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

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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

63. The Mist 1408

@Munnar, Kerala, India.

The Mist and 1408 are two of my favourite Stephen King works, and undoubtedly two of the best horror movie adaptations from a work belonging to the horror genre. As my journey to Munnar is concerned, it had both; there was the mist which blocked the view as if to let those creature from the other world gain entry undetected by the mortals, as well as the number 1408, on a white car’s number plate which wasn’t clearly noticed in the fog; it could have been an Alto or a slightly bigger four-legged monster of the mist, but one can’t be that sure with an eye which had not only the fog, but also the rain to fight with. I could not still feel that it was the beginning or Armageddon or a failed scientific experiment; there could not have contact with another dimension of the world or another alien species as it should have been more convincing of inferno in that case. Still, the car number 1408 could have been more significant in adding to a certain horror effect, but that would have been for the people enclosed in that particular room which is a four-wheeler in this case. This one surely didn’t hit a dead end and the ending was a happy one; no loss – not even the loss of imagination or fancy. I don’t know if it could have satisfied Stephen King into a novel, as the Coonoor-Ooty trip had a more novel-inspiring background, except for the mist, and this one would just inspire poetry and philosophy.

As The Mist had thunderstorms and 1408 had internal thunderstorms, the same was what existed at Munnar, but at a significantly lower rate and for a much lesser period of time. The creature which came close to making that mist an event of alien invasion was a honey bee who tried to tresspass into human territory through the window, and the closest thing which came closer to creating a 1408 effect by that car was when it came that near our car and also the rest of the four-wheelers around – thus lacked the intensity of the room by a thousand miles. The mankind’s tampering with nature and the work against God’s will might make a horror effect sooner or later, but not during that time. At that moment, photography was the more important thing. The mist that created the mystery feeling had to be a significant part of each photo taken during that one hour or two, mostly because of the fact that nothing much was visible during that time from a distance. All these would change on the very next day though, as the view without this fog would be of lots of greenery and mountainous areas all around, with trees and plants which made an impact complimenting the rocks in the photos. This was the journey from Munnar to Chinnakanal, through the smaller roads with tea plantations on both sides along with all the features of an area higher than the high ranges.

For a journey which started with mist and the number 1408, it had to be that much of a success with three times the box-office collection compared to its cost like The Mist, or even five times the production cost like 1408 with 73% critical rating like the former or even 78% of critical approval like the latter – or at least living upto the IMDB user rating of 7.3 or 6.8, possibly somewhere in between. There would be no stars like John Cusak, Samuel Jackson or Laurie Holden, and the trip still had to be a good story to talk about. To be frank, it was a trip close to perfection, still not extremely close enough. The journey was so much similar to the Ooty-Coonoor trip, as there were the mountains, greenery and twisted roads throughout the path, and tea was obviously the most common thing. Munnar seemed to have more tea plantations around – it was thus for the human eye, but there were less tea factories and outlets to visit; wonder Tata is not interested in letting people into their factories as their smell would ruin the taste of tea. There was the tea museum, but it was closed on Monday and it was that day of the week which made sure that Tata experiences are basically not that good for me, whether it was with my Tata Indica, Tata Indicom phone connection, Tata Photon Plus internet connection or even a Tata Nano which I might have bought, but I didn’t. It was almost like everything belonged to Tata, but none of use to me.

A comparison with the other recently visited hill stations like Ooty, Coonoor, Kandy and Nuwara Eliya would prove this trip different just because the presence of both heavy rain and powerful fog which were missing at the other places. It is probably something which could have occured the other way around, but this situation just made Munnar much cooler than expected and falling in temperature compared to my last two visits which happened about six or seven years ago and before that, within the same time gap. Before reaching the land of three rivers, this time there was a stop at Adimali, as there was the church and Rosary Park which added the spiritual feeling for a journey to the clouds. There were also other churches on the roadside itself, and surrounded by greenery, they might be the perfect worship places. The CSI Christ Church and Mount Carmel Catholic Church are the two church structures in the town which adds to the spiritual beauty and combines it with the physical factors. The former is a small, but marvellous structure which would seem older than it really is; the mostly-stone building and its painted windows are joy to watch. The latter looks as old as it might be, and is located at a higher ground just like the former, adding to its age is its simplicity which would suit a spiritual centre located so close to nature.

The journey from Munnar to Chinnakanal was surely the best part, with tea plantations all around and the fog which reminded me about The Mist – still what would come to mind more than tea on that occasion? It was the time to be close with tea even before it was really tea; it was the time to take photos surrounded by tea leaves as if it was home; after all, home is where the heart is – as some would say. Drinking tea was the next big thing – the advantage of being at most of the hill stations is surely about drinking great tea, as proven at Ooty and Coonoor, even as places like Ceylon has good tea throughout; blessed are the tea leaves which bring the best for the mortals – something for which Tata has to be applauded, even as this is just something which was not started by them but by the Chinese. Sometimes, the peace of Devikulam also comes to the mind; Chinnakanal is no less peaceful an area though even if there are too many resorts around. But the same cannot be always said about Mattupetty, as it turned out to be a little noisy and dirty and not that much of a treat to the aesthetic sense as it used to be. The Indo-Swiss Project and the Masonry Dam still looked fine, but other than that, there seemed to be an eclipse, including the lake itself and all the waste which seemed to surround the water body which used to be more beautiful.

Eravikulam National Park would live to be visited another day considering the time which was to be spent there. Anayirangal Dam didn’t have much to boast about and so was the closed waterfall at Chinnakanal. Both were like the tragic failures of that journey. The tragedies were to be forgotten by more tea and the homemade chocolates, especially the white ones and a few dark ones for a change. I would watch The Mist and 1408 to add to it soon. The objective co-relative might not be invoked yet, but there is still that connection which lies beneath the viewable surface of the mortal world. It is to this connection that all the compasses would point to, and it is that vision of those direction markers which would guide me with that particular way of thinking which fills my mind. There is no need for any supporting navigator the stars to be the guide, as there was none at Munnar, Ooty or Coonoor – the journey was always better with no unnecessary guidance. Munnar will be the same town, no matter how much one plans – at the end of the day, the tourist attractions which one ends up looking at might be just the same, supported by a guide or a guide book; the journey takes the mortal everywhere as if he was destined to be there.

Diving out —>

TeNy