We were craving to do a road trip ever since we got Phryne. We’d already driven down to Pune, but that didn’t count since we were on NH4 throughout the journey and there wasn’t even a grain of adventure involved. Balur? But we knew that route so well. We wanted to go off the beaten track. We decided to explore the Wayanaad district. We looked up a dog-friendly resort close to the river, booked a room and before we knew it, we were on the road.
A smooth drive up to Mysore, we left the national highway soon after and started meandering though the state highways, crossing quaint industrial towns and villages, chattering and exclaiming at the good condition of the roads till we reached the entry to Nagarhole National Park. That’s when the ride started getting bumpy…
At the fork, we hesitated, then took the right leading to the park – after all, the resort owners did tell us we could drive through the park, even though we had a dog with us. Phryne ploughed through the road washed away by the rain, attracting many curious looks from the villagers. We put it down to her bright colour, but when we reached the gate, we realized it was not Phryne but Arya that was the object of their curiosity. Stopped at the gate (“No domestic animals inside the national park, sir”), we were made to turn around and head back to the fork. Youpie – what a wonderful start to our holiday.
Furious with the resort owner, we retraced our way to the entrance of the park and took the other road – a longer route that took us through the fields, bypassing the many resorts on the banks of river Kabini, back to another gate announcing the entrance of the national park.
Our hearts beating a wild rhythm inside our chest, we paused for a second, before driving in. There were no check posts on this route since it didn’t cut through the forest – we were circling around the park! It was raining, we were surrounded by a verdant forest and finally on our way to our destination. Delighted, we took in the sights and smells of the forest – and were even lucky enough to spot a mother elephant and her infant and several herds of deer! We emerged from the park into the heart of Kerala and snaked our way towards the resort, making our way through dense forests and picturesque villages.
“We’ve had our share of adventure – it’s time to put up our feet now.”
Or so we thought – the last kilometre to the resort proved to be rather arduous for we had to go down a rather steep and narrow ravine-like path, bushes scratching Phryne’s flanks to a parking lot which was basically a plot of land which had disintegrated to slush after the recent rains. This wasn’t the idyllic parking spot described on the website and the many reviews online. Steeling ourselves, we scolded ourselves for being cynical and followed the rather reticent resort manager down the trail to the resort – a bunch of ramshackle cottages by the river. The room, damp from the rain looked like it hadn’t been cleaned since summer; the floors were dirty, the bed sheets were stained and the room had a horrid dank odour.
“Chin up, let’s explore the outside and get some coffee shall we?”
An hour later, after flinging away the worst coffee we’ve had and a plate of soggy banana chips, we realized we’d made a horrible mistake. The resort had seen better days, but this was definitely not one of them. We’d paid for one night and it was too late to head back, so we steeled ourselves for a night in the horrid room.
“We’ll leave early tomorrow and head back home…”
That was the longest night of my life – the sound of the river roaring right outside our room kept me awake and I welcomed the first rays of light with much joy. We set off at the crack of dawn, glad that Phryne was strong enough to pull us out of the hell-hole in minutes. Back on the road and on our way to our favourite holiday refuge with Linger, we were told to head in the opposite direction. More adventure?
The road meandered through the heart of plantations – roads traversed only by the locals – past acres of lush green spice plants towards the river basin and paddy fields.
We took a few wrong turns and crossed some bumpy stretches but on the whole, this was much better than what we’d endured the previous night. The windows down, we were beginning to feel rather upbeat about the escapade when we were stopped in our tracks by…. the river!
Kabini had overflowed and submerged a section of the road. It looked like we’d have to drive through it!
“Well, the Ford Ecosport is supposed to be able to do this, isn’t it?”
Taking a deep breath, we plunged in, the water splashing up to Phryne’s roof and drove through what felt like a flooded field. On the other side, we looked back, our hearts still beating wildly, a little bemused at our moment of panic a few minutes ago! We wanted an adventure and we got it….except it wasn’t over!
A few kilometres down the road, we hit the next roadblock: an electricity pole had been uprooted by the monsoon wind and live wires stretched across the road. We couldn’t turn back, so we braced ourselves for electrocution and accelerated…hallelujah! We survived! But of course we did! There was no electricity in the entire district since over 24 hours! Feeling a bit sheepish (and very hungry), we dipped into our stock of juice and cake, glad we always traveled with so much food and started discussing the possibility of returning to Bangalore. But before we had to get back to the highway…
We finally had mobile network and GPS was functioning for the first time since we reached the resort, so we looked up routes and turned Phryne towards the national highway. Driving past the last of the plantations, we reached another fork and we took the left towards SH21 (which Google no longer recommends!). Remember what happened when we took the road on the right at the last fork? The road this time was much worse than the kuccha countryside road in Nagarhole.
Potholes the size of craters, wild bush on either sides of the road and no sign of civilisation, we navigated the 10 kms with timorous hearts. We were driving so slow, anybody would be able to ambush us…neither of us dared voice our fears. In the last 3 kms, just as we were about to give in to the frustration (and hunger – the cake didn’t last long) we suddenly found ourselves behind a car – a bright pink, Alto! Well if she could do it, Phryne was definitely more than capable of taking us out of this stretch of Lucifer’s property! We hit the highway a few minutes later at Periyapatna.🙂
We didn’t need to discuss anything – a holiday would have to wait. What we needed then was a shower in our own bathroom and a night in our own bedroom. Bangalore was … kms away, but before there was a CCD!
P.S We fixed our broken bodies a few days later with a lovely Linger vacation at Harley Estates, Sakleshpur.