3rd September, 2004 – Etched in memory

On Friday evening on 3rd of September after discussion with my colleague on the same night I started on my trip to destination Wayanad district in Kerala from Bangalore in Karnataka. All I knew was my destination and inbetween places Mysore and Gundelpet.

I reached Majestic Bus stand at around 10:00 in the night and it started to rain quite heavily, I looked around for bus which would accomodate me. After half an hour found one TNSTC bus to OOTY and there were no seats available so had to stand all the way. The bus was totally stamped with water which oozed out from shoes and slippers of passengers. Thinking that I need to stand all the way I realised I had a cover in my bag. I put down the cover and sat on the steps of the bus after taking a ticket to Gundelpet which cost Rs.101/- only. Started to sleep but was disturbed by constant jerks and bumps. I did not even know where this place was. Finally around 4:00 in the morning two co-passengers who had to get down at the same place woke me up and told me get down. I got down and searched for a bus stand but couldn’t find any. Luckily I found four localites who were travelling towards Mysore and they told me to walk till checkpost which was about a kilometer away.

After having a glass of tea I walked towards checkpost. Unable to find any bus I asked some truck drivers for a lift but the checkpost inspector advised me not to board and wait over there. At around 7:00 in the morning a bus to kozhikode came and I boarded it. All I knew was place called Wayanad but this was a district with lot of places, I got a ticket to Kalpetta costing Rs.34/- without knowing where it was.

On enquiring with another passenger I understood that this was closer to the place of trek where I wanted to go. After a brief check by the Kerala customs which made to think of bringing Toddy back to Bangalore. I reached Kalpetta at 9:00am and walked around to find a Plaza Tourist home. After freshening myself I walked all the way to Kerala Tourism office which was down the road. Getting to know the information I boarded a bus to Kolgarappa (Rs.7/-) and from there took another bus to Ambalavayl (Rs.3/-). Finishing my brunch over there in Hotel Greens with a plate of parotta and a glass of tea (Rs.14/-), I took an auto to the first place I wanted to visit EDAKKAL Caves. The auto driver charged me Rs.25/- it was 5km from the

place where I had my brunch. From the parking lot I started walking all the way up. It was steep and walking was little difficult. Though there was a jeep service till the bottom of the caves I denied it and walked.

At the feet of caves I took a ticket (Rs.5/-) and with a guide climbed up the rocks and ladder to reach the gate of caves. The guide gave a good knowledge of the history behind it and how the caves was formed.

I climbed the hill still further to see the border of the three states (Kerala, TamilNadu & Karnataka). Came down the to take some more photos and reached the feet of the caves. From there I started the walk back to Ambalavayl. Down the slope and feeling thirsty had some

coconut water from shop, this was quite costly. Walking all the way back of about 6-7 km the kids kept staring at me, dont know what they were thinking.

At Ambalavayl I went into a heritage museum, had to enquire in a bakery shop where it was. Though not much was there in the museum but the ticket counter guy invited me to watch a movie Spiderman – I. Since I had seen it already I came out and thanked him for the offer.

Walked around the place without buying anything. Enquired about bus to the place Kalpetta.

Reaching Kalpetta at around 5:00pm I went staright and hit the bed.

Day 1 of my trip was over.

Next day I got up early after a bath packed my bag for trekking the Chembara peak. I walked towards the Civil station to meet three localites who were to give me company in the trek. We started with a glass of tea and rode on two bikes to the forest department for a permission. (The place is protected by the forest dept because of wildlife). We parked our bikes briefly to have our breakfast and then bought two packets of cigaretes, packet of salt and an expired Iodex spray to counter leeches. We also bought water bottles, biscuits, bananas and packed some lunch of dosas & puris. To note is that this was not the best time for trekking because of rainy season. The best

time is January – May. Then up we went till the base camp on bikes and parked it over there.

Then went over to meet the watchman of the forest, who read the letter and asked us to go ahead. Here started the actual trek of the day.

Time was 9:00am and the time estimate for 4hrs to reach the peak. The path was sandy, slippery and rocky. We stopped in between lot of times to take rest. We reached a heart shaped natural lake which was formed on top of one of the hills. This is a place where you can put

up a tent if you plan for trekking for more than one day. There was some fresh meat of deer lying over there. We finished a pack of biscuits and had some water and again continued on the journey.

My leg started giving problems with muscle pull in the leg I had to pull myself up and kept walking. One guy was behind me and two in front. The leader had the iodex spray out to spary on leeches found on the way. We reached a spot and took some rest. From this spot the peak

was another 10minutes away. I took a video of a mist passing us. After the video shot and few more jokes shared we trekked up and reached the peak pulling overselves up the rocks. We removed our shoes and checked for any leeches, finding none openened our lunch pack. The time was 12:45pm. We were almost on time. With lot of leeches around we had to keep jumping around and kept the bags in safer place with iodex sprayed in a circle. We finished our lunch and took some rest. We met some 6 guys from Bangalore who came without any pack and finished our water.

We decided to walk down to the forest at 1:45pm and spot some deer. We were lucky to find a sambar deer but it ran away and couldnt click a photo of it. We came back to the peak at 2:15pm and after resting for 5 minutes started our way down. There was a shortcut available and

walked fast. There was large dark clouds gathering and there was definite chance of rain. This shortcut was worse that it was more slippery and more rocky. My shoes also played a part, with no grip I kept slipping whenever I stepped on sand or water and had a tough time balancing myself. My leg went from bad to worse and I was barely able to lift my right leg. We managed to reach the base camp in around 2.5hrs. After a brief chat with some guys who were standing there, we went off to Soochi Parai waterfalls which was about 20km from the base

camp.

There was a parking lot in the waterfalls from there it was another 1km to the waterfalls and the path was a slope downwards filled with sand. After walking down we had to walk on rocks and climb down, the rocks were covered with fungus and it was getting more dificult. Still we managed and reached to have a nice bath the time was 5:30pm. Finishing our bath we started our way up and stopped in the parking lot to have lime soda and tea. After that we were back on our way to Kalpetta the starting place. I waited for some time and had dinner and India Coffee House. A masala dosa and vada costing Rs.12/- only. I proceeded to take some rest. Day 2 of my trip was over. To be noted was of the three localites only one could speak little Tamil and I had

to manage in Malayamised Tamil with them the whole day. One of them was an Architect and rest two were Govt servants (dont know where they all work).

Day 3 started with me vacating the Tourist home and took a bus to Pookat lake. The stop was Thalipuzha and the ticket was Rs.5.50/-. From the bus stop I had to walk for around 600meters and reached the lake. Ticket had to be taken for me and for the camera which totalled to Rs.15/-. The ticket counter guy was very friendly and started talking in Tamilised malayalam. I was alone again and walked around the lake and took some photos. There was also an aquarium with some funny names for fishes. After spending an hour I took a bus to Kalpetta Rs.4.50/- and waited for 1hr before I got a bus to Bangalore. I got a seat and sat down to think about the two and half a days I had spent over there.

How three localites whom I never knew before came along with me, how I managed without Malayalam. The jokes and songs we shared.

A trip which I went for without a plan and alone was perfect. Nobody tried to fool me or tried to rob me. People were friendly from Gundelpet Checkpost to the localites of Karnataka, Tourist home owners in Kalpetta, localites of kerala, shop keepers in Ambalavayl, ticket counter guy in museum and in Pookat lake, not to forget the passengers from Bangalore to Gundelpet and from Gundelpet to Kalpetta and from kalpetta to Bangalore. These people made my trip memorable.

Why I went alone, no strings attached!!

PS: for photos you can look into http://photos.yahoo.com/krisatish.