Friday, August 15, 2008

Never make plans !

With 15th August landing on a Friday, most of the crowd made plans to make a sojourn outside K. Many of the freshers and people living close by made plans to go home. This wasn't practical for me; it took 24 hours to get anywhere close to Pune, and I was in no mood to spend close to 10 grand to fly to and fro for 2 days.

Dhaval, a fellow wildlife enthusiast and butterfly watcher ( yes, there are people other than me in the world also who do crazy things like this ), stayed in Coimbatore, and we planned a visit to a place where I'd wanted to go since a long, long time - Silent Valley National Park. SNVP was a fantastic patch of forest around 150 kms to the south of Kozhikode. It had been in the news for a while now due to a proposal to submerge a large portion of it with a new hydroelectric project. With the way things were going in India regarding forest land, I wanted to have a look at it while it was stil around. That's one thing I dread - Excitedly planning a trip to some amazing jungle and landing up there to find that it's either lying under a few hundred feet of water or replaced by a mine to feed our materialistic desires. I know I exagerate a bit, but the way things are going, its quite likely :| The news of the Niyamgiri mining project had upset me for days, making me put up an angst-filled gtalk status message, which I am sure must have amused a few people due to its irony - someone sitting at one of the epicentres of capitalism complaining about something like some remote forest being opened for something as 'vital' as mining for 'valuable' resources.

So we planned a 2 day trip there, and I was all excited that I'd finally be able to go there. Half-way through thursday, the bomb was dropped. Extra QM lectures scheduled for Saturday, including a case study presentation, followed by a quiz on Monday ( all of which count towards the final grades ). There went the Silent Valley plan. I fought an immense surge of frustration. The one 3 day weekend we had was rudely snatched away from us.

Thursday night, and another plan was hatched. Saturday was for the classes and the case study, sunday was for studying for the QM quiz, but we could have Friday to ourselves. Wayanad district, located to the North-east of Kozhikode, was another place with fantastic forests and landscapes, and to top it all was a mere 50 odd km away. So Wayanad it was.

Friday morning, 15th August, saw 4 of us, Nikhil, Namratha and Nidhi set off on our bikes. It was cloudy, but the rain gods were holding back their largesse. All around were stunning views, and the distant mountains which teased me everyday came closer and closer - the mountains of Wayanad. We stopped frequently for pictures, and I thought we should have stopped even more - the sight of Namratha trying to climb a wall beside the road and suddenly finding herself a bit too close to terra firma was something which I would have loved to see repeated.

On the way.... where humpty dumpty had a fall

After a scrumplicious breakfast comprising of a total of 8 dosas, 2 cups of tea and coffee, which cost us the princely sum of 27 rupees, we hit the ghat section. It was an incredible climb, miles and miles of road winding up the Western Ghats, covered with patches of rubber plantations and good forests. Tiny streams and the occasional largish waterfall greeted us at every turn. The valley to the left grew deeper and deeper. Slowly but surely, we reached the top, where a huge gateway marked the boundary of Kozhikode and Wayanad district.

A few miles ahead, we turned left for Pookote lake, a tourist spot. As much as I hate typical tourist spots - and Pookote lake was as typical as they get - I understood the limitations of a day trip, and surrendered. However, this was a pleasant surprise. Pookote lake was a stunning lake set between a few small hills. It was surrounded by thick forest with it's foliage hanging low over the waters of the lake. A walkway went lazily around it. It was a stunning sight, and it was immaculately maintained. Not a scrap of plastic disturbed the placid waters. A small cafeteria and a boat house had all the facilities anyone needed. If this was the way we wanted to promote tourism, I was all for it.


To all the visitors' ensuing delight, Namratha and I decided to go for a Kayake ride. Within minutes, we had people lined up on the banks pointing at us and laughing to their hearts' content. After reaching the middle of the lake, we'd lost control, and were going round and round, spinning out of control. As soon as we'd managed to stop rotating in 1 direction, we started off in the other. By the time we managed to stop that too, we'd lost our breath and took a break, with the effect that the boat started drifting - again in circles - around. Every frantic struggle to control the boat resulted in splashing the other occupant with the contents of the lake, with the effect that we soon got the strong feeling that we'd passed under a rather large waterfall. After trying to smack each other with the rows, and bellowing and cursing at each other for being a incompetent jackass and the sole cause of our miserable state and the reason behind a sudden surge in the topline of the company which managed the site ( I am sure they started charging a premium for entry as soon as they saw us for a couple of minutes ), we realized that out allotted 30 minutes were up, and we had to, by some way we had not managed to figure out yet, row the boat in a straight line and reach the shore. Not just any shore, but the one we had set off from. After much fighting and strategizing, we managed to set a routine which would eventually get us there. 1 person would call out numbers loudly - which technically meant that we were supposed to row in co-ordination -, and we'd row hard. This would take us a few feet ahead, after which the boat started turning around. At this point, we'd just stop, and let the boat do as it pleased. When it got bored of playing merry-go-round and came to a standstill, we gently straightened it, and set off again till the next revolution. Finally, after a long time, we reached the shore, feeling like mini-celebrities. I have a feeling that the Pookote lake management is going to allow free entry to IIM Kozhikode students. After all, we are a brand to reckon with :)

After a delicious banana snack ( what is it called ? ) where they fry steamed bananas in a batter, we set off. Leaving the road for Bangalore and Mudumalai National Park ( elephants ! ), we took the road for Ooty, which would take us to the Soochipara waterfalls, apparently a sight to behold. The landscape opened up, and we surrounded by tea plantations. As environmentally unfriendly as tea gardens are, they are a stunning sight. Hill after hill of rows of green hedges interspersed by tall trees, and a winding road going up and down through them. Biker paradise! After another round of crazy snaps, we reached the Soochipara falls. Or rather, the parking area of the falls. After a long descent, we reached the base of the falls. It was a fascinating sight, the pounding the base was receiving from the falling water. Unfortunately, there were too many people were around, which kind of spoilt it. One disadvantage of coming on a national holiday...

The rain greeted us on the long drive back home, but thankfully it decided not to really nasty. The drive back was as delightful as ever, and in spite of the day's reading going beyond 160 km, we felt no fatigue. My bike, a Splendour, ain't an incredibly comfortable bike to go for long rides on, but even then I didn't feel anything. After a quick pit-stop at the breakfast place ( which had no dosas, much to our disappointment ), we reached campus by sundown. An incredible trip, something which made me look forward to exploring Wayanad and Kerala with a bit more time at my disposal.

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