There are many tourist places in Palakkkad and this holiday season I decided to cover most of them. Last Sunday, I went to Nelliampathy Hills. On the itinerary were Pothundi Dam, Kesavan Para and Seetharkundu.
First stop was Pothundi Dam. It is not as big as Malampuzha Dam but it is big all right. It is the height of summer now and there was not much water in the dam. On the other side of the water is a row of small hills – the Nelliampathy Hills. The dam was deserted at the top and most families took shelter in the park below. After a while, I decided to leave the dam for the tourist spots in the hills.
After taking this photo, the mobile phone ran out of charge. I brought my monster 20,000 mAH power bank with me and I put the phone under charge. So no photos or videos of the ascent. The road uphill reminded of Need for Speed games. In one place, you can see two small streams coming off a huge wall of rock. My guess is that during rainy season, these streams transform into reasonable waterfalls. In one NFS game, I have seen something similar. The road ended at a factory of AVT, the tea company. There the road forks into two. On the left, tea plantations and on the right, a footpath to Kesavan Para. I parked my bike and went up the path on foot. The footpath is covered on all sides by dense vegetation and was dark even at noon. A loud din of insects came from all sides. After a while the path cleared up and a large rock-covered area came. This is Kesavan Para. On the other side of the rock formation, there is ledge on the hillside where you can sit and view the Pothundi Dam. The hills you saw from the dam would now be flanking your sides. They rise for another hundred feet and you will be smack in the middle of it. I guess it must be magnificent during rainy season. Unfortunately, I have no photos of this place.
After lunch at a hotel, I left for Seetharkundu Viewpoint. This place is overrated, at least for one-dayers. If you plan on staying at one of the tourist cottages there, then it may be worthwhile. Because of the vegetation and the altitude, the place is much cooler than the plains down below. The place marked Seetharkund Viewpoint is a gap in the hillside where you can see the plains down below. I left after a few minutes. A tree struck by lightning in the area was more interesting. The phone was charged now and I was able to take photos and decided to record my descent.
This place reminded me of a level in Crysis 1, where you first attack a Korean military camp proper.
En route to Seetharkund, there are several tours arranged in tea plantations/factories and the vegetable/fruit farms but I did not take these tours. I was however surprised to know that there are tea plantations even in Palakkad.
The descent was great and I could coast almost all the way down. On the way up, I saw some guys racing. One guy in a big bike gave the middle finger to a bullet and overtook him on a curve. I wouldn’t advise that to anyone. The ride downhill was fast but was still confusing. The tea farms have boards all over the place but proper road signs don’t exist. It was easy to go the wrong route. You can follow tourist vehicles but they can be very slow. On the way up, I saw a group of bikers thundering up a fork and then sheepishly turn around. So, it is better to rely on your own wits.
This must be the most boring unwatchable video in the world.
Update (2018-04-24): Apparently, there is a waterfall somewhere in Seetharkund but it is bountiful in rainy season.
Randumoorthy means two gods or two faces. Interestingly there are two Randumoorthy temples in Palakkad. There is one in Thiruvalathur. The other one is in Ottapalam and is dedicated to Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. Last week, I went to the Thiruvalathur temple.
The Thiruvalathur Sree Rendumoorthy Bhagavathy Kshetram is dedicated two godesses – Sree Mahishasuramardhini and Sree Annapoorneswari. The temple is quite old and was supposed to be built by devas in one night but they left it unfinished as they didn’t want to be seen by humans. The temple is open on all days with services in the morning and evening. I went in the evening hoping to see if the 4000 stone lamps around the temple are lit daily. A large group of ladies were chanting slokas near the diety of Sree Annapoorneswari but the lamps in the outer wall were not all lit. Hence, I will make a trip in the festival season November-December for that.
Update 2018: I went to the temple yesterday and all the famous lamps around the temple were lit. Kids were also given sticks to light the lamps themselves. It is party of a 10-day Kartika Vilakku Moholsavam. Several traditional and folk performances including thayambaka, chakkiyar koothu, and ottamthullal are scheduled throughout this festival.
I am just back from attending the show at Indira Gandhi Municipal Stadium (near Stadium Stand). The circus arena seemed like one that had fallen on hard times.
The one time I had been to a circus was when I was in primary school. We got a free ticket each to the Jumbo Circus. It was a neat marketing trick by the circus management because we also brought our parents who had to buy their tickets. Jumbo had a fabulous production. There were elevated wooden stands for us to sit. They had wild animals like tigers, lions, bears and elephants. The Indian government stupidly banned circus animals several years later. (Zoos continue to imprison animals.) Since then, circus troupes have fallen on tough times.
My initial impression at Grand Circus was not great. It seemed like a failure. But boy was I surprised!
The publicity handouts said something about African and Manipuri performers along with Indians. What a show they put on! It was not a totally flawless performance but they had everything you expect from a circus. Trapeze acrobatics, various gymnastic performers, a strongman (a lady), dog tricks, motorcycle cage, bicycle stunts (no brakes, just two wheels and a frame) and the children’s favorite clown show. The Manipuri boys & girls did many of the gymnastic stunts along with some feats using iron rods and sharp knives. The Africans did mostly non-African stunts – the famous Brazilian leg acrobatic thing and the Caribbean fireplay thing.
Indian crowds are hard to please. They are extremely reticent when it comes to applauding. But by the end the crowd was clearly won over.
My favorite stunts were the gymnastic stunts and the woman who balanced herself above three wooden boards with glass tumblers in between and a plastic cylinder below everything.
Shows are at 1 pm, 4 pm, & 7 pm.
This was right in the middle of the city and so was easy to check out. [I was on foot. This was not a bike trip.] It was used by Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan. It was later taken over by the British. For a tourist, the Palakkad fort may be a disappointment. It is on flat ground and the ramparts around the fort are not very imposing. Like true Indians, visitors have left their mark on the walls. It covers considerable real estate right in the middle of the city and currently houses a jail and an office for the civil supplies department. The fort is also a venue for cultural events. The often-hyped-up Hanuman temple is in reality a very small shrine.
This dam is some distance from the middle of the city. It has a large park, a ropeway, a snake park, an aquarium and a boating area. The dam is very high and stores water for the city. Best time to visit would be after 4 o’ clock.
There is a hilltop cottage for those who would like to stay longer than an evening visit. I expect the sunsets or sunrises to be great. The ropeway goes from one end of the dam, across the park and boating area, and then back again. The aquarium and the snake park on the sides of the park have very good specimens. I was surprised to find a fish called Miss Kerala. There is also a government-run shop that sells forest produce generated by tribal communities. I bought some honey and it tastes great.
The boating area is accessible from the park via a suspension bridge. As you get off the bridge, there is a huge nude Yakshi statue. It is impossible for kids to avoid the Yakshi as the bridge bobs a lot and demands parents’ attention. Ancient Indians did not create such huge eyesores. Our temples have nudes but you barely notice it.
Malampuzha has several other privately-run man-made attractions around it. However, Kava is different. Thanks to wooded and winding roads to this area, the drive from and to Kava is just great. Interestingly, the moment I landed near the spot, an old woman asked me for a lift. I took her all the way to Anakkal. The return journey had even better scenery. Palakkad is at sea level while Kava is at a high altitude. Here rain clouds are crashing the hills all the time, even as Palakkad remains bone-dry. When I was there, the skies were rumbling continously and was sounded spectacular. Surprisingly, the place has been spared of any man-built structures. Most people simply drive to the waterfront. Buses halt on the side of the road. Except for some cows, goats and shepherds, the place was empty.