Monkey Business At Pookode Lake, Wayanad

Wayanad has several tourist attractions, ranging from lakes and waterfalls to beautiful, ancient temples and national parks. On our recent brief holiday to Wayanad, however, we decided to take things reallllllyyyyyyy slow – not endlessly checking off things from a to-do list, but exploring at our own pace, just as much as our hearts (and bodies and our little daughter!) dictated.

In the two full days and two half days that we spent in Wayanad, we ended up visiting only two lakes – the Pookode Lake and the Karalad Lake. We absolutely loved Karalad Lake and were not much charmed by the Pookode Lake, though it is just as beautiful a place as the former.

A view of the Pookode Lake, a tourist boat plying over it

The moment we entered the premises of Pookode Lake, our senses were soothed by the sight and sound of water lapping against the banks. The very next moment, we felt tension seeping back into our minds and bodies again – the place was super crowded, there was just too much chaos, and a closer glance revealed that the water was quite dirty.

The lake premises have too many things crammed into it, we felt – boating, a small temple, a permanent exhibition of Wayanad-special products, a children’s play area, an ice cream shop, a canteen, caricature artists, a fish spa, an aquarium… just too messy. And, oh, the monkeys! There are scores of monkeys at Pookode Lake, very naughty, very bold, not one bit afraid of the tourists.

We were told getting a chance at boating on the lake would involve a wait of at least two hours, so we decided against it. Instead, we chose to take a walk around the lake and settle down on a stone bench to just be and take in the surroundings around us.

It was rather sad to see this plant bearing the brunt of vandalism! So many names, so many initials carved into its leaves – sigh!

The monkeys kept us thoroughly entertained, the hour or so we spent at Pookode Lake. I have come across monkeys at tourist spots before, but never ones as precocious, as atrocious as the ones here. The monkeys at Pookode Lake are absolutely undaunted. They don’t have second thoughts about pulling at tourists’ clothes or bags, to get hold of their ice cream cones or popcorn packets. They appear out of nowhere, seem to jump out of everywhere. They sit right next to your bench, staring you up and down, sniffing the air, as if telling you they know all about the bag of chips you have hidden in your backpack. They don’t allow the tourists a moment of rest and relaxation, really. You have to see them in action to believe me.

This particular monkey was busy biting its tail, when we entered Pookode Lake. Later, we saw it had bitten a hole through its tail!

I had read about the monkey trouble at Pookode Lake earlier, so we left all our food in the car and did not carry any in our backpacks. We did not buy any food at the in-house canteen, either. The monkeys, therefore, left us alone, well, relatively at least.

A little monkey quenching its thirst, at Pookode Lake

Thankfully, the monkeys did not seem to be all that interested in my camera. They were content to do their mischievous acts, letting me capture all of it on camera.

A naughty monkey enjoying an ice cream cone snatched off a tourist!
This little one was so happy playing with his mother’s tail and lying down on it! It was so very cute to watch!
Another monkey, another ice cream cone, another tourist’s dupatta grabbed
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We sit on the heart of India!

We walked away from Pookode Lake with mixed feelings.

Of the two big tourist hotspots in Wayanad – Pookode Lake and Karalad Lake – I personally preferred the latter. Both lakes are equally beautiful and offer boating facilities. However, Karalad Lake is quieter and much better managed, as they have just a few boats to offer and very limited tourist activities. There are no monkeys at Karalad Lake, either! I much preferred the calm of Karalad Lake to the chaos of Pookode Lake. If you have to choose any one of these two, I would suggest Karalad.

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Tips for travellers:

  1. There is a minimal entry fee for visitors to Pookode Lake, INR 20 per head or so. Camera charges are separate.
  2. The lake tends to get quite crowded, especially so on weekends. Boating might involve standing in a queue and long wait times. Please do be prepared for this.
  3. The monkeys here are atrocious. Please do be on your guard at all times, and safeguard your children as well. It would be best not to carry any food with you into the lake premises, and avoid eating at the canteen too. Do not feed the monkeys, try to scare them or entertain them in any way.
  4. The parking lot is a short walk away from the actual lake. Please do bear this in mind while travelling with very young kids or aged people. You could make use of the local autos to commute from the parking lot to/from the lake. If you are travelling via a cab, you can request the driver to drop you at the lake and then proceed to the parking lot – that is allowed.
  5. The permanent exhibition within the Pookode Lake premises is quite good. It stocks a variety of products indigenous to Wayanad, all of it reasonably priced. This is a good place to shop for souvenirs and for exotic ingredients to take back home with you from your trip.

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I hope you enjoyed traversing Pookode Lake with me, virtually. Do let me know, in your comments!

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Postcards From Karalad Lake, Wayanad

Wayanad, a district located in the north-east of Kerala, is a no-brainer holiday destination for the people living in Bangalore and surrounding areas. Wayanad is just about a 6-hour drive away from Bangalore, anyway, with quite a few home stays available. Most of the Bangalore tourists who visit Wayanad, however, stay just for a day or two – there is not much to do here, they say, just a couple of lakes, temples, tea and coffee plantations, and the undulating mountains. The husband and I, however, beg to differ.

Yes, Wayanad does not have many tourist spots per se, but the off-beat traveller does indeed have a lot to explore here. For people who enjoy being in the midst of unadulterated nature, who enjoy history and love learning about a culture and way of living different from theirs, Wayanad has plenty to offer. In fact, our homestay owner gave us a list of over 30 destinations that are worth visiting in Wayanad, which one can cover only over a stay of at least seven days! And that is minus the explorations of the pretty nooks and crannies that you run into here, which aren’t listed anywhere as such, but are surely worth the experience.

We stayed in Wayanad for two full days, plus a few hours on the two days we travelled to and fro. We were not inclined to check out all the sights, cram in a load of sights and scenes into the two days we would be spending there. Plus, the fact that we were travelling with a small child did not allow us the flexibility to do the full-on sightseeing that we might have resorted to earlier. Also, thanks to the winding, narrow roads of Wayanad and the fact that the popular tourist spots are all located at a 25-30km distance from each other, we think covering everything in one go is not really a great idea. Wayanad is, as per us, meant to be explored slowly, soaking in the sights and sounds and smells and tastes a little at a time.

We took it real slow this time, just choosing to visit two of the many tourist spots in Wayanad – the Pookode lake and the Karalad lake. I leave you with some postcards from the beautiful Karalad lake, my favourite spot in Wayanad.

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Our Experience At Karalad Lake

With the help of Google maps, we took the interior countryside roads to Karalad lake, very few vehicles passing us by. The lush greenery on both sides of the roads enchanted us. I would say the drive to the lake was just as beautiful and enjoyable as the time we spent at the destination.

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At one point en route to Karalad lake, there were these beautiful, green, green, green banana trees on both sides of the road. We couldn’t resist getting down to click some pictures here!

Karalad lake is a clean, serene and beautiful place, an oasis of calm. It is smaller than the Pookode lake, by the look of it, but much less crowded and peaceful. I fell in love with the spot at first glance, and so did the bub and the husband.

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I loved this rock sculpture (?) of a mother and her child lost in their own world, right outside Karalad lake.

Karalad lake is the sort of place where you just sit and let the force of nature take over you, relax and rejuvenate you, heal you from the inside.

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Our first view of the beautiful Karalad lake

The waters here are magical, calm and quiet at least on the surface. They fill you with peace, as you take them in.

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Another group, soaking in the peace at Karalad lake

There are just a few boats plying the waters at Karalad lake. Take a ride on one of these, as we did, and the lake will enchant you further with its sights and sounds and hues. A boat ride here is such a soothing experience, quite unlike the overcrowded, stress-filled boat rides that we have had elsewhere. The splash-splash-splash of the boat’s oars cutting through the waters almost lulled us into a trance, the way real boat rides should.

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Tourists on a pedal boat at Karalad lake

Karalad lake is home to flora and fauna of several kinds, and we thoroughly enjoyed this bounty of nature here. The flowers in particular, by the lakeside, are very pretty.

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Colourful flowers at Karalad lake
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The beautiful water lilies to which Karalad lake is home

If you are lucky, you will spot a couple of the small animals and reptiles that inhabit Karalad lake. We did!

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This little fellow was almost invisible, the same colour as the tree trunk he sat on. Can you spot him?

Our boatsman told us there are several types of snakes that inhabit the waters of the Karalad lake, as well as a special kind of small turtles. We were blessed to spot one of these beautiful, little turtles on the course of our boat ride.

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Isn’t he super cute?!

Overall, we loved the time we spent at Karalad lake. Though the lake is quite small and there isn’t  much to do here, we liked this place much better than the crowded, not-so-clean Pookode lake in Wayanad. We walked away from Karalad lake, sated, our hearts content.

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One of the cottages available for rent at Karalad lake

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Tips for travellers

  1. There are very few boats plying at Karalad lake, so you might have to wait for a while for a ride. Do plan your visit accordingly.
  2. Unlike Pookode lake – which boats of an aquarium, a cafeteria, several boats and a little temple – there is nothing much to do at Karalad lake. Do be prepared for the same when you visit. The waters here are much cleaner and the place much less crowded and peaceful than Pookode lake. Personally, we loved Karalad lake, and couldn’t form a connection with Pookode lake.
  3. There is parking space available right outside the lake. Unlike many other tourist spots in Wayanad, there is not much walking involved in visiting Karalad lake. This is a place that will suit tourists visiting with young kids and the aged.
  4. The lake is open to visitors till about 6 PM, but boating is allowed only till 5 PM. Do plan accordingly – you need to reach the lake at about 3.30 PM so as to ensure a chance at a boat ride.
  5. There is accomodation (tents) available at the lake, for those who are interested. You need to book these well in advance, I am guessing.
  6. I hear there are zipling facilities available at the lake when the circumstances are favourable for the same. We didn’t spot any ziplining happening, however, when we visited. If you plan to visit the lake exclusively for ziplining, do check on the availability.
  7. There is an entry fee of about INR 30 per head for Karalad lake. Boating charges are separate, depending upon the type of boat you choose (pedal boat or one with a boatsman and oars).
  8. There are a couple of small stores telling tea, snacks and assorted knick-knacks right outside the lake compound.

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I hope you enjoyed traversing Karalad lake with me! Please do tell me, in the comments section!

Postcards From Meghalaya: Pineapples In The Wild

I don’t think you can go to Meghalaya and not fall in love with the pineapples. We did too, when we were holidaying in the state, earlier this year.

The fruits are everywhere, on flat ground, on hilly slopes, in people’s backyards, even out in the wild, in the middle of nowhere.

The pineapples simply love the soil and the weather here, and grow, grow, grow. They are food for the local people here, as well as a means of earning a livelihood.

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A home in Mawlynnong, touted as the cleanest village in Asia. Don’t miss the pineapples stacked up at the entrance!

The husband and I had never before seen pineapples growing on a plant. The first-ever glimpse we caught of one was at Mawylnnong, growing in someone’s bountiful garden.

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A pineapple growing in someone’s home garden, in Mawlynnong

The pineapples of Meghalaya are so not your regular fruits that you buy off a shelf in a store. They are ambrosial, beauties to look at, so sweet that you wonder if they have been dipped in sugar syrup – which they haven’t, of course, because they were cut right then and there, in front of you. One bite into them, and the juice gushes out of them, runs down your cheeks and elbows. You don’t mind the messiness one bit, of course.

While we were in Meghalaya, we ate pineapples whenever and wherever we could. We gorged on them to our heart’s content. They weren’t exactly cheap, but not over-the-moon pricey as well. On the drive from Mawlynnong to the Indo-Bangladesh border at Tamabil, we had the luxury of eating a wild pineapple, sitting by a waterfall, listening to it croon beautiful music in our ears. At how many places in India can you do *that*?

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The gushing waterfall that provided us music as we gorged on wild pineapples, en route to the Tamabil border from Mawlynnong

So, we were driving down when we came upon this pretty little place – almost forest-like, full of green, a place where you can hear water gushing and birds chirping, with no vehicles passing by. A lone armyman patrolled the area, looking out for infiltrators from the nearby Bangladesh and, of course, for anyone creating a nuisance, generally. There appeared to be no one else there, but then we spotted this little boy, a local, selling pineapples that he had plucked from plants out there in the wild. We had to have one, of course.

Our cab driver haggled with the boy in the local dialect, and they agreed upon a price. A gorgeous, sun-ripened pineapple was chosen.

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Isn’t that a beauty?!

The boy went on to expertly shave off the thorns from the fruit.

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The pineapple being readied for us

The pineapple was then cut into slices of just the right thickness, under the careful eye of our driver. We were handed the slices wrapped in a couple of banana leaves, and we pounced on them. Meanwhile, the waterfall nearby gushed on, the birds continued chirping, and insects twittered in the trees. The army man on patrol gave us a warm smile.

It was an experience we will cherish for ever, being one with nature at a place where it abounds.

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The pineapple being chopped under the expert tutelage of our cab driver

When we left, one pineapple down, drunk on nature, stomachs and hearts sated, the boy offered us a peek into the lunch he had been having when we arrived there. It was a stunningly simple meal that I absolutely had to click – and, of course, there was pineapple in it too!

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The boy’s stunningly simple meal that had a certain beauty to it

As we drove off, we waved to the little boy and the army man.

They waved us off with smiles.

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I hope you have read and enjoyed my other posts about our trip to North-East India. If you haven’t, here are the links for you:

 

 

Travel Shot: Panneer Drakshe Aka Indian Gulabi Grapes 

If you happen to be in Tamilnadu this time of the year – when it’s hot, but not yet the peak of summer – there’s a high likelihood that you will come across carts of almost translucent-looking, plump, purple grapes, on the streets. The vendor will catch you ogling at them, and invite you over for a taste. You will choose a fat one that will hold the promise of juiciness, and pop it into your mouth. One bite, and the sun-warmed grape will fill your mouth with flavour – a delicious sweetness, with the hint of roses in it. You’ll encounter some seeds, too, which you can chomp down or spit out as you please.

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I’m talking about none other than ‘Panneer Drakshe‘ (‘panneer‘ and not ‘paneer‘, mind you!), a special variety of grapes that is grown in Tamilnadu. ‘Panneer’ means ‘rose water’ in Tamil, hence the name. Also called ‘Indian Gulabi’, I’m not sure if this variety of grapes is as popular – or has even been heard of – outside the state of Tamilnadu.
On our recent trips to Tamilnadu, first to Madurai and then Kumbakonam, we had our fill of these gorgeous grapes. You should too, if you encounter them.