Sunday, February 19, 2012

Kukkal Chinnar Episode - 3

Day 3 - The Manjampatti Chapter         Day 1          Day2          Day 4

         The 'day' dawned at 'night'. Woke up by around 3 AM to the amazing sight of an untimely breakfast. It was Pramod behind the plate, with yester night's left over. Laughed out loud, awakening others, who joined suit. Though Pramod finished it off, unshaken, much more was in stock, for the hours to follow, to keep us grinning, for days to follow. Just laid in our 'beds', chatting, till the sun was up and packed up soon, for the day long trek to Manjampatti valley.

                     Initial part of the trek, along the base of 'Periya Mudiyan' and 'Chinna Mudiyan' mounts, was treacherous as the undergrowth to be negotiated was thorny, leaving the lower limbs scribbled over in red. The difficult stretch lasted for about an hour and we were in an open region, just below the above mentioned mounts.

Periya Mudiyan & Chinna Mudiyan

           The trek then went through a patch of woods with the abundance of 'Kadukka' (Myrobalan) trees and we sat by the side one such, for a break. Had some snacks, drank enough and resumed the trek.

             By then we could have distant view of Keelanavayal settlement in the south east direction, by the side of a towering mount.

       Another hour through a similar stretch, took us to a rivulet, where we decided to prepare our lunch. Muniswamy and Girish took over the 'kitchen' and the rest sat watching.

         Noodles were ready in half an hour and the whole thing disappeared in half a minute.

               The nature of woods changed a lot by then and we were then negotiating a dry stretch of scrubby forest. Crossed another rivulet, stored enough water and went on hiking, through yet another thorny stretch, until we hit the track connecting Manjappatti village with Keelanavayal.

         It was time to part with Muniswamy and Rajendran, who would trek up to Keelanavayal before dusk and would return to Kukkal, the next day. Waved them off and continued with the down trek to Manjampatti.

Parting shot
            Flying folk including a Nightjar, kept Biju busy, while we had a leisurely stroll. By then the valley came into view, with dark clouds hovering over, warning an imminent shower.

                A group of Manjampatti folk, combing the woods for 'Kadukka' fruits, crossed us on pony back, with amazed looks.

                   Reached the diversion to Mungippallam settlement and continued down hill.

    Hit river Amaravathi, by around 4 PM and didn't find it difficult to cross the flow. This trek won't be possible, after the rains, as the flow may not permit you across. Had a dip, crossed river Kumbar, very close to its confluence with Amaravathi and entered village Manjampatti.

         Mr. Alex from Thirunelveli, runs a primary school here, in a small shed, by the side of a canal and that's were we are to spent the night.

A typical Manjampatti dwelling
        Alex played the role of the host fine, and the meals he had for us was truly delicious, after the tedious walk. Sat chatting with the villagers, after the meals, till light faded. And it was funny to hear that each morning Alex ran about in the village, to hook up his students, before they got into the woods for collection.

          Retired to the shed, after dinner with Alex and friends and went into bedrolls, beneath the black board, early. But night 3 wasn't that smooth, though under safe roofs, as whistling thrush (Choolakkaakka) started cooing around, all the night.....

Day 1          Day2          Day 4

Friday, February 17, 2012

Kukkal – Chinnar Episode 2

Kukkal Valley to Kukkal Cave                    Day 1        Day 3       Day 4

       Day 2 started with exploring the Guest house and premises. While Biju was busy with his camera, Girish took us for a stroll.

          Twenty minutes down the terrain, got to the bank of Kuthirayaar, which borders the property. Few more careful steps along the bank took us to the edge from where the river plunges deep into the ravine.

         Though the falls presented a refreshing sight, the towering hillocks on the other side wasn’t a soothing one, as atop it, is our cave to end the day’s walk.

        Returned to the Guest House, had a nice breakfast and set out for the adventure.

   The team
                   Passed Ravi’s dwelling, accepted his wishes, crossed Kuthirayaar and started the climb.

The Manager's dwelling


               Apart from the visiting folk, the team comprised of Girish, the leader and two tribal workers,  Muniswamy & Rajendran, to assist him. Shola woods and grass lands appeared periodically and we had the luxury of wild tubers to keep us going.

              The switching ended by noon, and we were left with just the green hillock ahead. 

                       By then we had gained enough height to have a decent view of the Kookkal valley, which we left in the morning, and could even spot our Guest house and the nearby falls.

The guest house is the white spot with the falls to its right
                    The hike there after went steeper, and there wasn’t even a cleared path to follow. Our friends adopted ‘trial and error’ method, in finding way ahead, and fortunately, errors were seldom. Thus advancing, Girish announced a break, atop a flattened rock surface, and if he had not done that, I would have collapsed.

                    Got my breath back and noticed that Girish had another intention. Few steps ahead, the track takes up a different shape, narrow to a foot, and one step out, would land you in the valley beneath. 

Arrow points the track
                       The break was called to analyze the path in advance. Wished I had negotiated this danger unaware of it!!

Beneath my foot - Clicked from the danger zone
                  Crossed that zone eventless, luckily, and found ourselves in the heavenly meadows of Nagarkulam. It was just green all around except a lonely bison grazing at a distance. 

Biju and Pramod - Nagarkulam

Folds of greenery
              A water source originates here, which later feeds the Kuthirayaar reservoir in the valley, and the thirsty lot embraced the virginity. It was decided that our dinner – just rice porridge – be prepared here, while others go clearing the path to the caves, which was expected to be covered by over growth, located somewhere in the valley beneath.

                 Muthuswami and Rajendran were redesignated as ‘Chefs’,  while the rest, lead by Girish, went ahead with ‘Mission discovery’. Climbed down Nagarkulam peak and we were at the foothills of Chinnamudiyan and Periyamudian peaks, which lie adjacent. Could have an idea of the location of Kuthirayaar reservoir, deep in the valley, to the north, though veiled in mist.

Kuthirayaar Reservoir at the far end
            Our cave is some where half way up the peak ahead, and we tightened the pace, as light was fading. Going was tough, as we had to clear the thorny growth and leave indications for the chefs to follow, as well. 

Some where there ??
         Though after little confusions, Girish could lead us to the most valued destination – the cave. Approached it with shouts and howls, to deprive it of pre occupancy. It was a huge rocky structure with an appreciable inclination, thus providing, enough space within. And to our surprise, there were even rocky partitions within, separating the ‘bedrooms’.

                 Cleaned up leftovers of earlier ‘Occupants’ and waited for our chefs. Though they arrived a bit late, raising concerns, what they brought was of more concern, as we were running on biscuits, since the start. After the heavy intake, two three fire places were set up to keep away the chill, as well as untimely visitors.

                           Too late to ‘bed’
                                      Heavily stuffed
                                                And good night friends
                                                                Till day three dawns                    

  Day 1       Day 3     Day 4

Pappilai Amman - The Deity Distinct

         Raj Vridhachalam, the man behind many of my trails, was the one to brief me on Pappilai Amman, the deity of a jungle shrine, deep i...