Two days later - on 28th of January 2011, Friday, to be exact - met Sinesh, at a wedding ceremony. While on chat, I casually had a mention of the telephonic conversation, and the discussion that pursued ended on a question, which was expected, like "Shall we make it tomorrow?". Next moment I found myself dialing Shanty and then it was Shanty's choice - Rajathottam. (Click here for location)
Brand new 'Manza', owned by Sinesh, carrying two families, rolled on to Shanty's front yard, by 9 AM, the next day. Got Shanty in, crossed Madathara town and stopped at Kulathupuzha to fetch provision. Within that 30 minute drive, this man, totally new to us, transformed to one among us. Joined NH 202, connecting Kollam and Senkottai, at Thenmala, and reached Aryankavu by 11 AM. Here we had to replace Manza with a Jeep, and thus Kunjettan was forced to be another 'one among us'.
While on the hike, though sweating behind the wheels, the narrator in Kunjettan kept us listening to the history of Rajathottam. Hundreds of years back, the then ruler of Sethur, impressed by one among his wives, by name 'Kamakshi', - Kunjettan says she was his keep - went that generous, to give away a pocket of thick jungle, surrounded by towering hillocks, belonging to his kingdom.
This pocket, which was around 275 acres, was later possessed by one Mr.Raja, and he cleared the woods, to prepare the land for agriculture, and the pocket was there after named 'Rajacoup', which later transformed to 'Rajathottam'. Migration to this place started about 80 years back and there were around 40 families here, during 1950s. Though the outer world changed a lot, Rajathottam remained the same and the inhabitants reverse migrated, in search of the modern world amenities, and now just 8 to 10 families remain. They find their livelihood from rubber and clove plantations, fenced out from the wilderness, by solar power.
The hike through the woods ended up at a Gate, and we entered the pocket - Rajathotam. The mud road went ahead, strolling through the fragrance of clove. Two more kilometers and the jeep came to a halt, beside a small dwelling. That belonged to Bobby and his better half Biji. It was a two room structure - One their bedroom and the other, their kitchen. Climbed the huge rock structure, behind Bobby's house, and the entire pocket was visible from there.
The towering green hillock to the north - east, was inviting and, as I was about to place a request, Shanty declared it – and you know what.
Heard a cry from beneath, and it was Bobby covered by ants, in an attempt to pick garden fresh mousambies, for the welcome drink.
Then followed the treat by Biji, which included fish and chicken delicacies. And should I mention that the Bobbys got added to the 'one among us' kind.
After the meals went for a walk through clove plantations, just for the sun to be a bit down, for us to start the trek.
|Clove - Garden Fresh|
Visited Bobby's parents, who live more close to the bordering woods and enjoyed the hospitality. They are here for more than fifty years, and their stories of fighting the wild, stole a good slot.
Heard that leopards still raid the pocket, for dogs and cattle, despite the fencing.
The trek started by around 4 PM, and the initial stretch through the woods was equally steep as the rest.
After many sessions of wetting throats, the woods gradually gave way to grassy peak, and the mount stood ahead challenging.
Decided to take it on slowly, as the views around went amazing step by step ahead.Folds of mountains, separating the states of Kerala and Tamil nadu, stretched, out of our view limits.
The howling cold wind never let us sweat. The hike wasn't tiring, but breath taking of course. The grass went taller to the top and was enough to hide one from the other.
The wind went stronger, flattening the tall grass, and I feared, we would fly off the cliff. Fighting the wind and slippery grass, slowly progressed to the top.
Elephant and bison droppings, found on the way, were not that fresh, indicating their preference on sprouting grass, over the grown.
Shanty pointed to a gap between two cliffs and asked us to crawl to the edge. Got to the edge, to realize how high we were, from the main land.
We had the towns of Thenkasi and Shencottai beneath, tucked in the greenery of paddy fields, spotted by water holes all along. Lied there long, holding tight on the mighty grass, for the wind to wash away the pain, while others moved up, to the mountain top just ahead.
Hearing the joyful screams from the top, I too joined suit, and my folks, we had the entire state beneath us.
The sight was enough to prove the limitations of human eye, or else I could have spotted Thirunelveli or even Madurai. On expert advice from Bobby, opted to be seated on the rocks, for the wind might go that mighty occasionally.
Similar peaks, thickly wooded up to the neck, stood all around majestically, guarding Rajathottam.
Wondered whether the ruler himself would have visited this place, before choosing this heaven for his Mumtaz. The sun was all about to hide, beneath the peaks and it was time to leave.
The down climb wouldn't have been that tough, if not for the darkness. At the base we found an anxious Biji, all angry with Bobby, for keeping us atop, that late. Took a bath, chilling up the spine, and it was time for the camp fire.
After another magical spell of eatery show, Shanty and Kunjettan left, promising to be back by early morning. Ladies and kids were packed in to the lone bedroom, the Bobbys had, and we opted for a building under construction, near by. The doors and window panes were not fixed and we were exposed to the howling wind, under the cover of blankets, we had carried along. Night wasn't that smooth, as the blankets failed resisting the chill.
Woke up early to find a much early Biji, who was almost ready with Chapathis and spicy egg curry. Kunjettan arrived in time to pack our baggage back to Aryankavu, where our car was parked, and left with out us, for we were to trek to Kundar Dam, near Senkotta, through the woods of Tamil nadu, in the opposite direction.
|Our hosts - Bobby and Biji|
Leaving Biji, assuring another visit soon, commenced the trek to Kundar Dam, guided by Bobby, by around 9.30 AM. Left the pocket premise and entered the woods soon and found ourselves trekking down by the side of the peaks, we were up last evening.
Though the jungle thickened further, there were no worries, as Bobby was well versed with the jungle tracks.
Bobby had been using these tracks from his child hood, while he had frequent journeys to Sencotta, to fetch provision. The trek progressed at moderate pace with occasional stops for soothing throat.
Though we were assured of wild life sightings, we weren't lucky enough to spot any. Hit Kundar river, which separates the villages of Shenkota sector, from the woods, by around 12 noon.
Took some rest and continued with the walk, through plantations, following the river and reached Kundar Reservoir in another 45 minutes.
To our luck, we could spot a three wheeler and the driver agreed to drop us at Aryankavu.
Packed in and drove through the tracks cutting through the greenery of paddy fields, with the Western ghats to the west.
To our surprise, Bobby could clearly point out the rocky cliff, where we were perched, the last evening.
Crossed the Ghat through Aryankavu pass and reached our vehicle, in an hour. Our baggage was safe there, as we were, at last.
During the first week of May 2011, a friend of mine, Mr. Chris Ward, from Nottingham, UK, visited me and as he was keen on hills, we had another expedition to Rajathottam peak.
As earlier Kunjettan was the chauffer, accompanied by Bobby, Shanty and Anoj. As we didn't have ladies and kids along, we tried the highest peak in the sector, and the climb was rewarding.
|Anoj, Chris Ward and Bobby|
Friends, this time I opt not to end the travelogue, with the regular dialogue of farewell, as Shanty, Bobby and Kunjettan are again to appear in the forth coming posts.