71. Nature’s Collection

@Wayanad, Kerala, India.


Despite of the rise of http://moviesofthesoul.wordpress.com/ the journey has to continue and this one had to begin officially with Thamarassery Churam, made popular all over Kerala with the dialogue of Kuthiravattam Pappu in the Malayalam movie Vellanakalude Nadu and also in another movie T. P. Balagopalan M.A – the former being what still keeps the place name very famous along with its natural beauty. Located in the north-east of Kerala and serving the same purpose as the north-east of India in a lesser way, Wayanad is one of the most visited hilly destinations of the state as well as the least populous district in Kerala. The district has been connected to a number of battles involving Hyder Ali, Tipu Sulthan, the British and Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja in the period long before independence; in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Now serenity is all that awaits the visitors; free from stress and emotions of this world; a tranquility which would captivate one’s mind in a slow and steady manner, without one knowing when and where it began; at the beginning of that journey or right at the middle. There are surely not many people from the state who haven’t visited the place or at least wanted to be there. It has to be something fit to be called more than just a ‘hot’ destination as far as those destinations of natural beauty are concerned.

While Edakkal Caves and Kuruva Island might be the most visited places in Wayanad, I shall not feed the letters too much with the remoteness of these two locations, as more is known than left untold about these tourist destinations – for what would the letters serve here when it is so much detailed elsewhere and glorified beyond this world of clear and well-defined beauty which is rarely left to the eyes of the beholder? Where in between the truth and the lies would the original beauty stay to bless the eyes? Inside the former, there are pictorial writings believed to date long before the age of Christ, from the Neolithic man, indicating the presence of a superior pre-historic civilization or a big enough settlement in this area. The Stone Age carvings of Edakkal are considered rare and it is that unique that they are the only known examples from South India. The latter known more as Kuruvadweep, are a number of landforms, or deltas and they are supported by the green forest as they lie on the tributaries of east flowing river Kabani. As it is home to rare kinds of flora and fauna, it is quite a place to find peace for the people who deserve it. The entrance to the island is restricted, but not many people leaves it out of the list.

There they were, and here I am, still not as a person of the other dimension. As I stick to whatever required less fuel, Pookkode Lake had to be the first of all destinations, as long as the frequent stops on the side of the road don’t count. The beautiful lake with boating facilities makes the better for most of the humans, as long as they are fit to be called so. A walk around the lake is a wonderful experience, and after drinking some great tea, it gets even better. The taste of the tea might be stunning, and another thing which serves as a stun gun should be those spiders which hang around from their webs over your heads. Most of those trees around had those big spiders – not the huge ones, but big enough to be called “large” considering the local web-spinners whom we see at our homes. Spider-man might disagree, but he can have a look at the spices and handicraft items for sale, and end up doing nothing but agree. When spiders and men can be hypnotised by the scenic beauty of that world, what can Spider-man do to resist? Where else can he rest without being bothered by those Spider Slayers, of both men and machine qualities, to be shocked not by the Shocker but by something else and to be mesmerized by something other than a strange figure with its head in a glass-thing?

All around the hills of this land are those areas of bio-diversity; and they inspire more than just the nature lovers. The construction from the human side makes its own impact with Banasura sagar Dam, the largest earth dam in India and the second largest in Asia. It is named after Banasura, the son of King Mahabali or Maveli, the famous, benevolent Asura King in mythology whose homecoming is celebrated through Onam as the ‘State Festival’ of Kerala. The dam is located around the Karamanathodu tributary of the Kabini River, as a part of the Indian Banasurasagar Project located at the foot of Banasura Hill, the second tallest mountain in the Wayanad. There is a good distance to walk to the top of the dam from where there are parks and boating facilities supported by the beautiful view of nature’s plenty. The walk might be tiring during noon, but refreshing enough during the other times of the day. There is also jeep service available to the top, but still people should prefer walking, as it gives a better view of the dam. It is also the perfect starting point for trekking into the surrounding scenic mountains and a wonderful point for taking panorama shots. The Banasura Hill Resort, located about twenty kilometres from the dam, rated as Asia’s largest Earthen Resort, might also arouse interest for its unique architecture and usage of environmental resources like mud.

To add to it, I have witnessed tea; not just seen it, but witnessed it as the elixir of the life, not for the first time – may be the thirtheenth for fourteenth time. Most of the tea witnessed, belonged to Harrisons Malayalam Limited, or so it looked like. The view of tea plantations never ceases to be refreshing, no matter how much of these estates one sees on the side of the roads to hill stations. Still, not that much of an influence as the Munnar-Ooty-Coonoor-Nuwara Eliya tea, but it supported the spirituality which started at the Thamarassery Cathedral and reached Pallikunnu Church, a famous pilgrim centre, as I heard. The cathedral was something of a different architecture. It had caught my attention with its variety. There was also the Ananthanatha Swami Temple located about six kilometres from the town of Kalpetta. It also had a Gandhi museum attached to it. This town of Kalpetta would later be our destination to have food, and even after getting out of the restaurant, we could notice monkeys on the top of the buildings, and all the spices and handicrafts kept for sale nearby. We were never far away from the tourist areas. The place which is the district headquarters as well as the only municipal town in the district was the area to take a break, for it would have taken much longer time for the same.

There is no scarcity of waterfalls either, starting with the Sentinel Rock Waterfalls, a frequented picnic spot and a trekking centre. There is also the Kanthanpara Waterfalls, comparitively smaller than the former and may be less visited too – but that would make it more peaceful. Soochippara Waterfalls is another one which attracts the tourists. Thusharagiri Falls would make another story beyond Wayanad, far under those heights. Sulthan Bathery, Mananthavady and Thirunelli will need another sojourn if the journey is not to stay long enough in Wayanad. All those historical, spiritual and intellectual places will have to wait in that case, and the beauty of the more untouched areas of nature will also have to wait. The famous Jain Temple, the tomb of Pazhassi Raja and the ancient temple of Lord Vishnu awaits in a journey which belongs to another time and season. These three along with all those less explored areas would make one wonderful week for sure, but those days rest on the state of mind which would follow the current situation which looks less favourable for another journey in that direction. But as fate makes more decisions than the mind does, who is a person to judge when he is nothing more than a slave who doesn’t realize that he is in chains?

Diving out —>



68. Heights of Certainty

@Vagamon, Kerala, India.


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 —>


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 —>


62. The Eternal Tea Run

@Coonoor, Tamil Nadu, India.

It is the right thing to give tea an opportunity to sweep you off your feet; not just once, but again and again until a certain boundary is reached, and this boundary which is to be set at the beginning of a tea lover’s life was never set by me, as it was impossible considering the immense power and beauty of tea and its ability to enrich one’s life beyond the boundaries of all available dimensions. Coonoor is that land of tea which is often forgotten due to the popularity of Ooty as a hill station, for the latter is a place which can be called the most well-known hill stations of South India, a title which is not officially given, but is commonly talked about. But popularity doesn’t make any place better, except for the rush of tourists, which create no effect on a mind which is set on that “Beauty is truth, truth beauty” knowledge passed onto the common mortal by John Keats through his ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’. All other material things should be of concern just for the people of commerce and science, as arts would deal with that beauty, as it would be known to them, “A thing of beauty is a joy for ever” as said by the same wonderful poet in his ‘Endymion’.

The talk about Nilgiri Hills would first bring the name Ooty to the tip of one’s tongue, and that sword-like weapon would add to the popularity of that place, but the significance of Coonoor is not to forgotten and buried in a corner. It is on the way from Coimbatore/Mettupalayam to Ooty, which makes it a good place to stop and take rest, have a look around and capture some scenery. As immensely beautiful a scenic place Ooty is, the same can be said about Coonoor, but situated at a lower altitude which would make it a little less cold and also a much needed stop before going to a higher area. Most of the things in Ooty can also be seen in Coonoor including the colonial architecture dating back to the early twentieth century as well as the viewpoints, greenery, waterfalls, gardens and surely tea. I would consider them twins, one of them just a little taller and sharper, named Ooty; and the other one as more of an extrovert who helps his hermit brother in being in contact with the people who are from outside the family, being the helper that is Coonoor – brothers in birth or brother in action; or may be both of them – they seem to compliment each other so well as if they are alive and overflowing with brotherly love and affection.

The journey from Mettupalayam to Coonoor is one of the best, not in terms of travel quality, but due to the breath-taking views one encounters. The journey by the train might have the edge in beauty, but the road travel is not that far behind, as the view of Nilgiri hills is not something which could stay hidden. The Dolphin’s Nose Viewpoint is just about ten kilometres from Coonoor, and it not only provides a panoramic view of the Nilgiri Hills but also that of Catherine Falls. Lamb’s Rock Viewpoint is on the way to Dolphin’s Nose, and about six kilometres from Coonoor, and is another vantage point to view the wonderful landscape and the tea plantations which prove to be more than just random greenery. The edges of the place would be risky, but might not be as risky as the life itself, which is more unpredictable and inconsistent than Ajit Agarkar used to be, during his time in the Indian cricket team. One should let the lambs of that world do the jumping, and not humans, as it would damage the name of the place. Law’s Falls is another tourist spot adding to the beauty of the landscape. The ruins of Droog Fort stands far away from the world of ease and laziness, as that would need another route to follow, not much taken and not followed by many.

Coonoor has the Sim’s Park which might be its most well-known tourist destination, as it is a park as well as a botanical garden, a combination which would suit a day’s rest. There is greenery and there is colour, a combination which would inspire nature poems as if powered by Lake District. The cold breeze could add to the effect and might create an army of Wordsworths, if there is art and literature in minds and the beauty of inspiration in the hearts. This tropical mountain climate would be suitable for the growth of all these trees and plants, but it would be even more suitable for the growth of seeds in the mind of a young poet; for what John Keats said about truth and beauty is of universal significance. There is no limit to imagination and inspiration, and it doesn’t matter if that path is twisted or not taken, even if it is thousands of kilometres away. Just like the blood is of the same colour everywhere, so will be the imagination, as it takes over the mind and creates that wonderful work of art even without the host knowing much about it; that is the beauty of creation by inspired imagination, and that should be where the best works should arise.

St. Antony’s Church at Coonoor would add the much needed spiritual flavour to the journey; it is that old church which celebrated its one hundred and twenty five year anniversary last year and continues to be the most attractive sight at the top once one gets down from the bus and look around. As one of the oldest churches of the diocese of Ooty, this not only have that element of antiquity, but also that of simplicity combined with beauty – painted white with some blue outline elements, not something which attracts people with its grand style, but by its location and age. The same can be said about the CSI Church even as it looks younger in age, may be due to its newer yellow paint with white outlines. Both churches have graves nearby, and the latter has Celtic crosses which would give more of the British effect. May be if it was not for the paint, the second one would have looked older of the oldest ones around. There can still be no question about its old age as it looked more colonial in nature than any other old structure which blessed Coonoor with its presence. How spirituality would contribute to the imagination of any living person inspired by God’s world, is something which needs no further description; may be a few zombies and Twilight vampires would disagree, but that is the case of dead, mindless people.

Katary Falls, the third largest waterfalls in Nilgiris is just ten kilometres from Coonoor. That would add to the tourist attractions, but the most significant thing in Coonoor is undoubtedly tea. The town depends heavily on tea trade, as one can understand from the large number of tea gardens which blesses the photographers with its beauty, before the tea leaves make the mouth of the tea drinker sacred. The trees, mountains and the small sheds which surround the tea would make it such a combination where there is certain amount of harmony in nature and man is also part of it; forget global warming, pollution and deforestation, as this would be a moment of glory for both sides, thanks to the immortal drink that is tea. The birds seemed to agree as they were also flying in harmony. Thus the last place to visit and the right place to end the journey on a high, was Swamy & Swamy Plantations Private Limited – High Field Tea Factory, to buy all the needed tea and also those chocolates; tasting them – Masala, Chocolate, Ginger and all varieties was always fun, and this time, the opportunity was at a time when there was the most need for tea – what more can one expect, surrounded by tea and drinking the same thing like never before?

Diving out —>