Exploring North of Kerala - A road trip
Updated: Apr 2, 2020
The summer of 2017 was quite hot and humid, and it was a vacation, and we were desperately looking out for a trip, explore some new places not far. That was when a plan shaped up when we had to attend an engagement in Malabar. The region of Malabar is referred to North of Kerala; the Malabar coast has been referred in many places since ancient times. It was Jenya's colleague's engagement somewhere remote close to Kanhangad in the district of Kasargod, North Kerala. Our initial plan was made keeping in mind a journey by train and connect Kannur and other places in the Malabar, however considering connecting multiple destinations, we decided to do it by road. And finally we made our plan, to go for the engagement, visit Bekal - one of the largest preserved fort in Kerala, the beaches in Kannur (we made a deal with Chera Rocks for a nights stay), Sargalaya (which eventually did not happen due to lack of time), and finally Beypore close to Kozhikode. It was about seeing most of the places in the Malabar, of course, due to time constraints we had to skip a few places, it was a coastal tour, and we skipped Wayanad and other parts of the Wester Ghats that extend to North Kerala.
Aluva to Kanhangad was around 330 kilometers, of these the road until Kozhikode (Calicut) is relatively broader with a combination of both two lanes and four lanes. After Kozhikode, the roads remain two-lane, and the traffic congestion is comparatively more. We started off by around 4 in the morning and reached Kanhangad by around 1030 hours in the morning, checked-in to a local hotel booked online before we arrived. We stayed at Raj Residency which is a business class hotel in Kanhangad; the sole purpose was to freshen up before we reached the engagement venue and for an overnight stay. After the engagement, we returned to the hotel for a nap and headed to Bekal fort by evening.
Bekal Fort is one of the largest ancient forts located around 12 Kilometers North of Kanhangad. The fort is a protected monument that comes under the Archaeological Survey of India. Most parts of the fort have an elaborate garden and have an entry fee of around 15 rupees per person. It is quite large, and we walked into the fort, climbed the observatory tower, the ammunition store, underground passages to the sea, and more than ten naval bastions. From the fort, you can see the Bekal park and the beach, and one could walk into the bastions extended into the sea. The shores are filled with large rock formations to which the sea lashed out during high tide. The fort used to be a strategic point during olden days and finally it was under the control of British until India gained her independence. Historians are still divided as to who built the fort, however, it is believed that Shivappa Nayak of Bednore constructed the Bekal Fort in 1650 AD. The fort stands as an iconic structure in North Kerala and is recognized as a tourist spot for visitors, to the less touristy Malabar. We got a nice glimpse of the sunset, and by 6 in the evening everyone including us were flushed out of the Fort Premises. They are pretty much strict about the timings, the last ticket would be available by 1730 hours, and everybody has to be out of the fort by 1800 hours. Below is a short video I made about Bekal Fort.
Our next day's plan was to head to Kannur where we had arranged for the stay at Chera Rocks, a quaint little beach house, which I believe has the best location in the whole of West Coast of India. The view is something similar to that of Taj Fort Aguada in Goa, but here they have access to the beach and the rocks. We drove to Kannur after breakfast, it was a lazy drive, and reached by noon. We searched google and found Sahib's Grill kitchen en-route and stopped there for lunch; they had some awesome reviews which attracted us to this place. Something like a boutique restaurant that serves more of continental cuisine which Jenya is fond of. You get mocktails like Bombay to Goa, Mojitos, steaks, grills and many more. They have an open kitchen with a yellow background and high roofs, the place is quite warm at noon, the air-conditioning is quite ineffective that way. After a tummy full delicious lunch, we started of to Chera Rock Beach Home, navigating through the coastal road using Google maps. We finally reached a dead end, that was when we called up Chera Rocks, and that was when we got to know that the beach home does not have access for cars. In five minutes a person from the property came up and guided us to the beach home. As we walked down, we could hear the waves lashing down the shores. We were welcomed with a lime juice at Chera Rocks, an astounding location where the beach home is literally on the beach, fishermen folks at the beach, a rock formation called "Chera Rocks" close to the beach dividing the beach into two. Dinner and the breakfast were outstanding, local food here is a beauty, Malabar is very much known for its lip-smacking preparations. I think the below video will give you a complete idea about the location and the beach home.
We were not on a beach holiday, for us it was just a night's stay at Chera Rocks, and our plan was to move around and see the places in Kannur. The St. Angelo Fort at Kannur, built in 1507 by the Portuguese, which was later captured by the Dutch, then sold to the Local rulers of Arakkal Family for a price of 1 Lakh Rupees then, finally seized by the British and retained control until 1947. The fort overlooks the sea and exhibits some cannons and a store full of cannon balls.. Today the fort comes under the Archeological Survey of India. The Arakkal family were once the rulers of Kannur, an office building of the family is being converted into a Museum that exhibits the belongings of the royal family. Most of the exhibits include photographs, history of the family and some personal belongings. It was time for lunch and Odhens was our choice. We liked Odhens more than Sahib's Grill Kitchen; it was local Kerala meals with a broad range of different seafood preparations. The warmth was evident, and the food was great, Jenya wanted to try out "Kallumakkaya" (Mussels), we ordered too much of seafood and finally found it quite difficult to have the entire food order. If you are in Kannur, you should go to Odhens for sure.
Further, our plan was to head to Kozhikode and stop by at Muzhapilangad drive-in the beach, drive along the beach and try out some stunts. It is around 15 kilometers south of Kannur, on the way to Thalassery on National Highway 66. The Muzhappilangad beach is a stretch of 5 kilometers, and you have three entry-exit points, you need to pay twenty rupees per car for entry. It is quite exciting, and you can find a lot of other cars driving along the beach. I made a small video about it; I am sure you would enjoy it because I loved it a lot.
We left for Thalassery, the land of circus, cakes, and Cricket. Apart from all of it, Thalassery biriyani is renowned, food and other savory preparations from Thalassery are quite famous, most of them are available at restaurants and small joints started by people from Thalassery across Kerala and the Middle East. Thalassery was a strategic point for British, and there have been multiple Anglo-Indian wars fought here. The Thalassery fort stands as a mute witness to the colonial era in North of Kerala. We did not get a chance to try out Thalassery delicacies as we were in a hurry to reach Kozhikode before it was very late. We had a quick glance of the fort which was almost like a break from the drive. The roads are quite narrow with two lanes, and the traffic was more than expected.
Thalassery fort is a laterite stone structure very much close to the sea, a square fort showcasing a few cannons, a secret underground tunnel, office buildings, and an old lighthouse. The St. John's church close to the sea is a nice beautiful view from the fort. Further, we drove and passed Mahe, a union territory that comes directly under the administration of the central government of India. Fuel is cheap here, and we filled up the tank here. Mahe was a French colony, French initially came here as traders and acquired Mahe, there is French school here, and the policemen have their caps in red color. It's called Mahe-Puducherry, where Mahe is on the West Coast, and puducherry is on the East Coast, South of Chennai. The administrative headquarters of Mahe is in Puducherry. Since it directly comes under the central government of India, taxes are relatively low, and so fuel, wine, and many other consumer goods are relatively cheaper here.
We drove straight to Kozhikode and found a business class hotel in the city for our halt; the requirement was just an overnight lodging. The next day we headed through the coastal road and stopped by at Beypore. At Beypore, there still exist "Uru" building centers. An Uru is a wooden boat used as a trading vessel during olden days. Today Urus are built for the Arabian world, where the sheiks of Arabia keep it as a status symbol. These wooden boats sail to Arabia after the external structure is ready, more of the interior work is completed there. The below video would be exciting.
Our next plan was to head straight home, around 200 Kilometers. It was very much an exciting trip. North Kerala is less touristy and is a region filled with lots of history, tradition, cuisines, backwaters, beautiful beaches, and lovely warm people. Everyone will smile at you, and every one is ready to help you if you get stuck somewhere. Since it was a coastal road trip, we skipped Wayanad. Otherwise, Wayanad works well as a hill station on a North Kerala trip. Ours was more of a quick road trip; we missed Theyyam (a colorful temple ritual) and Kalaripayattu (A martial art form from Kerala) training center. Altogether if was a fun trip and we missed a few interesting things which give us an option to visit Malabar again.