Distance from Bangalore: Around 280 kms
Route: Bangalore – Mysore – Gundalupet – Sultan Bethary – Panamaram – Punchawayal – Enteveedu
Best Season to Travel: I suggest winter because it will be very hot during summer.
Ideal For: Families, especially with little ones.
If you ignore our last, horribly disappointing vacation to Yelagiri, our first true family vacation happened last week. Deciding the place did not take much time because we had our criteria all defined: Not more than 6-7 hours drive, place should be kids-friendly, not too cold and preferably a home-stay. Our previous experience with a home stay at Sakleshpur was pleasant and we wanted to do that again since we now had a 2-year old with us. A quick search on the internet brought up Enteveedu, which was recommended by many people on many travel sites. The website is impressive too (I always judge someone from the website, which I really should not!) A quick call to Seeta Aunty, the owner cum manager cum facilitator of the home-stay, relieved me of my anxiety about how my kid will find this place. She told me in her sweet voice, ‘Treat this like your own house. Your kid will get all the comfort of his own house. Don’t worry!’
We started on Jan 26, Wednesday morning at around 5:30. We wanted an early start for two reasons: avoid the traffic and cover as much of the journey as possible when the tyke is asleep (my son + confined places = big disaster and one cranky, whiny kid). This plan worked well because we were out of the city before the dawn broke and were in Mysore at the right time for breakfast. A quick bite at Kamat Madhuvan on the outskirts of Mysore and off we headed again. The little one enjoyed the journey (proving me wrong) and kept pointing out things on the street. The journey through the forest area – Bandipur, Muthanga was disappointing – we hoped to spot animals, deer at the least, but no such luck. We reached Sultan Bethary by 12ish and then we had to go slow because we didn’t know the road. From Sultan Bethary, we took a right on Benachi Road (there is a signboard which is easy to spot) towards Nadavayal and drove straight ahead until we reached Panamaram and Punchavayal. There are a few forks on the way and we had to stop and ask people to make sure we took the right side of the fork. People are very co-operative and give clear directions. Enteveedu is around 20 kms from Sultan Bethary. We reached Enteveedu, our home for next couple of days, by 1 and were totally smitten by what we saw. The house is in the middle of a huge estate – cofeee, paddy, coconut and palm trees. There is a huge front yard which is open for kids to run and jump around. A hammock, a traditional ‘mancha’, a small swing chair for kids – all things to indicate that you are here to relax.
We were shown to our room which had a huge bed and a huger bathroom. A small balcony overlooking the front yard and the estate beneath and with a lovely view of the road and the sunset. I am very picky about bathrooms and was totally impressed with Enteveedu when I saw the spotlessly clean white tiles and WCs. Also, this was the first home stay which supplied toothpaste too along with soaps and towels. I usually carry my own toothpaste, but just saying and pointing out how such minor things were thought about.
We were really hungry and were looking forward to meet the hostess and experience true Kerala cuisine. We were disappointed to know that Seeta Aunty was not in town and will come back only after 3 days. It was a huge let down for us because the main reason why we chose Enteveedu because of Seeta Aunty and now if the lady herself was not here, we were not sure how comfortable our stay would be. I must say, we were taken well care of in the able hands of Mr. Raj and Preeda, even in the absence of Seeta Aunty. Preeda was our hostess, cook, caretaker, playmate for my son – all bundled into one. She would plop herself in front of us with her lovely smile and try to communicate with us using her little knowledge of English. She and her mother take care of cooking here and they are excellent cooks. We had such variety of food over the 4 days of our stay that we came back yearning for more. Over the course of our stay, we tasted Idiyappam, puttu, puruti and some whose names I don’t know. Kerala banana was a hit with my family – I wish I could buy some here.
Our first meal at Enteveedu was rice, dal, curry, papad and fish. Steaming, hot rice with the spicy fish was just what we needed. My son who loves fish, loved it even more here. After a sumptuous meal, we had a long nap and were woken up by the lovely aroma of coffee. The evening was well spent by doing nothing – relaxing on the hammock, playing football with the kiddo and generally goofing around. The trip had a great start!
We went to Kuruva Island, which is like an hour’s drive away from Enteveedu. Our host, Mr. Raj had arranged for a guide for us and we set at around 11. It’s a nice, little island surrounded by Kabini river. You drive till one point and then get into a boat to be ferried across to the island. You got to walk quite a bit to reach that point where you can actually wet your feet. This walk is long, but not strenuous and since there are trees all around, you can walk peacefully in the shade.
You get to play in the cool, fresh water to your heart’s fill and then you get back on the same boat. The walk back is not as enjoyable because you are tired and hungry! My kiddo just loved this place – he played in the water for as long as we were there and still couldn’t get enough.
The place is pristine and untouched, but thanks to tourists, is getting its share of dumped plastic bottles and paper. If you plan to visit this place, make sure you are here before noon because it gets really crowded after that. When we were leaving, we could see groups of people pouring in and were thankful that we were leaving when all these people were arriving. We headed back home for lunch and had a long nap (which is a recurring activity until the last day). A hot cup of coffee in the evening and some playing and goofing around and the day came to an end.
We decided to hire a guide-cum-driver so that my husband can enjoy the journey instead of treading through hairpin bends. So, Mr. Vivek was our assigned guide for the day. I had read about Uravu, a handicrafts place, from another blog and was very adamant about visiting it. Vivek was only too glad to oblige and off we went to Uravu. It’s around 30 minutes drive and the store opens quite early, unlike other tourist places, so you can combine this with another tourist spot. Uravu is this little magical place where you see all beautiful hand-crafted things made of bamboo.
This place was so rich that it requires another post for itself, so go read that if you are interested in handicrafts. We bought a couple of things – a beautiful fruit bowl, a serving tray and a musical instrument which makes the sweet sound of falling rainwater. I wouldn’t call them reasonably priced, but as I handknit sweaters and know the time and effort that goes into it, I don’t mind paying a bit higher for hand made items. This is my way of supporting the local sellers.
Our next stop was Soochipara Waterfalls. This is a major tourist attraction and is quite crowded. This too involves a 2 km walk, but unlike Kuruva Island, this is quite strenuous. You need to walk uphill and downhill, climb the stairs up and down and once you reach the venue, you need to tread through slippery rocks to reach the falls. We found a nice, little spot where the water level was low so that the kiddo could get his share of play. The walk back was horrible – we were all tired and famished and we could hardly walk, forget climbing up, but we had to do it.
On the way, there is a shop which sells food stuff and we had a glass of buttermilk there and it was the best I have ever had. It was spicy with lot of ginger and green chillies – so if you have a weak stomach, this is not for you. It was yummy buttermilk for us and lemon juice for the brat – and all were happy. I saw these jars with wild gooseberry (amla) and mango pieces. On enquiring, I came to know that even these are used to quench thirst. I bought a couple of amla and they were yum! They are marinated in a brine solution with green chillies – gives the amlas a different taste. I bought some to bring back home.
You will find many shops here selling bamboo stuff, so if you didn’t happen to go to Uruva, this is the place to shop. The rest of the day was pretty much the same – eat, sleep, drink, make merry.
Seeta Aunty was back from her trip and when I met her, I realized why everybody is all praises for her. She is the warmest hostess I have ever had. She is always smiling and thinking about the convenience of guests. When you meet her, you realize she doesn’t do this for money. She is passionate about what she does. Her children have grown up and moved away and she started this homestay to kill her boredom. She uses the money she makes from this to educate a group of orphans and she thanked the guests for making that happen. You have to meet this lady to know what I mean – she is very inspiring. There is this lady in a remote place in south India who is trying to make a difference in the society in her own little way and if we could make that happen by visiting her homestay and enjoying the experience, then why not?
We were very sure of one thing – no walking today. We didn’t want to visit any place which involved too much of walking, so Banasurasagar Dam was the place we headed to. There is a lot of walking involved there, but you have an option of hiring a jeep for the ferry at an extra cost. We reached the dam quite late around 11, so it was quite hot already, so we took the easy way out and hired a jeep.
We took a ride in the motor boat, with life jackets and all, and it was fun! Cold water beneath you and the scorching sun above, beautiful greenery around – great time to get lost in your own thoughts – except, I had a restless brat on my lap.
There is a children’s park nearby where we obviously stopped for a while. Swings galore – but all were taken up by school children on a field trip. The place was so crowded, we decided to make an early exit.
I wanted to buy a swing chair (my little one’s demand) and could not find it at Uravu. Vivek volunteered to take me to another store in Sultan Bethary to buy a few more things, so off we went after our evening tea. It took us around an hour to reach the store – The Spices Store. It is right on the main road and easy to spot. It had everything in stock – innovative wooden baskets – which can be folded back like a spring, beautiful bamboo items, spoons made of coconut shells and wood and terracotta items.
I burnt a hole in my husband’s wallet and picked up a few things again. The owner gave me a generous discount since I bought so many things. After a great shopping spree, we had tea at a roadside stall – and I will never forget that experience. The tea was the best I have ever had – and every time I have tasted something at the small, roadside stall, I have been impressed with the taste and quality of items. You can never find such taste in a 5-star hotel, but that’s my opinion.
We started early and took the same route back to Bangalore. Breakfast was again at Kamat Madhuvan, Mysore and with a couple of stops enroute, we reached home safe and sound and with a lot of lovely memories of Wayanad.
Tips, suggestions, advice and what not:
1. If you are planning to stay at Enteveedu, call Seeta Aunty beforehand and make an advance payment. If you are not too fond of food cooked in coconut oil, do let her know so that she can make arrangements.
2. If you plan to visit Kuruva Island or Soochipara Waterfalls, plan to be there before 10 so that you can avoid the tourist crowd that pours in later in the day.
3. If you need a guide or a guide-cum-driver, inform Seeta Aunty in advance. I strongly suggest you hire a guide because routes can be quite confusing here. Hiring a driver is even better because you don’t get tired driving and you will reach your destination faster because the driver is well familiar with the twists and turns of the road.
4. This is a trekker’s paradise. There are places like Chembra Peak which is supposedly great for trekking, but owing to the presence of a 2-year old, we did not try that.
5. It gets hot during the day but utterly cold at night, so carry clothes for both the weather conditions.
5. Must see: Kuruva Island and Uravu (that’s my opinion)
6. Must try: Spicy buttermilk and the marinated amla at Soochipara Waterfalls. Tea at any roadside stall. The pink drinking water, boiled with herbs – available anywhere in Kerala.
7. Must buy: Bamboo handmade items at Uravu