68. Heights of Certainty

@Vagamon, Kerala, India.

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Vagamon, one of the rising hilly tourist destination is located around a hundred kilometres from Cochin and Angamaly, 96 kilometres from Alwaye and 62 kilometres from Kottayam which should also have the nearest railway station. Listed by National Geographic Traveler as one of the ’50 most attractive places to visit in India’, the beauty of the place is not something which could give rise to a dispute. The place of Vagamon as a tourist place in comparison to the other prominent hill stations like Munnar, Ooty, Coonoor and Kodaikanal should be less undisputed though, as it is more of a place of lesser hilly experience, not just because of low level commercialization, but also because of the seemingly lesser heights and those easier curves along with much less fuel burnt along the way. This is when considering the route which takes a right turn before Moolamattom, on the way to Ilaveezhapoonjira, not taking that upcoming right turn which would lead one to that place with that long a name, which was mentioned a few posts ago. The other route might be less traveled, longer by about five kilometres, and more beautiful, but would be more difficult to drive with its twists and turns supported by steepness. May be it is more upto the winner of the battle between the driver and the photographer, the fuel-saver and the nature-poet to decide.

There was the absence of the feeling of a ‘coldling’, as I would call it, derived from the frostlings whom I encountered as a gamer in Age of Wonders and World of Warcraft. There was simply not enough fall in the temperature which I had experienced before rising to those heights, even as there was some rain in the last few days. This absence was a sad thing considering the fact that it was a visit to a hill station, or whatever was close to that. A visit during a Christmas night might undoubtedly make that feeling go away, but Ooty, Coonoor and Munnar during the cruelest months of horrid summer had felt much better. This might have a boon for some and bane for many, and for me, it was surely the latter. Even the tea couldn’t play a significant enough role, as the plantations were very less and the tea outlets were rarely found. There was absolutely no variety in the tea even as the wonderful drink didn’t taste any less in Vagamon either. But still, tasting chocolate tea, masala tea, ginger tea and whatever might have been, was that experience I had longed for even at Vagamon. This added to the list of those failed tea expeditions, as even those tea plantations looked comparatively dull.

There were a number of trees which seemed to support a re-writing of ‘The Wasteland’ and calling for a few people to wait for Godot under them right under that fire-breathing brother of Selene and Eos. It was the time of the titans at Vagamon, and the winged chariot was steady, spreading its own version of heat to the people far away from shade, and one has to wonder if those wheels might also be burning at a rate close to supernova – when mentioned as ‘hot wheels’, everything is becoming more and more closer to the literal meaning; I wouldn’t doubt that we are surely closer to the apocalypse, for Sol Invictus could bring the armageddon on Earth singlehandedly. The absence of enough restaurants is another thing to contribute to this depressing Sol hunt. There were only the smaller ones which would force oneself to have Porotta which is considered the abomination of the stomach next only to Shawarma the ruthless murderer a.k.a the assassin of the chicken devouring monster. The option of rice might be present, but with not much curry choices, one would be disappointed. Whatever else would be left, I would have to avoid considering my determination to keep myself as close to being Vegetarian as possible. That was a time when one had to dream about an Indian Coffee House rising from the world of Hades and Persephone.

The churches of Vagamon reminded more of Philip Larkin’s Church Going rather than giving strength to the belief. It is more of a sleeping town, with not many option in the form of shops, unlike Munnar, Ooty, Coonoor or Kodaikanal. This is a place which has not lived upto the reputation as a self-sufficient destination for the tourists. There is the need to depend a lot on Thodupuzha as well as Muvattupuzha. Its scenic valleys and pine forests would still help it on being that powerful future destination for sure. A little more importance to tea would help a lot too. The green meadows would come first for me in that case. They are so enchanting that one tends to forget that it exists in this part of the world. Surrounded by mountains with lake in between, the return of a faint memory of the Lake District would not be something totally unexpected. Some mist or fog might have helped the situation, but at that time, there was just Helios, myself and more humans coming and adding to the noisy crowd providing not a micro second of peace to that world which might have inspired thousands of people with eternal silence of a cursed mouth, for not just Alan Sillitoe has to deal with the loneliness of long distance runners – we are all runners and we run marathon, some feel it is just a walk, but it is surely not so; for one has to be that much honest and thus stay that close to truth.

Those bald hills stood there; the were green-headed people, might have been aliens on another planet sent by the engineers. Pardon me, Prometheus, for thou shalt not be avenged this time, for this beauty is quite spectacular. The small question for the need for the green aliens is a sane demand and it has to be fulfilled; for all these are not forever, and when we have it, let us celebrate this and try our best to extend the lifeline. Let us do the right thing at this moment. One day, one might have to say mea culpa a hundred times, but let that day not come and pray that mother nature do survive all onslaughts. May the presence of Kurisumala, meaning ‘mountain of the Holy Cross’ guide us in this. Kurisumala monastery is also situated on the Kurisumala hill. There is the solo reign peace around disturbed only by some unnecessary yelling by a few two-legged creatures claiming to be awesome beyond intellect. The hill serves as a famous pilgrimage center for the Christians with crosses put-up on the way up.

There are also the diary farms and beautiful areas to pose for a photo, still not as much as I expected, for mine were the great expectations fueled by the journeys to Munnar, Ooty and Coonoor. This was the first place to be visited, and my order was flawed, should be my mistake – for it should have been from Vagamon to Munnar and then Coonoor to Ooty combined with Kodaikanal. But now all that has been done is done, and Vagamon will be remembered by me as the Little Munnar and the Lesser World of Tea; still Vagamon continuing to be that place of beauty which comes incredibly close to making some one a nature poet of the Lakes. It is somewhat the Lake District and a bit of Scotland, but what awaits Vagamon is yet to be seen – further tourism always creates something, and there are times when it is a ten headed monster. For now, lets enjoy what awaits in Vagamon and be sure to bring those packets of food rather than depending on the restaurants except for some tea and ice cream.

Diving out —>

TeNy

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66. Mystifying Nature

@Urulanthanni, Kerala, India.

Some say that the nature of the universe mystifies humans – those thinkers, philosophers and all those people who are responsible for the intellectual greatness which has been achieved in those centuries. But what could be said about the nature of nature which has been mystified through ages right from the age of the Romantic poets, or may be even before them in another way. The nature has remained a mystery for centuries and in my humble opinion, it still remains so, and it doesn’t matter how much the science has progressed. There is always the mystery element and the things that science can’t solve, for everything is not about logic and reasoning; for not everything is meant to be found out – the mystery element keeps the world beautiful and our minuteness in this huge universe is not something which should inspire us to be evil and wretched, but to respect the creation of God, for there would be no point if everything is explained using theories and our descendence is from some random ape; some people might find some relief in it – Planet of the Apes was a good movie and Rise of the Planet of the Apes is fine too, but that art-entertainment combo is an entirely different thing.

All the glorification of scientific discoveries is leading to a world that Dorian Gray had? That would be a situation worse than the hell that Keanu Reeves’ Constantine visited, with the devastation supported by the moral degradation of many centuries, all in one poisoned tea cup, the lovely drink replaced by the pathetic immoral half-truths. Beyond these poisonous factors of a world degraded by over-use of science and technology, there lies Urulanthanni, the virgin land of beauty, untouched by the evils of science other than the basic elements which brings no evil. There is still the need to keep the exploitation of science and modernity away. Its a fact that the places unexplored would remain the most beautiful places of natural beauty. Technology from being a boon has become that bane that makes the Dark Knight’s enemy look like a little evil man with the mind of a small kid. It makes fate a lesser destroyer of lives; the more dangerous thought would still be about how dangerous a combo they would make if put together in a cage with no door, no way to escape. They might join together to create that monster of science, somewhere close to a mutant – not of X-Men, but of Resident Evil, for some viruses are of another grade. The horror never ends with science’s newer ideas of exploiting God’s creations.

After leaving the fake that is technology for the truth that is the beauty of nature, the place is about sixty kilometres from Alwaye and seventy-seventy five from Ernakulam. A significant resting place on the way would surely be Kothamangalam, with enough good restaurants to have tea and food. If the chosen path is through Muvattupuzha, that could serve as a better base before the journey to the interiors, as the Indian Coffee House there has more parking area and there is another good vegetarian restaurant just before it with enough space to park the car. Aluva and Perumbavoor are always good options too, with many vegetarian and non-vegetarian restaurants, so many of them to choose from – a stop might be necessary as the number of options would be getting lesser and lesser once one crosses the town of Kothamangalam. Both the Catholic and the Jacobite Syrian Cathedrals of Kothamangalam would also ask for some attention on the way, with a long history and the beauty that they exhibit. There is always a possibility of stopping on the way and therefore one has to be ready to apply the brakes all the time, if there is the thought of enjoying the beauty of nature all the time.

After Kothamangalam, the next major stop would be Thattekad, which is not only a beautiful stop with a great view from the bridge, The Thattekad Bird Sanctuary, covering an area of about 25 km² is one of the important bird sanctuaries in India, named after Salim Ali, one of the best known ornithologists in the nation. This bird sanctuary has a rich and varied birdlife which could be interesting to some. The Bhoothathankettu reservoir as well as that of Idamalayar are worth having a look, but for these option, there is the need to take a turn before moving on to Thattekad route from Kothamangalam. This could be done before moving on to the bird sanctuary on the way to Urulanthanni. The next place which is close enough to be called a small town is Njayappilly, and then there is Kuttampuzha. The option to go to Pooyamkutty might be there for another significant experience, but Urulanthanni would demand a right turn which could be acknowledged by asking any of the helpful people who might be standing on the roadside. It is surely a better option as this is not a place to visit using google maps – may be the purest of mother nature would never approve of it either, for the modern men should be able to find the best of nature by themselves and not by some random technology.

When the destination is reached, the beauty which you have witnessed already would really be playing in your mind. The place might be found by accident too, for sometimes nature calls you and gets you to the right location. This might be something Ace Ventura might agree, and one needn’t be that aggressive to find nature’s gift; for it does appear right in front of you at times as long as there is that eye to see the signs. The rest is upto you; for one can try to be a “Lord of the Flies” character, another Robinson Crusoe or just a random recluse – what would hurt nature the most might be a modern man with all his bloody modernity with him. But there would still be no range for most of the mobile connections, only Vodafone coming up with full range and Idea with a little range at times. The rest would be dead, with no sign of any existence giving that feeling of being a mobile phone carved in stone; it is good to have that feeling of Stone Age, for people need to know that technology will ultimately fail and what would remain is pure nature as long as it remains alive. Urulanthanni is still a success of Vodafone, for nobody might have thought that it would have an upperhand over BSNL and Airtel at such a location.

The way to waterfalls, crossing quite a number of waterbodies was quite beautiful, with greenery all around, and no specific path to walk around – for it was all green and grass covering was tall enough to make any existing path not easily noticeable. The water level kept increasing throughout the waterbodies which had to be crossed on the way and by the time of return, there was water till just a little below the waist of a 5’8″ person. The leeches made a good work out of legs, making sure that the blood kept coming out of the legs for hours, from more than one spots. This should surely work well enough for a future thesis in Gothic Horror – for they did quite a good job in vampirism, sucking the blood and enjoying every moment of it. It is thus not a negative thing, but a positive addition – just as the waterfalls and the greenery along with some strange remains of a structure gave the feeling of playing Tomb Raider, and that thing looked more like those magic vaults of Age of Wonders – that game which sucked hours out of my life. All these combined to create that feeling of nostalgia – not just of nature, but also of that technology whose influence is now limited in my life.

Diving out —>

TeNy