From Coimbatore to Malleeshwaram Jungle Lodge, Attappady
That evening we Albin Mathew and I started off to Attappadi 50 Kms west of Coimbatore city; a valley between Nilgiris (Ooty) and Walayar Hills, known for the many occult rituals and fearsome gods residing in the tribal hamlets surrounded by elephant forests. Our mode of transport was that old bike of Albin, literally assembled from left over spares from old market of Coimbatore…More over this drive along the ghats was an opportunity for him to test the caliber of his (new) bike.
It was already 6 PM when we started; forgetting all strict warnings to reach before dark, by Dominic, who was waiting for us at Malleeshwaram Jungle Lodge … he did not want us to get trampled by wild elephants enroute. From the place we lived, Sitra near the Airport (Avinashi Road), we took the ring road around Coimbatore to cross Satyamangalam Road and Mettupalayam Road to reach Anaketty Road: also known as Tadakam Road (Meaning Road to the Lake). I occupied that little space shared by back seat and carriage, together with three huge bags, listening to adventure stories of Albin about elephant chasing at his home town in Wayanad, Kerala.
We reached the outskirts of Coimbatore, at Edayarpalayam on Anaketty Road by half past 6 on that motor mike: with an integrated speed limiter of 30 Kmph. The road was just one straight road, except for that little confusing junction at Kanivai: the last big town before the interstate border. The scenic morphed from people and buildings to forests and hills on either side after There were lots of brick factories on either sides of the wide straight road built on a very wide flat land, between two thin hills.
The very straight road to Anaketty from Coimbatore
After 15 Kms, we reached the forest check-post at the foot of ghats. There was a young boy at the check-post, to whom the work was outsourced by the officer..the officer was sleeping inside the cabin. The road was mostly ours beyond this point. It was dark and thick forests on either side of the ghats: the occasional sign boards on road side “Wild Elephants Crossing” increased the speed of my heart beat a little, but the chillness and the freshness of the forest breeze compromised it … The Motorcycle Diaries Days..
At the end of the ghat road, we reached the border between Kerala and Tamilnadu, at Anaketty town: which looked like a ghost town at 7 PM.. all the shops were closed and there was no single human being. As we crossed the bridge to Kerala, the police inspector warned us, “What are you doing here at this time: There was a mad elephant in town yesterday night which destroyed a few shops”. …I could hear Albin softly giggling when he heard those words…but I was in a state of confusion between our Joy Ride and Last Ride.
We continued along the narrow road with gentle ups and downs to Sholayoor (10 Kms) to the left of Anakatty. I was little terrible in distinguishing the stars and the night light of tiny villages scattered all over the hills around. We crossed forests and little villages, which looked more like Tamilnadu than Kerala. The loud “Sheer Sheer” sound made me little surprised, until I saw and understood that, it was from the rotating blades of the giant windmill plants installed on the hills. As I started enjoying our loneliness, Just before reaching Pettickal, the little town, hundred meters before Malleeshwaram, Albin stopped bike suddenly. To my excitement, it was a Sambar Deer and not a Wild Elephant which obstructed the narrow road.
Finally we reached Dominic`s place by 8 PM, after a lot of cross talk about the adventure trip, we had dinner with two other guests from France and slept in the traditional cottage below the restaurant listening to the rhythm of crickets, Jungle fowl and occasional drums by Barking Deer.
Our Picnic to Tribal Hamlets
Our first visit was to a tribal hamlet near Pettickal, where Wellary lived: a group of about 15 houses, built very close to each other with a large courtyard inside. It was mostly made with grass and tree trunks. We met his father aged 87: head of the hamlet who was called Moopan. He invited us into his house, and served us tender coconut juice and papaya fruit. Wellary and family lived a simple life: hates to use mobile phones or watch television. Their favorite pastime was rearing animals and making crafts. The little agricultural land around the hamlet was shared by everyone: where they worked together and enjoyed the fruit together.
Moopan had a very good knowledge about herbs and medicinal plants and he introduced us a few tribal medicines while he was treating a boy`s deep cut from made by axe. We continued out trek to many other hamlets, crossing many hills and rivers. The road connecting them were just trek routes along the hill slopes. We had our packed lunch from the Suruvani river bank.
Few of the tribes have left behind their traditions and moved into new houses build for free by the government. Unfortunately they could not afford to do the maintenance work of the concrete/brick houses: I have seen a house which was patched up with a layer of grass over the leaky concrete roof. After that long day of trek, we reached back at lodge by evening.