78. Missing the Styx

@Malampuzha, Kerala, India.

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I was just in the first standard of my first of the five schools where I have tried my luck when I first visited Malampuzha, and the second journey there was a school trip which happened in the fourth standard, the last year of the same school – the school was Vimala English Medium School, Perumbavoor; and yes Malampuzha has been a hot destination for a long time, which is why we visited the place again as a family trip just three or four years after this. So what has changed about this hot excursion destination from schools? Except for the beginning of the first amusement park in 1996 in the form of Fantasy Park, and the whole thing being made better for the tourists every year, nothing much. Yes, the place has gone better even as there have been more amusement parks all over the state and also more tourist destinations near other dams and reserviors. The place’s uniqueness might seem gone, but there is a certain amount of variety that runs through this place, and there is no doubt that it shall remain different from the others with the element of nostalgia associated with it.

While talking about the journey one can’t cease talking about Indian Coffee House, as it is that place where we always stop, if there is the presence of that restaurant chain at the place we travel through. I would recommend the Poori Masala there, and mostly it is what I have, even as that world is more extensive. The Vegetable Cutlet might also impress a good number of the customers. Tea is always there in my list whatever I have, that is for sure. There is something about the place, and may be it is the trust, the faith that one has on a place which is not that much of a vampire of the stomach as you think about the other places providing food. Angamali and Chalakudi also have the same food chain, on the same side of the road. Once Pattikad is reached, the same destination or food is on the other side of the road, just after the town. They usually open between 7:15 AM and 7:30 AM as I have noticed. It was good to have breakfast there, as there was no time to think once Trichur was behind. The great road supported by the eighty rupees of awesomeness (toll) was over, and slowly the potholes began to take over, and soon there were less roads and more the lack of it, to quite a shocking extent.

The shortest route from Cochin might be through Kaloor-Palarivattam-Edappally-Kalamassery-Aluva-Angamali-Koratty-Chalakudi-Potta-Trichur-Pattikkad-Vadakkanchery-Palakkad-Malampuzha, even as the fastest might be taking the Vallarpadam Terminal Road from Cochin and getting to Kalamassery joining the other vehicles to Aluva on the National Highway 47. The roads would be great in the beginning and all the way to Trichur, but later they were highly destructive to the vehicles, and considering the traffic which was on that road, it was quite shocking to see such a pathetic state of the path. Even the bigger trucks and buses were having a tough time, and the scooters and motor-bikes were taking the zigzag paths. It was to that pandemonium that we entered, and survived. There is no survival of the fittest here, but the survival of the luckiest. One of the trucks travelling on the front almost tried to lose their water tanks on us, but that Final Destination moment was luckily averted and the tanks fell into the potholes and stayed there as if they belonged there and caused further traffic blocks.

The first thing about Malampuzha has undoubtedly the largest reservior in Keala. Located about ten or eleven kilometres from the town of Palakkad, this dam is one of the most visited tourist places in the Central Kerala (even as it would qualify as North too) for the last twenty years or so, as I can remember the rush which was here during my childhood. It might have reduced a bit due to the large number of tourist attractions coming up everywhere, and Fort Cochin, Kumarakom Backwaters have clearly overtaken this place as the favourite as the central area of Kerala is concerned, and not to forget the good number of malls which has come alive. If you look at any tourist package to Kerala, it might be difficult to see this place there, but I would say that it is a must, as long as one can take the roads which lead there. May be the journeys are mostly joined with an Idukki-Cheruthoni dam visit which is linked to Munnar as well as the Mattupetti Dam. But the fact remains that Malampuzha Dam is the real tourist destination which features a dam, as there is the freedom to take as many photos as one wishes to, while in most of the other dams, photography is prohibited, and so why would one think twice about choosing the right tourist place with a dam?

It has the very beautiful hills of the Western Ghats in the background of the reservior which gives a beautiful shot for your camera from one side, while the other side has its own collection of hills as well as the gardens which are separated by the water which flows from the shutters of the dam and linked by two hanging bridges which is surely the first of its kind that I had walked through, followed by the ones in Singapore. Otherwise, one can take the ropeway to see the whole place around, and it is one of the first of its kind in Kerala, creating more interest in the tourists, even as there haven’t been much foreign tourists around when we visited. The dam is built across the Malampuzha River, a tributary of Kerala’s second longest river, Bharathappuzha. Due to the incredible beauty that surrounds the dam, and the climate of this season, this is very much suitable for a visit lasting the full day inside, followed by a journey to Fantasy Park and the Palakkad Fort along with the town the next day. You can use a full day with the dam and the garden as it is quite immense and it is better to take your time and enjoy.

Around the structure and reservior of the dam, we can see the beautiful, well-maintained gardens and the boating facilities, all of which can be observed from the top of the dam or the ropeway. The other tourist attractions in the Malampuzha Garden includes a fish-shaped aquarium which I remember clearly from the old times, and the gigantic Yakshi (the female vampire vampire-like image belonging to this part of the world) which I can recollect too. There is also the swimming pool, snake park and the rock garden as I can remember. But the last visit was more about the dam, the reservoir and the beauty of nature which was around. The sculptures, gardens and even a wind mill came as extra additions. Well, you can visit the place for just the natural beauty itself, and there is no reason why one shouldn’t visit here, and as the road problems are concerned, one can take a luxury bus or a bigger car and travel in the early morning – the best choice to avoid the possible horror that the roads can give you. You can come here from the Tamil Nadu side too – as a journey from Coimbatore as it is very close and is the nearest airport while Palakkad Junction is the nearest railway station.

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