Sunday, January 11, 2009

Mullakkudi – Core of Periyar Tiger Reserve


                       This one came as a pleasant surprise and I was included in the team just two days before the trip. This was a trip planned by the Secretariat staff and I was in it, as Sunil, a member, was a close acquaintance of mine. Access to Mullakkudi is normally restricted to public and we could some how manage it. We were to reach Changanasseri early morning and I was there at Pramod’s Door steps by 4.30 AM. 

                 Boarded Venad Express from Trivandrum and our trip, full of happenings, commenced five past five. Sunil joined us from Chirayinkeezhu and Tharun from Kollam. Train journey ended at Changanasseri right in time – around 7.30 AM. Had to wait a little for Sasi – The man who made our trail really adventurous - to arrive with his Bolero from PTR. Ten of us had a squeeze – the – other journey, owing to the boot limitations of Bolero for the next hundred kilometers to Thekkadi. 

                    Sasi strongly insisted that we had breakfast from a hotel which was about 60 km from Changanasseri, by name Hotel Hill view or so. The high rating the Hotel assumed lies on the fact that they permitted boozing in an adjacent attachment and this was what forced Sasi to drive on an empty belly all the way long. The food offered by them was moderate. Interestingly, the booze room had an attached toilet with a bill on the door reading “Rs 5”. Investigation revealed that this toilet is for foreigners alone and they charge Rs 5 per visit. Though not a foreigner but still privileged, being Sasi’s traveler, I could use it for no cost. Once charged Sasi’s Bolero is out of galaxy, for it defies all laws of gravity – and of course traffic too – and we poor guys are at his mercy. Literally, landed near Thekkadi by 11.30 AM. Our host was well equipped for a delegation of our kind and his hospitality kept us engaged for good four hours to come.

                    Finally by 4 in the evening we were on wheels (in all means). We had our old Bolero, piloted by Sasi, along with a Jipsy and an Invader. Passed the PTR entrance and we were in a world less frequented by humans.
                  Mother nature rules with her less brained but much beautiful. Many a times I had felt that the absence of mankind by itself may add to her charm. Thus here, apart from us, every other thing was quite natural and equal. Myself, Hari, Tharun, John Sir and Nasar, being positioned at the open space of the Invader, could possibly scan 36o degree around.

            We were to visit the Mangaladevi temple first and then to camp at Mullakkudi. Steep, bumpy and winding track to the temple was negotiated by the four wheel drive vehicles at remarkably slow pace, pushing meadows and mountain folds beneath, and we people at the back of the Invader were struggling not to be thrown out.

       The hike ended at a mountain top plane and we had a small walk to the temple.

         It was just a rocky covering over a monolithic idol. The rocks were cut in good shape, and as there were no sign of rocky surroundings near by, it is surprisingly to be assumed that the builders would have brought it all along from the planes. View from the mountain top was mind blowing, majestically lit by the setting sun.

         Started the descent and soon hit the track to Mullakkudi.

  We were frequently blocked by Bison herds and they showed off their indifference by loud sniffs.

           Our Invader was leading the trail and at around 7.30 PM we were to find that the other two vehicles were not following us. Switched off the engine and waited for around 10 minutes in vain. Darkness and silence engulfed us, and out of the world consciousness supported the anxiety. Don’t recall whose idea it was to have a search on foot. 20 or 30 feet ahead, something crossed our track at lightning speed and the torch in my hand couldn’t follow its pace. Search on foot was immediately called off and we found ourselves on the Invader, back on track. About half a km back, we found our co travelers stuck with a vehicle failure. The Jipsy had a broken suspension plate.

               Sasi rose to occasion and some how managed to hammer in a broken branch in place of the plate, freeing up the wheels. ‘Mavadi’ forest camp was nearby and the vehicle was slowly rolled to the camp. Leaving it there, we got packed into the other two vehicles and headed for Mullakkudi. Mullakkudi is about 26 km deep into the PTR from the fringes and another 13 km lie ahead of us. The unpleasant grunt, our engine churned out, signaled presence of untimely visitors. Though we see less, more they see us. Let loose the imagination - hundreds of anxious, innocent eyes all around - and I felt the transformation from ‘visitor’ to the ‘visited’. We had a hard time at the back of the Invader, as we had to stretch and strain every now and then to keep away from low lying branches and brushing thorny stems.

            It was then, our leader signaled of an elephant ahead on our track and we went alert. The track, we were at, had a steep drop on one side and a cliff on the other side. The poor fellow, we spotted ahead, had no chance but to run along the track. We followed him, keeping enough distance, for him to have no feel of danger. At the very first opportunity, he slipped down the slope and vanished into the darkness. 
                  And we reached Mullakkudi camp by around nine PM. We had carried some broiler along with us and the forest employees, at the camp, prepared a basic but tasty stuff. We spent time on cards and leg pulling, till the food was ready. We were to spent night on a log house which stood on long rock legs. It had two small rooms and a corridor. Six of us got packed into the rooms and myself, Sasi & Tharun opted the corridor. Organizer went back to Thekkadi, the same night, warning us no to go out in darkness, as bears roaming around may pose a real threat. We had carried sleeping bags from Thekkadi, and I was out of the world as I got it around. 


Heavy foot stamps woke me up and some thing, hairy, rubbing against my cheek chilled me. Sprang up to the relief that it was a loose part of the bag twain and the foot stamps were those of Sasi, in search of water. It was 5 AM by then and we woke up the others. Dawn revealed the beauty of our peninsular camp site, surrounded by the reservoir on three sides.

Mullakkudi Sheltor
           Had black tea and set out to explore the possibilities to quench the primary needs. Being used to the modern world amenities, found it a bit difficult to cop with the natural means. Some how managed and had a refreshing bath in the misty waters.

          Murali performed some Hydrobics for us, which of course had the Newton in me think a while. 

     Left the place by 8AM. We had only Bolero to our service and got jammed into it.

          On the way back, we had the sight of an elephant family having a dip in the waters and a Bison with his mistress ( don’t know what a lady bison is called) very reluctant to give us way.

       By around nine in the morning stopped the vehicle on the track near ‘Poovarasum Medu’ and had a small trek through the swampy land.

          Spotted a big herd of bison grazing at a distance, and on Sasi’s directions, we took a different track which brought us just behind the herd. As I was adjusting my camera, for an award winning snap, from behind a bushy tree, Sunil stamped on a dry branch breaking it. The cracking sound was very much sufficient for the cautious creatures to feel our presence. One of them clearly spotted me behind the tree and they fled within seconds.

         Couldn’t manage much snaps – blame it on Sunil. Continued further and we hit upon an elephant’s remains. Here in PTR they don’t even remove a dead tree; but leaves it to nature – nice naaa. 

                  Every now and then Sasi opened up his knowledge on the wild, and this time it followed that porcupines feed on elephant bones, which accounts for the roughness at the edges of the one which we found. Moved up to a stream ahead, had some rest and leach check and then trekked back.

The Team
                Boarded Bolero and were back at Thekkadi by 11 AM. Had break fast from Thekkadi, thanked our organizer for his kind consideration and left for Changanasseri. Sasi was at good spirits behind the wheel, and after many narrow escapes we bumped on a KSRTC bus breaking the radiator grill of Bolero. Sunil who was seated very next to Sasi through the entire trip was reported to have been screaming at nights to come. At Changanasseri by evening. Had food from Aramana restaurant and boarded Venad express to reach Trivandrum back by 10.30 PM.

          Tomorrow, after a good sleep, to be back at work. But still, will feel 'tired' by evening, some thing that wasn't in mind these two days.

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  1. I wonder how could u write all these from ur memory.

  2. its u peopels most memorbel day in your life


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