Kolli Hills – A Total Recall
There would be some incidents or adventures in all our lives which we will never be able to forget. More importantly remember every single detail of that adventure. This is one such incident which happened about 8 years ago on the same day. I still remember every single detail of the adventure me and my friends had in Kolli Hills. I am also sure that all of them would remember every detail to this day.
The post is going to be a bit lengthy but I will ensure that you are hooked on to throughout the article.
As far as photos are concerned, that was the first time I saw a camera that take pictures without a film. Yes, one of our friends Ravi had a brought a VGA or 1 MP (not sure) digital camera gifted to him by his sister. So do not expect too much of photos. Here is what we have got.
Four mavericks, Saravanan, Sanjeevi Prabhu, Ravishankar and Yours Truly, were thinking of some place to visit and after lot of debates and discussion decided that the destination would be Kolli Hills. It was the June of 2002. It was (to an extent still is) an untouched virgin jungle. A very few people who knew about it associate this place with lots of mysterious things like Black Magic, herbs that would heal any disease etc. These sounded perfect for us to explore given the adventurous nature of us.
I and Prabhu learnt from the tourism department that there were a couple of resorts where we can stay which may not be all that occupied given that time of the year. Nevertheless, due to very rare visits from tourists the chances of getting an accommodation were always high. We also got a brochure which had some places that we could visit.
Since all four of us were in-between jobs (read jobless) we did not have to worry about leaves. We also worked on the budget and decided what we will need for a stay of 2 days there.
June 15, 2002 – Day 1 – The Day the Adventure Started
The itinerary we had planned was to board the Coimbatore Express on the morning of June 15, reach Salem by noon, have lunch and then board a bus and reach Kolli in the evening. It would take about 3 hours from Salem to reach Kolli. There are frequent buses from here.
By the time we reached Salem bus stand after having lunch, we came to know that we have just missed the bus to Kolli, but we can get buses from Namakkal which is about 30 minutes away from Salem. The guy who gave us this information also warned us not to venture too much near the huge falls in Kolli as it might have under water swirls which can be quite dangerous.
Keeping in mind about the warning, we proceeded to Namakkal from Salem. We visited the famous Namakkal Narasimhar temple and Hanuman temple. Upon reaching the bus stand, we were again disappointed because the last bus to Kolli had already left. We were then informed that there is a place called Senthamangalam which is about 45 minutes travel from Namakkal. From there 2 private buses ply to Kolli. One at 4:30pm and the other one at 6:30pm. We had just time to reach there if we start immediately. So we took the bus to Senthamangalam and reached there by around 4:10pm. Here, we learnt that the 4:30 bus had broken down and we will have to wait until the 6:30 bus. Well, this cannot get any better!
There was very old, big temple just behind the so called bus stand (a banyan tree – so typical of the villages). We entered the temple. It was quiet and peaceful inside. We spent sometime inside and then returned back to the waiting area. While we were waiting, I suddenly remembered that we have forgotten to bring a torch. Though a couple of them wondered why we need a torch, I nevertheless, decided to get one, just incase. We all agreed that we are not the ones to sit inside the room immediately after the sun sets!
After further wait, the 6:30pm bus arrived. We boarded the bus and by the time it started, it was close to 7:00pm. Just before reaching the ghat section, the bus was stopped in a village named Karavalli for dinner. The conductor announced that we may not get dinner in Kolli and asked us to have the dinner here itself. We got down and had dinner in an eat- out. It was nothing more than a thatched hut, but the light dinner we had was not all that bad for a roadside eat-out. Once finished when we asked for bill, we were informed in the counter that the amount was Rs.20 or so. We though Rs..20 per person was decent enough but we were sweetly surprised to know that it was the total bill amount for all of us. The same amount of dinner anywhere else would have costed us nothing less than Rs.100. But I am not guaranteeing the same now. Things have changed a lot in the past 8 years.
We resumed our journey from there in the ghats. This was the most adventurous part so far. The ghat roads were very narrow with narrow hairpin bends once every 10 meter or so! The entire altitude of the place is only about 3000ft and in that we had about 75 hairpin bends! That is just incredible. In most of the bends, the driver had to take the bus millimeters near the rock and have to take a sharp turn to negotiate the bends. It really was hair rising, but I will have to commend the efficiency of these drivers. I also can guarantee that a person learning driving here can drive anywhere in the world!
We had informed the drive earlier to let us know once we reach PA resort. It was one of the resorts available in Kolli, the other being Nallathambi resort. We had come to know that this is better than the other one. Now there are a few tent resorts as well and recently got an invite from them. Well, I will park that decision for sometime. The driver did inform us when the resort came and also assured that it will not be a problem getting an accommodation there. The bus took a bend in the road past the resort and stopped and we got down. The bus then went off and took another turn and that is when we realized that we are in the middle of nowhere! Even inches apart we were unable to see each other. The jungle was that thick and there were no street lights.
Taking pride and boasting for taking the decision to buy the torch, I took out the torch and turned it on. Only then did we know where the road was. We traced back to bend and then saw the lights in the resort. We went in and found that there were a couple of rooms available. We decided to take a single room and an extra bed, so we can stay together.
By the time we dumped our luggage and refreshed ourselves, it was past 9:30pm in the night. Though the town was completely dark, we found that the resort was well lit. We decided to take a stroll through the resort before going to bed, since 9:30 was a bit early for us to sleep. Just behind our room were other rooms in a row and beyond that was a small bridge that is built across a small stream that leads to rear of the resort. There were only trees on the other side, so the light stopped at the end of the bridge.
When we were just a couple of feet away from the bridge, an owl came from nowhere and sat on the wall of the bridge, turned towards us and hooted as if it is warning. The moment it did that, Saravanan got a bit nervous and said that it is not a good sign and it is not a good idea to proceed any further. We gave some pep talk to him and informed that it might have a nest somewhere near and that it is just trying to protect it and nothing more than that. We proceeded and before we touched the bridge, the owl flew and sat a bit further on the wall and hooted really loud this time. This was enough for our friend Saravanan to stop dead on his tracks. He said it certainly is a bad omen and that he is not proceeding further at any cost. This time he also insisted strongly that we all return. Me and Ravi were a bit adamant and said that we are going further and he can stay back if he wishes to. But Saravanan was too frightened to proceed any further and decided to stay back and Prabhu volunteered to stay back with him. We just strolled across the bridge, spent some time there getting the cool and fresh air which was completely unpolluted. We even thought of going a bit further into the woods, but decided that we will reserve that for the morning since it was too dark!
When we were turning back to the room, we saw 3 people having dinner and drinks in the space outside their room. They called us and enquired about us. After an initial introduction and getting to know each other, we came to know that they are real big business people in Salem. I am not disclosing their names here as I am not sure if I can use their names or not. Inspite of their status, they were really down to earth and extremely friendly. They were asking us if we have any specific plans in mind for the next day. Since we did not, they offered us to join them to a temple the next day. We readily agreed. The temple is Konglai Amman temple. It is a small temple in some village in the Kolli Hillock and is maintained by the local people here and is still not known to the general public. The plan was to start by 08:00am the next morning.
The adventure continues... Watch this space for more...