Quenching My Thirst
When it comes to traveling, a car, a boat or an aircraft are the means one can think of. Traveling in anything other than these man made utilities is but a lifetime experience. Not that we are not aware of other means of journeying around. Walking itself is a pleasure especially when you have the company you want! I have myself trekked while in college from Bhivpuri road up to Matheran a hillstation near Bombay. It was an 8 km walk in the rough and took us about 6 hours! But you can walk your way out when you wish. I love traveling and have always wished to have a camel ride or be a King aloft the Elephant or gallop down the countryside like a cowboy. I still remember the day I first traveled in a cycle rickshaw in Nagpur. That was the last as well for I pitied the peddler. How I wished to skid through a ropeway! Thy will be done and I was blessed with something better.
A unique, once in a blue moon and delightful ride is what I have had today. It is not a ropeway. It is something one would only dream of. It was just like going into the deep coalmines with a difference. The difference being the 20 minutes of my travel time was blessed with site seeing.
MOYAR, a generating station in a valley is where I have had this opportunity. This valley divides the states of Karanataka and Tamil Nadu. The road ends at the mountain top. The plant is in the valley 650 mts steeply deep. No road, no Air-India! The way down there is a railway with a ropeway. Have you seen the mountaineers find their way down the mountain face? That’s exactly the way to reach this generating station, built way back in 1952. Right across the mountain face runs a track, which is amazingly 26 to 42 degrees steep from the vertical!! Goodness me, you leave a train even with square wheels it is sure to travel down the steep. The so-called winch, a small little trolley, is tied with a massive steel rope and is released slowly and steadily till it reaches the valley.
When I reached the winch I was surprised to find different seating arrangements. Facing the direction that we would move was a bench with a wonderful tilt. A business class seat, I thought, may be reserved for the officers. The other bench that would take us backwards was stiff with a perfect 90! This one may be for the staff I guessed. I preferred traveling business class and since no eyebrows were raised I found myself comfortable. The officer then joined in and he preferred the economy class. I wondered why?
Its time for the joyride and here I go. Slowly The Winch moved taking us along. I had no idea of the route whatsoever. We were moving along the huge pipes carrying the waters to the plant. After some moments I suddenly felt something is happening. I was beginning to straighten up from my tilting position. The people in the economy class had moved below my sight of vision. The winch had its face pointing down the valley as now it had reached the mountain edge. To give you an idea of the steepness, just imagine, my knee was in line with the opposites forehead. 26 degrees!!!! Oh no! Now I realize why that officer preferred the opposite seat. It took 20 minutes for a distance of 650mts. This mode of transport, however, does not come cheap. It costs a TNEB for all the power consumed and the maintenance with the winch moving 6 times down and 6 times up each day.
Guess what? You are not supposed to wear any sorts of sent or deodorants unless you intend to be bitten to death. Doesn’t mean one should stink! Wondering what has deo’s got to do with bites? The valley is a thick forest full of elephants, deers and bears. I need not mention our ancestors for they are everywhere. It also has a lot of wild species of insects. Inside the plant itself there were 19 honeybee combs (I counted them myself) each 1-2 feet in length giving about 30 ltrs of honey. All these comb’s were buzzing with bees thousands in number. A mistaken stone or anything hitting it and we are all dead. The officials however warned me not to use any scent or deo’s for these little flower crazy bees will take me granted for one. Even women, if any, entering the plant should not be wearing flowers. But these people are not bothered with the risk factor even though one of them had been hospitalized while he tried to get the sweet and was bitten by the gang of bees. The combs are high, they said, for anything to touch it. And after all they get the purest of honey once every 2-3 months. May be its worth the risk for them, but I felt very errie just seeing so many bees just about 10m away. The thought that of them attaching kept me conscious!
Last month one of the officials fell off the winch at night and he was only found unconscious, after 2 hours of hunting. Lucky guy, the bears or the leopards didn’t find him before the poor trainee engineers succeed in their tough assignment. He still remains hospitalized!
I have always being very eager to have a closer look at the wild. Residing near the Victoria gardens and zoo, I have seen almost all sorts of animals. But seeing them in their natural habitat is different. “Do you want to have a forest drive tonight?” asked one of the officials. That was exactly what I have been thirsty for. At night after dinner we left for a jungle safari.
A few yards out of the guest house and we saw rabbits. All along the way they were there playing in the darkness of the night. With passing time we had moved into the Forest reserves of Indira Gandhi National Park at Mudumalai. It was only possible to enter these places since the EB officials were with us. Public are not allowed to travel here at night. My eyes had turned nocturnal and excited to see the elephants that I have been longing to see. And there, a herd of seven! This was bliss for me. Just besides the roadside they were grazing. Through out the 2 1/2 hours drive we happen to see around 20-25 of them, some in herds of a family and some reserved characters. At some joint they were so close to our car that if I had my arms out I could have touched them. I was stunned seeing them all. At night these natives conquer the roadside. Some distance further we saw a big bull like creature grazing. Our driver turned the car for the head beam to hit the field so that we can have a clear look at the animal. Our car was almost perpendicular to the road now. To my surprise it was a mighty Bison. With the beam on his face he gave us a nasty look. It was like he wanted to tell us "leave me alone" cos we are in his home and not in the zoos that we imprison them. Besides them, to my fortune we saw lots of deers. Some spotted ones and some were not. Some had straight pair of horns while some had them branched. Some little ones and also a few Sambar, the bull-deers. At one point we saw something moving across the road. As we approached it we realized it was a porcupine and halted for it to cross the road. When it found itself in the bright spot, it was ready with its defense. It had its pines all frilled up as it slipped away in the shrubs.
At the end of the jungle safari I had seen lots of Elephants, about 5-7 Bison’s, a porcupine, rabbits, deer’s and mongoose. This was a dream come true for me. If I had not had this day all that I have been told of by all officials would have been grandma’s tales.
What a contrasting sip of life I've had? U.S. so very urbanized and these naturals, so wild. It is difficult to pick the flick. Being urbanized, I cannot live here in these forests for long. Having my social life based in Bombay, I cannot live in any other city for long. Don’t you feel I have had a perfect balance to have a sip of all flavors of living and yet at the end of the day know that I will return home someday? Life is too short to live it up in all its abundance, but even then I feel . . . . . I have quenched my thirst!