Thursday, March 2, 2017

Varayattu Motta - The Inviting Summit

          Ponmudi is a well known destination, to the east of Thiruvananthapuram district and it is thronged by nature enthus, during week ends; peak being lone of its kind, nearest to capital city, with smooth vehicle access. We too frequent the place, during early hours of the day, in search of birds and during those visits, the towering green hillocks, a bit west to the upper sanatorium of Ponmudi, had always been a fascinating sight, especially in the golden light. It was actually Kumarettan, who runs a small food joint at Kallar, the base of Ponmudi hills, who briefed us on Varayadu Motta - the abode of Varayadu (Nilgiri Tahr) - while we were raiding on his Dosas, a fine morning. He added that, not many has been up there, though the mount stay inviting....

       And some days later we again found ourselves, in front of that delicious cuisine, all set to hike the toughest one near by. Thankfully, the department had relieved Mr. Alexander, a forest watcher, who joined us to guide. Packing more of those Dosas, for later use, the five member team consisting of Anoj, Nasar, Thomsun Saburaj, Alexander and the author, set out, with the doubting eyes of Kumarettan following us.

      Drove past the Golden Valley of Kallar and hit the first left deviation, from the main road, leading to the small hamlet of  Mottamoodu, around five kilometers farther. Parked our vehicle there and started the hike. Initial stretch went along some plantations of lesser elevation and the gradient started gaining. A crested serpent eagle took off from a nearest branch and we were into thick woods, leaving the plantation behind.


                    Within an hour of hike, the ground leveled, with grassy undergrowth, under the canopy of Gall nut trees. Morning rays weren't harsh, and the hike so far, was pretty easy.

   
                      Another half an hour walk, was along grass levels and we could then have a closer view of our destination, the towering mount, right to the east. Though the wooded Ponmudi valley, to the north east was a soothing sight, the mount stood challenging,....


         Spotting a distant waterfall in the valley, called out for a break and engaged the shutters for a while.


       We were then very close to the base camp, a tin roofed tiny shed, by the side of a small rivulet of tear like flow. 


         Drank from the flow, soothed legs a bit and got geared, for the next part of the hike. A short walk for about 15 minutes, along the base of the mount, took us to the start of the hard part of the trek. Even the view of the peak, from there, was frightening, as the gradient looked so steep and the summit of Varayatu Motta,so high. Adding to it, Alexander, our guide, was so discouraging and he judged outright that the hike is a mission, totally impossible for chaps of our kind - pot bellied and mid aged. Despite all these, decided to give a try, not intending the apex really, but just to see, how high we could. As the climb pursued, climbers dropped at regular intervals and finally, at about half the way up,our guide Alexander gave up, declaring he is finished.


                  Now just two remained, myself and Saburaj, with little energy in stock. Alexander strongly insisted not to continue, and we could see for it ourselves, that there was no way up, and more steeper the terrain went. It was all just green ahead, with intermittent growth of a stuffy shrub, with roots that deep, and the stem iron hard..


         I remember, we didn't exchange a word. Leaving all baggage, including drinking water with Alexander, we headed further, with the cameras clinging to our body, which had just the wide angle lens in lock, In fact, we were clutching on those plants and lifting us up and I felt my knee beneath my chin regularly.

              Thus proceeding, as we were about to clear the top, we saw another peak behind, which wasn't visible from the base. That was a heart break. I was so weak and thirsty and I decided to give up. Sabu, read my face and went on this line....We would never make it again, Its just another fifteen minutes, Can't you hold on....And I rose to feet....


                        The next few moments were some among the hardest in my life. After a while - I am still unaware how long it took - as the watch tower of Ponmudi Upper Sanatorium came into view, it was a blurred image. Lying atop, sky gazing, it took minutes for me to come back to life. 


               We were not to spend much time atop, as we were running out of resources. A short clicking session and went on with the descent.


               It was harder than the ascent, in the sense, a misstep would cost you a lot.
           Spreading fatigue added to the misery and indeed luck was on my part that I could crawl down to Alexander, without much bruises. And dear, there sat Alexander, with empty bottles, draining all the liquid we had....

             As we reached the camp shed, I was staggering.Fell into the rivulet and laid there immersed, gulping heavily. But that didn't help. Dehydration was of advanced level and I started vomiting. I feared I would collapse, and hence decided to start the return trek immediately. Took sufficient water and went on sipping slowly, as I walked. That worked and was back on track soon.

        Got behind the wheel, by 6 in the evening and as we cruised for the joint, hunger struck, I tilted the rear view mirror a bit, and there appeared the majestic mount....Inviting indeed.....

     

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