79. Thy Tourist Village

@Kumbalangi, Kerala, India.

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There has been not many places that I have known for this long a time, but Kumbalangi certainly remains one of them. I remember going there with my parents in a boat, as it was more of an island without a bridge rather than just another remote village. There was quite a long time spent looking at the backwaters waiting for the boat. I would wonder if that had given birth to some creativity which I kept for myself. I used to be afraid of the time spent on the boat, and always believed in death by water kept ready by the Grim Reaper himself. But the fact remains that I have traveled there more when there was no bridge, and less when there came that bridge. Thus are the games which fate plays on us. There is no doubt that the place has gotten better, but the fact remains that I myself has no longer the interest nor the need; but I did visit the place a few months ago contradicting my thoughts about not going.

It is located about fourty to fifty kilometres from the Cochin International Airport, and about fifteen kilometres from the Ernakulam South Railway Station. Yes, the place is well connected and there are more than one routes to reach there. There is an older road from the other side of the island, but it is quite a long one which is not recommended due to possible rise in the water levels and the condition of the roads. The first one may be the most commonly used and the most crowded path which goes through Edappally, Palarivattam and Kaloor, going through M.G. Road, and the another one is the same road which takes a small deviation which goes through Ernakulam Jetty and passes near the High Court and these two roads join together later as if they are made for each other. Both routes have lots of city service private buses and Thiru-Kochi buses of Kerala State Road Transport Corporation along with AC and non-AC low-floor buses of Volvo and Ashok Leyland make every fifteen minutes or twenty minutes apart from each other making this the most desirable route if travelling by public transport.

The two were the roads which we used to take when I was a kid, during those journeys to Kumbalangi in the city service private buses which remained the only choice at that time. The second one can be joined by a road which takes right turn from Kalamassery – the Vallarpadam Terminal Road which has the least amount of traffic and has the better roads except for small areas which should have some potholes and unexpected rising of terrain. The next one has a number of busy junctions on the way which goes through Edappally, Vyttila and Marad joining the other road on the new bridge to Thoppumpady, a route having tolls, but not too much to be spent – not that crowded except for those big junctions. Just be aware of the Vyttila junction which might be the busiest interjunction around despite the size of the roads. This road can also be joined from Thrikkakara and Kakkanad if a left turn was taken from Kalamassery towards the HMT junction. It is a clear one road from the airport to Aluva though, as the other possible routes towards the Perumbavoor side are more of the unreliable ones.

You can visit Kumbalangi when you go to Fort Cochin or Mattanchery, taking a deviation from Thoppumpady. The first thing you notice is surely the backwaters and the Chinese fishing nets which are located around – just like a visit to Fort Kochi. Kumbalangi is actually more of a cheaper alternative to Fort Kochi and Mattanchery even as there is not much of a history out there, with Saint Francis Church, Santa Cruz Basilica, Dutch Palace or the Jewish Synagogue, and the development also might seem less. But Kumbalangi Integrated Tourism Village project has been transforming the village and the visit is going to be totally worth the money. The island also has its smaller but beautiful churches, that is for sure – a good number of them on the sides of the main road itself. They are symbols of faith and belief which has disappearing from the world at high speed. I have known most of those churches for quite a long time and did attend mass at more than half of them. There is that beauty in simplicity and serenity out there.

Kumbalangi is the first Model Tourism Village in India, and thus has undergone quite a transformation which has not ceased yet. There is financial assistance from the state government, and the procedure has seen increase in the number of tourists who come to the place, but there is not too much rush till now. It is indeed blessed with natural beauty which has not been seen or explored much. There are smaller roads and not many bigger shops and restaurants are around, but that doesn’t take away anything. It is the ideal destination for everyone who wishes to keep away from the crowd and enjoy peace and calmness with nature supported by whatever joy the backwaters bring. There are many interesting and cheap packages for the same. It will be good if you add the place to the list when you travel to Fort Cochin and Mattanchery, as that should make a good combination. May be you can go through Kumbalangi and reach Fort Cochin through the other side of the island thus going through the centre of the island.

If you do go to Kumbalangi, there is Kallanchery which you can visit. There is also a resort of three acres, surrounded by the awesomeness of backwaters there, called Kallenchery Retreat which is a very beautiful place to spend time – it is Kallenchery Retreat (http://www.kallancheryretreat.com/) and you can check that website for more details. There are not many places like that around. Check this website and you will know about a miraculous church which you won’t want to miss – situated at Kannamaly at the end of the island (http://kannamaly.com/news/kannamali-church/) and the festival there is very famous as people from all parts of Kerala comes there for blessings. I hope none of you will miss that church and it will be even better if you are there for the feast. It also has a history as the first church there goes back to 1745. It is also the native village of our honourable minister of food and agriculture, K.V. Thomas who has also written a book about the place, Ente Kumbalangi. When you visit South India, take your time and have a look at one of the most beautiful backwater villages of South Asia at a cheap rate and a lot of happiness.

I would like to leave you with these images of Kerala Backwaters. (Check Kerala Tourism’s latest campaign on the most fascinating waterworld on Earth @ http://greatbackwaters.com/)

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Diving out —>
TeNy

74. Myth with a Dam

@Bhoothathankettu, Kerala, India.

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The story of Bhoothathankettu doesn’t begin nor end with our last trip to the place, a journey which happened about an year ago. It goes back to that childhood when Bhoothathankettu used to be one of the favourite tourist spots which we visited more than once, due to its easy accessiblity. It is just about ten kilometres away from the town of Kothamangalam and fifty kilometres away from the main city of Kochi. There was also the easy access from Perumbavoor, Angamaly and Aluva. It was still distant enough at that time, but closer than the rest. For some reasons, it had occupied the top of our most interesting places and the place which we should visit again and again. It used to be a place close to the heart. In the beginning, it was a small world and the travel restrictions were rightly there. Still, no matter how far we travelled, the significance of the place remained the same. So the place can claim to be the pioneer of the Travel Diaries of this world and beyond, not in an official manner, but as belonging to the mysterious ways the world works to halt a traveller and to make him go for a journey which is least expected by himself and the society.

Therefore, it has a powerful nostalgia associated with it for us. It was more like a satellite, a natural one which surrounded our world. It was our Saturn’s Titan or Jupiter’s Callisto, for that being Earth would be too predictable. We made some good visits there with Kothamangalam as the base, but the visits faded away until three visits were made in the last six years, not bad for a time when exploring new areas was the trend for one half, and watching movies later replaced the same. The first of the three visits was the reclaiming of childhood without knowing it, the second one being the same thing knowing it all, and the third one was the journey for the camera which was still not a planned one, the most spontaneous of them all, as if the forces of nature had a direct involvement in an unstoppable procedure. There is always more than what meets the eye as long as such a place is concerned, and we were the adventurers at times. The place is blemished in its history with only one accident, as on 20th February 2007, eighteen people on a school excursion drowned in Periyar at Thattekkad, not that far away from the location of the dam.

Along with the dam which stands there, there are huge blocks of unshaped stones are placed on both sides of the river Periyar, making it look like a natural dam built by some supernatural force. The name Bhoothathankettu, means “ghost fort”, “demon fort” or “monster fort”, not with a clear translation, as “bhootham” or “bhoothathan” can mean more than one thing, and the difference in traditions would make it almost impossible to make a perfect translation, and only transcreation is possible. The presence of something supernatural has to be attributed to the myths, which doesn’t really make an impact these days. The ghosts have become more and more gentle and friendly. But the name of the place does give a kick to the curiosity of the common man who hear about it for the first time. The rest has to be experienced in person. We feel the supernatural almost every day, but that still won’t tickle our reasoning ability even by an inch. We feel it in thunder, lightning, rain and everything we see each and every moment, but we fail to recognize them. So wretched is our state, as we feel them all, but fails to know that we feel; the touch of the other world hardly affects us, as we are so much attached to the scientific methods that we deny the existence of those souls.

In the world of Twilight vampires and all the good-looking monsters who keep on attaining more and more transformations towards the side of beauty, the interest might keep rising higher and higher. But what kind of interest would that be, when the creatures of darkness are no longer of their quality, and sometimes not even grey? Ultimately, that really shouldn’t count, whatever they say. As the curiosity doesn’t kill most of the cats these days, there is not that much worry associated with it. The lack of fear and the glorification as well as the beautification of the supernatural has done more bad than good in a world of confused people. The twists of fate happen just too often, and there is none when you need them. One has to wonder what is in them, but there is no right answer, as it is not something which should have happened, even as there might have been some predictions already. There are moments when one wishes for death, but this is not one of them, for this is just pleasure-seeking even in the most dreaded monsters of the world.

Thattekkad Bird Sanctuary and the Idamalayar Dam are also quite close to Bhoothathankettu. The bird sanctuary is actually quite close, and just a turn is necessary on the way back to Kothamangalam. It has a rich collection of birdlife and is a common tourist attraction even as it pales in comparison to Bhoothathankettu which has a high number of visitors on the holidays, both from inside and outside the state. A day trip to all three places; Thattekkad, Bhoothathankettu and Idamalayar is also a usual thing. Bhoothathankettu surely is good enough to be one of the most visited places in Ernakulam district as well as in Kerala – it is just not publicized enough. This has been more due to the lack of infrastructure as well as the absence of advertisements. But the situation has been getting better. Sometimes, its peace and tranquility is all that you need to make one visit. The fort of the demons is not the place you associated these qualities with. But who can deny such a thing when one has experienced this peace? Even if the demons had come back to haunt us, there is still enough in this little world to keep one interested.

It is a very scenic place right from the beginning, from the first step you take into the beauty of that place. You can walk on the side of the dam, not just on the dam. The walk with water flowing on the side, will refresh one faster than ever – free from the troubles of city life, work or student life. There is plain nature at its best, without too much interference from the humans. If it is not the weekend, this might be the perfect place to escape to. There are times when one fails to find the right place to escape into nature. But this might just work for most of the people. The sights of the hills and the greenery far away might even inspire one to explore more. There is also a park to support the whole thing, and it has been there as long back as I can remember it. There might have surely been changes made, and add-ons giving support, but the base thing has been there for a very long time. There should be enough entertainment for the children, and a good view of the dam is also possible from a point there. On the other side, there is the boating facility, and also the “erumadam” or the treehouses which are common at the tourist areas of Kerala. There is a good view from the top of it, and the beauty of the area is to be viewed from that point. It gets even better with the rain. Therefore, I wish you the moment.

Diving out —>

TeNy

69. The Sleeping Beauty

@Thommankuthu, Kerala, India.

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This is something which would keep away from the original fairy tales of Charles Perrault or the Grimm Brothers despite of the title. As the author of this blog is not dead and the possibility of editing is always there, having such a fairy tale title would hurt no soul permanently. The elements of ‘sleep’ and ‘beauty’ would still reign supreme, for those are the things which makes the title not ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, ‘Snow White’, ‘Rapunzel’ or ‘Cinderella’. Thommankuthu Falls lie asleep with all its beauty at a location around eighteen kilometres from Thodupuzha; sixty three kilometres from Aluva; seventy two kilometres from Cochin. Our path was the one which touched Muvattupuzha and Thodupuzha; for a stop at the Indian Coffee House belonging to the former, was totally necessary, something which was becoming more of a great tradition which is going to pass on to the future generations through the legends, supported by fairy tales and vampire stories with the exception of the strange, pale Twilight’s twin sisters who are set to follow the footsteps of their elder sister who made a complete nonsense out of the vampire belief.

The path to Thommankuthu itself had the force of attraction; there was just raw scenery; small waterbodies and bridges which blend into nature as if they are all the same, belonging to Gaia, the children of one force; credit to whatever Uranus and Pontus provided, or even those which are adopted. This is one closer to the absence of that need to perfect terrakinesis. It was a suitable scene for a near perfect photo right before entering through that gate. There was also the presence of tea shops to attract the people of the tea, but it was not till the end of the program, that there was the fall due to the temptation of that immortal drink. Still, considering the fact that there is the need to keep breaking the narrative as tea is more important than most of the other things in the world, here skips the flow, just to say that the tea was awesome. That procedure of drinking the elixir of life should have happened before the journey for sure – but it was the last thing we did, which meant that all the weariness of the journey would be declared void, and the tiring feeling existed only during the journey through the Thommankuthu Eco-tourism Project, as it was named. As I can’t help but reiterate in a different way, the tea which followed the journy had paradiso or parts of it.

Yeats had his vision, and its time one should have his own; but the fact remains that the extensive study had to go beyond the curriculum, for which each journey could contribute; this time of nature, next time spiritual and some other time historical. But the presence of one of them in another is not to be avoided, as mixtures are common and solutions are even more readily available. The same is the case of Thommankuthu which is more of mixture and is slowly moving towards being a solution. Here is the ecotourism destination that is Thommankuthu which has its own undisturbed beauty of nature right from the beginning, or even through the path leading there, being the best and the right alternative to standard commercial tourism of heavy modernity. But the disruption of the virigin nature and its territories is not something which is not entirely absent. The use of plastic, even if banned, would always be present in these areas. There would be pollution and disturbance to the flora and fauna, but for now, it is not at that much of a high rate which would be alarming at the first sight.

The narrator, obviously myself, was at unfamiliar territory, through a path which was beautiful was awesome until it narrowed down right after that board which titled “Danger” preventing people from jumping into the incredibly beautiful stream of water and rocks. It was a great journey through an area of fresh air until those smaller paths at some height was at sight, and it was ‘almost the road’ which was not taken till then. I was less like the foreign teams at India and more like the Indian cricket team abroad; not really being done with the spin, but with the swing provided by the breeze. To be frank, this was written at a time when India was playing England at home, being the fake cricketing giants and the team of home specialists, as three of the fabulous four, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman has retired and the ‘home only’ players were doing awesome enough to make sure that their team lose – and the worst of them might have still failed to score. One still has to guess they will continue to do the same; as theres always fame and fortune which guides them – let them gain the much needed enlightenment in that way for its just the matter of how long it might take for them to reach the ultimate stage of pure tube light: just saying things in a more scientific way so that the people of modernity can follow.

However one looks at the matter, it is quite strange that the blind fans would support a payback with turning pitches which their team itself can’t handle; for it proves that one still lives hidden behind those narrow domestic walls instead of going abroad and getting the job done. When there is no grass, little assistance for pace, bounce, or lateral air movement, just cracks which make it look like some area of drought, it is also an insult to the nature which has blessed man with so much plenty and beauty. A loss because of doing such a pathetic thing is pure justice and it is clearly self-inflicted. When people yell for victories of this sort, there is the emphasis on those pathetic walls, even more emphasis than what was provided by caste, creed, community, religion and language – walls are everywhere, but does humanity or even the life force create a wall? Is there a fortress which keep the ideals safe? What would be the role of customs and traditions in this world which runs on profit and victory? The global teams like Barcelona, Manchester United, Chelsea, AC Milan, Arsenal, Liverpool, Real Madrid and the plenty of beauty which is football might bring some of these bigger walls down and create smaller fences which might be a better thing – so might the awesomeness of Roger Federer and the machine that is Rafael Nadal. Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray are surely into it too. They are present as the global spirit, not as heroes of selfishness.

Getting the narrative back into track from the narrow-minded one-man, one or two nation show that is cricket to the global football and tennis, and now to where this had started, the falls were many; not just the Thommankuthu Falls, but also everything which existed far above it on the way up through the green areas of natural beauty. Here one moves to the Universal Brotherhood of Nature which is a far more advanced thought than whatever is provided by modernity. The true legends are there, hidden in a philosophy of whatever is green; and this is what preceded the legends of antiquity and the ridiculous pseudo-legends of modernity to which this land gives not much value. What is to be seen in the modern world which boasts of a multi-cultural nonsense is that lack of tolerance, and those bullies are forever, until the Doomesday – the wheel has turned too much and it is the time for it to stop and spin backwards. There is a limit to what you should provide, Prometheus; kindly don’t be Victor Frankenstein, for there are promises to keep; if not, there are tragedies awating all of us: blame fate as much as you like, but you are the pilot of your defying Embraer, the driver of your own Cadillac, Ulysses of your majestic Galley, the master and commander of your soul for now.

Diving out —>

TeNy

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

67. Waterfalls to Cherish

@Athirappilly, Kerala, India.

This is one journey which went through spirituality without earlier expectations. The desire for nature was surely rewarded, but the prize was even better with these spiritual additions in the form of beautiful churches which marked their presence on the way to Athirappilly. Saint Antony’s Church of Konnakuzhy was the most striking of them all, with the look of one of those Chinese civilization buildings in Age of Empires II, most probably resembling that of half-a-castle from the front side. It deviated from that East Asian building of the game, with three crosses – one of them Syrian, along with two stars which resembled the crosses. The centre of the structure had Jesus Christ stretching his arms and there were four other statues of saints, Mother Mary and Saint Anthony at both sides of the entrance. The blue colour shades made it clear that the structure was quite new and not of that world of tradition, most possibly a replacement for an older structure which might have found itself too small for the people on a Sunday. With a small, but beautiful curved altar with pictures which were rich in the beauty of simplicity was successful in giving that much needed close-to-divine feeling. It is said that there is always more than what meets the eye, and I would repeat it here, for there is the presence of God for sure.

Of the next two churches, one would be noticed by a wooden cross with its parts all tied up as if to keep it in shape, and the next one by the Pieta structure on its front. Both looked quite new, may be due to the paint or may be both were re-built on a date not too far away into the past. The second one seemed to depict modernity more than the first even as both showed very little attachment to any old tradition in architecture. The point to be noted is that the path taken was not through the much easier road from Angamaly as it was the road in better condition which turned from Chalakudy which was taken. This path surely had more spiritual elements with so many churches around while the other path might have gone closer to nature with smaller roads surrounded by greenery as well as Ezhaatumugham which would be on the way. The longer route still got more of Indian Coffee House, not just one, possibly two of them. In a world of outside food which is infested by bad shavarma, there would be not many who won’t long for a trustworthy place to have food, a place like Indian Coffee House which has been the perfect choice for better food for many Keralites; a place which I have known and visited ever since I was a little kid.

The journey through the greenery never ended, as the place had for itself a lot of it. The visiting time approved by Kerala Forest Department is supposed to be from 8AM to 6PM which meant that there was a lot of time for us to spend there. The first thing we see when we enter there are monkeys – not the humans who behave like the tree jumpers, but the real monkeys who are not related to Tarzan in any way. They are the creatures of the trees of nature who are disturbed only by the humans. Those who trace evolution from these creatures can surely go and live with them, for they were drinking and eating from whatever humans had left on the side of the path, including Frooti, Jumpin, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, 7up, Mountain Dew and everything they could get. When plastic is banned and people are not supposed to feed animals, the exact opposite things happen – one has to wonder what the word “ban” really means. If the animals were educated, they might have understood it better, for what is education these days but a rusty tool used to get jobs with good salary? There is surely no improvement of character or civic consiousness these days with professional courses which teach no value. All those basic human characteristics might be going down the drain with this one dimensional training suitable for circus.

The number of humans still outnumbered the monkeys by a large number, on a day which seemed to attract too many tourists. Therefore, there was a certainty that there won’t be any hostile takeover leading to a future Planet of the Apes. For now, the human existence will continue to harm their natural habitats. The number of people just kept on increasing as we walked down towards the end of the waterfall – that world was different now, and it has developed into a big tourist destination from what I had witnessed during a bike trip about six or seven years ago. That journey was surely more fun, but I wouldn’t be into that much fun anymore. It was the first big trip on a motor-bike, a Honda Unicorn which was new and running at exactly sixty kilometres per hour just for that much needed mileage boost – those were the days of immediate artificial awesomeness which faded away like evil at the gates of heaven, and now it is the season of long lasting beauty which is a permanent influence. Many of the devil’s people will find no difference between the two, but there is always a significant difference when the view point changes, and it is even more when the physical change is also visible easily.

As I don’t wish to make this more like Amitav Ghosh’s “In An Antique Land”, and confuse myself with my lack of knowledge of this world and the other which would be set ablaze by my strange imaginations, that bike trip would stay offline for now. There would be need to explain the scene of waterfalls as extremely beautiful. It is surely one of the most beautiful ones seen from this close a range, not exactly a perfect thing like Jurong Falls of Singapore, one of the tallest artificial waterfalls in the world; but a force of nature which has been weak in strength due to the lack of rain. But its beauty is not affected and during heavy rains, this would look gorgeous in another way. The view from the top is not much different either, even as it is the rock that we see more than the water falling from the top, but that scene also had its own beauty and this view might be more appealing to me than a stronger waterfall. The rock has its own beauty and its shape is not less appealing. The next destination would be Vazhachal Falls which is close enough, and there was another waterfall on the way which had almost dried up.

Vazhachal was not really the same as Athirappilly though, as it was not steep and had water flowing between rocks with a small inclination of the ground. But there was no question of the natural beauty around. It was viewed from that area which was built like a park which had a herbal garden and enough tea shops. The lines of Robert Frost’s poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” was quoted there on a board – “The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.” But it missed an “s”, of promises, may be they just had one promise to keep and I sincerely hope that they get to keep that promise. The waterfalls are lovely for sure, and therefore lets enjoy the beauty along with keeping the promises, our duty to the environment – by not exploiting the nature and abiding by the rules, for the rules are not meant to be broken and they are to be obeyed – if they were to be broken, why should they be called rules? Obedience might not be easy, and conscience is not a thing which enjoys co-existence with modernity, but there is a tradition, not only tracing back to Mahatma Gandhi, but even further behind the timeline upto King Mahabali, so lets live by the rules and keep this natural beauty clean and worthy enough for the future generations.

Diving out —>

TeNy

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

65. That Long a Name

@Ilaveezhapoonjira, Kerala, India.

With that long a name which could shock many non-Malayalam speakers and that part of speech which signify the absence of fallen leaves, the place is a tourist destination which is not yet crowded and exploited by the overdose of modernity. As one might still wonder about the reason why the leaves won’t fall and relate some fiery Gothic stuff to it with a powerful supernatural story as a backgound, the simplest fact might the powerful wind which could leave nothing that light on the ground without taking it away like Shelley’s own West Wind, and the absence of the bigger trees around. Located at about 18 kilometres from Thodupuzha, 55km from Kottayam and 60km from Cochin, the place should invite more trekkers than most of the places in Ernakulam district. The route should take a right turn on the way to Vagamon from Thodupuzha, a few kilometres after the Malankara Dam which can be seen on the left. The right turn can be identified by a CSI Church on the left side. There are a few sign boards to help the cause too. The beauty of the mountains can be seen from the road too; theres also beautiful scenery related to the dam reservoir on the left side. The greenery doesn’t fail either, and they all combine together to give a preface to Ilaveezhapoonjira.

The road to this destination is not that good though. There are enough twists and turns supported by pretty huge gutters on a small road which is big enough only for a car and a motor-bike to pass each other at the same time, and the sides of the roads are not in that good a condition for parking either. There is a ninety five percent chance for any of those lower-middle range cars, and most of those hatchbacks to lose all the confidence on their ground clearance. I would surely not look under my car for a long time, as this was the biggest of all those ground clearance failures which haunted any of the cars I had driven before the occasion. Watching bigger cars getting attacked by the rocks and parts of broken road did make me feel less worried about the capability of my car though. The path has surely turned my car pessimistic, and I am hoping that the four-wheeler of mine is not that depressed to lose its brakes while coming across a monster truck. Luckily, only a jeep and two auto-rickshaws came opposite to us, and it was at that area where there were houses or open grounds on the sides – those few points of relief which were hard to come if we look at an overall picture.

The car could take a few more pathetic areas of the road and a little off-roading until there was that time when more of the journey in a smaller four-wheeler near impossible. The rocks had started looking like Scott Steiner’s biceps, with some sharp areas which could have resembled half a cone ice-cream, the lower side of that cold edible thing. There were many small waterfalls on the way, and it was near one of those falls that the car was parked in the end. There was another smaller falls nearby and both of them seemed to have given the car a look to suit the photography. There was still more area to cover and more waterfalls to see on the way, all of them significantly small and not large enough to be given pet names. The journey to the top was surely difficult, and the path was horrible even for walking. There is also the option to hire one of those jeeps which might be better even as I don’t know how much of a shaky journey that would be. Walking with nature surely seemed a better option at that time though. After driving for so long, the walk was tiresome, but the beauty of nature had to be seen and enjoyed, the bliss had to come and rescue the mind from its fallen state, and therefore there was no stopping, and the walking was done at a good speed except for a few stops in between for taking snaps.

There was a resort-like structure and a small tea shop quite near the top. With rain clouds everywhere threatening to fire the grenades of rain drops, tea was a much needed thing. But the clouds still hesitated except for a few drops, and it was another day of no significant rain; another day of monsoon failure or the curse of the Lords of the rain. The wind was strong though, and even the grass bowed down to it as if the master of that small world had arrived. The fog was powerful enough to make it all feel so unclear; the beauty of nature still showed its face in between. The green colour was not easily hidden and the rocks sometimes gave the effect of watching a black and white version. The uncertainty of rain still prevailed. The power of the wind was good enough to bring back the memories of “Ode to the West Wind”, as if it was also a destroyer and a preserver, and carried our words, our ideas all the way to distant areas of the hills. The world was still, and everything looked stuck like a newer Operating System working in an older computer, until the wind had arrived. The wind and the fog created that new scene of beauty; as if it was West Wind’s twin brother, or at least a cousin; even the possibility of a double role or re-incarnation cannot be ignored.

As the journey happened in the morning itself, there was almost a complete lack of tourists around there. It was only by the time we were leaving, that people started arriving, not in groups, but in two motor-bikes and three cars which were clearly checked for ground clearance by the magnificient tester that is Ilaveezhapoonjira. There is the need for better roads ending the tragedy of cars, and there would surely be more visitors – the need for pubicity is also there, but that factor is surely being worked on right now. But when the roads remain like that even at a time that there is less rain, one has to wonder what monsoon would do to it sooner or later. Even an alternative, a longer, but better road would be a better solution. But the practical solution would be to repair them immediately, or see a few mad tourists. Robert Frost might consider this route as the road not to be taken, rather than the road not taken; but in that part of the world where even the most travelled roads needs lots of repair, that would be so much to expect, knowing the negative results in advance.

To be frank, none of these made the journey a failure, or a disappointment. All of these blended into a significant one-day trip which gave the mind much to remember for the next few days. There were not many different scenes, but just the same scene with frequent change of climate – with sunshine, clouds, powerful wind and the mystic fog supported by a little rain having a guest appearance. There was no shortage of that awesome poetic effect created by nature. I was being Ulysses or Odysseus, identified more by Lord Alfred Tennyson’s version rather than the others. I was also made weak, not by age, but by time and the world around me, and I was there to strive, to seek and not to yield. I had my small group of mariners, not of the sea, but of the land and the name nomads would suit us better, and on on that occasion, we were closer to that name both in spirit and also by the physical status. There were no Lotos-eaters though, not then, may be we could have seen similar people in the twilight, but that was not something this Ulysses had any interest in; as he was no war hero and his kingdom was absurd for many, for all the historians, poets and novelists wouldn’t have his name in their works.

Diving out —>

TeNy