Category Archives: Travel

North East India Wonders

Trip to North East India was a dream come true. I got the best opportunity after I resigned from Amrita Institute before taking up the post in Believers Church Hospital. I took a two month break and started off with Papa for a 3 week journey to the Northeastern states of India.
On the 9th of March, 2014 at 6.30 am, we started off from Trivandrum and reached Chennai at 7.30 am by air India. We took the 10.10 spice jet to Bagdogra via Kolkata. Bagdogra is a defence airport. Reached by 1.30 pm. Mr. Sanjay had come on an Innova to pick us  and we started at around 2.00 pm. We met papa’s friend Mr. Joshua  on the way. I was happy to see Ayyappan Temple written in malayalam in Bagdogra
The road along the teesta river gorge was magnificent. On the way we Saw a Bike fell in teesta gorge near sevak.The guys were recovered. One guy looked quite serious. Only thing that we knew was that he was alive at that moment.On the way we saw factories of pharmaceutical companies like alchem, cipla, torrent, sun, Himalaya. We Reached Gangtok at 6.30 pm. Gangtok at night was looking great. papa had to buy a camera battery and we saw the Gangtok MG market; so beautifully maintained. The room was booked by papa’s student, Mr. Janga police ADGP in the Police guest house. The room name was Harini- Verditer flycatcher. We had chapathi, dal fry and chilly chicken for dinner.

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Next day we started off to namchi. Sanjay was our driver for our entire journey in Sikkim We were told be him that there were three tribes or races in Sikkim, the Bhutia who are Buddhist, lepcha who are considered the indegenous nature worshippers and the Nepali hindus.On the way we saw a Dam built half way by the Andhra reddys
We stopped for tea in a shop near a Tea estate and the view of the estate and view and rhododendron trees were good.We had refreshing black tea.
On the way to Namchi, we visited Samudruptse Buddha statue which was a tall statue on a hill. I was amazed to see and excited to photograph innumerable species of birds around that area. We had to wait near the car for some time as our driver Sanjay was immersed in carom play with other drivers and we waited till the game was over.
Shirdi sai mandir was a good place to visit. The place was so silent and less busy when compared to our next destination. Siddheshwar char dham was a tourist destination on top of a hill and it had duplicated most of the temples in India. We could see the Samudruptse statue from far. We had Veg momos and wai wai noodles for lunch. I was a unique experience.
Due to the arrival of some VIP we had to change to the SIB the guest house and fortunately that was a better option. The night view of the city was awesome.
on the 11th of March we started off to  Nathu la which is a mountain pass to China at the Indo China border which was along the old silk route. The road was quite treacherous. We got passes on the way. The view of the snow mountains were amazing. The ride along the slippery snow road was quite risky too but so exciting. Finally after many hours we reached Nathula.

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Its a must see destination. The cherry on the pie was the opportunity to photograph a Himalayan Griffon. Near to Nathu la was baba mandir which is a shrine of a soldier. It was a unique experience. On the way we saw the beautiful  Tsomgo lake. The scenic beauty was unexplainable. We had a  ride on the yak near the lake. The snow fall on the way back was a thrilling experience. Momo was a favourite dish there and we did not miss any chance. We had  veg steamed momo for breakfast and lunch, pork fried momo for the evening  and chapathi, rice and chicken for dinner.

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Next day we did a  city tour . We enjoyed the Rope way, We paid a visit to a nearby Gojang monastery. There we had a funny incident where a monk hit a dog and  fell from scooter. Ganeshtok was a high point where the view of the city was quite magnificient, The Zoo had very little animals but with great potential to expand.We also visited flower park, namgyal institute of tibetology, tashi view point, Do drul chorten stupa, enchey monastery and  handicraft bazaar. On the way back we were shocked to see a scene where people were waiting to get the LPG cylinder. The queue was horribly long.
We had dinner from Tibet restaurant with Mr.Jenga  and the menu was wanton soup, momo, fing and  fried rice
On the 13th  morning, We started off to darjeeling. We took around 4 hrs including time for breakfast.We bid farewell to Sanjay, He was a wonderful driver. The stay was in luxurious circuit house. In the evening we did a joy ride in the toy train from darjeeling to ghoom which was 7 km one side. We also visited the ghoom museum.
Next day we woke up at 3.30 am and started towards tiger hills. We got a new driver. Got the super deluxe ticket on the waiting area building. The sun rise was supposed to be at 5.55 am. We sat on the top floor of the building on the luxurious couches only to see the thick white mist.the view of the great Himalayas including Mount Everest, Kanchendzonga hit by the golden morning rays still remain as a dream. After breakfast we visited the Buddhist monasteries and also rope way which was recently reopened. It had been closed for 12 years due to an accident where some tourists died. The 40 min ride above the tea garden was good but the ride above Gangtok City was better. The Padmaja Naidu Zoo was quite a good one and we visited the Himalayan Mountaineering institute which was nearby. We paid a visit to the Dunggon Samten Choling Buddhist Monastery. After lunch we came down to siliguri and visited papas friends Joshua and Jonathan. Joshua uncle took us to another place where we had a bible study session and papa shared his experiences regarding the Allahabad history of change of Ganesh mani Pradhan to Joshua Pradhan. After dinner he dropped us in new jalpaiguri railway junction. To our shock we came to know that our train was 6 hrs late. It was to start at 12.10 am on 15th. On trying to confirm it, we came to know that the delay was extended to 7 hrs. We found that there was a train to Guwahati at 2.00 am, the saraighat express. We took the second class ticket. The train came and I headed towards the general compartment. Luckily papa saw the TT getting down and we managed to get two berths in the first class coupe. It was my first time in first class. We had to pay extra 1000 each. Inspite of reminding the TT, we were not given the receipt and so we can imagine where the money had gone to. We reached Guwahati at around 10.00 am and we took a share taxi to Shillong. There were 11 people in the Tata sumo including the driver. It took 3 hrs including the 30 min break in Nongpoh where we had masala pineapple and banana.

Our stay was arranged in Don Bosco Savio juniorate, the minor seminary. We were received by Fr. Sebastian Palatty who is a friend of Lakshmanan. They were together in Silchar. We also met Fr.Jose who was the director of Don Bosco museum for indigenous culture. After lunch we visited the museum. It was a marvel. It’s supposed to be the largest museum in Asia. We could learn the cultures of  the various north east tribes. The view of Shillong City from the sky walk above the museum was unique and beautiful. There was a nine min video presentations also about north East India.
In the evening we met Mrs Peace Lyngdo who was a student of papa in agriculture college vellayani. They had met after 25 years. We did a city tour and visited golf course, ward’s lake and cathedral. We visited her house too.
She explained to us regarding the various tribes of Mekhalaya like the Khasi, Garo and Jintia. We had dinner from City Hut Dhaba and the ambience there was great.
Next day we set off to our dream destination the Chirapunjee or Sohra. Chirapunjee was a shocking experience. so unexpected. The place could only be compared to an inverted  empty tumbler because everywhere there were coal mine which caved the land and also there were massive waterfalls only during rainy season. No wonder it can be called the “wettest Desert”. The forst destination was Duwan Sing Syiem View point from where we could see the Mawdok Dympep valley. There was adventure tourism happening there that included the ropeway. On the way we saw Nohsngithiang falls. The view was gorgeous though the water was less.

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Nohkalikai falls was yet another marvel. It is also a must see destination. It tells the story of a girl who jumped off the cliff. We could only imagine its massiveness during peak of monsoon.  Mawsmai cave was a unique experience. The walk along the 150 metre cave in the midst of forest was quite thrilling. I always longed for a cave expedition.  Next destination was Thankharang park. It was a large park and was quite well maintained. It was quite unfortunate to see the dry Kynrem falls in the back ground of the park. On the way we saw huge Khasi Monoliths; the femaale ones were lying horizontal and the male ones were erected up.  We also sawThomas Jones School of Mission named after a missionary who came in 1841. The Ka Khoh Ramhah was a huge rock that carried a myth of a giant that was killed. The place was unique as we could see the beautiful Bangladesh plains from there. The next destination was Elephant falls. It was a wonderful 3 step falls. Inspite of the pace being busy, it was clean and the bird life around it was also amazing.
For dinner we had Shillong noodles with chilly pork and also live music by Peace’s teacher Felix.
On the 17th morning 6.30 am, we started from Shillong. Peace arranged car driven by Sunil all along the Shillong trip. We had breakfast in local shop. We had jhado , it was masala rice with pork salad and fried veg. It seems there is a preparation where rice is made mixed with blood of pork, a Khasi delicacy. It would look red in colour. We missed it. jorabat kaziranga road had paddy fields on one side and tea garden on other. As we were nearing the park we saw tea garden on one side and national park on either side. We really started to enjoy Assam.
At Kaziranga we were welcomed by Lakshmanan’s friend, Sunny Choudhary, ACF. We did a Jeep ride in the evening inside the sanctuary . We could see lot of animals and birds. We had dinner with Sunny and he shared many stories.
Next day early morning we had a sanctuary ride on elephant. We watched many birds like vultures, storks, Pelicans and animals including rhino, deer,wild buffalo, boar really upclose.
After breakfast, Sunny dropped us at kaziranga bus stand. We waited there from 10 to 11.00 am. In between an Assam transport bus passed and didn’t stop. Standing was not allowed in the bus. We got a bus to jorhat. Reached at 12.30. After lunch we took the Assam transport bus to tinsukia. It was so luxurious with only around 30 seats.
Lakshmanan and family waited for us in tinsukia and took us to joinulabidins banashree resort in guijan, 8 km from tinsukia opposite to dibru saikhowa national park near the banks of river dibru. Cute looking bamboo huts close to nature. The huts were named after birds. We were staying in and Lakshmanan and family stayed in next hut. That night we went to nearby exhibition ground called riya enterprises. We got into the giant wheel, rotating helicopter and visited local stalls. We met the owner.Lakshmanan has helped to give permission to set up the show in his place sadiya. So everything was free for us as his courtesy.

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On the 19th, we were taken to a near by ghat. Papa and me were on one boat, Lakshmanan and family on another. We had guides with us.it was maguri bheel (lake), a birders paradise. We were a bit late regarding the season. As things started to be exciting the clouds began to creep over. The thunder was frightening and it began to drizzle. Luckily we got back to the bank and found a safe cover. The downpour was heavy. As the sky became a bit clear, we roamed around the glasslands and did some bird watching. There were lots of ruddy shelducks and other birds. As we got on to our boats, a terrific lightning struck right on a metal wire right on top of us. Lakshmanans children got really scared. I felt a hit on my right ear. I guess it was a narrow escape for all of us. Lakshmanan and family any way had to go early and there was no better excuse to go earlier. We continued our ride in the boat. The climate became better. We had breakfast in the boat. I was really excited by the number,type and close proximity to the birds. In the evening we went for a grassland stroll and did bird watching.
Lakshmanan had discussed with ADC of Jairampur regarding the ILP(Inner line Permit) for us to enter Arunachal Pradesh to visit pangsau pass. So next day Joinulabidin took us in his jeep along with his helper . It was around 150 km from the resort. There were a lot of check posts including Arunachal police, Assam rifles army, Myanmar police and army posts. After all the hurdles, we managed to enter another country, Myanmar, without any passport or visa. Entry is usually permitted on 10th and 20th of every month when they conducted Burma market. Unfortunately Burma market was not there that day as the children had exams. But some shops were open. We drove around 5 km inside the entry check post.

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There was a Buddhist monastery near by. I bought a handmade carry bag for my wife. The view of theChanglang ‘Lake of no return’ in the valley was beautiful. The condition of the road in Myanmar side was pathetic. While returning we met a malayali army officer at pangsau check post. From there I had to drive the vehicle as Joinulabidin was feeling so sleepy, we just escaped an accident and that was the reason I took over. We visited Digboi war cemetery and Digboi oil museum on the way back.
We stayed in Tinsukia circuit house that night.

On the 21st  we started our most exciting journey to the place where Lakshmanan was working as Chief Judicial Magistrate; Sadiya. It was a trip of a lifetime. We started off early morning on a bus and reached on the banks of River Lohit,one of the tributary of Brahmaputra. The bus travelled along the sand banks . From there we look the boat to cross the ghat. It took around half an hour to cross the river. We were told it would take around 2 hours to cross during floods. We could not even imagine the might of River Brahmaputra. A 10 Km long bridge was under construction and so we would not experience this in the future. We took another bus from there to reach Sadiya. In most places roads were not even there and the trip was quite bumpy. We reached Sadiya by around noon. straightaway we were taken along with Lakshmanan’s family and his guard in his vehicle to Mayodiya Pass which was in Arunachal Pradesh.

We didnt have any difficulty in entry. The border was Roing and from there Ghat road started. The crossing along the dried river bed, watching wild Mithuns and the view of the valley from the top were all quite exciting. But the experience at the top surpassed all these. Mayodiya was 2655 metre altitude mountain pass. The view of the snow mountains was so beautiful and they still cherish in our memories. We stayed in the Circuit house that night. Next day Lakshmanan took us and showed around Sadiya. It was a small beautiful village. We visited the silk wormm farm also. We thanked good bye to Sadiya and Lakshmanan , crossed the ghat and reached Tinsukia Station. The Railway heritage park in Tinsukia was a wonder and it threw a lot of light regarding the history of not just Northeast frontier railway but the whole of Indian Railways.
On 23rd morning we reached reached dimapur. Got refreshed in circuit house. We obtained ILP from Mr.Thavaseelan who was the SDO, Dimapur and Lakshmanan’s friend. We took a share taxi to Kohima which took 2 hrs. We were welcomed by Papa’s friend Lanuakum Ozukum and he gave us typical Naga lunch. He explained about the different naga tribes. It seems there are around 14 major tribes. Altogether around 30 tribes. All have different dialects. But they speak mainly nagamese, which is a mixture of Hindi and Assamese.
Next day we had breakfast with David and Merlin who was also Papa’s friends. We visited the Museum and war cemetery, The kisama naga heritage village was a good place to be. But it became active only during the Hornbill festival in December.   We had lotha which was a special naga dish  for dinner. We also paid a visit to the State handicraft emporium and had a good walk back home. The cathedral of Mary Help of Christians was near to our stay and the view of Kohima from the top was beautiful
We came back to dimapur on 25th and stayed in circuit house. We Met papas friend Sharon there. It was a good experience to visit bamboo resource centre.  We had dinner in Sharon’s house. The only thing we missed in Nagaland was to taste dog meat.
On the 26th of March we took the  12.00 noon air India flight from dimapur to Kolkata via dibrugarh.We saw a fascinating view of the Himalayan Mountain range through the aircraft window. The Kolkata to chennai flight was delayed by 3 hrs. We stayed in aunts place in chennai.
On the 27th we visited papas friend PC varghese in Chennai. We took the evening flight to Trivandrum with fond memories.

The Great UK Experience

With good hope and dreams of a good career in medicine, I set off to UK to write my PLAB part 2 examination with Joe and Sarath. The STIC travel card gave us a heavy discount in our airfare. We took the Gulf air, departed at about 9.30 am on the 25th of May 2005 waving good bye to our friends and family. It was my first journey in a flight and also out of my country. The flight was full. We reached Abudhabi in 4 hours. Literally we had to run to the next terminal for the connection flight but not to miss the beautiful multicoloured massive central dome of the airport. The next flight was literally empty. It took 8 long hours to reach London Heathrow. During the journey, we saw residential apartments being built on the artificial island made in the sea in the shape of palm tree in Dubai

The view of the great Alps from above was fascinating. The snow covered mountains looked like the body of zebra. We checked out of London Heathrow at about 5.30 pm. Sajicha who was Sarath’s relative took us to his home in Harrow. Joe went to Leicester where his brothers stayed.

Next day Sarath and myself took a train from London to Sheffield  in “virgin train”. It was fast and luxurious when compared to our own railways.  Mohanbabu uncle who was my father’s colleague in agricultural college in Kerala was in Sheffield for his PhD. He came to receive us at the railway station. We met him infront of the W H Smith book house. We took a black cab and reached his home. The street  even when all the houses seemed monotonous was still looking neat and beautiful.

Uncle’s son Kichu was eager to show his pictures and music in his computer.  We stayed ther overnight and next day Sarath and me took a train to Manchester Piccadilly. We had to reach Old Trafford and so we took a tram. We had registered with Plabwise for the coaching for Plab test. The Plabwise people arranged the accommodation about 10 minutes walk from the coaching centre.  It was above a mosque and Islamic cultural centre. The place was so quiet and peaceful.

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The next five days was the intensive PLAB 2 coaching starting from 9.00 am which went upto around 10.00 pm. Earlier we cleared the part 1 in India. Over the few days, we started improving our communication skills by interacting with our classmates and teachers who came from different countries like Syria, Nigeria, Pakistan, Egypt, Iran etc. We both were the only Indians.  Me and Sarath did combined study for the next days in our room. We made friends with guys from Lebanon and Pakistan who stayed next door. We learned the basics of cooking. Well actually most of it were precooked, heat and eat items. It was not the time for experiments too.

My cousin Kochuchayan came to visit us and took us for a trip around Manchester. The city was pretty huge. Eventhough  I didn’t have much interest in football, I was happy to visit Manchester United and Manchester City stadiums. I was told that the sculpture “Bee of the Bang” infront of the Manchester City stadium was worth millions. We also saw the renovated docks and the imperial war museum.  Finally we went to the Trafford centre shopping complex, better called a shopping city. It was so amazing and massive that we could only see a part of it.  I guess we could buy everything under the sun from there.  We settled in a ship shaped hall and had a chicken dish from the Nando’s restaurant.

We came back to London on the 10th of June. We had already booked for a mock test with PLABswamy in Eastham on the 11th. Not to our surprise, East ham was almost like India. We could hardly see any British people there. The difference was really felt

We took the PLAB 2 exam on the 13th June. By then Joe also came to Eastham for his coaching. All three of us took a trip in and around London city reminding of the movie  “Mandanmar Londonil ”. We travelled in the famous underground tube railway. By taking a day rider ticket, we could get down in lot of stations like Euston square, Leicester square, Piccadilly Circus, St.James park, Oxford Circus, Liverpool street, Monument, West Minster and so on. The view of the London eye, Big Ben and Parliament house were fascinating from the bridge over the Thames River. We saw London bridge from far.  We strolled for a while in St.James Park. It was huge.  There were a lot of swans in the park. A squirrel that was fed by a person suddenly jumped and climbed over my legs.

I came back to Sheffield on the 17th of June and stayed with Mohanbabu uncle for the next two and a half months. I roamed around Sheffield city by foot as well as in Kichu’s cycle. After passing PLAB, I concentrated on applying for jobs and running around hospitals in search of attachments. After many hundreds of applications, I got an attachment in Orthopaedics in Royal Liverpool University hospital with Prof. Simon.P.Frostick . I stayed with my cousin Nisha for the rest of the period in UK.  From Liverpool I had a chance to travel two times to preston for a course, once to Manchester for my MRCS part 1 exam and once to Doncaster for my occupational health check for an attachment (which I cancelled later). As Sarath was in Doncaster  I had an opportunity to visit him too.

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In Liverpool I purchased a monthly bus pass to go to the hospital. With that, I could travel all around Liverpool any time. Apart from the career, it was a huge boost for my communication skills during my work in Royal Liverpool University hospital. Thanks to the patients from all over the world. Apart from the British, my colleagues came from different part of the word including India, Greece, Nigeria, Cyprus, Kyrgyzstan, Iran, Norway and Pakistan.

During my time in Liverpool, I visited the Liverpool Museum where I saw an Egyptian Mummy. I also visited Albert Dock, and The Liverpool Cathedral which was massive and amazing. I strolled through the China Market and saw the Liverpool Football stadium. Once a month we had Malayalam Holy mass conducted by Happy Achen. I met him earlier in Sheffield where he took me for the mass in Manchester. Infact the road trip from Sheffield to Manchester was so beautiful. The real country roads lie fresh in my memories. In both the churches, I had to introduce myself as it was a custom for new comers.

 

I had my first experience of snow in the Christmas season of 2005 in Liverpool. Me and Chakki enjoyed the evenings making snowman and playing with snowballs in the garden. I was excited to paint the fence of the back yard of our home during the stay with them. The change of the environment with the seasons was so amazing and I loved autumn the most.  I even made a poem out of the inspiration.

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I got addicted to the first ever reality show in BBC, “Strictly come dancing” and became a fan of Darren Gough and Lilia Kopylova. To add cherry to the pie, they won the competition too.  Chakki and I practiced dancing after the show. She thoroughly enjoyed my stay there.

Unfortunately the change in the visa rules forced me to leave UK without a job. Of course I was upgraded from the attachment post to Honorary Senior House Officer in Orthopaedics.  I got the GMC registration and the Hospital got a free job. But this couldn’t go long and I had to leave.

We spent some money for all this adventure, but the gain was massive. A whole lot of experience in life; feeling of responsibility, independence, Cultural integration, improving communication skills, tourism and sightseeing,  career inspiration in Orthopaedics, the ever rainy and cold UK climate and by far the most, the ability to survive inspite of persistent hindrances and obstacles in life. The lessons that I learned from the British was

  • To always keep a smiling face
  • Do it yourself
  • Never hesitate to tell 3 words at any point in your life “ Please, Sorry and Thank you”

T was a very fast decision to visit Dubai and SriLanka on my return to India. Elsymmamma sent me the visa and I waved goodbye to UK from  Manchester airport on the 4th of May 2006. On the way to Dubai, I had a transit in Frankfurt airport which was so huge that I had to take a train inside the airport to go to the next terminal.

Elsymmamma and Babuchachan waited for me in Dubai airport. They didn’t recognize me at all as I was having a “motta thala”. I had my hair shaved during most of the time in UK. I stayed with them in Deira for the next 10 days and 4 days in SriLanka with my cousin Sajanchayan. Papa joined me there and we travelled all around Sri Lanka.  We were upgraded to business class on our way to Trivandrum

The Great Thekkady Trip

24th February to 2nd March 2007

One of my greatest treks covering Thekkady, Rajakkad and Chinnar. I was joined by Harisankar, Midhun, Sarin and Lakshmanan. We started from Trivandrum in train to get down at Changanassery and from there to Kumily by bus.

We reached Thekkady by evening and stayed in Tiger Bangalaw. I recognized the cook Vijayan Chettan who was the same old guy who came with me and Joe to Manakkavala Bison Camp in 15/12/2004. We exchanged old memories.

I still remember a funny moment happened that day on our way back from the trekking camp, we saw the spine and pelvic skeleton of a large herbivore(probably sambar deer). Vijayan Chettan had held it upside down and seriously describing each parts of the animal. He thought it was the skull and mistook the obturator foramen as the eyes. After all he is a naturalist and not an anatomist.  I still remember his loud and hearty crepitus laugh in the bison camp.

We also met the DFO, Mrs Padma Mahanti and the range officers, Mr Radhakrishnan, Mr Karunakaran and also Mr. Basheer(whom we later met in Gavi when he was the warden and also in Thrissur Birdwatcher’s meet).

On the 25thmorning, we woke up in excitement. Everything set for the journey. Meanwhile we also met 2 foreigners, “the Timothy couple” from UK. With forest guard Chellappan and 2 other guides, we started off at about 9.00 am in the boat “vanalakshmi” owned by the forest department. We did not see any animals in the first 45 minutes. Unfortunately the boat with the tourists including the Timothys could not see any animals that day. I still remember my friends making fun of me when earlier that morning I was making a rapport with the Timothys by saying “this is the only place in kerala where we can see wild animals in close quarters

But luck favoured us. As we sailed deep in to the forest interiors, we started seeing animals, a lone tortoise on a rock basking in the sun, wild boars lined up towards the banks to drink water, cormorants and later larger ones including elephants, gaurs and sambar deers.

We headed towards Mullakudy inspection bangalaw. Mullakkudy IB was situated at the junction where MUllayar and Periyar met to become Mullaperiyar. At the landing area we saw in the water a group of large tadpoles. Believe me, we have never seen larger ones than them till now. At the IB, we were amazed on seeing the size of the skull of a gaur kept there.

After tea, we got onto the boat and were dropped on the opposite bank after a 10 min ride. From there we did a 2 hr steep climb to Kumarikulam wireless station.The view from there was breath taking. The station was very near to the Kumarikulam pond and we spent some time there enjoying the beauty of nature.

From there we started walking and covered hillock by hillock, mainly grasslands to reach Thannikkudy forest bangalaw. It was built by the Travancore Kings.Nearby we could see remnants of forest fire which ate considerable area of forest.

We took bath in the virgin Periyar river. The forest guards said we took bath in the exact place where a tiger chased a sambar deer couple of days back. The mood was thrilling and we were ecstatic.

In the Thannikudy IB, we saw large skulls of deers. At dusk, we had a stroll towards the nearby watchtower. We saw tiger pugmarks in the sandy areas of the river. The trail ended in a place where we saw remnants of tiger kill. The guards said that the tiger had come the previous night. We were in the land where the real king reigns.

We also saw foot marks of other animals like herd of wild elephants and wild dog. We joined the guards at night for fishing and got “kooral” and had them for dinner. The day was really long and tiring for us and all we needed was a good night sleep.

We set off at dawn along the periyar river, proximally to Mlappara. On the way we saw a viper, gaurs, elephants and heard a sound which the forest guards told that it was of a bear.

We tied threads on a tree as a ritual where any person who makes the first trip was supposed to tie a thread to a particular tree. All the way, the views of periyar and its valleys were breath taking. We again saw pugmarks of tiger and also its scratch marks on a particular tree. Mlappara remains the deepest area of periyar tiger reserve that we have explored. The officers in the forest station of Mlappara were very cordial.

We reached Thannikkudy by around 4 pm for the lunch.On our way back we saw a herd of elephants. They were around 8 of them. Their positioning seemed so planned that the two little ones were standing in the middle and all the adults were feeding around providing good cover to the calves.

After a refreshing bath in the river, we walked to the watch tower. We came across a herd of elephants there also. This time we got “kuyil” fish.

On 27th morning, we headed towards Mullakudy through a different path. We saw huge tadpoles, skull of sambar deer and also hornbill. We took bath in the reservoir. From Mullakudy, we took a jeep. The journey was quite adventurous. We reached  a place called Poovarasu and saw boars, skeletal remains of elephants.

We saw a group of hornbills. From there we went to Mangaladevi temple. Public were allowed to the temple only one day in a year. We were lucky to go there on a peaceful and silent day. We had a breathtaking 360deg view from the watchtower. We saw the thekkady reservoir, Periyar tiger reserve, Western Ghats border and the huge Tamilnadu plains.

We reached Thekkady back by evening.



On our way to Rajakkad, We took a lodge in Nedumkandam and stayed there. On the 28thmorning, we went to Mangathotti and visited our friend Paul who was a health Inspector. We visited Senapathi PHC and Mohan Chettan;s studio.

We visited Kuthungal Waterfalls near Rajakkad that evening and joined Paul chettan for fishing and got fishes like ‘paral’, ‘Neikooral’, ‘Sucker catfish’, ‘prawns’, ‘kallemutty’ and lots of other fish. The fry was yummy.

Next day we did a road trip to Chinnar wild life sanctuary via munnar and Marayoor and we saw “ kezha Deer”, boar, spotted deers. At 9 pm, I took the bus back to Trivandrum with lots and lots of thrilling memories.

 

Lankan Days

On the way back from England in May 2006, I stayed about 10 days in Dubai and then 4 days in SriLanka. I reached Colombo airport on 14/5/2006. I got the visa on arrival. Papa had already come from Trivandrum the previous day. We stayed with cousin Sajan achachan. Without wasting time,we set out to cover Srilanka in achachan’s wonderful Toyota Verosa.

Buddha, Buddha and Buddha. All around SriLanka, it was he who stood out. It was Sri Buddha’s 2550th birth centenary and SriLanka was in a festive mood. Wherever we went, we saw countless number of his statues.img_0151

On the first day, we went to a beach side town named Galle,1 hour drive south of Colombo. Sajanchachan,his 2 children, Papa and myself got a boat,the floor of which was made of glass and we went out to the sea. The life underwater was so colourful and mesmerizing. We enjoyed watching the beautiful fishes and corals. We saw a beautiful turtle too. On our way back, we had an opportunity to get toddy freshly tapped from the coconut tree.img_0216

On the second day, Papa and me started off towards east to Pinnawala. We had a driver for the rest of our journey. Enroute we saw on the road, a person who was selling Porcupines and Toddy cats.They were mercilessly tied to chains.

Pinnawala is an elephant orphanage. Little orphan elephants are saved and reared there. Elephants were having bath in the river opposite to the orphanage. There were about 60 of them playing in water and among them was a three legged member. Everybody was eager to take photos with the elephants.

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Our car was caught for over speeding twice. I guess it was no different from our place, the way Police hide behind the curves and suddenly jumping out. We passed along a place called Seegiriya. A single large mountain was seen. We were told that there were ruins of a large city on the top of the hill. It was a plateau and from far, we could see stairs to climb the hill.

Our journey continued and we reached a hilly place called Kandi. There was a small  but beautiful lake in the midst of the town. There was a Buddha temple nearby and we saw the largest Buddha statue in the world with Dharmachakra posture(100 feet). We also visited the nearby museum.

Next day we went to Anuradhapura via Pollanaruwa. Anuradhapura had a word heritage city where we saw ruins of Abhayagiriya monastery. It included several Buddha stupas, caves, ponds, halls and museum.img_0384

On our way back, we visited yet another Buddha temple. It was really beautiful with gold plated railings around a huge Bodhi tree which was brought from Gaya.

On 18th morning, we flew back to my home town, Trivandrum after one year of life in UK. The icing on the cake was the upgradation to business class. Though the journey lasted only 30 minutes, the experience was exciting.

 

Srilanka looks almost like Kerala, the only difference being the umpteen number of Buddha statues wherever you look. Thanks very much to Sajanchachan and his family for taking all the pains and making our trip most comfortable and exciting.

 

Kattappana life – A trekker’s bliss

16th November 2004 to 7th January 2005.

Shattering everyone’s future career plans, the government came up with a new Compulsory rural service plan in 2004.  Some took it seriously but others didn’t. Anyway I was ready to take it and it was a blessing in disguise. Joe had got posting in Kumily which was near to Thekkady. With him I set off to Kattappana for a new life.

With all the big luggage, we took the train from Trivandrum and got down at Kottayam. We took a bus to Thodupuzha and then to Painavu DMO office to collect the joining letter as Assistant Surgeon. From there, we took a jeep to Cheruthoni and then a bus to Kattappana. Both of us stayed in Vimala Lodge. Joe left Kumily the next day.

17/11 My PHC was in a place called ‘20acre’ which was around 3 km from the town. The MO in charge was leave for 3 days and I managed the OP alone seeing around 200 patients.

18/11 I conducted a School Health camp in two schools atPuliyanmala. One of them was a branch of Christ Nagar where I studied in Trivandrum.

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19/11 I climbed the Kurishumala hill which was very near to the town. It took around 45 minutes for the climb.  I could see the whole of Kattappana town from there and the view was very beautiful.

20/11 I went to Kumily to see Joe. We went for an evening walk with Shaji and Suresh who were sales tax officers whom Joe had met earlier. We crossed the check post and entered Tamilnadu. We saw a dam inside the forest and huge pipes which took water to Tamilnadu. We saw the town Cumbum from there and it was fantastic.

21/11 We roamed around Thekkady and saw wild boars, monkeys, giant squirrel and sambar deer

I took a week off to come to Trivandrum. I was back in Kattappana on first of December. I climbed Kurishumala once more but this time I had a camera with me. For all the trekkings around town I was enjoying  the loneliness. The place was just beautiful and the people were so simple.

2/12 I roamed around the Kattappana town and also the quarry in Puliyanmala.

3/12 I conducted the immunization camp in Kochuthovala.


5/12  After the OPD at 12 noon I walked to a nearby place called Anjuruli, a beautiful place bordered by the Idukki Reservoir. I saw a large tunnel which was around 3-4 km long carried water to drain in the reservoir. I couldn’t resist the temptation of climbing the nearby hill. There was a small teashop at the base and after asking the directions, I climbed up. The route was quite treacherous and there was no turning back. I took a break to sit down and have my packed lunch. All the time I was thinking that I was alone but I was not. As I was having the lunch, I was surrounded by a group of monkeys. Luckily I was not attacked and I quickly cleared the place. The summit of the hillock was picturesque. I could see a wide view of the Idukki reservoir and the Anjuruli, where I came from.  I also climbed another Kurishmala nearby. After watching the beautiful sunset, I climbed down on the other side to reach Nirmala City and from there I walked along the road for about 1.5 hrs to reach Kattappana. I walked for around 8 hours continuously that day.

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8/12 I was part of theWagamon- Erattupettatrip. We named it “Tour deJumbo” as Abhishek who was doing CRS in Erattupetta was organizing it along with Joy John from Poonjar. I came from Kattappana, Joe from Kumily, Aby and Shabu from Pathanamthitta, Jujju and Deep from Trivandrum. We stayed at Erattupetta. We were lucky to watch the wonderful fireworks at the Pala Church Jubilee celebrations and we met our classmate Sherin Jos over there.

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9/12 We visited the PHC of Joy John at Poonjar. There was a Python caged in a nearby church. We set of to Wagamon in Dandy Chettan’s Jeep. On the way, the tyre plate broke which made a delay of around 1 hr. In Wagamon we roamed around Rolling hills, Pine forest,
Kurishumala ashram and saw the fishes and the 6 feet tall cows who gave around 45 litres milk everyday. Joy and me climbed the Wagamon Kurishumala in 15 min. On the way back we got into a Toddy shop and had meals with fish and delicious frog fry.

12/12 I went to Kumily Church on Sunday. Later Joe, Neelesh, Joy(local guy) and me went to Cumbum in Tamilnadu. And from there to Suruli waterfalls. The irresponsible tourists were dirtying yet another nature spot. We got caught by the Tamilnadu forest guards as we tried to climb up the waterfalls. It seems there was a reserve forest with some dam over there and entry was restricted. Anyway we took photos of the falls. We climbed the Kurishumala in Kumily that evening. God alone knows how many Kurishumala hills have I climbed over these days.

14/12 Kumily was just 1 hour by bus from Kattappana. So I used to do frequent trips. On the way I visited Chellarkovilmedu. The whole place was covered with mist and I could see the beautiful Tamilnadu plains and the Cumbum town during the clearing of the mist. It was quite adventurous to explore the crevices beneath the rocks and I was alone.

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15/12 After the night stay at Kumily with Joe we did a trip to Thekkady with Nilesh and Health Inspector Thankachan. We went in the “Vanadarshan” boat owned by the forest department along with a guide named Vijayan. We got the bed sheets from the Hotel Lake palace inside the forest. We got down on the forest banks after around half an hour of boat journey. We saw foot marks of many animals. Our path was blocked by a group of wild boars and we had to wait for some time till they left.

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We walked for around 2.5 km to reach Manakkavala Bison Camp. It was a beautiful camp site. Our great friend Health Inspector forgot to bring the Chicken that he bought the previous day. But luckily Vijayan Chettan came out with eggs, rice, jam and other items that he brought during his previous visits. He had been a guide for the last 25 years. Chettan made Chappathi for us. We did an evening stroll around the camp for 2 hours and saw wild boars, a big herd of Indian Gaurs(around 17),Nilgiri Langur, a snake, lot of beautiful birds and  heard sounds of elephants and bear. We had a nice bath in the reservoir at around 6.30 pm and it was already dark .We could only guess the type of animals that watched us bathing. The experience was thrilling but not as thrilling as the wild life stories narrated by Vijayan chettan that night. How could I forget his crepitus laugh.

16/12 We had upma for breakfast. After a 1.5 hr walk along different route we reached the opposite banks of the boat landing area. On the way we saw a group of otters enjoying their time in water. We crossed the lake in a catamaran.In the evening, I took Joe and Neelesh to Chellarkovilmedu. This time there was no mist and everything was so visible compared to last time when I went alone.

18/12 Joe came to Kattappana. I got a bike from Koshy, the health inspector of Champakkara and with our health inspector Mathew, We went to Ramakkalmedu. The place was beautiful with 2 large statues of Kuravan and Kurathi, the rocks and the windmills and also the great view of Tamilnadu plains and cumbum town. We had dinner at Mathew’s house which was just half a km away from the tourist spot.

 

I went back to Trivandrum to spend Christmas with my family.

31/12 On the way back to Kattappana, I celebrated new year eve with songs and dance in KSRTC superfast bus with strangers. That was really a unique experience.

1/1/05 I visited papa’s friend Mr.V.M.Abraham and participated as chief guest and gave felicitations in their “swayam sahayaka sanghom” meeting.

2/1 After the morning Holy Mass I did trekking to a nearby place called Kallukunnu. The evening trip was to Puliyanmala rock. I really enjoyed the steep climb and the scenic beauty at the top.

3/1 Calvary mount was near to Kattappana and after the regular OP, I went there alone as always. The view of the reservoir beneath was breathtaking and that’s still fresh in my memories.

7/2 Time has passed so fast. The doctors who got appointments via Public Service Commission filed as case against the compulsory rural service saying that their jobs were in stake. So we were given the option of relieving from the service. As I was midway doing the preparation for a career in UK, I got relieved from the job of Assistant Surgeon, PHC, Kattappana on the 7th January 2005.

Goan Carnival

September 2004

 

I have been longing for a Goan trip for quite some time. After my internship, along with Jibu, Jujju, Aby, Daniel, Deep and Sarath We finally did it.

We reached Margoa early morning by train and from there; seven of us took one auto to Bambolim. Kiran helped us to get accommodation in the BSNL guest house. Goa Medical college was nearby. The guest house was luxurious, fully, furnished, with AC and TV. We got two rooms and the garden around the guest house was beautiful. Surprisingly we only had to pay Rs 20 per day for this luxury.

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We went to Panjim, which was 4 km from our stay, and took 4 bikes for rent, 1 pulser, 1 splendour and 2 passion. Jam packed thrilling sessions for the next 4-5 days. We covered almost entire Goa in our bikes.

Aguada fort had a pretty good scenic beauty and underneath it had a massive watertank which could hold thousands of gallons. It is not in use now.

Mangueshi, Santadurga and Saptakoteshwar temples- the first feeling that we had was that as if those Hindu temples were having Christian layout and Muslim architecture.

 

In Old Goa, we visited the church where the body of St Francis of Assissi was kept. The church was looking magnificient. There was also a museum opposite to the church.

Ancestral Goa was the next destination, where we saw Goan handcraft. The “bigfoot” didn’t look unusual as people said. We also did a boating there and rowed amongst the swans.

The bike ride to Vasco city and back reminded me of Formula one. The roads were thrilling. Vasco is a posh city.

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It was our turn to get to the beaches in Goa. The beauty of the beaches were enough for us not even thinking of the other two things that people usually do in Girls,Ocean,Alcohol.  We were happy with the beach……

Colva, Wagatore, Anjuna, Calangute, Baga, Meeramar…… all these beaches were unique and beautiful. Anjuna was supposed to be a nude beach, well there was nothing special.

We went to DonaPaula which was the meeting point of the great Mandovi and Zuari Rivers.

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The night cruise in Mandovi river was 1 hour of enjoyment filled with dance and lights with Goan music in the background.

 

I happen to see a picture of Dudhsagar waterfalls in Goa and from then onwards I had a severe urge to visit that place. We found that there was only a railway line to that place. To our desperation we were told that the trains to dudhsagar had been indefinitely cancelled due to landslide. Only one day was left for us and I just wanted to go somehow. Most of my friends were reluctant to take that risk of uncertainty. To my great relief Sarath agreed to come with me. We thought we would go as much as possible. I was even thrilled with that uncertainty and I knew any experience would make me happy. It was around 73 km from Panjim.

Me and Sarath started early in the morning in a bike. We travelled around 60 km along ancestral Goa. The road was decent till we reached … Railway station. From there, we were told that there was no road. So we drove by the side of the railway track. After a few kilometers, we found a mud track and drove along it into the forest, crossing the streams, along, away and under the railway track. We reached a settlement which had a temple nearby. The road ended there. We even lost track of the railway line. To our relief we saw few local people and enquired regarding Dudhsagar. They told us to climb a hillock to reach the railway line and follow it for around 2 km to reach dudhsagar. The moment we were nearing the railway line we heard the sound of a train and we ran just to see it. To our excitement, it was a single compartment with 3 engines and it was stopping at the nearby Sonaulim station. We ran towards it. We asked the people in it; Where can we get the ticket?  The answer made us ecstatic, “We are the railway workers going via Dudhsagar falls to repair the track damaged by landslide. Why don’t you get in? We’ll drop you at the Dudhsagar station”. What more do we need? In 5 minutes we reached our dream destination.

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Like it’s said, it was a ‘sea of milk’. 2/3rd of falls was above the railway line and 1/3rd below it. The beauty is beyond description. We spent there for quite some time and the moment we started to have our snacks, we were surrounded by monkeys. We had a narrow escape. Filled with contentment, we walked all the way back along the track to where we kept the bike and drove back. On the way back we saw a wild gaur and a beautiful tiny waterfall. As the film in the camera was over, the pictures remain alive only in our minds.

The Dudhsagar trip was a well deserved climax for our trip to Goa. The next day we took our train back to Trivandrum with hearts full of fond memories enough to cherish for a life time.

Agasthyarkoodam, the ultimate journey to bliss

1stitchAgasthyarkoodam was remaining as a dream till the 1st of February 2004. It was during our internship. It was usually very difficult to get entry tickets. I stood in the long queue in PTP Nagar Forest Office to get the tickets days before.

Together with Jibu, Jujju and in Aby’s Maruthi Zen, four of us set out for the trip. We started walking from Bonaucaud Check post at around 9.45am with packed lunch. We deviated from the path after 2 km and  headed towards Bona falls. It was a massive  falls. We had a good bath in the pool. Later we joined the trek path through a short cut. It was one of the steepest climb and Aby threw up in the first 5 km. We continued the journey and reached Athirumala at around 6.30 pm. As the name says it’s the border between Neyyar and Peppara wild life sanctuaries. We could see the massive mountain staring at us and literally it was the base camp with the vertical cliff right above. The Canteen was made of bamboo and it was looking so close to nature. We stayed in a large hall. Outside the hall it was clearly written not to enter the hall due to the dilapidated condition.

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Next day early morning we started the climb. The climate and terrain was so different than previous day. Geographically we crossed Tamilnadu border and then came back to kerala. The scenary from Pongalappara to the summit was so beautiful. We felt like walking along the wonderland of Alice. It was a heavenly place so close to Trivandrum.

 

The final climb to the summit was quite exciting. The place was so windy. We conquered the 1868m tall giant. Surprisingly the place where Sage Agasthya’s statue was kept was very calm. They even lit candles in front of the statue.  Actually there were thick bushes all around preventing heavy winds. The 2 feet high statue according to the people was life size. The legend says Sage Agasthya was a great physician. Anyway the whole place was full of high altitude dwarf flora most of them with high medicinal value. We walked back collecting the lunch from athirumala and reached bonacaud check post by around 4 pm.

The second trip was from February 28 to March 1st 2005. The dates were according to the Malayalam calendar. The pilgrimage period was from Sabarimala makara vilakku to Sivarathri. So luckily people were allowed to enter the sanctuary only for around 2 months in a year.

This time I was joined by Jibu, Anish, Lakshmanan, Sarin, Basanth, Harisankar and Joy. We parked our bikes at our classmate Rakhi’s home in Nedumangadu. We had bath in Bona falls. The scortching sun really hit us this time also in the meadows. I got cramps in hamstrings and quads of both legs.

 

On the way to Ponkalappara we saw few wild Gaurs from far. At the summit we met our class mate Niranjan’s brother. It was yet another unforgettable trip.

My third trip to Agasthyarkoodam was with Papa and Jibu. It was 23rd and 24th January of 2007.  As always, we enjoyed every bit of the trip taking photos, cherished those breath taking views. Papa had a very hard test of his endurance. We could only reach some distance short of the summit as we were getting late. We reached the check post at around 8 pm

 

When it come to endurance, Agasthyarkoodam trip was always the hardest trek ever done, ~55 km in 2 days. gone thrice. Even the thought of one more trip is so thrilling. Cherish those passing moments of

EXCITEMENT( at check post)-

TIREDNESS (attayar)-

DEAD MAN WALKING (grassland walk)-

HELPLESSNESS(the 7bend hills)-

RELAXATION(athirumala)-

REJUVENATION(the canteen food)-

THRILL(the final climb)-

ECSTASY(the summit) and finally

CONTENTMENT(u feel it all the way back).

U feel lonely, yet fulfilled; tired yet satisfied. I tell you anybody would become philosophical. AGASTHYARKOODAM IS A MUST SEE IN EVERY ADVENTURER’S LIFE