Answer by Raakhee Venugopal:
Thank you for the A2A.
Generally speaking, I’m not a very adventurous person. I’m mostly quiet and prefer to curl up someplace with a good book and cup of coffee. But there is this one instance where I went out of my usual comfort zone and did something I wouldn’t ever do again.
Before you read ahead, remember what I mentioned earlier – I am not at all an adventurous person. That’s like zero.
The year was 2008. We’d gone to this quaint hill station called Ponmudi (Golden Peak) that’s just over 55km from Trivandrum in Kerala, India. This is Ponmudi…
Very pretty,no? The photographs don’t do full justice to the beauty of the place. Anyway, you have an idea now.
We stayed there for a day and on the way back to Trivandrum, we were told of a popular waterfall on the way – The Meenmutty Falls.
It can be reached only a 4km trek through the dense forest. There is a forest check post at the last point until where vehicles are permitted. Now, I had never done a trek in my entire life. The forest rangers didn’t tell about the 4km part. They just said that you’ll have to walk a bit to see the falls and that we could take a guide with us. My uncle, who is a photography enthusiast, said that he’s going to take a look at the falls and see if he can get some pics. His teenage son volunteered to accompany him. And I don’t know what came over me at that moment, but I said I’m going too. Seeing that I’m going, my dad didn’t want to leave me alone and he decided to come along too. So the four of us set out with a rather creepy looking guide who looked like he worked with the famous dacoit Veerappan before He was a young but frail man wearing an olive green and khaki uniform, had a sunken eyes with dark circles around them and held a long staff for support. I noticed that he also had a knife in a sheath around his waist. He walked fast and would stop occasionally for us to catch up. He didn’t talk much and answered in monosyllables as we followed him along the narrow forest path.
10 minutes into the walk and I had already regretted my decision.The forest path was slippery at places (it was during the monsoons) and if I slipped, I’d fall straight into the Kallar River that flowed to our left.
This river is notorious for having killed a lot of people. Here’s a picture of one of the search operations to find the body of a man who drowned in it :-S
Do you see the forest? That’s where we walked through. It had been more than 45 minutes since we’d set out and the falls were nowhere in sight. I tried to call my mom to tell her we’re okay. I was getting scared seeing that the forest was getting thicker there was this eerie silence all around that was interrupted only by the sound of our trundling feet, the gurgling water of the river and the sounds of the forest. There was no mobile coverage. Oh wonderful! And my uncle chose that precise moment to chat up with the guide…
How much longer?
A little more
Are there wild animals here in this area?
Like what? Elephants? Wild boar? Monkeys?
*ack! What?!!* <–My reaction accompanied by widened eyes and panting
Tiger? Wow! Do you see them often around here?
They had come to the camp (the forest check post at the entrance of the trekking trail) yesterday night. Cold nights, sahib. They came to be near the fire.
Oh! Will they come down at this time of the day?
I don’t know. Maybe.
*stupid creep!I’ll wring his neck for scaring me!*
So what will you do if a tiger jumps in front of you right now?
Climb a tree.
Haha! You must be joking.
At this point, I was already exhausted physically and this conversation drained out whatever mental energy I had. I told my cousin,
“Bro, listen. If a tiger does come along, just leave me here and y’all run. It’ll take him a few hours to finish me off. By then you will be back to safety. Don’t stand here and argue with me then, Just leave. Got that?“
“Just shut up and walk will you? Tiger indeed!”
SO we kept walking and suddenly the guide stopped in his tracks.
We cross the river now, sahib
Cross the river? Why?
You want to see falls,no?
Falls on other side of river
Okay so can’t we see it from this side?
It’s on the other side of the turning
Okay so do we get a boat?
No, we walk. Boat cannot cross river. River too fast.
Walk? What? How? (looking at the raging river)
He pointed a gnarly finger at a thick coir rope tied from a branch of a tree on the side of the river to the other side, that we had to hold on to and walk…wading through the river. Google has a pic of the said rope on a non-monsoon season day. Take a look…
During the monsoons, the river flows in full force and the rope is but a few inches above the water. Notice the smooth stones on the river bed? They feel like a banana peel on a marble floor!
Okay. That’s it. I am soooo NOT doing that, I decided. And neither are my dad and uncle going to do it either. If I’d let my cousin go, my aunt would have skinned me and boiled me in mint sauce!
I made a scene there and threw a tantrum 😛 Nobody is going to step into that water! It’s in a monstrous state, can’t you see?, I cried. After about 5 minutes of arguing with me and after I finally threatened to tell my mom and aunt that they crossed the dangerous river despite my refusing them, they gave in.
I led the trek back 😀 When we reached back, my mom and aunt and the rest of the family were in a worried mess. They’d been trying to reach us on our mobiles to tell us about the tigers that the forest rangers had ‘casually’ mentioned and hadn’t been able to get through to us. It had been close to two hours since we’d been gone and my sister was so worried and almost of the verge of tears. We looked a grand mess ourselves! Sweaty with muddy feet and all sorts of wild plants sticking to our clothes. My knees were wobbly and felt weak.
Regret, regret and more regret! Trekking is so not my cuppa! No sir! That was my first trek and will be my last one as well. Period.
If you read up to here expecting a grizzly bear to have jumped on me or that I came face-to-face with a man-eating tiger, I’m sorry to have disappointed you. I wouldn’t be alive to narrate this then. I’d have died of shock that very instant. Like I said, I’m a very very quiet person who loves the peace and quiet of a cozy library a lot more than the ‘great outdoors’. A minor trek like this felt like one of the biggest adventures of my life to me.