We go on a journey with a definite destination in mind - but life throws us something so utterly beautiful on the way that it beats the destination itself. How many times has this happened to you? Well, we had a similar experience quite literally...
This April, we got up unseasonably early on a Saturday for a day-trip to Ponmudi hill station. We had decided to test Google Maps' Indian directions - so I reminded myself to carry the directions that I had written down the previous day. Wonder of wonders, they work! I was a little mystified part of the way that I could not find the landmarks mentioned within almost each step of the directions, but then I started finding them on the opposite side! I don't know whether the glitch would be there for both ways, because I didn't write down reverse directions, confident that we'd be able to find our way back. (And we did!)
At around 7:30, we stopped at the tiny town of Vithura for some breakfast and continued till we reached Kallar and saw this:
On an impulse, we stopped in front of the gates and waited way past the 9:00 a.m. opening time mentioned on the gate - being natives, we are inured to the Indian Stretchable Time concept, of course. Once the guides started arriving, the gates were opened and we drove in. About half a kilometre in, the road - or atleast the pucca part of it ended and the guide asked us to go ahead and drive through a stone-paved culvert into the forest. "Okay... ahem, brother, this is a new car and a big one, will the drive be dangerous?" "Oh, it'll be certainly dangerous if you leave it at THIS spot because there'll be no one to keep an eye on it here and some visiting boys think it's fun to smash cars, especially new and shiny ones!"
Okeeee, so we drove on through the thick forest till we got to a slightly wide clearing that was the parking area. Our young guide Manu took us on the 1.5 km trek to the Meenmutty waterfalls. I later learned that we had got the easiest trek since it was peak summer. In the rainy season, the river swells up and the paths become so slippery that more circuitious routes with steeper climbs become necessary. While we easily skipped over the stones to ford the summer-starved river, in the rainy season thick ropes slung across the river provide the only support to navigate the slippery rocks and strong currents. But we made it to the waterfall without any mishaps. We had Meenmutty all to ourselves since we had been the first through the gates.
On the way, we saw these:
A natural swing that Tarzan would love to use
Space for more if need be!
Elements have worked their craft on this log that we have to pass under
Stepping stones - so convenient to cross the river
Finally, the waterfall. My camera and the strong sunlight don't do justice to this picture. In real life, it looked like there were diamonds skipping across the water. The chorus of crickets was louder than the waterfall and in the shade it was really cool. We could've sat there for ages and ages were it not for the fact that our early morning breakfast had been thoroughly vaporized by the trek and our stomachs threatened to out-rumble the waterfall itself.
On our return journey, we saw more tourists huffing and puffing their way up the steep slopes in the increasing heat and felt totally smug. I even reassured some that they didn't have much farther to go - exasperated laughs were the totally understandable response. No wonder someone changed the number on this board from 1.5 km to what's below. BTW, the "only for family" applies to the bathing cove at the starting point of the trek.
Our guide left us back at the car park and soon my family was in the stream to refresh themselves while I sat on a rock with both my feet in the water - even that was refreshing enough! Can you tell that our lil guy is enjoying himself?
The hike did not feel tiring at all, I guessed it was the thick forest that kept us sheltered and fresh. Even our two-old made it by himself all the way up and most of the way down. There really is a therapeutic effect in
being in our earliest home.
Ponmudi, on the other hand, was slightly disappointing in comparison, because there was not much to see or do and the mists that beautify every hill station were conspicuous by their absence. So if you are going to Ponmudi and are in reasonably good shape, do get down at Kallar and enjoy the hike through the forest - make sure you take a guide with you although it is not exactly necessary - they can tell you a lot about the residents of the forest - both moving and nonmoving ones. And after a dip in the cold stream, your appetite can be appeased in the sole hotel at Kallar - how does a steaming plate of "Kappappuzhukku" and spicy beef curry sound to you? As I told you, life is full of delightful surprises!!!