A MONSOON TREK

It all started when an old friend of mine, Vivek, pinged me in FB after a long time and the small talk that resumed made us feel the need to catch up with each other. I suggested that we go for a trek, a monsoon trek to Meesapulimala organized by a promising startup called Redrawlife. So we booked our tickets and off we went to get a sore foot while being drenched in the cold winds and drizzle of the south west monsoons.

We started off from Kakkanad, Kochi in a mini bus hired by the group. It was the weekend and I was happy to see a crowd, 24 in total including our camp leader Joel. We took our seats and off we cruised along the winding roads to Munnar. Since the monsoons were in full bloom, the once forgotten waterfalls sprung to life and attracted a lot of curious eyes. We satiated our grumbling stomachs from a hotel in Adimali, in which to my surprise I found Joel sipping on a black tea and avoiding a hearty lunch. Oh he knew what was coming up. Clever guy.

More roads and we crossed the town of Munnar and took the Devikulam – Suryanelli route. More curved roads, the window seats offered scenic lush green views of the tea plantations and the occasional eucalyptus gatherings along the roadside. The green of the tea leaves were a bit dull and dark owing to the dark dense clouds that accompanied us throughout the ride.

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Tea, tea and more tea. Endless tea.

By mid noon we crossed Chinnakanal and reached a checkpoint. We got down and from here onwards the upcoming 12 kms would be traversed in a jeep. Sounded pretty cool. Actually it was pretty cool. The roads were cut through the tea plantations and were offering the sweetest of all landscapes. But there was a catch. There were no roads. I mean proper roads. They were laid out in stones and gravel. And it was the bumpiest ride I have ever had in my life and lasted a full hour. Good I didn’t fill my stomach and that’s when the cleverness if Joel struck me. Well it struck all of us and we teased him for this.

Finally we reached our destination. The night would be spent in the Kolukkumalai Tea Estate and off we got to have an evening tea and visit the tea factory. It was a jolly old factory with the British influence still evident in its construction and machinery. The roofs and walls were all made with wooden planks and primitive I-beams were used to support the machinery in the upper floors. Machines made by the Marshall Company could be seen here, imported from Britain during the starting of the factory. A rustic smell was evident here and one could relate to the old times when tea was a strong business and the British loved to sip on their tea in their fancy tea-cup and tea pots, from the highlands of Munnar.

We were supposed to sleep in tents but the wind was roaring and in its mightiest avatar. It showed no mercy to the few tents the crew pitched and then it was decided to spend the night in a hall in the estate which was a classroom. I and Vivek had a thought, to spend the night making memories. Oh yes. And we executed it too.

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That eye-catching green we see in the movies.

A bonfire was put up for us near to where we were to sleep and I was really excited about it. Bonfires make for some awesome moments in a trip. But the wind was mad enough to vent its fury on the fire too and it resulted in the smoke getting dispersed in all the directions, making it very difficult to stay and enjoy the fire. Our eyes were becoming watery and we were cursing the wind for being so cruel. But we huddled up in the end and mustering all our withstanding capabilities, we played Antakshari around the fire. It was nostalgic with people conjuring up songs from the bygone eras and others grooving to the newer beats and melodies. Manu in particular was picking up blues from the eighties and we had a doubt whether he had undergone a recent tragedy of events belonging to the heart. It melted us away and as the dinner came we wound up our game and dashed to grab something to eat and then sleep off. Or that’s what the others thought.

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Bonfire and Music. Ahhh!!!

As we finished our dinner, which was really nice for a camp site, we thought of putting into our plan into action. Yes. We decided to play a game. Mafia. Buhahaha. We had pretty good numbers and it was bound to be exciting and interesting. No one knew the game so I explained it to them, the rules and how to play and discover the game. The thing which interested me was that everyone present was a new face for the other, no clue on how they would think and react, making it all the more difficult to understand who is who and reach a conclusion.

And the game started and as the first game wound up, people were stoked and urged to have another game. It was getting late into the night and we had planned to go see the sunrise at 5:30 in the morning.  But being a merciful and loving god, I decided to allow my fellow subjects to play one last game and enjoy it. Now the people knew how to play and plot and this turned out to be a very interesting game with it ending in a stalemate. Awesome people. And then the discussions followed which was even more awesome, with people cursing and remarking others on their cunning or shrewd game play. By then we were late into the night and it was high time we slept.

I kept my alarm for five in the morning but I couldn’t get a proper sleep as the wind was beating rashly ion the sheet roof of the hall. But I clearly remember Jibin waking up Joel at 3:30 in the morning to accompany Arjun for a bath. Seriously! At three in the morning! Crazy! Later on my alarm blared and I got up to see the sunrise. We all got up. Nice team spirit. Red eyes heavily laden with the sands of sleep could still be seen but all of them mustered the courage to venture out to see something beautiful. I took my camera to click some snaps and I rounded up getting some pretty good images.

So we trekked to the top point where we got off from the jeep yesterday and a short walk to the view-point made us receive the sun with warm hearts. Now whether the sun rose or not is entirely a different thing to ponder upon because it was completely overcast and the clouds were hell-bent on making the sky look gray and dim.

No problem. As we took out our cameras, people began to pose. Thushara was always seen striking a pose and somehow managed to creep into everyone’s pic. An impressive skill. Akhil was still sleepy and distraught with the fact that people had voted him out early in the game. And to bear the cold wind, he had taken a blanket to cover him, ending up looking like Thakur from the movie Sholay. Karthik the chotu was trying to candid poses here and there but I only managed to get one of his poses. Our captain Joel was basking the beauty of nature and was seeing far away visions of his next trek or girlfriend. Who knows?

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Let the posing festival begin……

Then someone managed to climb the boulder next to the road and this saw everyone follow him into the tea gardens.  First was Meera, who managed to successfully scale a small boulder and remark its beauty and the opportunity to click a photo there. Behind her followed the girl squad: Thushara, Jincy, Priya, Akhila and Soorya. Somehow I got caught in the middle of clicking pics and I had the task of clicking their cover pics. Pretty good.

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The crew!

Then followed some weird poses by Manu and Jithin, our History teacher. We also had Rahul, who was from Delhi and he could be seen clicking selfies here and there in plenty. And then Vivek did the Yogi pose and Srikanth, Vyshakh, Karthik and Pramod were busy enjoying the scene from the other side of the road. Alias delivered a stunning pose, but his earmuffs made him look like a smurf. Jibin put his selfie stick to good use and clicked some amazing selfies of us among the backdrop of grey dull skies. And sometimes the green, lush tea gardens too.

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People, you are lucky to have a chill God in me.

All in all pics galore, selfies numerous. All were happy with their faces on the screen and seeing the sun shine high up in the sky, we decided to head back to camp to respond to natures call and have an energy packed breakfast. Bread omlette and Poori masala was on the menu and they never tasted better. We got ready for the trek and assembled near the tea factory to embark on the trek we had come for. But before that let’s have a tea, right.

The trek initially was through the tea gardens, taking the offbeat path and gaining some altitude as we went by. We admired the beauty of Mother Nature as she threw greens and blues and browns and greys for us. It was pretty sure the sun would be hidden for the day and this made the trek even more comfortable. When we began our trek, we saw some riders riding their bullets and determined to scale the peak like us. We caught up with them at the end of the road and followed our guide into the wild. Our guide was a local chap living with his family in the plantations. He was an engineering graduate. Typical Indian story. But he was quick and he knew the route and the moods of nature. He urged us to keep our pace as he wanted us to return before the rains hit us. But this was supposed to be a monsoon trek right. Let’s see.

Next came a dingy and shrub covered single lane path which we traversed with care and safety. To one side lay a beautiful gorge and to the other a great thicket. We paused to see the scenery and made our way through it. As the lane cleared we came upon a small hill, a test before the summit and we hopped on with courage and determination. Legs were beginning to raise hues and cries but we cajoled each other and motivated to achieve what we set out to.

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Slowly, but surely, we took our next step.

As the hill cleared we got our first downhill, and a view of our summit. It was imposing to be frank. The mists were covering the top and the climb was steep. This was in no way a beginners trek. We reached our hill and started our climb. It was difficult. The soil was loose and grip was difficult. The stones lying around where not meant to step on for grip. And the climb was steep. A nice good steep climb. It took us nearly one hour to scale the hill. People were beginning to have sore feet and small cramps. But we never gave up hope and pushed each other to reach the top. Slowly and patiently, we climbed and climbed. The weather became cold with a chilly wind blowing at our faces in full force, accompanied by some serious dense mists. One could feel the shivers and Goosebumps.

While scaling the hill, we saw the waters of Chinnakanal lying silently in the trees. And some amazing trees and foliage and ferns with their various colors and hues, with occasional sighting of animal dung, silently pointing to the possibility of encountering a wild elephant or some other creature form ones vast imagination.

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The charm of travelling lies precisely in moments like these.

We finally reached the top of Meesapulimala and conquered it. Awesome. Hugs to everyone who achieved the feet. And more pictures and selfies. We need the world to see what we have achieved right. The complex social lives we lead and have got tangled to. Anyways leave all those. I too need some selfies amidst the dense white mists. He he. I too am a part of the system.

We relaxed for quite a while and we were thrilled to see eatables popping out one after the other from Karthiks bags. Up came a packet of Scottish biscuits, followed by Kadala muttai and then Khekra. Wow. Amazing and delicious. Thanks a ton bro. You made the summit even more special. Lazily I picked up everyone and got them lined for a group photo. And that is how we conquered the second highest peak in Kerala, Meesapulimala. In the monsoon season, with the chilly winds beating down on your face and making your jackets wet and your hair soaked in pure dews.

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Don’t be concerned about reaching your destination. Enjoy the journey and the destination will take care of itself. – Jenny Marie

But the story doesn’t end here. What goes up must come down right. And it is always the coming down part that is wrought with danger and fun. As the mists were drizzling upon us for the past one hour, the hills became wet and the soil turned loose and slippery. If climbing was difficult because of the effort we have to put in, it was easier in a safer sense. We were in control of our steps and always had the upper hand. But while going downhill, the cruel gravity came into play. We all know how cruel he can be.

We treaded slowly and cautiously along the slippery path, following each other’s lead and taking the best path possible. Many slipped and lost balance and were doubtful of their next step, but we lent a helping hand and picked them up, dusted them off and again continued in out path. We were a team, a team united by some common motive.

In the thick of the action was Jibin and Jithin, getting cramps together and slipping together as well. It seemed they would never part each other. Ah such love. Soaking in the rains, we reached the single laned path and we began to make way through it. It had a different character altogether. It was not the innocent path which we so happily enjoyed walking though in the morning. It was dangerous and showed us its true colors. The soil was giving way to our steps and the gorge to the side was eerily bad. It was a bad path to walk but we had no other option.

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It would be wonderful to float away like clouds.

Mustering all our courage and sticking as a team, we slowly made our way through the thicket, making sure no one was hurt seriously and helped each other to reach the clearing. Here also the ground was wet and this made the hike downhill, slow and cautious. But it was far better than the previous lane and we merrily walked at our pace through the tea gardens, chatting with each other and making our opinions felt. By half past two, we reached our camp and were delighted to see plain familiar grounds. The boys initially took custody of the hall to change to clean, dry clothes and then the girls.

As we were warming up, in came the lunch and we were really hungry and gobbled up what was kept in front of us. People started to pack up their belongings as the trek had come to an end and some of us dashed to the tea stall to buy some tea leaves to our home, something to remind us of our beautiful trek when we sip on hot piping tea from the mug. The three jeeps, in which we came, stood ready to take us back to the foothills and give us a horrific one hour of jerking, swaying, jumping, tossing, and beating experience of riding through the roads of a tea garden. But I guess the trek wouldn’t have been complete without this jeep ride. Tourists come to Munnar and hire jeeps to go see the Kolukkumalai tea estate in these jeeps only. It’s a part of the experience they say. And so do we.

Back to our cozy seats in our mini bus and off we go back to our homes, saying our farewell to the hills and tea estates of Munnar. I made some awesome friends, and had some amazing experiences. Played two thrilling games of Mafia and sang to the tunes of SRK and Dil Chahtha Hain. Clicked some amazing photos of nature as well as my friends and talked endlessly to various people about various things.

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Not all those who wander are lost….         – J.R.R. Tolkien

Big thanks to Redrawlife for organizing this trek and bringing us together. It was my first trek with you guys and I hope to join in with you in your future programs. And it was swell to have got back to you Vivek, after such a long time. Enjoy your new job.

And that’s how we conquered Meesapulimala. Cheers people!

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