When five travel maniacs decided to take a two-day trip to Chinnar, the script was already prepared to make it an adventure to cherish.
The master brain behind the trip was Praveen Elaayi from Fast Track Magazine. Chipping in was Geethu who takes regular breaks from work at Kottayam to Thiruvananthapuram to savour idlis from her favourite haunt in the capital city. Then there was Jimmy Kamballoor who thinks the world's pulse beats for photography. Me and travel fad, Angela Jimmy were the other two who made the team.
We started our vehicle by 2.10 am from Kottayam and the trip started off with the usual banter and trivia that are associated with such light-hearted travels. We did not know when we reached the Neryamangalam forest. The first stop was close to Cheeyappara waterfalls and under the star lit night, we tried our best to capture the sky with our slow-shutter camera settings. KSRTC buses that rushed through the roads were the only impediment to our photography adventure.
Even though we wanted to reach Munnar before sunrise, the sun beat us at 5.45 AM. As we raced against time through the Devikulam route, our Ritz stopping and racing through the high range roads, we were engrossed in the colours that nature had strewn around in the forests below. The filtered sunlight that fell to the ground through the trees and the beauty they lit up on their way down was a treat for us and our cameras.
When we reached Rajamalai, we were greeted by guards who were expecting us. While we collected the passes for camera and the trip, we were instructed not to carry any food. As we walked expectantly in anticipation of a darting Nilgiri Thar, we were often distracted by the birds and monkeys that were curious about the retinue of camera-wielding travellers.
The guard suddenly pointed to a Nilgiri Thar atop a hillock and we soon discovered that it was actually a group of five mountain goats. As we chased them for a snap, they finally condescended to pose for us below with the Anamudi mountain serving as the background. Soon we were done with Rajamalai as the goats retreated with the breaking light. We had breakfast and did not forget to enjoy spiced mangoes that we got to purchase on the road.
As we went forward, we saw a group of people around a tree, all with cameras trying to get a better shot than the rest. There, on a wild jack tree, we could see hundreds of butterflies. When we returned after blotting up the butterflies in our cameras, we understood that the place was used by travellers as a halt to visit the dolmens. Since we had another trek in mind, we proceeded. At Marayoor, we were entering a zone where we were ‘out of the grid’, meaning we would no more be available on mobile networks.
We had lunch from the Chinnar check post where a food stall operating under the forest department served us lunch. It is then we heard about the Pambaar log house. We decided to proceed there.
The Chinnar wildlife sanctuary is about 90,442 square kilometres in area. Here you get to see animals such as the Hanuman monkey, star tortoise etc. Log houses are actually tree houses. There are also traditional houses and dormitories for those interested. You can avail day trekking and night camping facilities here. You need to call the Munnar wildlife warden at 04865-231587 to book your facilities in advance.
Through the banks of the river, you need to travel 2 kms to reach the forest. There is no electricity here and you can see animals on the way if you are lucky enough. As we moved on enjoying the sounds of birds that we did not see, we saw a lot of animals including the Hanuman monkey and other birds and animals. The river kept us company and after a while we were served hot black coffee by the guard who accompanied us using a camp fire he lit for us. As the day’s heat grew with the sunlight, we reached out tree house. As soon as we reached it we stretched out under a tree when we soon understood that wild mosquitoes were much more dangerous than mosquitoes back home. When night came, we made our own camp fire and ate our dinner served by our guard with our feet playing in the waters lit by the mild light of the moon. Sleep came slowly as we re-winded the happenings of the day.
The next morning, we had a frugal breakfast from the supplies we had, in the company of animals that had come close to our log house. Soon we were heading back the way we came, bidding adieus to the log house and the trees that guarded it. After having breakfast from Chinnar, we headed back.
At Marayoor, we were greeted by a group of wild bison. When we reached Rajamalai, it had started to rain but that did not stop us from trying out the spiced mango that had tempted us a day earlier. At Munnar, we had a tryst with fog which soon lifted saying bye to us. We soon sped to Kottayam before the next rain fell.