The nip in the air is palpable. The cool breeze from the valley is, slowly but surely, making a firm grip on the upper crest of the mountain range, and it seems that the dense fog has concealed the winding roads in its innards. The clouds are hugging the trees, and the scent of wild plants make Thamarassery churam (ghat), which is 50 kms from Kozhikode city, quite different.
The viewpoint in Lakkiddi, the gateway of Wayanad district, is just beyond the ninth hairpin curve, and before Vythiri. The view from atop is breathtaking as the valley could be seen wrapped in nature's green carpet, and the vehicles going downhill towards Kozhikode look like an army of ants at work.
Now, the ghat has two-lane roads unlike the narrow one-lane roads of the 1970s. Then, the vehicles were few and far between. Once in a while a truck laden with timber logs or a KSRTC bus may be seen labouring hard to move uphill. A 4x4 Willeys jeep is definitely a sign of luxury and not to forget the grandeur Ambassador cars during those times.
Presently, hundreds of motor bikes ply on the ghat road but 40 years ago this was a rare sight. A Rajdoot bike or Yezdi bike could be spotted along with the evergreen Enfield motorcycles.
Nine hairpin curves should be negotiated while travelling on this ghat road. It would have been a daunting and risky task in those days without power steering.
While driving on this road, the drivers follow certain unwritten law for the safety of all. Trucks overburdened with teak and rose wood coming downhill is a sight to behold. The lorries, with yellow headlights, are bulldozing their way out of fog. In the valley, miles away, life is a celebration, and that jollification could be seen from atop.
The truck engine can get overheated by constantly applying the clutches while coming downhill, and it is high time for man and machine to take rest. A pristine brook, which is on the left side after the seventh hairpin curve, with ice-chill water is a welcome sight for anyone who wants to take a break. This place is known as Thakarapadi.
More soothing are the violet flowers dotting the rock formations. The welcome break is here. Radiators get a splash of cold water, and drivers a much-needed nap. Two small shops, which had been there for decades, near to the gushing stream are very popular among the passersby.
Step into history
These shops are still sought after in the stretch. Hamsa, who lives nearby, has been running the shop for the last four decades. The tea made by Hamsa using Wayanad tea is out of the world, to say the least. A small glass shelf has boiled eggs and egg masala on display to entice the customers.
Gooseberry in honey and some traditional sweets are neatly stacked in bottles. Malpuri, sweet fried pancake made out of flour and bananas, is, of course, selling like hot cakes. Crispy Arimurukku, a fried snack made of rice flour, is a favourite savoury among the visitors. Arimurukku goes down well with a glass of tea, says Hamsa.
Hamsa's shop had moments of glory in couple of films too. Remember the scene in Ranjan Pramod film 'Photographer' in which Mohanlal meets the runaway Adivasi boy in a shop? That was shot in Hamsa's shop. The shop was also featured in Prem Nazir-starrer Nellu years ago.