Kolli Hills - A Total Recall - Part III
June 17, 2002 – Day 3 – The Day of Arapaleeswarer Temple and the Huge Falls
The third morning started a bit early. We started by around 7:30, so could catch the bus to the temple on time. While traveling in the bus Saravanan got the shock of his life once again. Actually he had many such shocks during that trips, but I am mentioning only a few. As I had mentioned in the beginning of the blog, the roads were pretty narrow and bends have to be negotiated very tactfully. Saravanan was standing somewhere in the middle of the bus while me and Prabhu were seated. Ravi was standing in the front near the driver and was staring outside. He called Saravanan and asked him to see the view. When Saravanan moved to front all he could see was a complete white blanket just inches ahead of the bus. There was a turn and the valley ahead was completely covered with mist! The driver was negotiating the turn and when Saravanan turned to face the driver, that was when he almost yelled, but somehow managed to suppress the fear and the temptation to yell. What he saw was really weird and even I would not have accepted such a thing.
In the driver’s seat was seated an elder man of about 50, who obviously is the driver. In the space for gear box, sat a boy of about 18 or 19 who was actually handling the steering wheel and the driver was negotiating with the pedals with his feet. What a coordination between the master and the student! Bear in mind that these buses do not have power steering and the wheel will have to be wound several times to take such sharp turns. The elder driver is actually coaching the boy to take such difficult turns! But at whose cost? What would have happened had the boy was unable to turn the wheel? What safety measures have been taken? Nothing at all! This is the way these people learn driving! OH MY GOD!!!!
Thankfully we reached the temple uneventfully at about 8:15 or 8:30 am. It was a beautiful and peaceful temple. There was not much of crowd and the few people who come there are the locals and they do not make much noise. They worship silently, some people meditate at a particular place and they leave the place. We worshipped there for a while and I also did a few minutes of meditation in the place where everyone did. This place was just outside the sanctorum of the Goddess. When I checked with the priest about what is so special about that particular place, he showed us the “Sri Chakra” that was sculpted right above the place where I was sitting for meditating. It is believed that the vibes from the Chakra will enhance the concentration power! A good experience it was. I thought it was mainly due to the atmosphere as well. There were absolutely no motor noise of any form, no air pollution and only the songs of the birds. Once again I would like to mention that the place may not retain the same as there are far too many visitors to this temple nowadays.
After spending over an hour here, we decided to climb down to the falls which was behind the temple. There is a small stream behind the temple which flows just past the temple before taking a very deep fall of about 350ft or so. Could be more but certainly not less. Quite a big one. There are steps neatly laid out to get to the falls. These steps too, like the roads, have quite a few turns and sometimes quite steep as well. We had to climb down over 500 steps to reach the falls. At the base of the falls, there was a large pool created by the falls. One needs to swim for over 100ft to reach the falls actually. There is no other way to reach it. Even if there was, it was completely rocky and very slippery. The water in the falls was not too much since it was summer. So it was not all that thick.
All the warnings that were given to us on the day one till today came to our mind. The moment we reached Salem and asked for directions to Kolli, people were warning us against swimming in the pool or going near the falls. We stood there for a minute hesitating. Then we saw 2 people sitting on a rock right under the falls and having a bath. We yelled across asking if the water is too deep. They said it is only till the chest level. They also said that they held each other and waded across to the falls and they do not know swimming. So it was no risk crossing over to the falls. Since I do not know swimming and had wheezing, I decided to stay back and take care of our belongings, which was not much, apart from the cameras we had brought. Ravi and Prabhu immediately swam across slowly ensuring there was no danger and reached the falls. Once they felt safe, they asked Saravanan to join them.
Since Saravanan was not a confident swimmer then, he was a bit hesitating. But he too wanted to join them desperately. So Ravi came back after sometime of having a good drench. He had spotted a route across the rocks to reach the falls. He guided Saravanan till a distance and asked him to cross over another couple of rocks to reach the falls. Saravanan was about to hold a rock to cross over when he saw that the rock was moving slightly. Initially he thought it was a loose rock, but was too terrified when he realized that it was actually a BLACK SCORPION!!! Yet another bout of shiver, yell and a moment of shock for our big friend. Thanking his stars and the Lord that the scorpion actually decided to move away instead of stinging, he took some careful steps and reached the falls. Prabhu and Saravanan were really enjoying the drench in the falls. Though the water wasn’t too thick it was coming down from a great high and was really slapping very hard against the rocks. When these guys went in-between those rocks and the falls, they felt the wrath of the falls. After they came out, they realized that their skins have become red because of the slapping. Though they felt the pain, they were really enjoying it then, but now realized how hard it has come down on them. I still remember Saravanan commenting that he had never had such severe slaps from his parents or teachers in school.
Once everyone were out, I too had a dip in the pool, without going to falls. I did not want to risk aggravating the wheezing. Now was the task of climbing up. It is not all that a difficult task usually, but since I had wheezing, it was always going to be a herculean task for me. Especially so in some places where the steps were quite steep. Ravi decided to stay with me and accompanied me, while Prabhu and Saravanan kept moving in their own pace. I managed to climb 10 or 15 steps at a time and took break for about 5 minutes to slow down the breathing. Though it was a tedious job, I gained the confidence that I could make it.
In evening I felt much better and we had planned to walk down to the sunset point. The place is called “Seekuparai”. We walked from our resort to the point enquiring with the locals on how to get there. We were a bit surprised that we had to pass through normal roads, terrain, banana plantations, a village, fields of paddy and other crops, rocky surface and barren land. All within a stretch of about 4 km or so. As we went along we stopped now and then to enquire if we are on the right track. In one village that we came across, a boy named Chinnadurai volunteered to show us the place. We reached the place with his help. It provided a wonderful view of the surrounding place. We spent some time there clicking some photographs with our high tech 1MP digital camera and then returned back to the resort. That was the last of our stay in the mysterious Kolli.
The next day’s return back to Salem and then to Chennai in the evening train was quite uneventful. We only had the mysterious experiences and the memories that we munched all along the way. We started early morning the next day, since we did not want to miss the bus in the morning and get delayed for the evening train. We had lunch in Salem, watched a movie, as we had quite some time to kill. Spend some time in roaming about Salem and in the evening boarded the bus and returned back to Chennai on the 19th morning.