Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Adventure to Wayanad

We had Googled, we had read articles and we had seen pictures. But nothing could have prepared the 13 of us from the tools team for the magical world that was waiting for us in Wayanad.

It all started during one of the late night stays in office, when we all realized it was time to take a break. Google was unceremoniously attacked by multiple browser windows and plausible destinations were looked at. Couple of pictures of Wayanad and we were all ready to go to Wayanad. Couple of days and lots of phone calls later, we had made our arrangements. 13 of us would leave Chennai to Calicut on evening train on 1April and would transport ourselves using a pre booked cab from Calicut to the ghats of Wayanad.

It was like crossing a line. The winding roads up the ghats took us far away from the roaring sounds of civilization, from the grindings of machinery to couple of decades back in time. There were greenery all around us. The height at which we were commanded a view where even the shadows made by the clouds could be seen. The world, was under our feet!

The first step

The mystical world had a fitting entry. The fabled "Chain tree"!

A huge banyan tree has a chain running through it. Along with the physical chain, the tree also had a lot of stories chained with it. Popular legend goes that during the time of the reign of the white skinned, a white engineer was helped by a local tribesman to make a pliable road to the Ghats. Once the road was done, the White Engineer killed the tribesman and took the entire credit to himself. The Tribesman, not to take things lying, became a Ghost and killed all travelers through that road, until a magician chained this waylaid spirit to the tree. Ra, ra, Chandramukhi ra ra!!!

We turned off the NH when we saw a board that proclaimed the name of our resort. Expecting people and the usual hustle bustle of a resort anytime, we were caught by surprise, when we saw the fine print under the name board "9 km ahead!". We were put up in a resort which was 9 km into thick jungle. And no pseudo foliage here, we speak about unkempt, thick jungle. Traveling 9 km through pathways, mud ways, kuchcha bridges brought us to a huge compound dotted with small buildings around. There was something weird about the set up but we could not put our fingers into it.. until, well, until we spoke to the resort management.

We were escorted to our villas, about half a km from the main building and was given the option of taking two villas. The two villas were around 50 meters apart. We took our rooms and it was then the thing that was bothering us were revealed to us. We were in the middle of the jungle. And we were. We were so much into the jungle that we did not have electricity supply tot he resort. The power needs to the resort was managed by generator sets and in the nights, inverters with very, VERY, limited powers. Of course we were brave guys, and couldn't we stay in separate rooms and villas??Of course we could. Scared? Who, us ???? OH come on, we are the type that Ghosts get scared of! But then, won’t we be speaking and playing till late night? So shouldn’t we all stay in the same villa?? :):)... You know, its not about fear, just about being together so that we can play and talk together. :) It was easy to get the concurrence, especially with the fact that once inside the villa we aer compeltely cut off from everything else - even going to the other villa through the forest! :) So stay, was together, in one villa, the first people to take the best beds available and the rest camping out in the hall! :)

Encounter with Nature

After the settling down, showers and a sumptuous lunch, it was trekking time. And we went to the deep jungles with wide eyes and whispering mouths. Even whispers strained to inaudible levels when the guide pointed the location where elephants come to quench their thirst. The last thing we all wanted was to be running for our lives with elephants on our trail! We wouldn't have worried so much about the big mammals had we known how exposed we were to the small little blood sucking leeches all around us. It was not until we were deep inside the jungle that we realized that there were few of them feasting comfortably on us. Their modus operandi is very simple. They crawl to you, clamp their claws in and start sucking blood. Once their potbelly is full they just fall out. Well, within couple of hours, we were as used to them as they were getting to our warm fresh city blood!

We walked through what could easily have been the sets of the movie "The Blair witch Project". Surrounded by mist, silence and dense jungle, we prodded on to reach a small hillock that greeted us once again, with flowing mist which attempted to envelop us from all us side. Panting, we were humbled so simply by the astounding beauty of nature around us. But then, the trek was just a preview of things to come.

The next day saw us going to Edakkal caves. A cave that boasts of drawings by Neanderthal men. Human endurance, evident from the Neanderthal age, took us even further than just those caves. We had the quest to climb the mountain, which, they said, was possible. As we moved higher and higher, slowly the crowd thinned. From 13 of us to the cave, it was 7 of us to the next level, and then 5 of us to the final climb. There we were, standing and looking up at the perilous climb, when a family with a lady garbed in a saree, coolly climbed up. Ego, the y say, is the strongest motivator of all!!! Once we saw that, there was no stopping us 5 to climb to the top. Enthusiasm took us almost to the top, Well, Almost. At one point, we looked down and realized that what goes up has to come down too!! The slope down looked more scary than anything in life. Crawling back most of the time, we inched our way down to safety. The high point of the climb was when one of us looked down at the slope that we have to climb down and decided he would make a call to his mother and speak to her :). He did speak, by the way! (Technology bears its re silient step there too. There was full signal up at the mountain pe ak too!!!!) Well, i am here to write this now, so we did make it down, but come to think of it, how, i am not sure if we would remember now !

And our descent was not a minute too soon. For as soon as we re ached the comfort of our van, that it rained - not rained, poured incessantly. And with the rain, life poured into the already lush foliage. We made our way back after a wonderful drive through the wild life sanctuary of Muthanga. It was pretty late and still raining when we reached the side road ( with 9 km still to go ! ) to our resort. our driver calmly proclaimed that the van cannot go up to the resort and we will have to call for the local jeeps that can take us up to the resort. The danger was not driving, but if the tyre slips - well, he left the rest unsaid and i think we too preferred it that way! Anyway, the jeeps were there with our resort manager, who was probably used to such trips. They took us to the resorts, fed us good food and we dropped off to dream land.

Humbled by Heritage

The next day was to be spent playing hide and seek with the symbols of heritage spotted across the wide district. We were forced to pick and select few of them for want of time. Diversity makes you want to visit all of them without missing any one of them. Where else would you find a mossalman mosque that was built by Hindu community, a Hindu temple where everyone is allowed to come inside without no religion / caste creed barrier. Where else would you find the papanasini with the Thirunelli temple, arguably one of the best architectured temples of olden kerala - situated on top of a mountain and surrounded by three more. The whole atmosphere was enough to build reverence in anyone. We were lucky that we could visit few of the rare temples - a temple for the matsya avatara of lord Vishnu and a temple where there are three pratishtha' s of Durga. The same temple also hosted a pratishtha of Sita Devi with LAva and Kusha under the 'Ashoka tree'. But, the reverence reached the highest point at the Thrissillery temple.

Reputed to older than 4000 years, the temple at the foot hills of the mountain that holds the sacred Thirunelly temple, holds some very rare pratishthas. It boasts of one of the only eight pratishthas of jala durga, placed by the warrior sage Parashuraman himself. This deity has a body of water around it, which has been reputed ne ver to dry up all these years. The same temple holds a deity of Goshalakrishnan and also of a Lord Ayyappa in a penance post in the jungle ( which forces the temple authorities not to have a roof for this deity ! ). The main deity if a swayambhu ( self evident ) Siva linga which is inexplicably tied to the lord Vishnu deity up in the mountain of thirunelly.

And back to reality

It was with a filled mind and a very very satisfied heart that we started our journey back to civilization. It was a memorable trip where the wheels of time turned back all the way. Un-spoilt virgin Wayanad, where we could still drink sweet cold water from any tap at the road side and not be worried about the he alth hazards, the Wayand where bottled drinks like coca cola and Pepsi were unheard of, was bidding us farewell. It took about 4 hours for the Van to travel through decades and take us to the hustle and bustle of Calicut.

The train greeted us with the same cheer that it greets every one of her traveler and soon the never tiring chuk chuk of the train drowned all our senses. Lots of memories, lots of conversations and a wink of sleep later, we were back in Chennai. A new day, 3 days away from the last w orking day, and it was as through we had made a trip to an alien land far away in time and space. Amongst us was the feeling of satisfaction of having gone through a wonderful trip and the longing for a longer more relaxed trip to the same magical land of Wayanad. To get drenched in its magical serenity again, to dip in its agonizing simplicity again.

We were all in Chennai, and yet we all carried a part of the magic with us, in our heart!