Sunday, September 15, 2013

Memari – The Isle Of Seclusion

  Memari has nothing to do with rains though ‘mari’ means so in Malayalam. It’s a tiny tribal settlement all surrounded by the woods of Idukki Wildlife sanctuary. The hamlet is headed by Arjunan, who played our host for the two days, we roamed around Memari. The expedition took off from Kizhukanam, the base of all ventures we had in Idukki Wild life Sanctuary. We boarded the 4 wheel drive Jeep, owned by Babu of Kizhukanam, by around 3 in the evening, of a pleasant sunny day. 



       Drive to Memari is impossible while it rains, as the terrain is not that friendly, even to the 4 wheel drives. The initial stretch was a climb to the mountain top adjacent to that hosts Memari. At the top, halted for a while, as the evening sun graciously lighting the Memari hillock, didn’t let us go that easy. 



          The journey then was downhill, initially wading through the grass growth, which gradually gave way to thick foliage. Crossed a rivulet and it went uphill, landing in front of a four pillared structure, which doubles as a school and a community hall, where we were to be dumped.

     Had a bath in the nearby rivulet, before it was dark and a remarkable night followed, listening to the adventures of Arjunan, the headman and his wife Ponnamma – amazing couple they are! 



         The simple meal she served – steamed rice and a tomato curry – was magically delicious, as we had the remains for the next day’s lunch.



          While my team mates opted the open hall, I squeezed into the back seat of the jeep, just to leave others undisturbed of my infamous snore.

   Got up early and roamed around birding and clicking, until Ponnamma turned up with a lump of Upma and a bigger lump of sugar, sweetening the experience. Kochukunju and Kuttan were ready by then, to guide us through the vistas, that surrounded Memari. Boarded the jeep and drove north until it was impossible further. Got down and commenced the trek, wading through grass growth taller than us, aiming Arakkapadam. 



         Soon people got drowned and frequent calls remained evidence of existence. Grass blades were sharp enough to present us scratches all along the exposed parts, with not that sweet an itch. Soon the climb went steeper slowing down the trek. Still, the glimpse of the watch tower was just a 45 minute trek. 



       Within another 15minutes got up to the tower, abandoned long back. It was all in ruins and had a hard time in crossing the so called trench, surrounding it.

    Caught sight of a tiny check dam in the valley, to facilitate wild life during summer and decided to descend to it. It was a heaven for the ‘Butterfliers’ among us and the session extended for about half an hour.



        Destination next was ‘Nakshathrakkunnu’ further to the north east from the watch tower. Climbed back to the tower from where the hilltop was visible. It is the adjacent hillock, which necessitated a descent to the valley beneath and then an up trek.



         Though the destination was in vision, confusion developed on how to negotiate the shola woods in the valley. Climbed up a rock to have a better view of the valley and decided to cut across in a direction, where the foliage was found thin, though it was a slight deviation. We knew that once we descend into the woods in the valley, we would loose the sight as well as the direction and hence spent a while in land marking. Crossed the shola and the cute rivulet hidden in it, without much trouble, and went ahead with the up climb. The gradient then went easier and soon we were at the base of Nakshathrakkunnu. Strangely, the base of the hillock was a vast plane meadow. Equally interesting was it, to know that the base is known as ‘Vimanathavalam’ – the airport – among the Memari people.




     Took some rest, quenched thirst and went ahead with the climb. Half way up, Idukki Reservoir, cleared up in the depth. The blue storage and the lush greenery bordering it, presented a mind blowing view and couldn’t resist the click thrive.



          The destination was so close and the trek went leisurely. The group scattered on different interests, once atop. Nakshathrakkunnu is an amazing location with the water storage to the north and the vastness of the green meadows all around. 










 The watch tower of Arakkapadam, where we were three hours back, remained a distant spot. It was past noon then and the Upma we had at 7 in the morning, had already vanished. Got up for the return, but it didn’t involve a turn back, as we were to proceed ahead along the hillocks bordering the reservoir, so that we enter the hamlet back, through east.



     The flat rocky terrain in the eastern valley of Nakshathrakkunnu is locally called Chempakappaara and it was decided to be our halt place for lunch. 



         Went with the descent, some what comfortable, except for two three steep down slides, where we literarily slid. 



 Sat for lunch at Chempakappaara, which was the left over of previous day’s dinner but that wasn’t an adverse factor, owing to the need of the hour. Right in front of Chempakappara, stood the towering hillock of Thinapothiyan, which was in our itinerary earlier, but left for the next visit, owing to time constrain.



           Got to feet, as it was getting late, and continued down further. The track was thickly invaded and we found it very difficult to wade through. Soon we realized the fact that there isn’t a track at all and we were just being guided on direction. Had a hard time penetrating the growth and in another hour, managed to clear out of the woods. Brisk walk then followed through beaten track and got back to our school by around 3 PM. Unloaded the backpacks and ran to our rivulet, such was the need of a dip then.

     Immersed in the soothing flow, fondled by Mother Nature, lying in her lap, grief engulfed me for unknown reasons………