Thus two families, Sunil's and mine, took off by around nine, on 15th January 2011. Reached Kottoor, within an hour and rang up Dinesh, our facilitator, as always. On his directions proceeded to Kappukadu, Elephant Rehabilitation Centre, to meet the forester in charge.
Got him and revealed our plans to spent night at Meenmutti Forest Shed, near by the falls. This man, of course in good intentions, tried his level best, for our mind change. The arguments like the place is lonely and deep into the woods, no power supply, no toilet facility, no mobile coverage et al, fell on deaf ears.
Rang up Dinesh again and affirmed that we were determined and on his directions the official conceded.Then came the next issue; 4WD Jeep, to take us to the place, will be ready only by 3PM. We decided to explore the rehabilitation center, until the Jeep arrived. The center is located at the north west end of Neyyar reservoir and is accessible by boat from the Neyyar Dam site, apart from the road through Kuttichal and Kottoor.
While we went for a walk through the reservoir side, the officer arranged a short elephant safari and it was a different experience.
It was amazing that the kids were not all afraid of the huge animal and they competed to be atop.
On information about two calves being maintained in the center, we straight away headed to their place.
'People' of same age got acquainted soon and even the calves seemed to enjoy the light moments.
By then we were assigned with Mr. Sukumaran, a watcher with the dept, to guide, assist and cook for us. Went back to Kotoor Junction, with him, to have lunch and to shop provisions, for us in the woods. Got back to Kaapukadu and our jeep was ready there. Boarded the vehicle and the bumpy ride commenced by around 4 PM.
The shelter at Meenmutty is around 15 kms deep into the woods, from Kappukaadu. About half an hour later, as we had covered about 7 kms, we got hooked, as the vehicle developed a mechanical problem.
It posed a threat, as we were good deep from the outer world, not covered by cellular network for an SOS. The driver and the owner of the vehicle, Kunhiraman, went ahead with efforts to put the thing right.
In the mean while I was planning the next move. A return walk of about 6 km along the jungle, to the nearest inhabited place - Kappukadu - with ladies and kids, would take at least one and a half hour. It was 5 by then and as I was all set for the return walk, Kunjiraman brought the thing back to life. Still anxiety ruled over relief, as the trouble may again show up, further into the depth. Kunjiraman read it from my face, and informed to my relief that there are two Tribal settlements, further into the woods, and it would be our refuge, in the event of a mishap.
On that assurance went on with the nasty drive.
Chat with Kunjiraman revealed that the settlements belonged to the Kani tribe and are named 'Aamala' and 'AayiramKal'. Another interesting fact was that Kunjiraman himself was a Kani, of 'Aamala' settlement. Negotiating dangerous curves and steep hikes, finally reached to the safety of the Shelter, by around 6 in the evening. Could hear the roar of the plunge clearly, but view was obstructed by the thick foliage. Mr. Sukumaran,by then transformed to our 'Annan' -Big Brother -, went out in search of fire would, in the falls direction, and we followed.
Just two minutes walk and we were at its base.
It was a spread out descent, in steps, forming a pool at the base and wasn't a direct fall, as I thought. Annan put it that this is not the end and more plunges are there in the down flow, close by. It was falling dark by then and we decided to explore them, the next morning. Sat on rocks, watching the beauty of the milky flow and Annan returned with the logs, urging us to be back soon.
The pool at the base was tempting and none could resist the call, despite the chill. The silence and loneliness added to the dark woods around, was a bit frightening and got back to the shelter soon, in the light of our torches, just before it started raining. Candles were lit and we sat around our camp fire. Raining woods competing with the roar of the falls and there we sat amidst, around a candle light - a frame delete protected.
Steaming Rice - gram porridge mixed with grated coconut, spicy lime pickle and scrambled egg, hadn't ever felt that delicious a combination and Annan joined the chat as he was relieved of the cook's duty. Annan shared his experience diary, with the forest dept, and we turned listeners as usual. Later he turned our care taker, ensuring the doors are properly latched, and opting to sleep out.
Woke up early and it was still drizzling. Strolled to the falls to see that it has attained might from the night shower.
Trekked along the banks, following the down flow, to explore the after falls. Though the trek wasn't smooth, views were rewarding. About 150 metres, down the base of Meenmuti, the flow slightly turned left and underwent a descent.
Then it turned right, a steeper flow for just 50 metres, and another plunge through a comparatively narrow rocky passage.
Here the flow forced itself down and the turbulence calmed there after.
Climbed up a rocky cliff, ignoring the drizzle, to have both descents in a single frame which went partially successful.
Now we were about quarter a kilometre down Meenmutti, and had to discover a new path to our shelter, across the woods.
Annan was ready with black tea and we returned to the falls with ladies and kids, for the morning fresh up. Upma, sugar and plantains made our breakfast. Our itinerary included a visit to 'Ayiram Kal' tribal settlement, which is about 4 km from our shelter, and boarded the vehicle by around 9 in the morning. As the jeep went jerking and jumping, had a chat with Kunjiraman on the livelihood of the present day tribal. He aggrieved of increasing attacks from wild boar and porcupines, on their farms, apart from pachyderm disturbances. They had turned more aggressive as they know they are protected species.
|With Annan at Aayiram Kal|
Got back to the track and reached Kaappukadu by 11.30 AM. Spent a while watching an elephant bath at Kapukadu.
As we had enough time left, thought of exploring the forest track to Pepara reservoir, which connected the Neyyar Wild life sanctuary with the Pepaara Wild life sanctuary. Just at the start, a green whip snake across our track, stole some time.
Drove through Valippara of Mankode settlement, crossed AnchuNazhika Thodu and reached Karalacode by around 2.30 PM. Stopped the vehicle and a small walk through the jungle took us to Peppara reservoir side.
Left over of the Upma and Lime pickle made another delicious lunch.
Back into the vehicle and drove along the reservoir side aiming the Dam. Found two tribal people on our way and stopped the vehicle by their side. The elder of the two, Matheyan Kaani, had a bow on his shoulder, made of bamboo ply, and he went on with its demonstration, on my special request. Not an arrow but a stone was shot, using it, and the performance was amazing. Tried it myself and I was lucky that I spared my thumb.
Met another dept. jeep which had come to collect fire wood and followed it to Peppaara dam.
Just walked across the structure and started the return journey.
|Peppara Reservoir - View from the dam structure|
Opted Pepara - Parandode- Aaryanadu- Kuttichal - Kotur route and were back at Kappukadu by around 4 in the evening.
Got back to our vehicle, thanked our own Annan, for all his help and drove back. Had Lunch cum Dinner at Kattakada and were back home by 6 in the evening.
Just two days, but the memories and discussions would be alive until the next exploration and of course that won't be too long.