Sunday, June 28, 2015
Monday, May 26, 2014
…Journey, we say, is more fascinating than the destination. The feeling of having arrived fills many with a sense of void and inspires them to go on and on. As I am back to my desk, writing about another of my memorable trips, or shall I say destinations, this proverbial notion appeared questionable, at least for once.
Valparai, a hamlet perched on the Western Ghats in Tamilnadu, and few kilometers away from Kerala border, amidst the magnificence of nature, was our destination. A road less traveled by tourists, leads to this blissfully quiet land of acres of hillside tea gardens, through twists and turns, ups and downs of forty hairpin bends.
After a hectic few months, a much needed escape was just what the doctor ordered, and with the intent, in came a multitude of getaway ideas from all directions. Among all those, Valparai emerged as a place known to few and visited by even fewer. Coincidentally, I was reading ‘Road less traveled’ during those days, and was looking forward to my moments of solitude on the hills and there couldn't have been a better place than this.
So, going with our usual preference, we started early on a chilly Bangalore morning, and were headed towards Salem and onward through Perundurai, Pollachi to Valparai. After Perundurai, we were greeted with old-world charm of two-lane state highways, dotted with trees and mostly bordered with green paddy fields. Around lunch time, we stopped by at one of the many eateries offering piping hot meals and filter coffee, served by always-friendly people in this hinterland. After a timely meal, it was time to feel drowsy. While everyone in the car as well as in the villages we passed by, were enjoying their siesta, I had no such option but to keep my eyes in front. Once we crossed Pollachi, before we knew, we were at the foothills of gigantic hills standing tall and straight, right in front of us. Soon, we passed Sholayar Dam and thickening wilderness was beginning to surround us and populace too was starting to become a rarity.
All along, one couldn't stop appreciating the consistently well-maintained roads in Tamilnadu, and this experience was no different. Although it was quite narrower all along, causing traffic to come to a halt at places, accommodating buses and other bigger vehicles, less traffic enabled us to climb faster, and I was not complaining, for I was eager to flirt with the forty hairpin bends that were still eluding us, as we crossed various sign boards indicating likely presence of tigers, elephants crossing our way. Not a single representative from those species were to be found anywhere though.
After few odd kilometers, the romance with beautiful hairpins started, with one leading to another, one outclassing the other with panoramic space on offer. We were relishing the view of forest covering the hills, decorated with serpentine roads with lake at a distance, while afternoon Sun too continued its journey slowly into dusk.
Landscape changed further as we climbed higher, and tall eucalyptus trees were around us with still no trace of human habitation. Eventually, the hilly climate began to set in as mist greeted us after hairpin 29 and picturesque tea gardens adorned the landscape.
Our stay was planned at Stanmore Bungalow, built in 1935, located outside the town, in the middle of acres of green hills. A planter's abode since British times, it is now open for tourists. On first look itself, it brought back our vivid cherished memories of staying in such places during childhood days. A long private way leading upto it, well-appointed, furnished and spacious living, dining and bedrooms, with long verandah and huge open lawn in front, are reminiscent of illustrious lifestyle that officials in British Raj were privy to, and were all here exclusively at our disposal, for next couple of days.
Early morning long walks through tea gardens, sipping hot cup of tea while seated on an armchair, playing badminton on the lawns, lying on hammock with closed eyes and being one with nature, appreciating the deeper implicit analogy between understanding of our own self through this journey of life, as presented by M. Scott Peck, towards its ultimate destination, and this journey which brought us to this tranquil abode, were all very sublime. To top it up, the in-house staff did not leave any stone unturned in extending their hospitality, pampering us with multi-course delectable cuisines and intermittent cups of fresh tea with snacks during intervals. One would be tempted to wish that ultimate destination would be as beautiful, pristine, serene and fulfilling as this one!
As evening came down upon the hills, a strange but harmonious chorus of rare species of birds, crickets raised their pitch, together with light drizzle and made the ecosystem truly ethereal. We sat around a table on the verandah, playing audience to this performance, spellbound at nature's breathtaking light & sound event, absorbing every bit of it.
Next day morning, we walked downhill to a stream nearby, sat beside crystal clear water, as nature's Reiki music was being played. It was all so refreshing! That was followed up with a visit to 'Monica Tea Factory', where seasoned officials took pride in showcasing the wonderful contribution they have made over many years in producing many different flavors of this world-favorite beverage, and enlightened us with their vast knowledge and experience.
By afternoon, I was back in my own world with travel companion, and you guessed it right – 'Road Less Traveled'. In the coziness of the armchair, I revisited past and present chapters of my life, counting my blessings, remembering implicit things that we receive but often forget or ignore them, the barriers that we inadvertently build around us, refuse to face up to our own inhibitions, get entangled in fears and setbacks, and become obstacles on our own path to a more wholesome, fulfilling and happier life.
So, unlike many other sojourns, this one was delightfully light on schedule and that made the stay certainly very rejuvenating, to say the least. After adding some more time to our urban-induced depleting lifespan, we drove back the next day morning.
Even while we were on the way downhill, a strong feeling of moving away from the wonderland was surely gripping us with a touch of gloom, making us resolve to be back again, sometime in future.