Day 31: En route to the ‘Gift of the Forests’

We drove from Attapadi towards Dhanushkodi. As we traversed the uplands through long and arduous roads, we said our final goodbyes to the forests, hills and its inhabitants. We decided to make a quick stop at Kodaikanal before heading to the ghost town situated to the South-East of Pamban Island in Tamil Nadu.

On a narrow curve, the jeep rumbled to a stop. Fayez realised that the gas pedal was broken and had fallen to the floor. The vehicle wouldn’t move. Balancing the steering wheel in one hand and using his other to accelerate, he drove to a neighbouring town in search of a welding workshop.

In about half an hour or so, we set forth on a journey towards the plains. By the time we crossed the Kerala-Tamil Nadu check post, green-dotted valleys gave way to rugged barren terrains. Crossing endless fields of parched landscape, the relentless heat began to take its toll on us. We longed to be in the embrace of the mountains where every crevice hummed a familiar tune. So, we raced with all our might towards the summit.

En route, we took a detour through patches of land with yellow grass fields swaying to sullen winds. We spent some time by the trees as billows of smoke rose and settled in a distance. Gradually, we started climbing uphill. The temperatures dropped significantly. Fayez had chosen an off-beaten route to enter the mountainous terrains. The steep ascent and countless hairpin bends throughout the ride offered a spectacular view of the towns and villages surrounding the hillock.

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We were running low on fuel and were worried that we wouldn’t make it. Amidst a canopy of lush green trees soon emerged a town bustling with activity. Curious eyes followed us everywhere as we waited for a lady to get us a can of diesel. A mini-van selling ‘branded shirts for all occasions’ was parked in the corner making boisterous announcements of their ‘fashionable’ products.

Driving through crisscrossed pathways and winding muddy trails, we later stumbled upon several fenced estates with boundaries concealed with colourful pieces of cloth. This was an indication that there could be herds of bisons in the immediate vicinity. We then stopped at the entrance of the woods where adjoining paths led to a bed of fallen leaves. A light drizzle hung in the air coalescing the natural rhythm of the forests.

We were about 2 km away from the Kodaikanal check-post when the jeep ran out of fuel. Since, we were functioning on a shoestring budget, we couldn’t afford to be generous with our fuel supply. However, we failed to take into consideration the hilly terrain and were now stuck in the middle of the forests. Fayez decided to walk to the nearest bunk while we stayed put to guard the vehicle. In about forty minutes or so, he returned with another can.

We drove around for a while looking for a place to stay for the night. As we climbed further, we discovered a mystical foggy town that appeared before us, emerging and submerging within a sea of clouds. The entire hamlet was blanketed by mist and it almost felt as if we were drifting through a fantasy world filled with tiny cottages and brick houses; as if it were recreated from sheer imagination.

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We found a guesthouse and decided to freshen up before stepping out for dinner. Later, we went to a tiny stall in the main market to drink some coffee and hot chocolate. Just as we were about to leave, we heard a small commotion on the road. People ran towards the pavements and asked everyone to step aside. In moments, we saw a bison running in the streets. Its nostrils flared as its breath turned into a stream of white. It became separated from its herd and was desperate to make contact with one of its kind.

After a hearty meal, we retreated back to our rooms and called it a night. With dreams of ancient tribal memories lurking beneath our eyes, we fell into a deep slumber wondering what tomorrow had in store for us…

Project ‘Rest of My family‘  is an attempt to connect back, re-discover our relationship with and understand our responsibility towards the larger family that we are a part of — the rest of our human family. Hence, it is titled Rest Of My Family.

Through ‪#‎RestofMyFamily‬, we will focus on highlighting social issues and human interest stories, documenting the triumphs of the ordinary man despite all the hardships they face constantly, and help these stories reach a larger audience and wherever necessary extend support to the individuals and communities that we write about. We hope to make a direct impact to the lives of those people we meet and find suffering due to various social issues; to connect the ones who need help to the ones who can help….

Find more about the campaign here: http://igg.me/at/restofmyfamily/x/539502

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