‘’There is nothing like the joy of hitch-hiking, not even a confirmed Konkan Kanya ticket or a window seat in a Virar local.”
My Second Solo Trip to Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, Kerala:
There were reports of floods and landslides almost everywhere in the southern parts of Kerala.
High alerts were issued in the entire zone including Munnar.
Fortunately, it hadn’t rained since morning but heavy rains in the past few days had washed away the bridge connecting Munnar and Chinnar.
Thus, I had to take a sharing Jeep to Marayoor, which was 40 kms from Munnar and then probably hop on to some local vehicle to reach Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary which was another 15 kms away.
Our ‘skillful’ Jeep Driver:
”The road cutting through picturesque hills, slight drizzles dripping on my elbow, occasional lambs crossing the road and some Tamil folk-song playing in the background; it had its own charm.”
I was amazed with the skillsets of our Jeep driver.
He had not only ‘managed’ to accommodate so many people in that tiny Jeep, but was also driving comfortably, despite seating almost at the edge of the window.
Though we were nearly 20 of us in that jeep, it somehow didn’t feel congested.
The road cutting through picturesque hills, slight drizzles dripping on my elbow, occasional lambs crossing the road and some Tamil folk-song playing in the background; it had its own charm.
I wondered why the houses there didn’t have conical roofs for rain protection, like the ones in rest of Kerala.
We were about to reach when it started raining again.
I was a little worried as my backpack was tied to the roof of the Jeep.
The driver told me that Chinnar is a rain-shadow region (areas receiving scantiest of rainfalls) and thus, I need not worry.
Yet again I was impressed with him, this time with his choice of words.
Entering Chinnar Wildlife sanctuary:
It was pretty dark by the time I reached Chinnar.
I had visited this sanctuary in 2016, which is when I had first met Shankar, one of the oldest forest guides in the sanctuary.
In the interiors of a sanctuary, the nights are long, crisply dark, unpolluted and absolute, helping the villagers rear deep communication with their fellow beings as well as with nature.
Shankar knew these forests like the back of his hand.
All the bird species, mammals, butterflies and the trees; he knew their English as well as common names.
He said he learnt the English names from the researchers who come here.
I was hoping that using the same skills with which his grandfather might have led the British range officers to the mysteries of this land, he would lead me too, to some blinding light.
I had fresh memories of this place, but 4 years was a long time…
My Stay at Forest Dormitory:
”It was as if someone forgot his musty old gym socks in the cupboard and then opened it after a week. A little annoyed, I followed the direction of the smell and as soon as I stepped out of the back door, I was shocked!”
I got down at the forest dormitory in Chinnar wildlife sanctuary.
As usual, I didn’t have any bookings but I was lucky I had the pics from my previous visit. They recognized me and arranged a bed.
Unlike the reputation of Govt. owned buildings, the forest department dormitory in Chinnar was well maintained.
The all-female staff members wore neat and beautiful camouflaged-green uniforms with even more beautiful smiles.
The entrance and the corridor were nicely decorated with wildlife photo frames and tribal artworks.
My Secret Door to Wildlife in Chinnar:
Perhaps the only thing that was bothering me the moment I entered the dormitory was a weird smell coming from across the corridor.
It was as if someone forgot his musty old gym socks in the cupboard and then opened it after a week.
It wasn’t a strong smell but was surely spoiling the ambiance of the place.
A little annoyed, I followed the direction of the smell and as soon as I stepped out of the back door, I was shocked!
Reunion, Much Awaited!
Seated on the bark of a fallen mango tree and puffing smoke from his beedi, there he was, my only key to open the secret door of wildlife in Chinnar- Shankar.
I almost ran towards him, looked into his eyes and exclaimed in delight- ”Finally!”
Unaware of the countless days I had spent imagining our reunion and the troubles I had to go through to reach here, he just looked at me from the corner of his eyes, puckered his lips slightly and then took a long drag on his Beedi.
A little disappointed, I showed him the pics from my previous visit and kept scrolling each pic gently, so that he would recognize too.
When our selfie appeared, he looked at me, matched it with the pic on my screen, and finally uttered those 3 magical words, in his typical accent- ‘’Howu are yew?’’
”First class!”- I was quick to respond.
I had rehearsed this conversation so many times in my head, it was anything but a Deja Vu.
His smile broadened until the dimple appeared.
He took a final drag on his beedi and crushed the butt beneath his chappal.
He then pulled a chair, carefully picked up his uniform vesting on it and hanged it on the window pane.
I wanted to run my fingers along the buttons of that uniform.
Who knows untold stories might be waiting behind the fabric to catch on to my fingers…
You just read about Day 3 of my recent Solo Trip to Kerala (Sept. 2019) in the above blog post.
Curious to know more about how I spent the remaining days in Kerala?
Have a look at the below blog posts:
Solo Trip Day 1:
Solo Trip Day 2:
Solo Trip Day 4:
However, I would have never reached Kerala, if I hadn’t slept during the placement process that day.
Eventually I reached here and so began my journey