Reeling from the hangover of the Ladakh trip in July, I was on a quest to keep the travel bug active. Over the course of the month of August, short journeys in Southern India took me to Alleppey in Kerala, Udupi, and Chikmagalur in Karnataka. There were more explorations to be done before the end of the Indian south-western monsoons. That’s when this adventure run to Wayanad happened.
Wayanad on Wheels
And where there is adventure, I escape life. Scout My Trip, ONNBIKES, and Wandertrails joined hands to organize a road trip, a weekend retreat from the cities to the jungles trails of Kerala, India. Bloggers, bikers, and adventure enthusiasts were picked for a 2-night experiential stay at a new Wandertrails Showcase property called the Dare Nature Camp. Road trip experts Scout My Trip led from the front and routed the best routes from Bangalore to Wayanad and ONNBIKES, a new self-drive bike rental in India, provided the wheels with some Royal Enfield steeds. Three start-ups, eight bikes, a bunch of adventure junkies, one-weekend road trip and an experiential stay in the misty mountains of Wayanad. This was #WayanadOnWheels.
The trip wouldn’t be what it was without the A team. Here’s a list of the bikers and bloggers and adventure enthusiasts who joined in.
- Ami Bhat – Blogger at thrillingtravel.in
- Ram Kumar – Biker and Bloggers at screamingpiston.blogspot.in
- Reshma Pamnani – Blogger at screamingpiston.blogspot.in
- Saakshi Rajat – Blogger at saakshirajat.com
- Niranjan Das – Biker and Blogger at talesofanomad.com
- Shrinidhi Hande – Biker and Blogger at enidhi.net
- Sameera Dahiya – Spreedracer and Biker at Bikerni
- Jacinth Paul – Biker, Founder of Road Thrill and Blogger at mototrance.wordpress.com
- Dany Varghese – Biker and Marketing at ONNBIKES
- Akash Singla – Biker and CMO at ONNBIKES
- Alben Michael – Photographer at Wandertrails
- Hareesh Jayakumar – Photographer at Wandertrails
- Umang Trivedi – Blogger at travelmax.in also Head of Partnerships at Wandertrails
- Arjun Dikshit – Social Media at Scout My Trip
- Vineet Rajan – Biker, blogger and CMO at Scout My Trip
- and myself, your friendly neighborhood inspirational travel blogger at escapinglife.com
The Road to Wayanad
Leaving in the morning hours that day, the journey to Wayanad took these adrenaline junkies from Bangalore, through the forests of Bandipur before crossing the border to lush green monsoon rich Vythiri in Kerala. The eight bikes rolled in through the NH 275 connecting Bangalore to Mysore taking short breaks on the way. From Mysore, the NH 766 connects the Bandipur National Park to Wayanad’s Sultan Bathery, an old military post from the annals of India’s medieval history which lies on the Kozhikode (Calicut) Highway.
By sundown, the bikes arrived at the small town of Vythiri. But there was a twist in the tale. Bikes and cars could go only this far. For the final 6km to the camp, you would need a 4×4 jeep to take you all the way to the top. There was more than the 300kms to Vythiri, but what will remain etched is the bone-breaking 4×4 ride to the camp from Vythiri town. A deadly ride climbing the jungles and dirt roads of the hills.
Dare Nature Camp
We reached a rustic old British era worker cabin built of stone and mortar now converted into a purpose-built homestay for adventure seekers. Making it home for two nights. While luxury is not of precedence here, the camp focuses on an experience you can’t forget. Providing clean and basic amenities with attached bathrooms and some finger licking Kerala food. Also in their repertoire are a host of adventure activities to wallow in such as trekking, archery, zip lining, laddering and of course bonfires in the cold nights. And manned by an excellent team of locals, all this while taking good care of all its guests.
The night was young and the rains stopped for a bit. We gathered around a brightly lit bonfire introducing ourselves to each other, sharing our stories of travel and adventure. It was exciting to be in the company of so many like-minded people from different walks of life and from different parts of the country. Most of all, there was a biker camaraderie developing in no time. New bonds, new friendships, travel making us one. We settled into bed for the cold night after a sumptuous dinner spread.
Kerala food, incessant rains, leech bites and a private waterfall
A foggy morning followed next and the rains continued to pour with bouts of sunlight in between clearing the clouds. There was a nonchalant vibe while some chose to stay back and enjoy the incessant rain some hiked down to the trail for some bird watching and went for a ride around Wayanad.
There was Idli ( steamed rice cakes), a staple Kerala breakfast item, and some coconut chutney made in the local style for breakfast. The healthy morning food got us charged up for the rest of the day. Decked up in rain gear, we decided to hike to a waterfall within the 40-acre property. We trudged the trail which was filled with leeches at every step, latching onto us with every bite. We swabbed small bags of salt but there were some really persistent ones leeching on even after. The short hike took us to the mouth of a gushing private waterfall. Some gave in to feel the therapeutic gushing force of the falls on their feeble bodies.
The waterfalls were an absolute delight for all of us. We spent some quality time at its banks before we got back to the camp drenched in the rain and bleeding profusely from leech bites. Cell phone signals were bleak and the no connection with the outside world meant, this was the perfect time to switch off and socialize the natural way like it was always meant. We sat down around a table sipping on organic black coffee and tea, talking and playing an addictive game called “Mafia“.
A Wayanad sunset
There is a private sunset point within the Dare Nature Camp and is also claimed as the highest viewpoint in the Vythiri area. Chembra peak, the highest peak in Wayanad rises above the property but is covered by all the thick forest cover. At sunset, we rushed up the viewpoint to get hold of a hair-raising view of Wayanad as the sun was disappearing through the thick cumulus clouds hanging in the air waiting to burst into drops of rain. The view gave us a glimpse of the magic that happens in the monsoons.
We all went to bed soul satisfied that night, a short interruption from the dreary city life. No matter the number of leech bites or the clattering drops of the rains that fell on us, wild bugs of the forests and the back-breaking ride in the 4×4, everyone seemed to be escaping life and living the moment.
More Kerala food and goodbyes
A warm casserole of Puttu, cylinders of rice flour steamed with grated coconuts and a bowl of Kadala, black chickpeas soaked and cooked into a brown gravy was ready for breakfast. Both puttu and kadala go hand in hand and is probably the most famous breakfast dishes in the Indian state of Kerala. A must try if you are visiting Kerala. With that cheerful meal, we bid our goodbyes to the place.
The trusty red 4×4 from the camp fully took us back to Vythiri to where the squadron of bikes was parked. As the memorable weekend came to a close, deep inside we longed to stay back and savor a bit more. A bit more of the rain, a bit more adventure in the woods, and a lot more togetherness in the lap of nature. That was what it was all about in Wayanad. Moments cherished!
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*All views expressed here are my own. All images used with permission.