Sunday, August 07, 2005

Wayanad - A place to be in

The divine intervention of nature serves as an abiding force in extending the void between the human race and the natural habitat of a wide variety of wild plants and animals. Nature, due to the raging pollution and population, has lost its considerable reserves in the last century. The wildlife scenario of the planet has diminished consistently over a gradual period of time. The fascination for thick forests and natural beauty now leads through a narrow pathway to places that form the miniscule of the planet. It is to seek this impact of nature that we embarked on a two day trip to a district called as Wayanad, which is represented by a tiny dot in the southern region of Kerala in the world map. Wayanad is conspicuous by its natural beauty as it reaches to the Western Ghats and hosts one of the natural wildlife sanctuaries of the country.

A considerable amount of time was spent on planning the trip. The internet and word of mouth were the major sources of procuring information for undertaking the trip. Printouts were congregated from all valid websites having details about the hotels and tourist spots. The interested people were called for to finalise the planning of the trip. The touring group was conspicuous by the absence of two of the main protagonists of the previous trip to Kemmanagundi. That didn't stop us from finding two additional members to keep the momentum going. There were rare moments of indecisiveness, one such being the mode of travel to be chosen. The decision to go ahead with our own transport by means of a tempo traveller made things much simpler, without having to hassle ourselves with reservation issues.

The travel was scheduled for Saturday night at 11PM. The excitement was in the air as we got into the tempo traveller. The route to Wayanad had to be traversed through the hilly terrain of the Bangalore-Mysore highway!!! We never had a deep slumber on our way, as the vehicle thudded away to glory in a desperate attempt to avoid as many potholes as possible. Despite the shortcomings, we had our share of light moments with our discussions leading well into the night supported amply by the practical joke advisor Raghavendra . The role of watchdog was taken up commendably by Shashank and Vinodh in the night, holding up talks with the driver to prevent him from falling asleep. There were stoppages of 10 min at regular intervals to keep the driver afresh with a cup of tea.

The morning was characterised by beautiful roads leading to the countryside of Kerala. Our temporary base for the next two days was in a place called as Kalpetta, which is significant for being the district headquarters. The rooms were very cosy and we were lucky to get some early morning sleep. We finished our morning ablutions, ready to set forth to face the first challenge of the day - Chambra peak. We could not imagine as to what a tough day it was going to be.

The Chambra peak rose majestically high into the sky leaving us dumbstruck. We could not fathom its height from the base of the hill. Every one of us was geared up for the challenge. We employed a guide to lead our way through the narrow pathways. The pathway began like a Tarzan movie with wild grass engulfing us on both sides steeping up like a vertical lamp-post. If only we had a boomerang, it would have looked like seven Mowglis on a wildlife hunt. The early morning enthusiasm was quickly forgotten with all of us gasping for breath as we progressed forward and upward. This was only the beginning. We were about 50 metres up, when Netaji Vinodh decided that he had enough of the exercise. As knowledgible people say, motivation comes in various forms and from various sources. It came in the form of 150 college students from a nearby place. A majority of them were girls and they were making light work of the difficult stretch. They were able to maneouvre through the terrain without a fuss. We momentarily forgot the difficult terrain, with our only aim now being not to allow them to get past us. A little further ahead, we had a casualty as Raghavendra's leg gave away and he had to pull out of the trek. Keeping him company was Shashank and Supreet, while myself, Shrikanth(Vinodh's friend - he constantly reminded us of the HUTCH advertisement) and the son of adventure Vishwanath ambled along. Our failing arms and legs were nothing in comparison to the motivation to scale the peak. Our immediate target was to get to the lake which was half way up the peak. It was after about two hours of vigorous walking filled with short intermittent pauses that we reached the lake. The lake was unique with its heart shaped appearance. It was a moment of joy to lay our legs on the icy cold water. The undercurrents of the water gave us momentary relief from the spasms diverging from all parts of the body. The three of us were anxious about the people who couldn't pursue the trek. Our thoughts of returning back from the lake plunged into depths as we saw Supreet and Shashank trudging along to the top. This was sufficient inspiration to move forward. We had no clue of Raghavendra and we assumed that he had taken the route back. Then the fateful thought struck us. He had the food material in his bag.

The trekking continued after a half an hour break by me, Vishwa and Shashank while the rest decided to stay back. The path from the lake was equally difficult and the ascent upward was increasingly steep. There was a particular point where a small wedge was created between two rocks and we had to thrust our body forward and climb up by squeezing through the narrow space. Our hunger was impeding our progress to the top. The sight of the students having all the delicacies was difficult for us to digest. It was after about two hours of hardship that we reached the top. It was one of the most happiest and proudest moments of our lives. The view from the top was breathtakingly beautiful. Our happiness was compounded by the fact that Raghavendra was waiting for us near the lake with the eatables. The guide was able to move along without any trace of tiredness. We were dumbstruck when he went downhill(about 60 metres) to fetch a bottle of water and climbed uphill again without a fuss. We then climbed down the hill with a brief stoppage at the lake, where we devoured the bread and biscuit packets, and then reached the bottom of the hill through the tea plantations.

The evening was planned for Soochipara waterfalls. It was about 15km of travel from the Chambra peak. When we reached the falls, it was around 5:30PM. We had to trek for about 4km to actually view the falls. I almost gave up as I was suffering from cramps. But then, I summoned all my reserves to join everyone who had gone ahead. I certainly did not want to miss the beauty of the waterfalls after having travelled so far. The path to the waterfalls was not as difficult as the Chambra peak. We were covered by greenery on either side with wild grass sprouting to great heights. The toughness of the Chambra peak had immunized our tiredness. We reached the waterfalls after about half an hour of easy trekking. It was a lovely sight to watch the water gushing forth from the rocks above. The width of the waterfalls was not very large and that meant the ferocity of water as it hit the rocks below was great. We did not venture to go under the waterfalls as twilight cautiously crept in, with the moonlit night not sufficient to generate the required amount of natural light. Out came the torch lights and mobile phones to guide our way back to the vans. It was a strange feeling for the seven of us to walk in the moonlit night through a narrow path bounded by unknown limits of the forest. As we approached the van, we sensed the panic creep in to the driver in our latecoming. A sumptuous meal at the Woodlands in Kalpetta summed up the wonderful day of the trip. That Gobi Parathas and Alu Parathas along with curd rice without coconut oil will be eaten by us with a tinge of suspicion is another story that will be cherished in our memories for ever. We went back to the hotel room with our legs battered and bruised with a feeling of having starred in an action packed movie.

The next day morning, all of us awoke as though we were characters drawn from Alice in Wonderland. The feeling of uneasiness had crept in slowly but steadily. We planned to start the day with Pookot lake. It was about 20 km from Kalpetta. At first, we had decided to skip the lake but then good sense prevailed and the 25 minute journey to the lake was undertaken. The scenic beauty of the lake stumped us. It was situated amidst the backdrop of hills. It looked as though the hills were protecting the lake from all sides. The water was pristine with lotus and water lilies scattered on the surface. The temptation to pluck one of the flowers was nullified after we saw a warning board that displayed a prohibition message regarding the destruction of foliage. We took two boats - row boat and a pedal boat to go deep into the lake. We did quite a good job in the still waters, rowing in solitude without a pain in the world. We scaled the circumference of the lake quite comfortably and our hands on the placid water kept us cool.

We then started our journey towards Edakkal caves. The beauty of this place is that two rocks balance a small boulder, and the curvature of which results in a cave formation. The inscriptions on the rocks dated back to the modern stone age era. The cave is situated midway up a hill and we had to squeeze through narrow openings and climb up several stone steps to reach the place.

The evening was reserved for Chetalayam waterfall. Special permission had to be taken from the forest department to view the waterfalls as it was situated right in the middle of the Wayand wildlife sanctuary. We had the previlege of a forest officer accompanying us through the forests. The wilderness of the forest was something that none of us had experienced before.

This was the first time that we had to experience the muddy roads of Kerala as tar roads were not permissible to be built in the forest reserves. The Chetalayam waterfall was nothing as what we expected, as water trickled down from the top. The rocky structures provided us the foothold to reach the bottom of the waterfall. This watefall will be remembered by us for the sheer pleasure of having crossed the forest. The evening was very eventful with lot of stories narrated by the forest officer about the herds of elephants that manifested the area.

We returned back to Bangalore in the evening catching glimpses of the Mysore palace on the way. It was sheer pleasure to be associated with the countryside of Wayanad, where Nature had everything to offer - hills, lakes, caves, waterfalls and what not!!!!

No comments:

Post a Comment