The unknown is always an enigma. When the best laid plans go down the drain, it is merely an opportunity to embrace the uncertainty in all its glory. That weekend was yet another testament to the fact that universe has its way with things and if you are patient enough, you will almost always know the purpose of everything that has gone wrong.
The outside scenes were a hazy blur as I barely opened my eyes. It was a lovely morning and I was expectant about the three days that were to be spent in the realms of mountains and greenery. The morning haze was just lifting as we started climbing on the ghat section to reach Kodaikanal. Given the crazy biking muse of late, we couldn’t help but discuss the idea of returning back on bikes here on a later date. The 36kms long ghat section was a lovely drive albeit full of traffic.
Kodaikanal at an altitude of 2030 meters is invariably cool most of the year and I fell in love with this place already as you’ve read before. Today was no different and I already had a good feeling being back here. Kodaikanal is no different and hasn’t been spared from the ubiquitous tourist crowd. But why was I to care, I was headed to the lovely woods after all.
The reverie came to a shattering end when we found out our permission to trek was cancelled. We had three days and nothing to do. I made no effort to restrain the disappointment. I swore, I cursed and I thought of a wasted weekend. But today I was to know that attitudes are contagious. Arvindh and Nitin were hell bent on making the best of the situation and soon I was laughing along with others about the situation. What followed for the next two days can only be described as LEGENDARY!
After considering many options, we decided we would go with Kodai Mani to camp near lake called Mannavannur Lake and trek from there to Kookal Lake the next day. It was costing us extra but what the hell, we might as well have some fun if that’s all we were getting. We chilled out the whole afternoon watching the mist come and go. The weather did everything it could to keep my spirits high, it was cool and misty and a brilliant day to do nothing. If you know me, you’d know that I am not a person who is in favor of doing nothing on a vacation. Not that there is anything wrong with chilling out, just that I’d like to utilize every single minute to explore the awesomeness that is around. But today I was forced to do nothing and I was actually enjoying the joblessness.
It was 4PM and we were still waiting for Kodai Mani to take us to the lake. While we waited we took a tour of Kodaikanal Lake and watched the mist come down from the mountains and chase the boats on the lake. Soon enough I could hear loud noise suggesting some commotion on the lake surface but couldn’t make out what it was until huge raindrops fell on my cheeks. I was in a fit of frenzy because I had my camera with me without any cover to protect. I ran to a vegetable stall nearby when they were also busy covering the vegetables and a sweet lady offered me a plastic cover as she smiled. I smiled back and that smile lasted till I reached Bangalore. Officially the adventure had started! :)
It was summer and I expected Kodai to be cool but certainly didn’t expect such rain. The first rains of the season brought all that was expected of it - the fresh scent of earth, dew drops in the air, mist through the forests and unrivaled greenery. We were headed to Mannavannur Lake, 40 kms from Kodaikanal and the route that leads to it was exquisite. The forests around this hill station are thick and verdant and rains can only make it better. We were passing by high terraced villages with green fields spread on mountain slopes. We hardly saw any traffic and it was absolute pleasure watching the forest go by through the tinted window.
It was almost late evening and I knew I wasn’t going to see the sun set given the cloud cover. But who knew I would see something even better! Consider a vast ground of rolling grasslands all surrounded by high mountains in the distance and right in the middle of all this lies something sparkling. The first sight sparked such enthusiasm I cannot describe in words. That is where we would camp for the day, right by the Mannavannur Lake side. Normally this lake wouldn’t be as spectacular, but today the whole mood was perfectly set by the rains and low lying dark clouds, cool winds and not a soul in sight. We went hysteric watching such beauty and then it rained. Then it rained more. Then it rained more and more. It was dark and we were drenched to the core and then lightning struck! A loud thunder and a second of light in the dark night and then more lightning while we wandered in the open grounds! We rushed back to the nearby village to take shelter at the village school.
We walked in the rain along the dirty road to reach a small place where an old couple seemed to be preparing something hot to eat. We were proved right and minutes later four of us found ourselves fighting for a piece of smoking hot delicious omlette dosas that were being served by the sweet old day. Sitting in the hut, on wooden benches eating hot dosas served on banana leaf over some conversations was a perfect end to the day. Later in the night, the rain stopped but I was woken up many times by scary neighs of horses, the thumping footsteps of running horses, barking of dogs and some other noises that I didn’t recognize. All this, while we were sleeping outside, well I was glad to see the morning light and boy! It was lovely.
The mist seemed to be moving in a gracious curve over the hill top and I couldn’t wait to run back to the lake. And run we did, only to find more awesomeness. The mist was lying low while sun had come up above the mountains. We spent another two hours by the lake and then we returned back to the old couple’s place for more tasty food along with some funny conversations.
Now, we had a vehicle with us, two more days to spare and no plan. I had been to Kookal Lake earlier and I suggested we all go to that lake today. After a hearty breakfast we proceeded along yet another exquisite leaf strewn forest route to the lake. It was much different from what I had seen last time, of course the difference being the magic that the monsoons lent to the place. Everything was green, I mean green green! The shola forest beyond the lake was lush and in its prime. On the other side of the shola forest was high mountains and grasslands. I knew this because I was here before. The weather was so perfect for just lazing around. Armed with my camera we wandered along the green pastures, we walked upto the village for a friendly banter with the kids there. We told them we had no place to stay for the night and they came up with a brilliant plan. They said each one of them would take two of us and we could stay with them in the village for the night. Sweet kids!
The greenery, the intermittent rain, the mist, the mountains and the joblessness were proving to be therapeutic. It felt great to be there that moment. It felt as if time could stand still, that was where I wanted it to freeze. By afternoon it started to rain again and I was in no mood to go back yet. I suggested we go trek to the temple on the peak behind those forests in the rain. After much persuasion everyone got to their feet and we entered the forest as thick as the dark tresses of the lady. It was pouring and as soon we entered the forest, the slimy black creatures got to work with an intensity that left only five out of the sixteen trekkers on the trail within the first 10 minutes. The leeches there were blood thirsty as if they were starving for ages and they attacked us with a rigor that could only be matched by the fiercest warrior! Blood was shed, I tell no lies.
The ordeal lasted a good 45 minutes before we reached the grasslands. Wet wood worked like a charm to scrape the leeches away. I removed my shoes and walked up the mountain in the rain barefoot. Since I had seen the view from top already, I wasn’t in any hurry to reach the top. I walked slowly enjoying the mountains and the rain. We reached the temple on top and as it rained more we started to gorge on what little food we managed to carry. Winds blowing on mountains at an altitude of above 2000meters in the rain was cold but we spent a good two hours on the top shivering to the core and yet reluctant to leave the magical mountains, yet.
When we left, we did so with a heavy heart for the trip had almost come to an end. We dreaded the thought of going back to the leech territory but it would be relatively easier now that we can run faster downhill. With Nitin at the lead, he started running. And so we all had a small trail running exercise in the woods and we crossed the leech territory in a record 10 minutes. It rained and rained as we deleeched our shoes and body by the Kookal Lake. After changing into dry clothes, we set out to reach Bangalore.
I would find myself at these lakes again in two months. I took my family this time and the lakes were lovely as ever. An almost ruined vacation turned into a beautiful exploration. A simple choice of not letting our spirits down led to having a ball of time enjoying the rains, during summer! In such rains I don’t know if we would’ve managed to do the trek anyway. Everything happens for a reason, don’t you think? :)
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