The Wayanad Trip

It was a dark winter night. A group of enthusiastic guys and girls assembled before their office to set off on a two day trip. The destination was Wayanad, in God's Own Country - Kerala. It was a sixteen member group - nine guys, six girls and an eight-year old.

A twenty one seater Swaraj Mazda mini-bus was ready for departure. At the stroke of eleven, when the mercury was attempting to drop to the same value, it left the office. Unlike typical project releases, this was on-time - there being no later-comers. In fact there was one ready for travel in the morning itself, having come to work, along with his luggage.

The bus stopped before a temple on Mysore Road. The street and the temple were unlit. Lemons were placed before the wheels of the van and the resident priest (designate) chanted appropriate verses to get the Almighty's backing for the trip.

As the bus cleared the city and embarked on the Bangalore-Mysore Road, it became evident that it was not going too fast. An attempt to imrpove that by fuelling went in vain. The bus made laborious progress before coming to a halt about fifty kilometres from Bangalore.

The driver put up his hands and said he could drive no further as the vehicle had no pick up. It also appeared that he was sleepy. A replacement vehicle was summoned and until that came, it was a sleepless wait and uncertain watch for the passengers.

Finally there came another mini-bus, and a transfer sequence was executed to move contents - both moving and immobile - from one bus to the other.

There was no religious observations to mark the departure of the replacement bus - different driver as well.

By the time, the bus made it to Mysore and a little beyond, it was close to 5 AM. The driver decided on a short nap, which stretched beyond an hour. Thus refreshed, he restarted with renewed vigour.

It was already Saturday morning and the border was yet to be crossed. border. This finally happened and once in Kerala, the spirits of the passengers rose. It was 9.30 AM when the first destination was reached - PPK Tourist Home in Kalpetta.

The group split into several sub-groups - each into different rooms, where they refreshed. While some braved the cold water to have a bath (and thus get rid of the sleep), others prefered hot water, while still others pretended to take bath.

In any case, the group was ready to go in an hour, barring breakfast. 10.30 AM is not an ideal time to get traditional Kerala breakfast of puttu or idiyappam. Thus the hungry travellers had to make do with chapathi and Kerala parotta.

One of the participant had got a Rubik's cube along, which he was yet to solve. This was a challenge which could not be passed and the next half an hour was spent by one member of the group completing it. It was resolved to hold some sessions later for whose interested in the scientific technique of Rubik's cube solving. (The first of such sessions got underway a couple of weeks later:)

A local guide (a friend of one of the participants) accompanied the group. As per his directions, the first sight-seeing spot selected was Edakkal caves. This was a half-hour drive from the boarding house.

The caves were located atop a mountain. Needless to say, it was uphill climb all the way. Part of the route was concreted, which allowed easy movement. This part was also serviced by special jeeps, for those who preferred an easier form of transport.

Most of the participants preferred the two-legged route to the top (which towards the end became a four-legged ordeal) . At strategic locations on the route, there were refreshment stalls. These were put to good use.

The entire group split into sub-groups based on the speed and enthusiasm. The first group reached an area, after a fairly exhausting climb. This housed an Entrance Counter, where tickets had to be purchased for the cave darshan.

Enquiries on how far the cave was, yielded cryptic replies. As the group proceeded, it was evident that the route now was tougher. There were now steep steps, interlaced with rocks and mud . At certain points, one had to go on hands and knees and crawl through narrow crevices.

The group encouraged each other by stating that the cave was just around the corner. To help them, there manifested a fantastic view of the surroundings. They were at a great height and all around them were hills and mountains and lots of greenery.

When it appeared that the cave was indeed unreachably difficult, the first sign of the cave appeared. The destination had been reached.

The naturally formed cave had a narrow cleft at one end, which was bridged by a huge rock. This rock kept the cleft from merging. Through this cleft, one could see way beyond to the horizon.

The cave wall also had crude ancient paintings, which also came with some history.

Though the cave had been visited, it was not the end of adventure here. There was a path which led further up to the mountain top. There was unanimity in the group that this was to be attempted. This enthusiasm soon became a torture when the path became steeper and the participants grew tired.

Two of the participants decided to stay put at a clearing, while the remaining continued. One particularly steep stretch had to be ascended by holding on to a rope. This was a fantastic experience. There were further climbs, which finally led to a clearing. From this clearing one could see miles and miles of scenic beauty all around.

Though the mountain top was still further up, it was decided that enough was enough. While the group basked at the satisfaction of having (partly) conquered the mountain, they chanced upon a foreign couple. The couple passed them on their way up, and the lady had barely broken sweat. So much for stamina! The group later met them on their return and it was amazing to see them as enthusiastic as they were when going up.

One of the hyper-enthusiastic participant decided to sing a song on the summit. After this began the descend. This was no less easy and had to be done cautiously.

However, this was accomplished without any broken limbs and the group trudged back to the vehicle, exhausted. The other subgroups also managed to visit the cave, as also look through a telescope at sights on the horizon.

It was decided to skip lunch (the time being 3.30 PM) and go to the next destination - Sujipura Falls.

This was another half an hour ride, which led to the location of the Falls. From here one had to climb down (in contrast to the climb up for Edakal caves). This was also a fairly long descend, partly through concrete steps and the rest through natural formations.

The sound of the water began to be heard as the destination neared. Soon, the group came upon a large waterfall. The water beckoned and most of the group, decided to cross the stretch of rocks which separated the waterfall from the clearing. This was not an easy task, since the rocks were slippery and there was virtually no grip. But the effort was not in vain and one could get the wonderfully cold spray on oneselves having come fairly close to the fall. One adventurous member ventured right below the fall to get a full drench.

It was now six in the evening and by consensus, it was decided that enough was enough for the day. It was an exhausted group of people who went back to PPK Tourist Home.

The guys among the group decided on a party. Dinner was also a problem for the vegetarians in the group. A few of them decided to take an auto to a nearby vegetarian restaurant for dinner.

It was also resolved to start the next morning at 6 AM.

People began waking up from 4.30 AM itself and at 6.30 AM, the group set off - to Lakidi. This was the start of the crossing of the Western ghats. The road which had several hair-pins and sharp turns cut through mountain.

The group stopped at one such turning for photographs, as also to watch the glorious sun rise. There were some monkeys for company as well (literally).

This done, they retraced their route to the location of Chain Tree. The legend surrounding this - related to British period and ghosts - was narrated by a learned group member, much to the amusement and entertainment of the others!

The party also made a brief halt at Pookottu Lake. However, it was too early for boating and hence it was just left to stare the placid water. This time was also used for some photographs of the members in various poses.

It was back to Kalpetta and time for breakfast. Once that was done, it was pack-up time.

After checkout, the next place of visit was Kuruva Islands. This was a long drive away, and this period was used to bring out the latent musical talent among the group. Virtually all the participants sang and it was recorded in video cameras for posterity.

The ride thus was made bearable and soon the party was at Kuruva Islands. This was a group of natural islands, which housed a bird sanctuary and also had several animals.

A boat took the group to the island and left them there. The party went around the trail in the island, enjoying the quietness of the place. There was a large collection of bamboo trees. The sound made when the wind made them rub each other was a treat to the ear.

The group came upon a raft, made by tieing wooden planks - one to another. A raftman took the group on this across a stretch of the river and back. This was a thrilling experience.

There were further explorations after which all were taken (in groups) on a 30 minute boat ride around the island. During this ride, a few birds could be seen, as also some snakes. The depth of the river apparently was 15 metres at some places and the boatmen rowed with caution through well-known paths. In spite of this, one of the boats came in contact with a hidden rock. Fortunately for the group, it was too slow to cause any problem.

Thus was completed the sight-seeing trip and it was now time to head back home. The party stopped at a traditional Kerala restaurant for a late lunch. Most of the participants ventured to have boiled rice and they were none the worse for it. However, the food did cause an adverse reaction on a Keralite, which led to some late-night adventures (which are out of context here to narrate).

Part of the return trip was through very bad roads, which made the progress slow and painful. There was brief halt at Mysore for tea and to bid goodbye to three of the members who decided to use this opportunity to visit their homes..

There was then a dinner halt as well, after which there was still a hundred kilometres to go.

This part of the ride was used by some of the participants to narrate some of their real-life incidents - mostly revolving around their love life. While one mentioned about how he proposed but the girl disposed, another one said how he persevered to get the girl he loved. Since the girl was also a party of the tour, this was all the more interesting. Some of the participants noted down tips and tricks for improving their romantic endeavours.

Bangalore was entered by 11 PM and all the ladies as also those staying in the route of the vehicle were dropped at their homes.

It was 12.15 AM when the vehicle reached the starting point. The remaining members of the group dispersed to their homes, thus bringing the trip to a conclusion..

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