"He who does not travel does not know the value of men"

Thursday, March 18, 2010

HOGENAKKEL- COORG -WAYANAD – Unveiling Nature’s Bounty.

Visiting Hogenakkal had been in my dreams since I watched the film “Roja”. At that time I couldn’t even identify the place. Most of us felt that the place shown in the film belongs to interior parts of Ooty.

I along with 5 others (Jeevan, Sreekumar, Trilok, Gopan, and Suresh) all from Trivandrum decided to explore Hogenekkal during the second week of February 2010 which we thought would be the best time to visit that place. We planned our journey in such a way to make it comfortable rather than covering too much distance. Therefore hiring a vehicle was our first option and all agreed upon the same.


We started our journey at 5.30AM from Trivandrum in a Toyota Innova.After the darsan at Ganpathy Temple; we proceeded to Salem via Nagercoil, Thirunnelveli, Madurai, and Dindigul. Earlier we had a plan to move via NH-47 but decided against it as per the suggestion of our driver Shaji. It was a good move as the 4 line roads via NH-7 is simply superb. Travelling through that wonderful roads with mountain ranges on two sides was an excellent experience. We reached Tirunnelveli at about 8AM.We had a sumptuous breakfast at the Aryas Hotel. After half an hour break our next move was through the bye pass which connects Madurai. The road condition was exceptional and the vehicle moved at a pace of 100-120 KM per hour. We could feel the heat outside when we opened the window in between. It was risk free drive as traffic was very low. The straight road and the scenic beauty reminded me of the roads in the computer game “ROADRASH” which is a favourite of the teens. I wonder whether the Engineers of Highway authority of India is highly influenced by the 3D animators of “Roadrash”. Hats off to all concerned in the Highway authority of India and of course the Tamil Nadu Government for this kind of venture. Turning left from the Madurai Bye pass can take you to Kodaikanal which is almost 80KM. We reached Dindigul at about 11.30 AM and at about 1.30 PM entered the Namakkal town. Before that we had to pay a total toll of Rs 120/- in various places, but still it was worth travelling through that road.

We had our lunch from a small hotel in Namakkal. At about 2 PM we moved further and reached Dharmapuri via Salem NH 7 at about 3.45 PM. We again had to pay a toll of Rs 82/- in between before Salem and Dharmapuri. We had covered a distance of 578 KM from Trivandrum to Dharmapuri in hardly 10hrs. From Dharmapuri Hogenakkel is 43 KM towards left side which also does have fine roads although State Highway. There is a toll of Rs 30/- to enter Hogenakkal via Pennaguram. Near Pennaguram we filled diesel in the vehicle. There is a forest check post where all vehicles going via that side will be checked. We reached Hogenakkal at about 4.45 PM covering a total distance of 628KM.

Hoggenakkal is a small town with limited facilities. Tourists most often won’t prefer for overnight stay over there as major hill station such as Yercaud is nearby. When we parked our vehicle we were covered with local guides. We thought that our evening would be wasted as the boating through the river won’t be allowed after 5PM. We chose a young guy called Arumugam(09442332969) as our guide and rower of the CORACLE, the peculiar kind of boat. The main attractions in Hogenakkal are this coracle, river fishes and body massage. The coracle is perfectly circular in shape which is woven together of bamboo shoots/sticks. The base is also covered with some kind of cloth or plastic material. It’s called as “Parisal” in the local language. It looked lighter but it can hold 6-7 persons easily. Although Arumugam charged Rs. 200/- per person for 2 hours ride it was fun moving through the waters together in that rare kind of boat. There were series of waterfalls from the rocks. Arumugam took us along side the waterfalls which made all of us cooooool. It was a unique experience for us. The ride was an inspiration for me to sing the song “chinna chinna aasai……….” Arumugam told us that many films such as Roja, Naran and many hindi films were shot in this place. We could also see “mobile snacks parlour” from where we can buy snacks, rates are on the higher side though. The specialty here is that the other side of the river belongs to Karnataka State. Arumugam took us to a place for shower where we could see old women frying river fish, which is regarded as a special item in Hogenekkal. A lot of masseurs -specialists in body massage for pain relief were also present. We were not interested in taking risk by going for a massage.

We could get an idea of the activities in Hogenekkal from Arumugam within that one hour chat with him. He is a nice guy and was very good in his approach. The ride through the river clinching the series of falls was an unforgettable experience. All had a thorough shower from the main waterfalls without any risk as Arumugam took us through the safety route. We had to pay an amount of Rs 50/- per person for boating which is collected by the Government. We were all very happy that we also paid Rs 100/- as tips to Arumugam in addition to Rs1200/- for boating for 6 persons. We also got information from Arumugam that boating is now being permitted there after 5 Pm because of the death of “Veerappan”. We planned the activities for our next day with Arumugam and settled in a hotel called M K Paradise which is quite ordinary, but was ok for us. Room rent after negotiation was Rs 600/- per room. After having our dinner from a nearby restaurant of the CM Hotel& Bar, we had an evening walk through the streets of Hogenakkal and settled in the room at about 10PM.

DAY -2

I and Suresh went for a morning walk. Fish market is nearby the waterfalls. A lot of river fishes caught during the night time from the river are brought for sale in the market. Cost per KG was Rs 80/-. To our surprise no black tea was available in the tea stalls located in Hogenakkal. There was only black coffee or tea.

At about 7.30 I saw Arumugam coming in a cycle. He asked me accompany him for taking fish from the market which can be prepared in between our boating arranged that day. When I told him that I don’t want to walk again he even asked me to sit back on his cycle. Since we all had to get ready soon, we asked Arumugam to arrange everything and we gave money for that. At about 8.15 we were ready and had breakfast from the restaurant. We took some parceled items and bread for use during our boating too. Arumugam arranged one big steering auto and we saw his boat placed above the auto. We were taken 15 KM inside forest area. It was a settlement area where agriculture of Raagi was seen. Arumugam then took us to the banks of the river Kaveri. He then asked all of us to enter the boat and to be seated in a circle with one person at the centre. He rowed us through the river. The picturesque site is simply astonishing that words are few to explain. The boat was rowed with along the flow of the river. There were huge rocks in the river and Arumugam was an expert in overcoming the barriers in between. The boat moved in a circle giggling with the ups and downs of the water flow. Although we were all frightened at the first instance, the expertise of Arumugam made us feel safe till we saw a crocodile taking rest in a rock. It was Arumugam who showed that to us.

I suddenly took my hands off the water on seeing the crocodile, since then I was enjoying the cool waters keeping my hands in the water. Arumugam was about to move by the side of crocodile but we said we don’t want to take risk. Arumugam was confident enough and told us not to get panic.

After one and half hours ride through the river we reached a place for break which is ideal for making the body cool by having a dip. The boat was taken on Arumugam’s shoulders and we were all taken to a safe area for swimming. He then made arrangements to prepare the fish. He had brought the utensils for the purpose. We had a good and long shower in the river. Two of us were good swimmers. While taking shower Jeevan got in trouble. He felt something touching his legs and pulling him down. The crocodile which we saw might have been in the back of his mind. He asked for help. Trilok and Suresh rose to the occasion and pulled Jeevan out of danger. Jeevan then realized that it was his own towel which touched his legs. We had a thing to laugh at.
Being a holiday, there were several other people on the banks of the river enjoying. Suresh tried his luck in fishing but couldn’t get one. Arumugam informed us not to keep the eatables open as it would be taken away by the monkeys. We saw a lot of monkeys waiting for their turn to make us fool. Arumugam’s friend got 3 fishes in a quick time. Arumugam prepared fish in one hour time and everyone enjoyed having that. Arumugam was not only a good boat rower but a good cook too. When appreciated that he is an expert cook Arumugam was quite happy and that showed in his face too. He wanted us to enjoy his company and he was sincere too in his behavior. That is Tamilian……..

We then started again from there after food at about 1PM rowing the boat at the same pace which we did earlier. The water level afterwards was somewhat high. However we were confident of the skills of Arumugam. The scenic beauty with mountains on four sides was awesome. We could see many village men engaged in fishing on the banks of the river. There were lots of birds sitting on the rocks enjoying the Mother Nature.
We had a short shower in the middle of the river which was safe as informed by Arumugam. Although we were all reluctant to move out of the river, we had to do so in order to continue our journey.

We paid 300/- per person+ tips to Arumugam for the wonderful experience that we had with his help. He was happy too. He came with us to the room and gave his contact number too. After checking out from the hotel we all did small shopping in the street shops.

At about 3.30PM we bid adieu to Hogenakkal with a promise to come again and proceeded towards Mysore through the forest road. It was via Anchetty, from where we had tea, turned left to Kodihally and (From Anchetty straight road goes to Bangalore, which is 130 KM from Hogenakkal) to Kanakapura. Although the roads up to Kanakapura are not in good condition we could smell the village atmosphere which we only see in films. The Kishore songs in low volume with the evening time atmosphere of remote villages with beautiful sights were simply a great experience for all of us. Ye shaam mastani… madhosh kiye jay………… When we reached Kanakapura it became almost dark. After Kanakapura via Malavalli we went through Bannur Road to Mysore. Altogether we had to travel a distance of around 200 KMS. We could have travelled through the highway saving time but we all wanted to have a feel of the remote areas of the state, through which people rarely prefer to travel. Although it took around five and a half hours to cover a distance of almost 200KM it was worth travelling through that route, but not for Shaji- the driver, though. We reached Mysore by 9.30 PM. We had reserved room in S K Residency near Rajkamal talkies, Mysore. It’s located nearby the bus stand. Tariff there was Rs 850/+ tax for a non AC double room. It was then the dinner from a nearby vegetarian restaurant and we settled in the room after having chat on the wonderful Hogenakkal experience till late night. Jeevan was our prey during the night for his “Crocodile experience” in the water.

DAY - 3

After 6.30AM three of us went for a morning walk through the streets of Mysore. There were so many Vegetarian hotels open at that time itself. We had black tea from one of the restaurants. As all of us had been to Mysore several times and therefore no one wanted to go for sightseeing in Mysore. Even then, we felt that it is unfair to leave Mysore without visiting Chamundi Hills and temple. We first had darsan in the temple. After spending half an hour there, went via Mysore Palace only to take some pictures. Even though camera is not allowed inside the Palace we took some snaps for outside the palace. There were a lot of camera persons with SLR camera in front of the Palace. We took one picture paying Rs 50/- for a single copy to a camera man.

One thing I couldn’t forget is the huge size of Papayas kept with the street vendors. We returned to the room at about 12 Noon and checked out at 12.30PM

We decided to have our dinner on the way to Kudagu which is almost 120KM from Mysore. The road (NH 88) to Madikkeri (Mercarra) which is the Head Quarters of Kudagu (Coorg) District is well maintained. Traffic was high though. We had our lunch from a Vegetarian Hotel, Annapoorna which was reasonable. Thali meals cost us only Rs 35/. KushalNagar, where the Tibetan Monastery is situated, is about 85 KM from Mysore. We reached Kushalnagar via Periyapatana at about 3.15 PM. There are sign boards placed at each location to access the monastery for which we have to take slight left side deviation from the main road.

Tibetan Monastery. - BYLAKUPPE
Well maintained, it’s a replica of the monastery in Tibet. We spent about one and a half hours inside the monastery taking snaps and chatting with the inmates inside the temples over there. We had a small shopping from outside the shops situated near the monastery which are said to be run by the Monastery management.


Before reaching Nisargadama, we had tea from a road side restaurant. Nisargadama, which means nature’s abode by the Kavery River, is a small picnic spot where there is a small hanging bridge across Kaveri River. The premises have got a lot of bamboo trees planted. There is a provision for boating through the river too. Entry pass here cost Rs 10/- per person. It’s nothing when compared to the Kuruva Island in Wayanad. Children might enjoy the place as it has got a lot of playing stuff in the park.

Dubare Forest
From Nisargadama we went to Dubare forest area, almost 12 KM from the main road, where activities such as elephant ride, boating, rafting etc are carried out. Water level in the river was too low for any adventure sports. The forest area was also not that green because of lack of rain during the season. After spending half an hour we went to a dam site called chikkinahalli which is almost 5 KM from Dubare.
As the main road to Kudagu was blocked due to maintenance, we anyway had to move via this way only. We had a glimpse of sunset from the dam site. The route, though not as good as the main road, was highly scenic with paddy fields in both sides.


Via Chettali, through the forest route, we reached Madikkeri at about 7.30PM. Madikkeri is a major town and hill station where all kind of hotels which suits your pocket are available. There are a large number of resorts too which are located away from the town. They provide pick up and drop from the bus stand too. We had arranged a hotel called Paramount which is run by a Keralite. After negotiation, we took two rooms with extra bed for Rs 600/- per room. It was more than enough for us as we had to spend only a single night in the room. After settling we all went for a walk and had food from East End Bar & Restaurant which is up the hill. It is a nice restaurant with clean and good ambience. Although the Restaurant closes at 10.00PM they waited till 10.30PM for us. We spent about one hour having chit chat through the streets about the unforgettable experience that we had in Hogenakkal and then returned to the room at about 11.45PM and settled.

DAY -4

We got ready by 8 AM and went for sightseeing in Kudagu. There is nothing that should be highlighted in Kudagu. It’s only the climate which makes tourist come over to that place.
For namesake we went to the following places in Kudagu

Omkareswara temple
Raja’s seat- A view point- small musical fountain during evening time- entry fee Rs15/-

Fort- Rajas Fort which is a monument.
Abbey Falls- Small falls
Raja’s tomb- A monument.

We didn’t see any specialty in these sightseeing areas, which may be because of the lovely experience which we have had from Hogenakkal.

From Madikkeri Mangalore is 135KM

Tala Kavery

At about 10.30 AM we checked out from the Hotel and moved to Tala Kavery which is about 45KM from Madikkeri. We reached there in one hour time. There is a temple over there which is well maintained with the help of financial assistance from Government of Karnataka.
Tala Kavery is the origin of the river Kavery. Water flow down the hill from a small pond in front of the temple. There are not many shops over there for shopping and no hotels too. The peak of the hill can be reached after climbing 356 steps from which we can see the wonderful aerial view of Karnataka and Kerala. After spending about 1 hour there we decided to return to move to Wayanad via Virajpet.


Bagamandala which is the place of “Triveni sangam” is enrooted to Talakavery. Three rivers join together here and flow as Kavery from this place. From Bagamandala, Panathur, a village in Kasargod District, Kerala is about 30KM. Via Panathur we can reach Kanhangad which is one of the major station in Kerala.


At 12.30 we moved to Virajpet via Kokkottuparamba which is a short distance route to reach Virajpet from Bhagamandala. Although roads are not that good, as works are going on, the picturesque scenes were mind-blowing. The other route to Virajpet is via Madikkeri which is very long. As we traveled fully in A/C, we could survive the extreme heat in that area. We had our lunch from Virajpet.


At about 2.45PM we started from Virajpet and cruised through the narrow roads of Gonnikoppa- Pennampete- Kutta. Roads were so poor in some areas. Nagerhole wildlife sanctuary and Iruppu falls can be accessed via the same route. It took about 2 hours to cover the distance of about 75 KM from Virajpet. From Kutta, which is the border of the Karnataka-Kerala we reached Tholpetty, wildlife sanctuary. There is a forest check post over there. Even from Kutta itself changes in the type of forest and landscape could be clearly visible.


We had one and half hour jungle safari in a jeep through the forest. Jeep cost was 300/- and we gave Rs100/- to the guide arranged by the forest Department. We could sight wild animals such as elephant, deer, bison, peacocks, monkeys, squirrels, Mangooses, pigs and beautiful birds inside the forest. Open jeep could not be arranged because of the dust due to lack of rain. We saw a huge bison which crossed in front our jeep without fear. When everyone was murmuring to keep quiet, Trilok in his usual voice made a comment to keep quiet, which even made the bison frightened. Every one made mockery of Trilok over than incident.


Thirunelly temple is about 13-15 KM from Tholpetty. We could see a lot of KSRTC buses having service from Mananthavady to Kutta and Virajpet. We reached the forest Inspection Bunglow, near Thirunelly temple arranged with the help of DFO, Mananthavady. One suite room cost Rs 400/- there. We decided to settle in the room because of the tiring long journey all of us decided to go for darsan in the temple the next morning.


At about 8AM, we had darsan at the temple which is still kept old. Walked to Papanasini too where there is a small stream of water flowing from up the hill. Trekking to the “ Pakshipathala”, where birds assemble, is through that route, which is about 7.5KM. One can also trek by the side of the forest IB, which is another route to Pakshipathala. At least one day is required for this trekking.

We enjoyed the calm and quiet atmosphere of the temple surroundings till 10.00AM and had breakfast from a small hotel near by. After 10.30 we vacated the IB and started our return journey via Kozhikkode. We reached Pookkode Lake at about 12.30 PM. Because of the accident that occurred in between the route to Kozhikkode, which is the only route; there was a traffic block for 3 hours. After having lunch from a good restaurant en route to Kozhikkode, we set off to Trivandrum via NH-17 and NH-47. Moving along this heavy traffic road reminded us of the bye pass road through Madurai- Salem. We wished for a connection road to access NH 7 bye pass from NH47/NH 17 to reach home easily. It almost took 12 hours to reach Trivandrum, mainly because of the heavy traffic and poor road condition.

Travel Tips

• Plan your travel in advance.
• The schedule should always be flexible in accordance with the situation.
• If u wish to travel in group, its better to hire a vehicle.
• Before going for boating in Hogenakkal, its better to keep your belongings
such as purse and mobile in the room or vehicle.
• Wearing shorts and t-shirt is better
• It’s better to keep a towel with u
• Always keep a plastic bag for keeping your camera safe while boating (A
water resistant shoulder bag would be a good option)
• Keeping mosquito repellent would be useful.
• Always use mineral water ( Check out for original bottles)
• If you have a sensitive stomach, don’t use oily food while traveling.
• The only product that we can have without doubt in mind is the Tender