Saturday, March 03, 2007

Team Trip - Munnar - Feb 18-19, 2007

It was more than 6 months since we went on a trip as a team, and so we thought it is high time that we go. After numerous admissions and cancellations, we came down to 15 people. Before that we got a shock that Top Slip (where we had planned) was closed, and so we had to change our plans and decided on Munnar, a decision which we never regretted. Because it was a team trip, I had to behave very mature, which was most difficult.

We left on 18th morning by van. The onward journey was fairly uneventful except for the sighting of an elephant. There is a small waterfall around 25 km before Munnar called Vaguvaarai. We stopped there for a bath and lunch, where our team created the record of highest-ever bill. There is a place called Rajamalai some 15 km before Munnar, which is famous for lush green landscapes and Nilgiri Thar, but it was closed as it was the breeding season.

We reached Munnar by evening. Lodging was at a place called Munnar Dream Palace, though only the name resembled a palace, but it was pretty decent and clean. After that we left to Blossom Park (Hydel Park) which is around 3 km from the city and spent an hour there. By that time, it was late evening and we left to our hotel.

If you planning for Tamil Nadu style food, then Hotel Saravana Bhavan is the place to eat. After having breakfast the following morning, we started our sightseeing. Below is the list of some of the places to visit.

Matupatty Direction, with distance from Munnar town

1. Photo point - 3 km
2. Matupatty dam - 11 km (Boating)
3. Indo-Swiss project - 13 km
4. Echo point - 18 km
5. Shooting point - 14
6. Kundala lake - 25 km (Boating)
7. Top Station viewpoint - 33 km

All the above places can be easily covered in 1 day. Boating can be done both in Matupatty dam (2- and 4-seat power boat and family boat) and Kundala lake (pedal and row boat).

The final visit was to a place called Top Station, which is the border of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. It has a great view of the valley. You have to trek around 400 meters to get the full view, but it is pretty safe.

Language won't be a problem as people speak both Tamil and Malayalam. Make sure you take a good camera with you as there are a lot of places to be captured. September to May is the season in Munnar, but the post-monsoon season beginning October is the best. Accommodation is very costly in Munnar, and so going a little before or a little after season time is advisable. A lot of good, budget accommodation is also available with dormitory-style accommodations too. A good number resorts are also available on the outskirts, but all are pretty costly. Make sure that you book the rooms in advance as there is always a good flow of tourists year round.

Route: Coimbatore = Pollachi = Udumalpet = Munnar

Expenses: Rs. 850/= per head including travel, food, and staying.

The Team at Top Station

Misty Munnar

Misty Munnar

Misty Munnar

Misty Munnar

Team Trip - Munnar - Feb 18-19, 2007

Echo Point - We Love Vijay???!!!

Matupatty Dam

Woods on Kundala Lake

Woods on Kundala Lake

Mystic Landscapes

Kundala lake

Kundala lake, different angle

Coming for a ride???

Wooden-headed Evil!!!

Logs on Kundala lake

Paraman Kadavu Trek - Feb 5-6, 2007

After numerous cancellations and re-planning, this trek finally took shape on Feb 5-6, 2007. Ramanan had enticed us saying that we will be getting fish, tapioca, and chicken all prepared by the tribal people, and who knows we might even get country arrack freshly and specially prepared for us. We were all in cloud 9. We were even imagining a tribal dance. But all the shocks came later on. But we were too tired to feel disappointed at the end of it all.

We decided that we will leave to Valparai on bikes and from there trek to Paraman Kadavu. We left by 4 bikes (totally 8 of us) on Monday morning. The trip till Valparai was uneventful except for the sighting of a Nilgiri Thar (an endangered species native to this part of Western Ghats) at the 9th bend.

The plan was to reach Valparai by afternoon, have lunch, and then start trekking. We reached Valparai by lunch, bought provisions, had food, and then left to one Mr. Udayan's house. He is a factory officer in a tea factory there and he had arranged for a couple of tribals to guide us.

We started the trek around 3 p.m. We started from a place called Nallamudi. You had walk through a tea estate for about 1/2 km and then enter the forests. It was quite sunny that day and we were all baking inside our shirts. You have to cross a settlement called Sankaran Kudil which is half way between Paraman Kadavu (or Paraman Kudil) and Nallamudi, with Paraman Kadavu being downhill by the side of a river in Tamil Nadu - Kerala border. Sankaran Kudil is a settlement of around 50 families. Nothing of interest in Sankaran Kudil except a couple of hungry dogs which were looking at us dangerously. Luckily, for the dogs, nothing happened.

The trek was pretty exciting with glorious landscapes, thick forests, and dense growth of bamboo shoots. It takes around 3 hours to reach Paraman Kadavu. The tribals make it in about 1-1/2 hours. Some travel daily.

Paraman Kadavu is the last of the 3 settlements, the others being Sankaran Kudil and Kaadan Kudil. It has around 25 families, with the only source of income being agriculture consisting of cardamom, honey, tapioca, and paddy. People basically speak Tamil there, but it is quite different from the cities. They worship Murugan and their main function is Pongal.

We reached Paraman Kadavu around 6 p.m. tired and dirty, but we were excited as the tribal dance was lingering on our minds. In fact, we had already planned our moves. All those excitement turned to shock as we got nothing of the sort of reception we expected. We were seen as rude intruders into their village and none expect the village head came to see us. After some bargaining between him and our guides, and with us parting with some of our provisions, they agreed to accommodate us and also give some tapioca. By then, we knew that our tribal dance is never going to materialize.

They had arranged for us to stay in the solitary classroom there. After leaving our bags there, we left to the river which is around 1/2 km away. Oh God! What a time we had there. The water was cool and refreshing and we were there in the water for about an hour.

After that we returned to our classroom, and the cooks whom we were promised to us never turned up, and so we had to cook ourselves. But it turned out to be lot of fun at the end of it all. Finally, we had to suffice with chicken and tapioca. After a heavy dinner, one of the locals told we might spot animals near the river in the night. We armed ourselves with our jackets and torches and went to the river and sat for nearly an hour, but we saw nothing except mosquitoes.

The night went off peacefully and we left the next morning around 10 a.m. Before that we had a short tour of the settlement and also a visit to one of the tribals' house and the Murugan temple.

The way back was uneventful till Sankaran Kudil from where we had to take a detour through a different route, which turned out to be even more adventurous than the previous one, and we reached Valparai sweating and panting by 3 p.m.

All in all the trek was great and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

Route: Coimbatore = Pollachi = Valparai = Nallamudi = Sankaran Kudil = Paraman Kadavu.

Expenses: Rs. 500/= per head including traveling, food, and guide expenses.

Inside Bamboo Territory

Bamboo Territory again

Long way down

Take soon, she is going to hit me

Me - Resting in Peace

Trek in Wood

Road to Valparai

Famous Five - The Bikes, of course

You get in, We hit you

3-legged journey

Paraman Kadavu Trek - Feb 5-6, 2007

Trek in Line

Finally, I take bath after 1 year

River at TN-Kerala border

Lion-tailed Monkey - My future Mother-in-Law, ha ha!!

Mystic Landscapes

That was Life (Or This is Life??)

Picked up this nice article by Nirmal Shekar from Frontline without his permission.

That night... June 25, 1983

John McEnroe was running into trouble with Wimbledon officials for verbal abuse, the U.S. Dollar was quoting at Rs. 10.12 and the British Pound was Rs. 15.15, Ronald Reagan was writing to Indira Gandhi about "security concerns,'' the only Tendulkar who was part of popular culture was Priya - the late TV actress - and Munuswamy, a rickshaw puller who couldn't tell Kapil Dev from McEnroe, was dancing on the Marina beach with a few inebriated young men who were bursting balloons.

You got back small change if you paid Rs. 12 for a bottle of beer, the air fare from Madras to Bangalore was Rs. 201, you didn't need a visa to travel to London, Mandira Bedi was still in primary school, television was still a luxury, and, yes, and the gap-toothed old Munuswamy was dancing with the boys on the beach.

George Bush Sr. had still not got into the Oval Office, Mithun Chakraborthy's `Disco Dancer' and Harrison Ford's `Raiders of the Lost Arc' were running to packed houses in Indian city cinemas, the violence in Punjab was making headlines every day and, yes, and Munuswamy was having a ball with the boys on the Marina.

Oh, forgive me, something's been left out, a tiny little detail of the time, of that day: India won the Prudential World Cup!

Before the readers get ready to kill me, here is a confession: every little detail listed out above is etched in memory simply because of that stupendous victory which turned the cricketing world upside down. It was that kind of day, where-were-you-when-Kennedy-was-shot kind of day, where-were-you-when-the-WTC-towers-came-down kind of day, where-were-you-when-Ali-beat-Foreman kind of day.

Ah, what a wonderful day, and night, that was! June 25, 1983 - few days in the entire history of Indian sport can match that.

The final itself wasn't an epic. But the result was.

Cricket was still untarnished by corruption charges and Paul Condon was still a middle level cop.

If that sort of result were to come up these days in a Cup final, critics would immediately demand a detailed Condon-style investigation.

It was a great triumph for cricket itself on that day. In the larger picture, the Indian success was secondary. It was a triumph of faith, faith in the fact that everything great about the great game would be vindicated on the big stage, a triumph of faith in teamwork, a triumph of the age-old belief that David can always conquer Goliath with self-belief and commitment.

A few of us had gathered in a friend's place, hoping against hope that India would be able to defend a small total. "Get here in time. The match could be over quickly,'' warned the friend.

When a batting line-up reads Greenidge, Haynes, Richards, Lloyd and Gomes, you hardly need to be warned. But, yes, many of us did believe it would be over in quick time and our intention was to `celebrate' India's participation in the final. Yes, participation and not victory.

Such fools we were. But ecstatic fools at the end of the day, pinching each other to check if it was all real, if we had our feet on the ground.

In hindsight, you can see it more clearly, look at it as a situation where anything was possible, understand that in sport there is no such thing as a sure thing.

But when a team with no great record to speak of in the limited overs game goes up against the finest one-day side in history, one that was seeking a hat-trick of Cup victories, there seems an absolute limit to what is possible.

But, then, that's the charm of sport. That's the charm of the great game. It makes way for the unsung to stretch the limits of the possible, it makes room for the midget to put on inches and match the giant.

So, hope sneaked in through the drawing room window when Balwinder Sandhu, enjoying his 15 minutes of fame as an international cricketer, dismissed Greenidge with five on the board. Perhaps the only time the great opener lost his wicket shouldering arms!

Then again, instead of hope, what we got next was destruction. As a connoisseur, this writer moved to seat edge. But almost all my friends turned their gaze away from the TV screen as God with a bat in hand - read that Viv Richards - got down to business.

A superstitious gentleman in the group stood up from the sofa, said that he would bring good luck to the Indians and loitered into the puja room. Surely, there are greater Gods than the ones in cricketing whites! For, as soon as he got back, we saw Kapil take a magnificent running catch off a Richards top-edge at midwicket.

To one half of me, the match ended there. The Emperor had departed. To the other half - as to all my friends - the match had just begun.

So we watched with an open-mouthed wonderment the rest of the events of the evening, my superstitious friend once again visited the puja room as Dujon and Marshall put up resistance after six wickets had gone for seventy-something. Again his faith paid off as Dujon played on.

In quick time `impossible' had switched sides, so to say. Where an Indian victory had looked impossible earlier in the evening, now it was a West Indian triumph that seemed highly unlikely. And when Holding aimed an extravagant pull off Amarnath and was trapped in front it was all over.

My friends blew balloons and burst them because crackers couldn't be found. Driving to the Marina to celebrate, we met quite a few revellers. But those were days when the game was not yet the religion that it is.

Munuswamy, the gap-toothed drunk rickshaw puller, was handed a half empty bottle of beer by a friend and he was all too ready for a `Rajni' (actor Rajnikant) style dance with my friends.

He was told India had won. To this day, I believe that he thought India had won a war. He knew nothing about cricket.

But, it was that kind of day really.

June 25, 1983 was that kind of day.

- Nirmal Shekar