Tuesday, June 1

Olives Homestay

Driving to Wayanad from Kochi was an experience. 

The road till Calicut was pretty much the irritating NH 17 - with hardly space to overtake - sometimes you can't even overtake a bicycle!

Also, Kerala towns, villages never end... they just merge one into the other. The down side is that you never get a moment to park the car on the side of the road and stretch your legs without the fear of being run down by a 'town bus'. 

After we hit the ghats (NH 212) and entered the fringes of the 12,000 Acre forest we were pretty safe from the traffic - and the weather became cooler. 

Because we were driving one day ahead of the monsoon... we just had to look over our shoulder and we could see the rains coming towards us.

Our third Mahindra Homestays destination - Olives homestay is located in the heart of Wayanad... but just a stones throw from the main Kalpetta town. When you get to Biju and Raji's home you will not believe that you are just 1km or so from the town.... so silent!

View Olives Homestay in a larger map

Biju, like any good son-of-the-soil did his stint in 'the gulf' and 'came to India for a holiday and never went back. Just felt I had had enough of that life... wanted to be home!' he says. Raji is a great cook and can dish out veg and non-veg dishes with equal mastery. 

The only thing that hindered the meal experience was that she and Biju did not join us at the dining table and insisted they would 'serve now and eat later'. This meant we had to eat in a hurry to keep pace with their overpowering hospitality... something that brought back memories from childhood of grandmothers and aunts 'feeding us during summer holidays'. 

That night we sat in the balcony and watched the moon rise... full moon at that. 

The next morning Biju suggested a trip to Edakkal caves

Biju gave us precise driving directions to the caves from his place. But what he did not tell us was that there was going to be a very, very, very, steep climb. 
Great advertising on the way to Edakal
There are two stages to the climb at Edakkal... there is a steep jeep ride (costs Rs.70 for a round trip) and the 200-300 step steep climb to the caves. The caves are very beautiful and really worth the effort. With rock carvings that are over 8000 years old,  they are a great revelation as to what people were thinking in the 'indus vally civilization times'. 

Though there was nobody there to explain how or why the place got it's name as Edakkal - Prabha's logic was that the Eda-kal (literally meaning the middle stone) that got embedded between the other two stones saved these carvings from erosion. Sounds logical.

We were there on a sunday and the crowds enjoying the last weekend before schools re-opened were all jostling for space in the narrow passages and this was more exhausting than the climb itself.

We did not bargain for all that exercise, but the climb helped us digest the breakfast... and we got back to the town hungry... for lunch. 

Unfortunately there are very few food options in small town Kerala after 2pm and you have to be very lucky to get good food. We called Biju and he suggested Hotel Haritagiri (where he also works as the GM), where we got some egg curry and rice... but nothing compared to Raji's cooking. Wish we had decided to go back home.

That night Biju suggested we go for a 'night drive to try and see some elephants'. So after dinner we all left, Biju, Raji and the kids joined us... all comfortably seated in the Xylo and off looking for adventure. We spotted a lone tusker... that meant trouble, but we stayed clear of him and just watched... what a sight! We saw lots of deer, wild boar and what not... but the elephant was the best.

As we were heading to Goa over the next couple of days we decided to go to Kuruva Island - an old bird sanctuary, now just a 'nature spot' on the banks of the Kabini river. The place has a good deal of birds (in the nov - feb season) and orchids. Nothing much to say in words... just a great place to see...

Couple of pointers - Wear shorts... lots of wading in the water... wear a good walking chappal (shoes will not do - they get very wet). 

Though there is nothing much in terms of wildlife to see there we were able to have a good couple of hours or 'wandering in the wilderness' - with a good guide at hand to tell us about the various trees, orchids and few birds that we encountered.

Tomorrow we move on the Goa - but before that we have another day to drive thru kerala.


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