<I wrote this for the Travel & Lifestyle section of the online magazine www.ignitink.com >
Robert Louis Stevenson read my mind when he said – For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.
It was the Republic Day weekend. We took the Friday off to make this a four day long weekend (a luxury of sorts!). We packed our backpacks and boarded Pothigai Express from the Egmore station to head to Madurai. We had a sketchy plan and a few vague reservations. Rest as always falls in place. Travelling after all is just a leap of faith. The moment you plan too much, it starts resembling work!
26th January 2 pm – From the huge balcony at Pavithram Homestay in Devikulam, Munnar
Looks like a promising weekend. The drive from Madurai to Munnar was beautiful. Started the journey with the quintessential Idli breakfast at Murugan (Madurai is where Murugan started) and filter coffee at Sree Sabarees. By far, one of the best cups of coffee I’ve had in a long time! Made numerous unnecessary and much recommended stops on the way. Sometimes for tea, sometimes for corn and sometimes just for the view.
The homestay is brilliant! Room is huge and wooden; exudes warmth as soon as you enter the place. Danny (the manager) and his ever ready quips and smiles make you feel at home at once. Hunger as usual, is on an exponential high. We are blissfully not connected to the world. Devikulam has no Airtel network and I am not complaining! J The balcony is sunny and perfect to read a book.
And that’s what I did. Picked up my book, asked Danny for a coffee, put some music on and then tried concentrating on what the author had to say. Smiled for no reason. Maybe Gulzar’s lyrics in the background was a small reason for that smile.
The evening is best summarized in pictures. Sometimes nothing does justice to what the eyes behold. Such was the sunset! Vivid colours of orange, purple, yellow and red. Mixed in a way that no painter can ever hope to capture.
27th January 10 am – Still at Pavithram Homestay
We’re still here. Warmth of the folks here is infectious. I think warmth and affection is all it takes to convince one to keep coming back to a place. I could spend a week here reading, cooking and doing nothing in particular. The wintery chill is crisp and thought clarifying. And the sunshine in this chill is just perfect. Time to pack up and shift base from here. I am suffering from inertia of rest, dragging my feet around. Helping no one in particular.
Well, I did pack and we left for the next pitstop – Chinnar forest. To reach the place, one needs to take a bus from Munnar to Maryur (around 50 kms) and then take a jeep to the forest reserve. The bus driver drove without a care in the world at alarming speeds. The ramshackle bus shook to the tunes of ‘Tu cheez badi hai mast mast’. Motion sickness was redefined that day! Once we reached Maryur, we bought a week’s worth of food for our two day stay in Chinnar. The problem with foodies is that they shudder at the thought of lack of good food. So, we stuffed our bags to the hilt (only to regret later). The plan for the first day was to stay in a log cabin in the middle of the jungle, next to a stream. The brilliance of the plan exceeded our expectations by leaps and bounds! A two hour hike later, we were happily freezing our brains in the bone chilling water of the stream.
27th January 7 pm – From Chinnar forest
Sitting in the middle of the forest. The bonfire has taken away the chill of the stream water. Sipping on a really crappy cup of soup. Note to myself to never keep faith in Cup-O-Noodles and Two Minute Soups. The only two minute thing that is and always will be awesome is Maggi. Cooking out in the open after ages. Sambhar rice on the menu. Staying away from civilization somehow has a funny effect on my food habits. I can’t wait to get my hands on that plate of sambhar rice (which I usually avoid like the plague).Back to the basics has its charms. The dip in the stream was absolutely refreshing. Hot tea served in the middle of the freezing water was just priceless! Stars seem to have multiplied overnight or we have come really close to the Milky Way. Zoning out as the mind conjures up funny patterns in the sky.
I dozed off on the rocks while figuring out those funny patterns. The sambhar rice was delectable. I overate yet again! The plan for the next day was to pack up and go for a 4 hour hike to the top of a mountain. This was supposed to be our last stop – a mud hut on the top of a mountain. The hike was formidable because our bags were heavy. Important note to myself – Pack less clothes. And definitely, less food! The forest is replete with wild animals, but such is our luck that not one crossed our paths! Not that I have the willingness to become tiger fodder, but atleast a deer could have hopped and skipped in front of us! All we saw was animal poop. The view during the hike made up for everything though. Lush and green mountains in every direction. The peaceful silence of the forest was only broken by our feet crunching leaves.
28th January 1:30 pm – During one of the breaks while hiking
We are actually waiting for one of the forest guys to supply us with chicken. Can you beat that! We definitely can’t survive too long on fruits and vegetables. It’s a little disturbing! We are in the middle of nowhere, and Airtel is on full signal all of a sudden. How weird is that! Back to the long walk now.
Just when we thought we could walk no more, the mud hut became visibly close. Our insanely heavy bags seemed lighter all of a sudden. The glimpse of the hut that we caught between the trees did not prepare us for the actual place though. The hut in itself wasn’t awe inspiring but the entire landscape just took our breath away. The rustic mud hut, the wooden chairs in front and a view so stunning, that even sleep seemed like taboo. All we did was sit on those wooden chairs, sip on port wine and stare ahead.
29th January 9:30 am – Chicken never tasted so good, as it did yesterday. We sat by the bonfire for ages. Kept flashing the torch in pitch dark to check if some leopard was stealthily planning an attack on us. Truth be told, I would’ve fallen off my chair even if a dog barked next to me. Sipping on morning tea now. Few more hours and this view will be replaced by civilization at its worst. Honking cars and crowded places. But, they won’t get to me, because all I got to do is close my eyes and think of the view that’s in front of me right now.
And just like that, the trip was over. Before we knew it, we were all headed back to our respective cities. This affair does get better with time, like wine. Enthralls you with every new journey. Gives you memories to smile about and a promise of a future full of long winding roads and beautiful sunsets. Quite like those timeless fairy tales which always have a happy ending. The thing with travel is that it gives you a new set of dreams with every journey. Makes you belong to every place you go to, yet keeps you rooted. Gives you wings, yet keeps you grounded. If only we learned to not belong to a region, religion, state or country, but embrace every place we went to, the world would be a happier place. That’s why travel is my religion. Someday, I hope to convert you too!