#1 – In love with Wilderness – Traveling into Wilderness

Have you ever felt complete independence like you can flutter anywhere and no soul can catch your wings? That’s how travelling makes me feel and I wouldn’t trade that feeling for anything.

It’s a long weekend, here in my place, so me and my friends set out to explore 7th heaven – yes Valparai it is. We also included Athirapalli to our list of places.

Since my trip to Wayanad, the long days of longing, to bunk in the mountains, to cruise in the vivid valleys, sit beside breezy lakes are finally coming to end. My soul calms down, when I see the mountains, the rivers. The more I connect with nature, more I want to stay away from the pseudo things of life.

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After the usual delays that happens on a quickly planned trip like the cab delays, changing of cabs etc. we started our journey to the interior woods of Tamilnadu and Kerala around 15 minutes past midnight.

Come, take a walk with me, as I tell you our amazing stories picturising to you, our world, where we had conversations with butterflies and dragonflies in the midst of dense forests, watching fog engulfing the mountain tops, dancing under musical falls, showering in streams, cooking in places surrounding by electrically charged fences (to prevent animals entering our residences), having food in cuddling the laps of mother nature, trekking few miles on the worthy hills to have a cup of hot tea.

Since we started late, we spent until early evening on our road trip. We stopped at Monkey water falls to take a shower to wade off our travel tiredness. It was quite invigorating, after travelling for around 15 hours. The water wasn’t too cool to freeze us, which will be the case of most of the water falls in the winter.

Everybody, including me, was too excited to sway in the water falls and forgot our cameras, so we took minimal photos in the water falls with our mobile phones. After, we took showers, we were climbing up to Valparai which is 3,500 feet above sea level.

With 40 deep blind hair bends between us and Valparai, we started our road trip to Valparai. The road journey undoubtedly offers a beautiful gradual stretch of landscapes. We stopped at one of the viewpoints in the early phase of our ride and took some of our first shots with DSLRs.

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As we continued our drive after our first photo shoot, the first thing, I could feel was the cool mountain breeze bringing along with it the countless scents of the wild flowers. The aroma, gradually changed to that of the fresh tea, arousing within us, the urge to have a nice hot tea, given the cool weather.

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The aroma of tea always takes me to a happy location in memories, where at dawn, I sit in the midst of my terrace garden sipping a hot cup of green jasmine tea, reading Rumi or Paulo Coelho watching the sun rising from the horizon, listening to the morning chirpings of the birds and enthralling the beauty of the day.

My walk down to my memory lane, was bunged up as we stopped for hot tea in another picturesque location within a tea estate. As my friends were enjoying tea, I was taking some landscape shots and mid-air shots of Priya.

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We reached the Valparai around 6 PM and we stopped at the market to buy veggies and few other groceries for the dinner tonight.

As it was getting dark, we were rushing our vehicle to our cottage and around 9 PM we reached a place close to the cottage and met our guide and the care taker of the cottage. We stopped few kilometres away from the cottage as our vehicle couldn’t go past the narrow road.

We had two choices, walk to the cottage or wait for the cottage vehicle to come up pick us up. As in life, it’s always two choices. To chase the crowd or walk alone, to stand up to the truth or live a lie, to follow a built trail or choose the road not taken. To settle for mediocrity or leave a small dent, to ruminate over self-made misery or seize the moment. Whatever you choose, just don’t the wrong get the better of you.

It was excessively dark and we were hiking in the midst of the forests and all we could see was the silhouettes of us, plants and trees around. The only source of light was a hand torch held by our guide.
We all knew, this season of the year there will be too many leeches in the marsh lands that we were walking on, we have a made a choice to plunge into the Dark Night described in Brida by Paulo Coelho. More we walked, more we trusted the forces of the forest and with increase in faith it became more of a relaxed walk inside the dense woods. After walking a couple of kilometres, we safely reached the cottage.

The cottage was nice and we learnt from our guide, that the cottage is surrounded by electrically charged fence which will be turned on in the night to prevent animals, elephants mostly from entering the cottage. Some of my friends were really tired took a nap in the beds in the cottage.

Some of us started the fire for the grill, while others who were awake cut the veggies and chicken to prepare our dinner. The care taker, made biriyani along with chicken gravy and we made grilled potato and grilled chicken. Our care taker also made a campfire for us to protect ourselves from the cold night.

It was almost 11 PM when most of us finished our dinner and I went to took a quick nap to refresh myself and getting prepared for the night safari into deeper areas of the jungle.

It was around 1:30 AM I was awake by the wake up of the care taker intimating us that the night safari vehicle is ready. There are business class flights and luxurious cars and then there is travelling by night safari van. It was a more of small goods lorry than a van wherein we were standing in the place where usually they keep the goods. I was about to pick my camera for the night safari and our guide advised me to keep the camera away and enjoy the ride. The night safari started the vehicle was swaying and turning to the uneven terrain on the woods.

I got carried away by the night and I often looked up at the stars and try to get intoxicated on the sense of infinity of the universe with all its charms. Night as they say is also a path to enlightenment, just as a dark well as thirst-quenching water at its bottom. The night has hidden in its shadows, a flame capable of enkindling our soul.

After what seem to be an hour or so, we were on our back to the cottage. Through those bumpy night rides and deliberate detours on the forests, spotting bisons and wild boars on the road hunting for their food, I discovered the simple joys of life.

Back in the cottage, I was thinking what was wilderness means to me. To me, wilderness means, less gossip, more quiet; less TV, more reading; less distraction more focus; less walls, more forests.

P.S.: I have split the entire trip to multiple blogs – one blog for each spot that we visited so that you get more details and photos about each spot that we visited. 

Await my next blog on our visit, experience and of course photos on our early morning trekking experience in the mountains of the Valparai.

So what do you think when I say wilderness? Please add your comments below. Your comments are my motivation to take better pictures and to write more.

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