Thursday, October 15, 2015

The trip to Kolukkumalai. A short memoir.

The trip to Kolukkumalai. A short memoir.
(This is also as a temporary relief from the complaints that come my way.. That I no longer write about my travels as I used to.)
Not a theoretical account. I am just narrating what comes to my mind. I am speaking from my heart. Don't crucify me please :)

45 kms from Munnar, Kolukkumalai. 

For me, Munnar has always been like my lady love.... I continue to love her. Frequently I wish to see her. And I run to her, to sit in her coolness for some time.... Munnar might have narrated many stories to me.   I keep learning and knowing more and more about her... but I   had never even once searched to find her mind. Like my lovers tell me....  I never tried to know. [at times they might be saying that with love] But this time I thought that I should know her mind. And that is how I set out to know Kolukkumalai.
To know the heart of Munnar, one should visit Kolukkumalai at least once... ( there is a twist to it. Will get to that later.)
The spot I never miss.. on any visit to Munnar. 

Last week I had made a post on my timeline which said, "The coming week I'll be going to Kolukkumalai. Anybody here who wants to join me?"
Many showed interest.
When Saturday came, the numbers had dwindled down to just me.
But that night,  trusty Clinton called to inform about his intention to join me.
Maybe the numbers fell  because I had told everyone, that whether anyone joined me or not, I would start from Vytilla at exactly 5 AM.

 Clinton who knew the spirit in which the ride was being made, had arrived at Vytilla signal from Thrissur by 4.55 am itself and registered his attendance. I too reached there. It was raining heavily. Wrapping ourselves up in raincoats, we started our journey.
 70 kms past Ernakulam, it  stopped raining..
On the way, we stopped at a 'Motel' to have food.. and again continued on our journey...
The roads to Munnar seemed unusually steeped in silence... as if the workers' strike and their hardships were taken up by the very air of Munnar...

We were riding very slowly. . The distance from Ernakulam to Munnar is 128 kms.
From Munnar, it is 45 kms to Devikulam, If we went by the Suryanelli route, we would reach Kolukkumalai.
Suryanelli is an exceptionally beautiful place. Even if you don't go to Kolukumalai, you should definitely visit Suryanelli at least once.  The scenic frames created by nature will astonish you immensely.
Panorama -  Suryanelli

Frames long and wide, naturally set. A paradise, the sight of which is sure to refresh one's mind.
It is a 16 km climb from Suryanelli.
A google search will show that it takes only 10 minutes... But to climb that 16 km.. even on a bullet, it will take about 1 hour and 40 minutes.
The ride back,  takes only 1 hour and 10 minutes. That is it..  a place that stands 7130 feet above the sea level!
way to ... Kolukkumalai, Munnar

Only someone who love extreme adventure can make it to the place on a bullet. It is not one for the faint hearted.  If you don't want to be that adventurous, you can hire a 'four drive jeep' ride from Suryanelli.
That would cost you 1500/- Rs.
You might think that the charge is too high. But, by the time you finish the trip, you will change your mind. You will feel that they charge you very less.
The way is completely rock country!  The pathway strewn with boulders.

The steep upward road, and the almost vertical drop from the sides will make your heart pound.
The way that awaits us, is that wonderful...!
And above all this, a blanket of heavy mist rested...  with tea gardens all around you...

All these combine together to give you Kolukkumalai.
The sights  pluck at your mind.. tug and pull at it. 'koluthi valikkuka' in local dialect. Maybe that gave the place the name Kolukkumalai, I thought, as I rode on...

By the time we left Suryanelli behind us, the road started narrowing down. The width decreasing progressively. And the tarred surface had slowly started disappearing.

The good section of the road ends here.. before we take that turn to the right.

The small dot you see on the lower portion of the picture [might be visible only in full view of the pic] that is the spot from where we start the climb to Kolukkumalai.

The road we see to the side, We climb up from there.

A view of the asphalt less section of the road. That is Clinton on his Avenger.   smile emoticon

  More pictures could be possible only after we reached the very top. The road was that superb!
A view of the road and the steep side to the left of the difficult road. Click by Clinton

Still, the road was reasonably good. It was getting better!   It was getting better  at being treacherous.
This was nothing! 'What all types of roads we have seen Clinton, let us climb on bravely.. I was saying with some pride and audacity, as I took the bullet forward. Clinton had come on a Bajaj Avenjer for this trip; and he was climbing up smoothly on it. At times Jeeps came down the road from above and the people in them looked at us as if we were some strange creatures. 'Don't these people have anything else to do!'  They seemed to be saying.
Why can't you use a jeep,   a young girl   seemed to ask; with the look in her eyes as the jeep she was in, rode past.
Recapping a 'Salim Kumar' dialogue (from his movies), 'this is nothing'.. (ithokke enthu!') Clinton followed me  up the mountain side.
After riding on so for a Kilometer, it became increasingly evident that things were not going too well. Round boulders and a steep path awaited. All along the way up.
We can't say we 'rode' our bikes up. It was a circus of sorts... Two hands handled a weight of 200 Kgs between them.
Taking care so as not to be thrown off in any direction, one had to ride up keeping a peculiar balance.. and one could only ride in first gear.

Never take a pillion rider on a trip up Kolukkumalai. There is a higher possibility of being thrown off the vehicle. After riding forward so, for about 7 km, we happened upon an amazing sight of a  young chap making his way down the pathway on a Passion Plus. Like 'Luttapi' riding his spear, clinging on to it for life.
One has to acknowledge his feat. He rode down the way, proving once again..  that one's mind is the ultimate. It can help you do anything if you put your mind to it.
On his way up, he must have carried the bike!!!  I mused..!! How else could he have climbed up on a Passion Plus? The state of the road was that horrible.
It must have been sheer mental power!

A little later, there came another Passion Plus! This time, with two people on it!
The person riding pillion must have had a real back breaking time on it. Anyway, superb young riders. One can't help but say that.

In the meantime, occasionally bullets and Jeeps came down the path.
By 12.40, we reached the top of the mountain.

We finally got to the spot. And 'Tenzing' posed for a picture! :)

The view from there, was so absolutely marvelous!
Kolukkumalai stood there...,  with her face shyly hidden by the veil of mist.
Maybe, it was the scenic beauty of those wonderful sights.. a little romance was budding in my mind too..
And so, Munnar's heart lay open before me.

Like an imprint of love, mercy, compassion, the mist kept coming...
Now, having a cup of tea there, would round things up well. It would be akin to talking to her in the language of the heart.

From where we stood, if we went a kilometer forward, we would reach Kolukkumalai tea estate.
We thought we would have tea from there.
The only tea estate there.. directly ran the tea stall at the place.
We  ordered a tea each.
And here comes the 'twist' I first mentioned.

The heart of Munnar, is like a woman's mind...
One  would love her a lot. But there would be nothing in her heart.... if opened,  it would be empty. Hollow.. lifeless.. like that tea from Kolukkumalai. A tea with no smell, no flavor, no emotion...  no substance!

But..   I would go again... in search of her mind that had got lost somewhere.. I would go, on an other quest.. an other journey, I told her, as I bid her good bye.

Still the heart kept throbbing deeply.. like with the love for a loveless wench....

As we started our journey back down.. we got a smattering of rain. :)
The picture taken by cameraman Clint at the time smile emoticon 


Including some pictures taken during the trip. They are all pictures taken using a mobile camera.

Ernakulam-Munnar-Devikulam-Suryanelli-Kolukkumalai- (173Km)