In God's own country - 4
[Read http://lifeasiknowit-nik.blogspot.com/2009/01/in-gods-own-country-3.html first before this]
The next day was really nice. We woke up early morning to play in the waters of the river next to the resort. And this time, I made my mind not to enter the water, because I felt it would worsen my condition. Somehow, one of my friends foresaw and said - "Oh, just like you had told that you wouldn't enter the waters of Kovalam huh?" This time, especially after listening to his words, I had more resolve. While the rest of them were playing the water, I decided to slip on my shorts, and walk casually in the water. Then my friend and I had an idea, why not cross the river? The current seemed to be strong, but then the water was not really that deep, nor did it look too dangerous. So my friend and I decided to cross the river, and one more decided to join us.
So, the three explorers decided to cross the river, and my friend was the first to fall into the water due to his inability to judge the speed of the water. I felt amused. Come on, how difficult is it to really guage the water and cross it. After he came out of the water on the other side onto a rock, he turned and waited for us to cross. I went next, and within a moment realised why he was so reluctant to cross the water. The current was so strong, that every time you decide to lift you leg to walk, you get a feeling of instability and feel like you are going to fall, as you can't really balance that well on one leg. So, with difficulty I decided to trudge ahead, when I had an idea. The water will push you as long as you are in water. So, I decided to bring my leg above water, where the water can't push it and then move my leg over the water, and then place it down at a distance. I can balance quite well, so this worked like a charm. Except I also lost balance and tripped (sounds way better than saying, I slipped and fell :P ) So, after some time, I was wet all over as well. Then we devised really clever ways of crossing the water, with me getting drifted away by the water current several times, however regaining control because of the rocks underwater. And we finally crossed the river.
We then decided to gloat to the rest about our successful expedition. Turns out the rest decided to follow suit. And they crossed the waters like the animals you watch in National geographic channel. They actually held one anothers' hands and formed a human chain. You have to admit, those guys had the instincts of animals. And they were able to cross the water faster because of this team work. Later after some cracks about Man Friday and Saturday, we headed back to the first shore, put our clothes up for drying, realised the guys who were high on the previous day were still loitering around there. We had our breakfast, and our bath, and quite soon were on the roads, waiting for a bus at the bus stand. Finally after around forty five minutes of waiting arrived a bus which took us to the nearby town (nearby seems to be a misnomer, because the nearest pharmacist was nearly 9 kms away)
While some of my friends had their lunch, my friend and I decided to get some medicines for myself, while parallelly looking for some water. I decided to equip myself with electrolytes because I was really apprehensive about getting all flustered on the hike the next day. I could see myself all red and groping hoarsely saying "water water..." Well, turns out after buying all the stuff, my friend lost it all in the bus. And guess what? I never had the opportunity of using it. Then after getting all the stuff, we boarded into the magical bus - a bus I am never going to board again, nor in the past nor in the future. The bus was truly magical, in the sense that the guy was filling in people irrespective of the amount of space, and somehow the people seemed to miraculously fitting in, nobody was getting out, and people were all the time looking for imaginary spaces to settle in. And they did !! Our bags were lost somewhere in the bus. We were desperately clinging for our very lives. You may feel this is an exaggeration. But if you saw how big the open windows were, and how the driver was continuously swerving the bus to the left and right, without using the invention called brakes and moving up and down the snaking curves of the hills though traffic on the roads on which only one bus can go at a time, but still magically accomodating two or sometimes three vehicles was really mind-boggling, espcially since the road on the other side of which had a sharp cliff had only some perforated old walls separating us. I was pretty sure I would see one of my friends or myself flying out the next time he braked. Well, I guess everyone was clinging for dear lives, and the driver made it easier by not braking a lot, but just scaring the crap out of us...
And then finally we reached Periyar. We found ourselves blissfully sleeping in some "Home Stay" after having food in two restaurants. Why two you ask? The first restaurant, well, he offered a fancy menu card, half of which he didn't have, most of the rest he didn't understand, and kept saying "Panni butter masala" for Paneer... (Panni means pig btw. and he was scaring the living daylights out of us) and finally got some very little stuff after making us wait for what seemed like eternity. Pity, he couldn't follow Kannada, or he would have heard a lot of swear words from our tables. We tried to break language barriers by showing him the finger though. The other restaurant was far better. We retired for the day after food there.
Next day, we all woke up, immediately got ready with the morning ablutions being performed before sun rise. Two of them went ahead, while the remaining five slowly trudged, drinking morning tea at a local tea stall. Quite soon, we found ourselves in an autorickshaw that drove the five of us to the Periyar reserve without really caring much about the humps and speed breakers. Something told me people in Kerala weren't really much acquainted with the second paddle what we fondly refer to in Bangalore as "brakes".
In Periyar, we were given a bottle of water each, and large socks. I was hoping it was for Santa to be filling in gifts in them. Turns out it was to keep leeches away. *Pop* went my dream of trying to fit a group of beach girls in the sock... I mean uh ahem, well, anyway, we wore it, and were all set for the hike. We had five guides, and a team of ten. Seven of us, a couple from the UK and a lone ranger from Estonia. The hike was through the jungle, with a brief stop for breakfast, which seemed to be quite fancy in the forest. We spotted a wild hen first, and then another wild hen and then another!! Something gave me the feeling it was the same bird trying to get some snaps taken by us fools. We could see in our mind's eye saying - those human goof balls didn't even realise it was me everytime :P Well, as we walked though the trees, we also spotted several colourful birds, monkeys playing, Malabar squirrels, a tiger's paw print, porcupine faeces and elephant dung, wild pigs. We then had to go on a couple of bamboo boats, rowed by the guides. But later on our request, we were given the chance to build our biceps. We rowed for some time, and found it was quite complex to keep the boat steadily in one direction.
We later spotted the bones of a sambar and a bison. We later had our lunch, and a conversation with the foreigners. This was followed by a small stroll on the island with no animal being spotted. The time for spotting animals is early morning or late evening. You won't spot any animal in the middle of noon. It's too hot and they seem to have the brains unlike us who got tanned in the blazing afternoon sun. Pretty soon we were again on the bamboo raft, getting our skin fried. And that's the reason I arrived to Bangalore looking several shades darker, my nose seemed to be a tad well-done, and my friend seemed to have the audacity and many more teeth in his mouth when he commened that that seemed to be an improvement to my looks :P
We reached base camp with a total walk of 12+ kms, and finally decided to get back to Bangalore. Several parts of the trip was impromptu, including our plan to get back to Bangalore! Our ticket booking which was partially outsourced to this man, (I don't know who though) was successfully done by him, and he was rewarded quite generously for services rendered. We quickly bought a couple of goodies in the market, and quite soon we found ourselves in a bus hurtling towards Bangalore, with a brief stop in a restaurant in Tamil Nadu. Believe it or not folks, the food I had at that restaurant was the best food I had had in the past six days. I lost a lot of weight and colour, gained a lot experience and hell lot of thrilling experiences from the trip - Definitely one of the most memorable excursions, my adventure in God's own country, the country where God needs to set up a couple of more decent vegetarian joints...!!!