The bus to Wayanad is not just for the firm of heart, it’s also for the firm of stomach. An entire belly of lunch is not the ideal weight to carry as you wind your way up the hills of Karnataka into the lush mountainous green of the southern state of Kerala.
The bus—filled with techies from Bangalore, students from Mysore and the queasy few who braved the side-street vada and chutney in favor of an empty stomach—was still nearly full when it left Sultan Betheri ; the bus stop where travelers can go on to explore the region of Wayanad.
Many move on quickly from the town of Sultan Batheri, foregoing it’s Edukkal caves and Ancient Jain Temple in favor of retreats further withdrawn into the countryside. After all, if there’s one place in India where you can truly escape its population, it’s across the Western Ghat mountain ranges in Wayanad. Many homestays in the region offer the privacy of a family home, whereas others are more inventive by offering direct experiences with the indigenous population or secluded tree-houses.
Homestays with private families are an authentic lodging option.
According to locals, the greatest danger posed to travelers comes from the possibility of bothering a wild elephant or, even worse, a herd of them. In reality, these are only tales people tell as few encounters with these magnificent beasts are possible, even when intended. As a result of human interference, elephant numbers are low despite seeing an increase in recent months.
Expectations on wildlife have to be seriously curbed here. The well-frequented Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary divides travelers along lines of those who have seen a tiger and those who haven’t. For many, herds of bison just don’t cut the mustard.
If you’re hoping to witness the fauna as well as the extraordinary flora in this region, it’s crucial to pack either patience or good humor.
Fortunately, most of the places that you can stay in Wayanad either offer or are within walking distance of excellent Keralan cuisine. Everything from Malabar’s famous biriyani (spiced rice and meat dish) and steamed coconut rice puttu filled with spiced shrimp, to feasts of fried plantains for the vegetarians. Our homestay filled us up so heavily with sambar (spiced lentils) and upmav (semolina with mustard seeds and curry leaves) that we had to postpone our bus further south into Kerala.
It didn’t matter, one could wait.
Kerala might be known for its backwaters and its beaches, but it’s the mountain region of Wayanad is what separates it from the rest.