Drive in a Green Triangle
Vehicles gushing emitting black smoke - the city sights in grey, a mixture of black and white, like match boxes reaching out to the sky - regardless of day or night, in surging IT city Bangalore, everything is mechanical: pre-fixed time, pre-fixed day and pre-fixed job, a professional life moving like a wound out doll - and on the incidental holidays in between, the techies rushing to and fro Singapore or Srilanka on a round trip. 'O brother, here the life is like that!' Complaining about all, two Pooja holidays came up.
Got fed up seeing Goa and Kudajadri, now to where? As such questions turn perplexing, a call came to Wayanad from the city of gardens: the techies enquired about the weather in Wayanad. Not satisfied with a 'not-at-all-bad' answer, they quizzed back, 'We need a special journey; can you suggest a tour route?' While being engrossed in thinking out a tour route appropriate for these techies inebriated with their youthfulness and having sufficient money to travel around the country, the 'Tri Junction' drive circuit in Nilgiri biosphere came up in the mind: a drive tour circuit covering the border areas of three states; besides the enjoyment of the chill of the jungle and the music of the wild stream, a more adventurous one too.
Once they heard it, three vehicles dashed to the Mysore road past the Satellite Stand leaving behind the buzz of the city. As they entered the palace city, Mysore, driving through Mandya, it was another busy world. Escaping from that and traveling through the road to Gundlupet, the scenes of the village started coming into view: real rustic Indian villages far from the culture of cities, like the portrayals of life inscribed in the book 'Akalangalile Manushyar' (the men at the yonder) by Raveendran.
The farmer families travelling in bullock carts â€“ bundles of finger millet and chama rice were spread over the road for threshing - and small clusters of just head high mews; and acres of fields around them. The season of sun flower and marigold flowers is over. The farmers are getting ready for cultivating of peanuts. You can see besides the red tinged scenes under the setting sun, the villagers ploughing the fields untiringly; the people who sacrificed their life to allay the hunger of the city. 'It is almost a different experience' â€“ the start of the journey from Gundlupet itself was beautiful.
The vehicles turned straight to Nilgiri road. The National Highway 212, taken till now, turned away to Wayanad border. The permission to enter Gopalaswami Betta is given only till 4 PM from the check post below. They rushed at top speed. Occasionally the flocks of goat and cattle coming down the hill blocked the way. At last we reached the entry point by 4:45 PM. All roadblocks clearing, the car come running in the top gear, now changed to first and second gears alternatively. We can see the Gopalaswami Betta, bound by Nilgiri hills, like a shadow picture.
Travelling along the track as a stretched thread across the flower farmlands, you can reach the entrance of Gopalaswami temple. The surroundings of this ancient temple is under the control of Karnataka Forest Department. You will have to climb a mountainous pass to reach this sky touching hill range more than 2000 feet high from the sea level. There are rain forests on both sides.
Even from the heights you can see wild animals foraging around in the valley. One could see herds of elephants grazing like small rocks moving about only at Gopalaswami Betta. This temple always blanketed by fog is a holy place for pilgrims; the deities are Lord Krishna and Radha. It was in 14th century that this temple was built by Manchanda Dynasty. There is also a story that Manchanda King, escaping on a horse from his rival brothers, committed suicide by jumping from the top of this hill. Madhava Dandanayakan installed the deity on this hill to mitigate the sorrow of this incident also.
With special rituals and offerings the temple wakes up early morning. You can see the long queue of pilgrims and tourists come here to worship. The atmosphere at this hill top is different from the fiery weather of Karnataka. It is the cold wind blowing from the nearby Nilgiri that cools Gopalaswami Betta
By traveling 280 kilometers from the garden city Bangalore you can reach Gundlupet. From the city of palaces Mysore it is only eighty kilometers to here. And from Wayanad, a place of fog and unique natural beauty you can reach here by travelling sixty kilometers. The journey through the fourteen kilometers from Bathery via Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary would enthrall anybody. The eye soothing views of the verdant jungles and amazing views of the wild animals present you a visual feast. Since this tourist center could be reached at very less expense, it is the favorite place for the ordinary people also. The Gundlupet village is the realm of a group of people whose main aim in life is farming and rearing cattles. This place has been the locale for many movies in different Indian languages. The views of the fields of Gundlupet blanketed with colors changing in different seasons, stretching beyond sight, has been registered in the minds of the tourists for years.
First day we stayed at the guest house on the Nilgiri road. Next day the journey was to Bandipur. The attractions of Bandipur will be novel to the tourists fed up with seeing the fun parks in cities. This can be considered as the biggest wild life sanctuary in South India. While most of the other places in Karnataka is hot, the villages adjacent to Wayanad are pavillion of coolness. The fog and the wind descending to the valley from the nearby Nilgiri stroke this place.
The Bandipur Project Tiger Park is in the thick forest in Karnataka. The tigers are preserved with great vigil in this forest spread over to the border areas of Kerala and Tamilnadu also. This is also a settlement of more than three thousand elephants. The main attraction is the jungles canopying the road from both sides. If you cross the border of Karanataka from Muthanga in Sultan Bathery you can reach Gundlupet. Turning right from there, you get in to the Nilgiri road. Traveling another fifteen kilometers from here through Chamaraj Nagar district, one gets to Bandipur National Park. This jungle spread over hundred square kilometres is a favorite place for even local tourists. The tourism here is run by Karnataka Forest Division. Since there are cameras even on the deserted roadsides, trespassing into the jungle and disturbing the wild animals would be detected. Still the tourists have chances to view the beauty of the jungle from certain fixed points.
This is the most important national park in India on the Karnataka border. This place has got very genial weather. The tourists are allowed into this park from 6:30 AM to 9:00 AM and from 3:30 PM to 6:00 PM. Many tourists come here to enjoy only the safari in an open vehicle in the jungle. Night travel is prohibited in Bandipur-Ooty road besides Bathery-Gundalupet road. The prohibition of traffic from 9 PM to 6 AM through the wild life sanctuary, enabled the wild animals to roam about freely. There is only 80 kilometers from Bandipur to Mysore, the city of palaces. The other attractions of this place are tiger, bison and deer. Here there are high quality resorts for the tourists also. You can avail stay facilities by online also.
Then passing the Kannada border, straight to Tamilnadu: Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary - a place very close to Bandipur of Karnataka and Wayanad of Kerala. This is a most favorite place for elephant ride in South India. Hundreds of tourists come to this place daily. Atop behemoth elephants you can enjoy a ride through the jungle. This jungle is spread over an area of 321 square kilometers. It was the Madras Presidency that declared 62 square kilometers of this jungle area as National Park in 1940. Now 108 square kilometers is considered as National Park. Moyar River (one of the important rivers of Tamilnadu) and Nilgiri hills border Muthumalai.
Muthumalai is on the way to perennially foggy Ootty. When you go a little ahead from Gudalur, you can see the entrance to the Muthumalai Wild Life Sanctuary on the left side. While driving through the jungle, sighting some wild animals including tigers is not rare. While you visit Coonoor, Ootty and Pykkara Kodanad view point, etc. the tourists can consider Muthumalai also. The Muthumalai Wild life sanctuary is commonly known as Tri Junction. In this area where the three states meet and diverse deviant languages are spoken, Tamil, Malayalam and Kannada tourists rush in during the season.
Decades before the forest based tourism was started in Wayanad, this center had been started. In this place the rainfall is about 800 to 2000 mm. Because of that itself, the jungles full of greenery is the specialty of Muthumalai. From November to February this place will be in the clutches of very cold weather. It is during this cold weather that most of the tourists come here.
The Theppakadu elephant camp in Muthumalai is a main attraction. It was in 1972 that this elephant settlement was established. Since 1889 this place was known as the biggest elephant catching center in South India. More than 600 elephants were caught here by felling them in to the pits and converted them to tame elephants by giving special training. You can qualify Muthumalai as an ecotourist center. There are so many arrangements to control the plastic wastes all along the road side. The greenery of still surviving rain forests in Western Ghat itself is enough to attract the tourists. Masinagudi on the Ooty road is also a feast of beauty. Then our journey was to Muthanga in Wayanad circling the ghats bordered by eucalyptus trees and then via Gudalur Pattavayal.
An important tourist center famous for its natural beauty of the jungles - you can reach this place by traveling 41kilometers through Kozhikode - Mysore National Highway from the district headquarters Kalpatta, a journey to acquaint with the jungle and the wild animals. The timings for entering this place are 7 to 9 in the morning and 3:30 to 5.00 in the evening. The tourists will be driven through the jungle in a jeep and brought back. The journey through the jungle of Muthanga is an enjoyment different from other jungle experiences.
You can see the wild animals very close even on the sides of the Kozhikode-Mysore National Highway passing through Muthanga. Since the terrain is plain, these wild animals can roam around in this jungle freely in search of food. Because of that itself, the breeding of the animals is increasing. The abundance of tigers in this jungle is gaining attention internationally.
The elephant camp in Muthanga also is historically famous. The wooden cages here are the evidence of catching of the elephants in the British age. To train the elephants falling in to the entrapment pits, there were trainer elephants also. The elegant tusker elephants here is the beauty of this jungle.
At times single elephants with unabated vigour might come up running, shaking the trees. If the tourists disturb them, the herds also will not leave them. Other than that the elephant herds on the road sides are usually calm. To see the wild elephant herds under the shades of the jungle you have to come to Wayanad: standing like black rock even in heavy rain; for these sons of Sahya (the mountain range here) the rainy season also is occasion for celebration. The banks of Kabani River is proliferated with wild elephants. The trekking of elephants along their wild tracks is a fun filling sight.
The jungle areas including Wayanad is becoming the largest elephant settlement in the Western Ghats. A huge habitat zone including Nagarhola, Enbegoor, Tholpetty, Bandipur and Muthumalai of Karnataka is becoming the main settlement area of wild elephants. The Wayanad Wild Life Sanctuary is in the middle of the tiger habitats of Bandipur, Nagarhola and Muthumalai. They move criss-crossing along the elephant tracks starting from Kokkalahandi of Karnataka to Nilambur forests and from Masinagudi of Tamilnadu to Dubare. The wild elephant herds moving through the elephant tracks from Bennarghatta is an all-time sight of fun.
The tuskers of the jungle give the feast of sighting to the tourists visiting Wayanad also. Even the tourists travelling through the jungle path from Muthanga to Gundalupet, can see the processions of elephant herds. The main attraction of The Tholpetty Wild Life Sanctuary also are elephants. A journey through three states in two days: the most suitable route for the concept of driving tour. On returning home after the journey, everything becomes a memory of wonders; along with that the mind was full of the excitement for having introduced a new travel route to the friends. From them a new name emerged for this route: Drive-in-a-Green Triangle.
(The travelling path runs along like a stretched thread through the eco domain of Nilgiri. Another tourist season is starting at the meeting place of three states. The nature friendly tourist centers including Nilgiri of Tamilnadu, Chamaraj Nagar and Coorg of Karnataka and Wayanad district of Kerala are waking up for the season. This jungle area of Western Ghats with two national parks, tiger sanctuary, wild life sanctuaries and historical monuments is now known as 'Green Triangle' internationally. There are many tour packages to visit these tourist centers within a boundary of hundred kilometers.)
Text and Photos: Rameshkumar Vellamunda
Translation: Balachandran P