Monday, December 20, 2010

Vellarimala – The Reigning Queen* of Mountains Indomitable


* The king would be Vavulmala for sure. 


Date of Journey - November 27 - 28th 2010.

The view from Muthappanpuzha is daunting in every direction to say the least. That is if you plan on climbing one of those high misty forest covered peaks all around you. Else it is the stuff dreams are made of. Imagine a last village at the fringes of a 12000 acre forestland that extends after it. Well the view from the top was quite mesmerizing indeed. Miles and miles of undulating forest covered peaks, far reaching higher peaks, clouds sweeping over the peaks, clouds rising above from the valleys and in the far distance below in the valley lay a small speck which was the nearest village from this entire wilderness. 

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Misty View of Olichuchattam Falls

Deep in the interiors of Kerala, we learnt that the mountains here are higher than most of Western ghats, that the forests here grow till great heights of 2000 meters and above, that the shola grasslands so typical of western ghats do not grow in this part of the state, that deep inside the jungle plummets one of the most beautiful cascades, that climbing this mountains wouldn’t make sense most of the time but in the end it all can seem worthwhile, that following animal trails is the only way out here, that the guide was so well versed with this jungle that he found the lost trail in the darkness of night, that it was a fun two days we spent in one of the most challenging terrain yet. 

Having trekked for close to two years now in all sorts of terrain like Himalayas, Eastern Ghats and Western Ghats, I found the forests and mountains of Vellarimala to be most challenging yet. I’ll tell you why. Every time I trekked, there was high motivation to reach the destination – be it clear views of snow capped peaks, green grasslands spread all over, clouds kissing the sky, clouds below our feet, thundering waterfalls or crystal clear pools. They did not talk about the mind over body theory just like that. That theory is actually true. Mind has great power to take you through the toughest of times with much ease as long as it is motivated and determined to so. 

So how does it matter here at Vellarimala? See, the thing is, you’ll be made no promise of a dazzling sunset, no promise of a grand view, no promise of never ending grasslands. Plain relentless climbing through the thickest of forest in a trail that has been previously used only by animals is the promise instead. The only motivation if any would be to challenge yourself and then certify yourself as a hardcore trekker by the end of it if you survive. I do not mean this in a sense that it is very difficult. Just that the inspiration that comes from an ulterior motive to see something grand is missing here. There are good views agreed but as easy to find as a needle in a haystack. :)

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Misty Forests we were going through

I am not saying I did not enjoy the trek. I enjoyed the trek for the challenge it presented, for the persistence we showed, for the diversity it showed, for the waterfall we relished, for the trail lost, for the campsite found.  But it was a bittersweet journey all along I guess. Now that it is done and I am sitting home remembering the two days I think it was all well worth the effort and the hype. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

2010 in Pictures - The year that Rocked! :)

The year could not have started on a better note. It was New Year's eve and a full moon night. The breeze was cool enough to be pleasant. Me and my friend were having a cup of tea at the small highway joint while the bus stopped for a small break. Next two days spent in Karwar, Goa and Gokarna were as legendary as ever! This New Year’s Eve I will be sitting under the vast open and starry skies of Great Indian Thar Desert. That is also going to be legendary as ever! 

Reminiscing the events of 2010, I have to say it was a very very eventful year with lot of important milestones that I personally felt took me a bit closer towards realizing my dream of becoming a full fledged traveler. Let's see how events unfolded over the 12 months of 2010.  Click on the images to read the detailed blog post if published.

January - 

Like I said, the year started on a rocking note when I spent two days along the coastline of Karnataka and Goa. In two days we covered 220kms of coastline visiting seven beaches ranging from Colva in Goa to Maravanthe near Kundapur in Karnataka.

One weekend in nature didn't satiate my wanderlust as expected and the immediate weekend I escaped to the mountains of Tadiyandmol for a small yet rewarding trek. The clouds below my feet experience that I longed for ever since I knew of Western Ghats was fulfilled after a year of evasion. This trek also remains memorable for I introduced my friend from office to my world of trekking in this trek. From what I could tell she did enjoy the experience. :)

Later that month, yet another trek to Kodaikanal beckoned and I was up for another adventure in the high hills. Kodaikanal was instrumental as I met few people who would later turn be good friends and interesting contacts with whom I am still in touch. The trek was amazing in its own right with stories to tell but you've read about it already. 

That was the end of a splendid January.

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Golden Beaches of Gokarna

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Golden sunset from Tadiyandmol

Monday, December 13, 2010

The 100 Strangers Project - New Photoblog!



As the names suggests, this is a project that I have taken up to shoot portraits of 100 Strangers. Initially conceptualized by Teppo , The 100 Strangers Project is sure a great way to start with portraits. Changing the rules a bit, I will be posting photos of strangers from my past travels as well where I have explicitly asked the subject if I could take a photograph. More than just portraits of strangers on the streets of Bangalore,  you will see faces from the remote corners of India.

See you at my new blog then -  http://my100strangers.wordpress.com/

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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Kodachadri - On Cloud Nine!



Date of Journey - November 13 - 14 2010

Kodachadri has always been famous – famous for a blazing sunset and an unforgettable Arishinagundi. I have been in Bangalore for two years now and not once could I manage to get hold of an opportunity to visit this place amongst so many trips. So much for someone who is interested in hiking, photography and waterfalls. 

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Anyhow, when I saw the mail from Bangalore Ascenders (yea, a new group I discovered. They are good – check them out!) I had little going against the thought of joining them to Kodachadri apart from the teeny tiny fact that I did not know a single soul on the trek. So many treks and trips yet, but every single time I had at least one acquaintance to begin with. And I also knew that once on the trek, conversations flow freely for all of us have at least one common interest. But what the hell, for someone who is aspiring to be a solo world traveler someday, there’s always a first time. So if you are one of those who have been thinking to go for a trek for a long time but lack of company has been setting you back, here’s your moment of truth. Going alone isn’t half as bad as going with the wrong company. Next time you see an invite, register! :P 

Kodachadri – A Dreamer’s Reverie

Infact there are many benefits of going alone which I’d like to save for another post. Getting back to Kodachadri, at an altitude of 1343 meters above MSL, forming a pretty background to the famous Mookambika Temple of Kollur, 40 kms off the west coast, it is surely a place that can exceed your expectations. The backwaters of Lingamakki Dam on Sharavathi River create a stunning landscape view all around the peak. The 360 degree panoramic view from the peak is one of the best that I have seen so far with clouds below, the reflecting backwaters, hints of the coastline and a front row seat to an extraordinary sunset. 

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Getting there and more FAQs – 

So what’s the way to paradise you ask? Well I cannot guide you to the hypothetical gateway to the celestial kingdom, but I sure can tell you how to reach this piece of heaven very much located on our planet earth. 

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