Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Thirunelly/Thirunelli and Irpu/Iruppu

Mohan's wedding this Monday provided us an excuse to make a trip to Thirunelly over the weekend. The place is known for an ancient temple nestled between forest covered hills. The view from the temple is breathtaking. It is relatively unspoilt and nowhere as crowded as some of the other popular pilgrim centres.

The route to Thirunelly via Mysore, Ranganathittu bypass, Hunsur, Nagarahole, Kutta and Tholpetty is as scenic as the destination. On a good day you will be able to cover the 250 km route in 6 hours including a halt at Lokaruchi and a slow drive through Nagarahole. The roads are good but for a 30 km stretch through Nagarahole. Here, you need to roll down the windows and drive slow, looking out for animals on either side of the road.

Accommodation at Thirunelly should be reserved in advance at the Panchatheertham guest house (phone no: 04935-210201). Book a VIP room (Rs. 600 per day) if you want a fan and heater. The basic rooms are much cheaper (Rs. 160 per day). Be prepared for a volley of questions about everything including the purpose of the visit and your marital status when you call them for a booking. There are no other options in Thirunelly other than a forest department guest house on the way. There are stay options at Tholpetty (20 km) and Kutta (25 km) too. The food at the two restaurants in Thirunelly is nothing to write home about. Suffice to say that even Mallus will need to get adjusted to the food here.

The temple is ancient, said to be 3000 years old. According to legend, it was created by Brahma in honour of Vishnu. The older parts of the temple are in ruins. You can see stone pillars around the Eastern part of the temple. There is a also a stone aqueduct that still channels water from the Brahmagiri hills into the temple. The dress code is not as strict as with the other temples in Kerala. Shirts are not allowed inside the sanctum sanctorum. Photography is allowed around the temple if you donate to the temple renovation fund. There is a notice about non-Hindus not being allowed inside the temple.

After a day's stay at Thirunelly, we headed to Mananthavady. The 30 km drive through the forest was good. The roads are excellent on this side with teak forests on either side. After a second breakfast at Mananthavady we decided to head to Kutta instead and try out one of the Coorgi home-stays there. We got a log hut at Ramcaud Estate in Irpu, 7 km from Kutta. The rents are reasonable at Rs. 750 per day. The total for both of us ran to Rs. 1100 including food. We got to try out some Coorgi delicacies here. The main attractions are Irpu falls, walks in the estate and the view of the Brahmagiri hills from the room.

Trip photo set on flickr.