwards to Hassan.

Looks Risky...Ain't it?
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NH13 towards Bhadravati
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Bad patch near Tarikere.
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The drive takes on a different hue after Kemmanugundi as Chikmaglur approaches, as acres after acres of coffee plantations roll by and eventually we made it to Belur by 4.45pm. Took on a guide at the ChenneKeshava temple and ambled through the countless sculptures, taking in history and staring at the details in awe. I have never spent so much time gawking at temple walls but then these are no ordinary walls!!.

Belur Temple
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Belur Sculptures

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Another Temple in the Belur Complex
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There is some legend attached to this Arjuna Sculpture which led invaders and later local to batter it since its said to emit musical notes on impact.
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Belur Temple Interior
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Belur Temple Main dome
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All the pillars inside the temple are intricately carved and each one differs from the other. Amazing detail!
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Sunset over Belur
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We could finish up by closing time which is 7.30pm, took the straight road to Hassan and checked into Southern Star on BM road. The hotel is very clean, comfortable and has a good in-house restaurant with a bar which, even though named Karwar does not serve any south Indian main course. So, had some butter chicken (which had loads of spices and curry leaves but tasted nice) and crashed for the night. Day 1 done at 1093 Kms on the odo.

Member of the "1000 kms in a day" club...twice over!
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Last edited by nix1976in : 3rd January 2011 at 21:42.
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Old 3rd January 2011, 23:28   #2
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Default Re: Southern Odyssey : 5000 kms through South India

Day 2 : Halebidu, Shravanabelagola and Mysore.

Sunrise on day 2 saw us making a dash for Halebidu through sleepy village roads and misty visages of the hills and fishermen in coracles.

Early morning view from Southern Star, Hassan.
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Sunrise enroute to Halebidu
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Fishing in a coracle!
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Reached the temple at around 6.30am and luckily found a guide to shepherd us around. Halebidu, essentially, means a ruined city and we could see the damage inflicted on the sculptures through the centuries by invaders and locals alike. Still, the Hoysaleshwara temple did not fail to mesmerize us with the outstanding details in its countless sculptures.

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Now this is cool...check the full version!
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7th Largest Nandi statue
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The "sagar manthan" scene...
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Soldiers wearing Helmet...maybe they were mandatory when riding horses!
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Guys using Straws..wonder if they were having a cola?
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Narsimha has many statues of himself both at Halebidu and Belur
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Rama Killing Bali...check the trajectory of the arrow through the woods.
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Interior of the Hoyshaleshwara Temple
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I really feel that if they were completed, protected and preserved over
the years, these could have easily made the grade for the "wonders of the world", well...if wishes were horses...

We came back to Hassan for an idli/dosa breakfast and then checked out and moved towards Shravanabelagola by 9am. Its an easy 50kms drive to the temple city but an arduous 650 steps up to stand in front of Bahubali. Lucklily, the temperatures were low and the sun was behind a viel of clouds which made the climb up to the top of Vindhyagiri easier. It was always a dream to be here since I had studied about this place in school. The 58 feet monolith of Bahubali is a wonder to behold and it feels like we are in the presence of some supreme entity.

Vindhyagiri...all of 650 steps to the top
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Chandragiri....
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We spent around an hour taking in the views and then ambled down to the parking. We decided to give Chandragiri a miss since we didnt want to miss anything in Mysore.

Mysore to be continued in the next post!

Last edited by nix1976in : 3rd January 2011 at 23:32.
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Old 4th January 2011, 06:21   #3
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Default Re: Southern Odyssey : 5000 kms through South India

Nikhil, your title quote sums it up! Amazing run and at the same time, catching up what all needs to be seen! Very nice.
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Old 4th January 2011, 08:04   #4
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Mysore...contd.

So off we went towards Brindavan...the route taken was Kikkori, Krishnarajpet, Tendekere and onto KRS, around 100kms.

Husk spread out on the road to separate the grain!
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Enroute to Mysore
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We had booked ourselves at the Royal Orchid in Brindavan gardens and checked in around 1.30pm. It’s an amazing property right on the gardens edge and our suite afforded sweeping views of the gardens.

Backwaters of KRS dam
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View from Royal Orchid
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Being a Sunday, the fountains would be operational till 7.30pm so we freshened up, had lunch at the in-house restaurant and decided to run into Mysore city to check out the Mysore palace and Chamundi Hills. The palace is really huge and unique in the sense that an auditorium has been carved out of its facade to enable the royals and VIP's to observe the Dashera parades. The interiors have been preserved very well and have a great collection of art and sculptures. I can only imagine the grandeur of the place during the Dashera festivities when it is all lit up.

Mysore palace entance
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Mysore Palace front facade
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Then we climbed up to Chamundi hills and took in the mandatory darshan of Nandi and pictures of the iconic Mahishasura. The sun set on us here as we made our way back to KRS.

Nandi at Chamundi Hills
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Mandatory Mysore Pic...
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Chamundershwara Temple
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Sunset over Chamundi Hills
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The lit up garden and the fountains were up in all their glory but the crowds and the noise made it feel somewhat like being at Juhu in Mumbai. The musical fountain was bit of a let down (maybe as I expected a bit too much) but overall it was a nice stroll through the place. Additionally, even after shutdown time the fountains and lights were restarted for a VIP visit so we could go back through the hotel's private entry back in and enjoy some solitude.

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Check out an amazing example of a musical fountain...


It had been a hectic day but I was still itching to have some south Indian food since the orchid's restaurant too didn’t serve any southie delicacies. So off we went on the Mysore road to look for some local cuisine. There is a KTDC approved 'gourmet' restaurant called Heritage Shelter just about 2kms off the bridge towards Mysore but here too we got the standard menu of north Indian and Chinese food. Well...had no choice as we were famished and so dug into some standard chicken and naan. Coming back to KRS by 10pm, we found the fountains and lights still working so gazed at the sight for sometime from the balcony and crashed for the night.

View from the Suite Balcony

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Last edited by nix1976in : 4th January 2011 at 08:19.
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Old 4th January 2011, 10:27   #5
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Default Re: Southern Odyssey : 5000 kms through South India

Wow. It looks like you went to a lot of places. I have been wanting to visit some of these places for a long while now. May be this year . So your travelogue and pictures can act as an inspiration to do it faster.

How were the inerior roads in Karnataka?
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Old 4th January 2011, 13:47   #6
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That is some journey you have taken nix. 1000 kms in a day (and night) with sightseeing must surely have been tiring. Please do mention about the road conditions as you write.
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Old 4th January 2011, 15:27   #7
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Wow, the rate at which you are seeing places, its like: Lunch in Mysore Dinner in Coorg and maybe next BF at Udupi!
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Old 4th January 2011, 15:28   #8
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Mods : Pls delete the earlier post. I was unable to edit it for adding pictures.

Day 3 : Coorg.

Woke up nice and early and found that the fountains were still on in the gardens. So went down for a early morning walk and realised the beauty of the place. It was a chilly morning with light mist and the sound of the water reverberating all over. Walked around the pathways for around an hour taking in the sights and sounds before returning to the hotel for breakfast. Had some nice dosas and vada's and then checked out to move towards our next destination...Coorg.

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Well...from KRS, there is a small turnoff after the bridge on Mysore road which connects directly onto Hunsur road. Itís a peach of a highway straight up to Madikeri. We branched off to visit the Tibetian settlement which overshot my expectations. The 3 huge gold plated statues are awe inspiring and in direct contrast to the understated elegance and calm visage of the monastery. The whole place seems to be a mini-Tibet and we even had some momo's and thupka to satiate our asian palate.

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After some buying some knick knacks, we drove on to Madikeri and directly into Hotel East End for some authentic coorgi mutton roast and chicken curry with parathas. This place comes highly recommended and is sure to tickle even the most critical taste buds.

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After an heavy lunch, we decided to work it off by going to Abbey Falls, its steep climb down to the falls but the views were OK...maybe the falls would look better when in full flow but nothing compared to the others I visited earlier in the year (elaborated in this travelogue).
Moving on, we went to Raja's seat which is just a small hillock with a 180 degree view of the valley below Madikeri, nothing special especially at 3 in the noon. So we made our way down to Omkareshwara temple, the small pond here has huge fish which one can feed with 'chana'. The temple itself seems ancient albeit well maintained.

Abbey Falls
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Raja Seat
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Omkareshwar Temple
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Had a quick darshan and started back towards Siddapura where we had booked ourselves in a homestay named "Elephant Corridor". The drive through the narrow cardamom and coffee plantations was beautiful and we made it to the night halt by 6.30pm.

Road To Siddapura
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Elephant Corridor is owned by Nimi and Viju Chengappa who are elegant and hospitable hosts. We spent the better part of the evening chatting up with them, understanding the Kodava way of life and spending some quiet time in their beautiful ancestral house with their pets Jomo and Riva. They are getting a honeymoon suite ready which is already looking awesome and I hope to make it back soon. The dinner was the highlight of the evening with traditional Kodava and Srilankan fare (Nimi is Srilankan) and the desert (peaches with cream) was to die for!! Thanks, Viju and Nimi for the wonderful evening.
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Old 4th January 2011, 15:53   #9
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Default Re: Southern Odyssey : 5000 kms through South India

Great start there.
Few years back,I too stayed with Viju and Nimmi @Coorg elephant corridor.
We'd few elephants as guests too.

Its great to stay there inside that coffee plantation.

Waiting for the remaining parts.
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Old 4th January 2011, 17:09   #10
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The road from KRS - did you go via Elivala direct? I heard that road was bad, looks like it has been repaired now?
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Old 4th January 2011, 17:11   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pjbiju View Post
Wow. It looks like you went to a lot of places. I have been wanting to visit some of these places for a long while now. May be this year . So your travelogue and pictures can act as an inspiration to do it faster.

How were the inerior roads in Karnataka?
Hi Biju,
Yes...south India amazed me...watch this space for the full log. The interior roads in Karnataka were a mixed bag, NH13 started off well from Chitradurga but the road after the turn off at Bhadravati detoriated after Tarikere till Kemmangudi...after that it was smooth sailing right upto Hassan. Hassan to Mysore was good as was Mysore to Madikeri.

Nikhil.
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Old 4th January 2011, 17:21   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hvkumar View Post
The road from KRS - did you go via Elivala direct? I heard that road was bad, looks like it has been repaired now?
@HV, I dont know the name of the place however there was a small right about 3 kms down from the KRS bridge. The road was not in a good condition but didnt last for more that 2-3 kms before it joined the excellent highway to Madikeri..saved me the trouble of going all the way back to Mysore to join the highway.
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Old 4th January 2011, 19:12   #13
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Day 4 : Wayanad.

Morning arrived with the chirping of birds and off we went on a plantation tour with Viju. He has a 20 acre farm growing coffee, pepper and chillies among other things. After a scrumptious breakfast of Upma accompanied by roasted banana (a must-try combination) with home made marmalades and jams, we started towards our next destination...Wayanad.

Approach road Elephant Corridor
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Elephant Corridor - Main House
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Elephant Corridor - Guest Rooms
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Elephant Corridor - Dinner and breakfast gazebo.
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Jomo, Riva and my better half!
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Cofee Estate of Elephant Corridor
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The route taken was Gonikoppal - Kutta - Sultan Bathery - Muthanga wildlife sanctuary - Kalpetta - Vythiri - Lakkidi. We came across a sign for Iruppu falls some 50kms down the highway from Siddapura. A tedious climb led us to the falls...again nothing to write about.

Walkway to Iruppu
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Iruppu Falls
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Iruppu Rameshwara temple
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The drive through the dense forests at Kutta is beautiful but the dampener was that Eddakal caves were shut for maintenance for 2 months and would reopen only on 26th Jan.

Enroute to Kutta
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Kerala Finally!!!
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So we decided to have lunch and got into Hotel Prince which is right on the highway at Sultan Bathery. The food was awesome to say the least, the malabar parathas were light and crisp and went very well with the chicken curry. The first meal in Kerala was very satisfying.

Moving ahead, we went down to Muthanga sanctuary and booked a guide and jeep for the safari. The drive takes us around 7kms deep into the jungles but all we could see were plenty of spotted deer, a malabar giant squirrel, a peacock and some elephants apart from pugmarks which the guide said were a day old and made by an adult tiger. (Yeah right!). This was my first actual foray into the jungle and it was quite exciting to keep my eyes (and camera) peeled to capture any movement. Hope to have more safaris soon.

Safari Jeep
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Around 10-12 kms inside the sanctuary
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Tiger Pug Marks (said to be made by an adult tiger, a day old)
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Malabar Giant Squirrel
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Spotted Deer
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Tusker at Muthanga
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Tusker at Muthanga (tame?)
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Then we moved down towards Vythiri and checked into Tropical Forest Homestay at Lakkidi. The rooms are huge and the host Saji is a great guy to have around. The dinner was delicious but the cold was biting...watched some TV and cooped up for the night.

Last edited by nix1976in : 4th January 2011 at 19:15.
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Old 4th January 2011, 21:38   #14
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Day 5 : Guruvayoor and Kochi.

Rise and shine...we are early risers and were up and about by sunrise. The homestay is situated right at the entrance of the famed Wayanad ghat with the 9 hairpin bends. There is a view point right inside the homestay which gives beautiful views of the ghats and the valley below.

Tropical Forest Homestay with my Xylo upfront.
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View of the Wayanad ghats from Tropical Forest
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We checked out around 8am after breakfast and moved towards Guruvayoor getting our first glimpse of Kerala along the way. Good roads, no slums, no filth and garbage and huge houses all along NH17.This highway does not bypass any of the towns and hence the going was a bit slow and we reached Guruvayoor around 11am. Got a mundu on hire and queued up to get a darshan. There was a small queue but we could get in soon and had a nice darshan. We had some more vada's and idlis at a small restaurant just outside the temple gates. I donít think south can ever go wrong with its cuisine.

Entrance to Guruvayoor Temple
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Guruvayoor Temple - side view
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Then we started towards Kochi along NH17, we had booked an homestay on an island named Kothad around 15 kms before Ernakulam. A road is being constructed linking all these islands off the mainland since a new container terminal is being constructed at Kochi. We could reach the homestay in a jiffy using this road.

Ben's homestay is the home of Benny and Anju Xavier built on ancestral property in a garden set by the waterfront with their own private motorboat and also a Chinese fishing net. The views are mesmerizing and one could sit for hours on the private jetty gazing at the fisher folk and locals go about their business using the waterway. The silence is only broken by the occasional chugging of the passenger ferry which makes it way up and down river. Its a beautiful house with amazing views.
Unfortunately, I stumbled over a small piece of wire in the courtyard and fell over along with my camera...Thunk!!...it conked off and it was a strong feeling of deja-vu as the same camera had similarly conked off on my Jaisalmer trip during a sandstorm at Sam (elaborated in my travelogue here) (Royal Rajasthan - A 4200km road trip through Rajasthan)

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Independent cottage at the homestay
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View from the cottage
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Ben's private Fishing net just off his house
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Well, I was crestfallen but Benny came to my rescue and off we went to a camera repair guy in Ernakulam city. Benny used his persuasive skills to make sure that the mechanic gets my camera reparied by the next day. We crossed our fingers and trudged back hoping to get some good news soon. Dinner was an elaborate affair with fried Karimeen, appams and curry. Delicious!!
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Old 4th January 2011, 21:45   #15
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Default Re: Southern Odyssey : 5000 kms through South India

Good homestay finds in both Coorg and Kochi - please do share the details of the places, tariffs and contact info.
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