The Western Ghats at Wayanad

We were at Wayanad for a few days last week. Wayanad is a little district in Kerala. Almost all of it lies in the beautiful green Western Ghats. The Western Ghats is a mountain range that abuts India’s narrow west coastal plain. The range is really long, about 1600 km, and runs through the states of Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala ending at Kanyakumari, at the southern tip of India.

I love the Western Ghats for its scenic beauty, its rich fertile soil, its flora and fauna, and most of all for the varying cultures you get to see in its dense forests. In the last couple of years of being in India, we have made many trips to different parts of the Western Ghats, and it continues to beckon. I must admit to also being in close proximity to the Ghats through all of my childhood summer vacations, having almost always spent them in Kerala in my grandparents’ ancestral homes. My father’s home especially was really nestled within the Ghats and people lived in complete harmony amongst its diverse flora and fauna - the innumerable varieties of herbs, the beautiful wildflowers, the many unique birds I have seen there as a child; one only had to peer in closely to spot a snake. Yes, they were that many of them and not to forget the countless stars in the very dark nights, the magical fireflies against the pitch blackness of the long nights. Light pollution was always a far away thing.  …. those were the days ….

My children do not have access to my childhood or my childhood vacations. But the closest they come to experiencing them is during our various road-trips to the Ghats. Hopefully, they will go on the remember the Ghats in their own ways. And hopefully, the Ghats will be special to them too.

Here are some pics from our recent road trip to the Western Ghats at Wayanad. This is a post to only introduce the landscape through the pics. I will write more about the trip itself in subsequent posts.

Chitra Aiyer - Windy road in the Ghats

The few drizzles and the foggy, dreamy terrain invite us as we head towards our place of stay.

Chitra Aiyer - Deep in the woods

The typical interior Ghat pathways.

Chitra Aiyer - Overlooking the peaks

Taking in the view from the peaks after a short trek.

Chitra Aiyer - A brook run in the woods

A little brook flowing down boisterously.

Chitra Aiyer - Through the wind shiled

Through the windshield rain drops - the post-monsoon is one of the nicest seasons at the Ghats. Green is all there is.

Chitra Aiyer - Taking it in

My daughter taking it all from the balcony at the resort we stayed in. A brook breaks into multiple mini-water falls a few feet beneath her; its mild roar completing the scene.

Have you been to the Western Ghats? If so, which parts of it have you touched? How do like them? Do share - would love to hear.

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All pictures used here are mine. Please do not use them without first asking me.

Tunneled Train Tracks - Sakleshpur

Continuing from the previous post …. After lunch on arrival, we decided to go check out the tunneled railway track nearby. This is the railway track that connects Hassan to Mangalore and passes through the Western Ghats past Sakleshpur. Since the track runs through the Western Ghats, that entire stretch has many tunnels. The entire stretch is said to be very scenic overlooking many valleys and peaks. Many trekkers do long stretches and well, we weren’t aiming anything close to that. We had my mom and our 2 kids with us. So, whatever they could do was our target. There is a spot about 4kms from the home-stay where we can get on to the track. The road is terrible and you cant take your car on it. You have to rent a jeep to take you to and fro. So, a jeep was arranged for us to go there after lunch. Another couple who was staying at the home-stay also decided to join us on this trip to the tracks. That turned out to be really nice. The guy was enthusiastic and the girl was sweet and it seemed like they really wanted to hang out with us. Why, I wouldn’t know. lol

Anyway, we all arrived to where the tracks were. A small little hike and we were on the tracks. Luckily for us, though it was cloudy, it really didn’t rain during our outing. We also found out that there wasn’t going to be a train running until late in the night.

Chitra Aiyer - Son on the tracks, Sakleshpur

Here’s our little boy spear-heading our little trek team. :)

Chitra Aiyer - Outside the Tracks

Saw this lovely tree against the beautiful clouds.

Chitra Aiyer - Daughter skeptical at the entrance, Sakleshpur

As we arrived near the first tunnel, our girl hesitates and stops in her tracks, literally. :)

Chitra Aiyer - Stepping into the Tunnel

This is at the start of a tunnel. The tunnels are dark and you will need a flash light.

Chitra Aiyer - Stepping Out

There’s this opening in tunnel 1, where you can step out to take in the view. Here’re my mom and daughter stepping out.

Chitra Aiyer - Gorge, Sakleshpur

When you step out of the tunnel, you see this gorge running right beneath. The running water provides the beautiful sound that completes the picturesque scene.

We trekked through 3 tunnels in total and started our walk back. The jeep guy was supposed to be back to pick us up and we had to get to the starting point by then.

Just as we were returning, it started to drizzle just a little. And soon after, the fog rolled in. When we arrived at the starting point, we had to wait a while for the vehicle. So, we all just sat down and watched the fog - that was just beautiful …. to be amidst the green mountains, in the narrow tracks, and to be enveloped by the rolling fog. The fog rolled in really quickly, and before we knew it everything vanished from sight.

Chitra Aiyer - A Walk on the Tracks

Here’s my husband walking the other way on the track from the start point, when the fog rolled in.

Chitra Aiyer - Bridge over the River

Chitra Aiyer - Lone Tree

The foggy scene we bid good-bye to. Overall, a lovely afternoon in a beautiful place.

Sakleshpur - Over the weekend

Sakleshpur is a small town, nestled in the Western Ghats of Karnataka. In its mountain terrains are the vast spreads of coffee estates. During all my earlier trips to Mangalore from Bangalore, I have passed by Sakleshpur without ever stopping over. I have always seen the beautiful landscapes whiz by, sometimes fog filled and almost always, very dreamy. So, this time when a long weekend was around the corner, and I was thinking of a place to go away to, I zeroed in on Sakleshpur for a visit. So, off we went, the kids, my mom, husband and I to Sakleshpur. The road itself wasn’t too good after all the monsoon rains. As expected, everywhere along the countryside from Bangalore to Sakleshpur there was water; all lakes and rivuletsin the countryside were brimming with water. Everything was lush green because of the monsoons. What should have taken us 5 hrs took us 6 hrs with a stop-over for breakfast coz of the bad roads.But the views compensated for all the bad roads.

The Western Ghats are beautiful this time of the year - not a little earth to be seen; just greenery. Home-stays are by far the only places of stay in these parts. When I was looking up the internet for a home-stay, I read some good reviews about Devagiri Retreat. It is run as a home-stay by the husband and wife who own the estate. It is right on the Bangalore-Mangalore highway and is about 12 kms after Sakleshpur town. I had booked us into it. We almost passed it by coz the entrance is right at one of the road bends. The property has a new house and an old house. The hosts house people in both the houses. The old house is converted to a place of stay. It used to be their house and reflects the local architecture. We took the older place; it has a lot more character and we liked its more human scale - cozy.

After freshening up, we headed out to lunch at the main house. The hostess, Mrs. Vijaya, exudes genuine warmth and made us feel right at home. She served us authentic, very homely Malenadu cuisine during our entire stay. When she realised that we were vegetarians, she took extra care to make sure the food was to our satisfaction. The house has 2 kitchens; 1 is exclusively for vegetarian food.

What you see in the pic below are the 2 buildings - the one at the back is the newer house and the one at the left is the older one. This was shot in the morning, when the fog was dense.

Devagiri retreat

Exercising

Here, you see my daughter at the far left exercising with the other visitors who started out their morning actively with all their little ones. :) This family was nice to interact with; 3 sisters with their parents and all their little ones were here for the long weekend.

Daughter on scooter

We carried the kids’ scooters and some board games to keep them occupied. Here’s my daughter going for a spin on her scooter.

Loads of opportunity to do macro photography - loads of  dewdrops, insects, wildflowers, and other cute precious nature things to be shot. I spent my time shooting some; both my kids use the p&s camera and do a fair bit of shooting themselves along with me. :) Here’s some of the macro photography I did while I was there.

Cobweb Macro

Dew drop macro

Sitting in the estate, the home-stay, like most estate home-stays is surrounded just by the estate greenery; the estate itself isn’t very pretty, nor does it offer too many activities to do. But that is compensated by the activities you get to do in the neighborhood. We did a little trek on the railway track full of tunnels, took a walk in the clouds, went to a 100 year old tea processing factory, spent some time by the side of a little rivulet, and visited a lovely fort near here. (An extra post about a little incident at the fort.) I will cover all of these in subsequent posts.

All of us took a little walk in the morning along the little path that runs next to the estate, where we ran into this cute little boy and his family.

A little boy

It was a lovely walk along the rustic countryside in this little Ghat village. My mom who was raised in Kerala, connected with the landscape a lot. The kids had a blast too - clicking pics, chasing butterflies, peering into bushes, playing in little brooks, etc. :)

Time for school admissions

It is that time of the year when parents are gearing up for school admissions. Here’s a post about the factors we considered for narrowing down on a school for our kids. Read more here.

How I shot the ‘Artisan’

The FoM 09 (see post below) concluded on Sunday. It was a lot of fun hanging out with fellow exhibitors and meeting fellow flickrites, bloggers, and friends. The exhibition had many a visitors and apparently folks at the Chitrakala Parishat, where the exhibition was held, were surprised at the number of visitors who came in. So, overall, yeah, it was good. Niranj has documented the 3 day long event on his blog.

One of the questions I got asked a lot at the FoM 09 was how I had shot this Artisan pic.

Artisan

I shot this with my camera, Canon’s 400d and used Sigma’s 24-70 F/2.8 EX DG Macro lens.

This was at the potter’s workshop in Sultanpet, at the foothills of Nandi Hills, just outside of Bangalore. The workshop had a courtyard that had natural light but very little of that was where he was working. So, it was fairly dark; I had enough ambient light to auto focus. I used the Speedlite 430EX II flash on the camera and bounced it off of the ceiling. The ceiling was made of Mangalore tiles and the bounced light wasn’t too bright; just enough to light him up. Behind him, the room extended in near darkness where the freshly made pots were being stacked. I shot many shots of him while he was making the pot and have his hand in many postures. Just that this one worked with his head tilt and with his two hands coming together.

In the post processing, I just had to up the exposure some and darken the shadows a little to get a uniform black background. I also vignetted the frame a little.

Shot in the manual mode; Aperture - f/4.0, Shutter - 1/200, Focal length - 30 mm

 My flickr stream