|As you sit gazing enthralled at the swollen Chaliyar river near Kozhikode, you discover anew the many simple pleasures of life.|
Just laze around: The Kadavu resort by the Chaliyar river.
The next time you want to get away from it all, really get away from it all, do a spot of lotus eating, write that long overdue Booker-potential magnum opus, or best of all, just catch up with a small pile of long-waiting-to-be-read books, I suggest you pack a duffel bag, and go visit the Chaliyar river that flows just 16 kilometres ahead of Kozhikode in Kerala’s beautiful Malabar region.
The only catch is, you won’t be treading new ground. Others have been there, done that, before you. Politicians (Rahul G. among them), film stars, Page Three celebs, writers, poets, businessmen, certified hedonists, they have all headed, and continue to head, down to the river for a spell of intense R&R. This indulgence does not come cheap, alas, at the Kadavu Resort that sits prettily beside the Chaliyar, but then, that’s the way it is with most indulgences these days.
Kadavu in Malayalam means shore; this particular resort looks less like it was built on a bank and more like it sprang up from a bend in the Chaliyar. As resorts go, it’s another of Kerala’s many beauty spots: ten acres hol ding unremarkable if pretty buildings in the ubiquitous laterite and palm wood, with regulation red- tiled roofs, neatly laid lawns, an ozonated swimming pool, a Jacuzzi, an amphitheatre straight out of Hellenic times, a briskly efficient Conference Hall. Then you walk into one of the rooms-with-a-view and catch a glimpse of what lies between the two shores, and it’s pure magic. It’s the river, but of course.
The Chaliyar is a thing of beauty, celadon green at times, deep brown or a luminous silver at other times; always, a thick swathe of swift moving water with palm trees gracefully bending in homage along both shores. And when the rains come down, a blue-gray mist wraps itself lovingly around the river waters.
We aren’t talking small potatoes with the Chaliyar. It is Kerala’s fourth largest river, all of 169 km in length. Also known as Beypore river, it originates in the Western Ghats range in the Nilgiris of Tamil Nadu, winds its way alongside the towns of Nilambur, Edavanna, Cheruvadi, Mavoor, Peruvayal, Feroke and Beypore before entering the city of Kozhikode for its final 10-km journey which finally ends in the Arabian Sea.
Right up to the 20th century, the Chaliyar was extensively used as a waterway for carrying timber from the forest areas in and around Nilambur to the various mills near Kozhikode. Eventually though, timber activity came down drastically as tree felling was banned or strictly controlled with a view to stop deforestation.
The Chaliyar also came by some bad press, with reports of ecological damage caused by a pulp factory that released effluents into the river and affected the marine life. This factory has since closed down. Like all other major rivers in the State, the Chaliyar, too, was a waterway, lifeline to the people living hereabouts, before the advent of vehicles on newly-laid roads. Today, it seems in somnolent retirement, going with the flow, gently, inexorably.
The early riser is rewarded by the sight of the river still and fragile as glass, a thin mist weaving sinuous patterns on the surface, the Western Ghats looming dark and brooding on the not-so-distant horizon. As the day lengthens, catamarans ply the water, fishermen cast nets, canoes with punters move swiftly across the waters, dredging and de-silting operations go on undisturbed throughout the day. A boat ride on the river takes you past dwellings on the bank, past boats with fishermen ready to throw their nets, past many a bridge, miniscule and huge.
Soon after arriving at the resort, you realise that repeat visitors to Kadavu know something the first- timer does not: the winning combination here is the cottage and the river. The 10 cottages are elegantly appointed, all throwbacks to the aristocratic Kerala homes of yore, with a trellised balcony in each which overlooks the waters; and nowhere does the river weave its potent magic better than in front of these cottages. You read your books, looking up at the waters at the turn of a page or two. You write in your notebook, looking to the river for inspiration. The music on your iPod seems to take on a new meaning, as does simple conversation with your companions. You also rediscover the pleasure of silence.
There is the city too
If you can tear yourself away from gazing upon the river, the resort offers boating trips in the backwaters, Kalaripayattu, Oppana and Theyyam performances in the amphitheatre, and trips into Kozhikode town, famous for its spice bazaar, old Muslim houses and, of course, its beaches. The nearby town of Beypore, with its fishing harbour, shipbuilding yard and Kadalundi Bird Sanctuary, seven km ahead, are other attractions.
Only, I suspect you will find the river is enough. For this time, at least.
September to April is the ideal time for a visit.
The Kadavu Resort is located just outside Kozhikode, 16 km from the heart of the town. Kozhikode, is well connected by both rail and air (there are daily flights to Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore), and of course, by road. Coimbatore is 180 km from Kadavu. It’s a scenic ride through Wayanad from Bangalore.