Thursday, August 19, 2010

Onam @ VSSC

Tomorrow, there is ONAM celebration at VSSC. 'Athapookalam' competition, onam feast, people coming to office in traditional Kerala attire - a day for enjoyment amidst our regular schedule of work.

"Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop. "

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Raidurg - The Unpublished Travelogue

Every trip to shar has been adventurous, starting from standing in queue from 4'o clock in the morning for booking tatkal, boarding the train with a waitinglist ticket which never got confirmed, traveling in general compartment, trips in state transport buses, catching late night trains, eating out in the unhygenic environment in dhabas, ..the list never ends. ...but nothing was never so adventurous than this particular trip of ours..and so memorable too...

The idea of the trip to Raidurg came when someone lamented about the tastlessness of food at SHAR. Our 'always ready to help' driver Muniraju suggested that he will bring food cooked at his house. That was an offer we couldn't resist. He mentioned about a fishing village on the border of SHAR's northern territory where we could get fresh fish. There was no second thoughts, the illtreatment metted out to our tastebuds by the canteen cooks was crossing all limits. We started our journey towards Raidurg in search of fresh fish which ultimately would satiate our desire for good food.

After traversing a few kilometers, we felt as if we were having a jungle saffari. The road had electric fensing on either

sides. Beside the fencing was thick forest. The forest, at times give way for beautiful lakes and backwaters. The road ahead of us looked as if it never ends and its not going to take us anywhere. There were no buildings in sight, for that matter there were not even a sign of human existence.
As milestones passed by, we even started doubting the intentions of our driver. As these ominous thoughts were engrossing our minds, the vehicle stopped in front of a giant stone gate. That was the entrance to an old temple. As we tried to enter the beautiful old dilapidated building, scores of bats came out. The sight resembled something like that of a ghost house. We roamed around the premises, appreciating the scale of stone work in the building and wondering why no one tried to preserve this, something like the church building in VSSC. Our driver asked us to speed up warning us of the difficulty in driving during late hours. We got into the car, partly heeding to his warning & mainly to meet our culinary requirements.

The pucca road gave way to kachha roads. After a few minutes of drive, we reached the last watchtower of CISF. Our driver stopped the car, we got down and walked a few steps to reach the river front. There in front of us unveiled the most beautiful place in SHAR.
The sight of "Raidurg" was so captivating that we forgot the whole purpose of our trip. In front of us was a vast river, and on the other end a beaitiful island. There was a boatman on the other side with his small boat which was the only way to reach that island. We communicated our intention to awail his services by using the only way of communication available there - 'whistling'. He responded in the positive and in a few minutes we were onboard the boat, propelled by the most fuel efficient method, by pulling a rope tied to a tree on the island.

As we ventured more into Raidurg's territories, our astonishment saw no bounds. We felt as if we were travelling back in time. There were no roads in the village, no motor vehicle, no schools, no hospitals, there were just walkways. On either side of the walkways were beautiful huts, walls of which were made of mud and the roofs thatched with palm leaves. The houses were too short that we wondered how people can stand inside them. The houses had beautiful fences made of tree barks, the likes of which is very difficult to find in our world.
The whole village was like a big family.As we walked across the village we could see eyes popping out of the huts, watching us as if we came from some other planet. Women were seen busy doing their household chores. Men were sitting in groups, engaged in some discussions. After a few steps we came across a small shop. There was nothing much for sale at the shop, except for a few packets of biscuits, two cigarette packets, bundles of beedis and half a dozen small snacks packets. A few men where sitting near the shop and were busy chitchatting. As they saw us, they enquired Who we are? Where we are from? Why we have come tere? and What they can do for us? Ofcourse all questions were posted in a polite manner.
Before we could say anything, our driver replied. "we are scientists from Kerala & we came there in search of toddy"of all the other reasons toddy. We stood there stumped at the answer which was never our primary intention. We thought we are screwed - comming to a village in groups and asking for liquor. Oh god!!! Who is going to save us from their fury?
Before we could react, one man from the group asked as to follow him. He took us to a small hut. In front of the hut was a lady who was sitting in front of a big pot. The man conversed to her in Telugu, the meaning of which we could not decipher. She took a mug and using a measuring glass, she took a mug full of toddy from the pot and offered to us. Oh! we just realised that we are in a village where toddy is a small scale industry & women work from home by selling toddy. We proceeded to take more mugs of toddy but was not impressed by the taste. The man who guided
us to the lady, understood our displeasure and told us that he will take us to a place where we will get better toddy.

After paying 5 rs per mug of toddy, we moved on to our next destination, wondering at the cheap rates at which toddy is offered and cursing all the liquor barons in civilised India for exploiting poor drunkards. At the next hut, the toddy was tastier. Number of mugs went up exponentially and before we could reach astronomical figures came the next warning from our driver in the form of a gentle reminder.

We winded up our trip and proceeded to go back. While waiting for the boat in the serene beach, we collected some beautiful shells from the shore. With hands full of exotic shells and mind full of sweet memories, we bid good bye to Raidurg.

We postponed our plan to buy fish as it was too late and went back to hostel canteen. The notorious dosa and sambar, the worst any cook can make, was waiting for us.


Starting our journey from Trivandrum on Thursday night, we reached in time at Kozhikode the next day morning , courtesy Malabar express. We checked in at a hotel near railway station and got freshed up. After having breakfast we left to the town bus stand to board a bus to Sultan Batheri, a major town in Wayanad district. The 2.5 hr drive from Kozhikode to Sulthan Batheri along the picturesque ghat road known as Thamarassery choram was breathtaking. As our bus wound its way up the Ghat, we craned our neck through the windows to have a peek at the nature’s wonder. We reached Batheri by noon and had our lunch at near by restaurant.
After lunch we hired 2 jeeps & set off to visit sultan fort ,the fort which Tipu sultan built during his regime. It is said that the sultan built this fort mainly to store his ammunition with an ambition to expand his empire to far south of kerala.After visiting the fort we left to the near by Kanthanpara Falls. The route to waterfall took us past sprawling tea plantations.
After having a lavish bath at the waterfall , we headed off to the nearby forest area were tribal people lived. Here one could notice their high raised dwellings built as precaution from the menace of wild life. They mainly earned living from farming and selling products which the forest offers them. It was late by that time and we had to leave for our ‘home stay’, where we had arranged a campfire and a sumptuous dinner.
Next day early in the morning we headed off to muthangya wild life park as it was the apt time to spot the wild life. Accompanied by a guide, we drove our jeep into the park with the excitement of encountering wild life in close quarters. First a heard of spotted deers caught our attention and in no time they disappeared in to the thick jungle sensing our presence. Finally we could spot a heard of wild elephants .Two among the heard were engaged in a war
while the others were busy grazing. It was amazing to watch them ,we quickly took some snaps and left the place. We continued our venture in to forest.
After 3 hours ,our adventurous tryst came to an end. We left the place with mixed feelings as we couldn’t site any beast in the wild . Soon we left to visit Tirunelli temple. It was a pleasant surprise to see a place of worship in middle of dense forest. From there we set off for the primordial Edakkal Caves ensconced atop the Ambukuthi hills near Ambalavayal.
The Edakkal Caves are basically two rock formations. They’re believed to have been formed by a large split in a huge rock. Legend has it that they were caused by the arrows fired by Luv and Kush, the sons of Rama. Like the world-renowned Ajanta and Ellora Caves in Maharashtra, the Edakkal Caves too were stumbled upon by British (in 1890) while on shikar. After getting versed with these historical facts we started our ascent to the pinnacle of the magnificent Edakkal caves. Soon we came across some engravings over the walls of the caves. It is said that these engravings shed light on the existence of a Stone Age civilization in Wayanad. After taking some snaps before those engravings we resumed our journey upwards .We were kissed by the mist and the sky was threatening to open up as we crawled on our 4 limbs during the last stretch of our trekking. Finally we reached the pinnacle even though it was pouring down.It was a breath taking view atop .But unfortunately we couldn’t spend much time as the guards asked
us to evacuate as it was getting darker.Then we got down and left for our home stay.
Next day we started early for the awe-inspiring Chembra Peak (towering 2,100 meters above sea level, Chembra happens to be the highest peak in Wayanad).The whole trekking exercise was a thrilling experience in itself .For people who love nature it’s a must visit. Though the trekking took a toll on us, we kept on marching as the picturesque chembra was so inspiring for us to move ahead. During the four hour long expedition along the peak, we came across several lakes with peculiar shapes, the one with a heart shape is worth mentioning.
Finally we drove back to sultan bathery. After bidding adieu to our driver chetans, we took a bus to Kozhikode for catching our train back to trivandrum.
Other places to see around in wayanad are pakshi patalam ,kuruva island,tolpatti forest. However, the monsoon season didn’t allow us to visit those places.
If Kerala is God’s Own Country, then Wayanad undoubtedly is its capital and hence a must visit for nature lovers around the world.


Perched on top of Neelagiri hills and surrounded by evergreen conifer,“PYKARA LAKE” (situated about 21 km from Ooty, on Ooty-Mysore road) has not earned its rightful place as a tourist destination.The Placid water and enchanting smell and sound of the woods has slowly started attracting tourists, especially couples.