Putting behind our initial fears of the whole trip being the biggest April fools trick ever, we left office for Kollur at 1 pm on Friday 1st April.
Kollur Kahan hai..
2 busses were organised for the 57 of us, 4 others would come in a car.The busses looked well maintained, though they weren't air-conditioned.That was soon forgotten though as the ever popular Antakshari, was sounded off at the back seats of our bus. We are no Kishore Kumars or Latas, but we tried our best to sing along.
Hum to pagal Hai..
We were expected to reach Kollur by about 9 in the eve, but at 9 we were
at a small town called Shimoga eating dinner at a place called Food Fort.
A colleague heard 'Food Court' and promptly uttered India Sure is shining.
We still had 4 hours to get to the camp site. It was going to be a long night. The journey was made all the more excruciating seeing SRK on the tele trying to find his maya in Dil to pagal Hai. Maya god !! How did this movie ever become a hit?
Mookambika khush hua!
It seemed as though it would take divine intervention for us to reach our destination. That’s exactly what happened, we finally reached the Mookambika national reserve and our final destination Anejhari Nature Camp at about 1 at night. The reserve is named after Goddess Mookambika, who is regarded as a manifestation of Shakti, Saraswathi and Mahalakshmi. She is also known as the mother of the universe. The bus could not go all the way to the campsite so we had to trek for what seemed like an eternity to reach. Surprisingly the mookambika forests are famous for Tigers and Sloth Bears amongst other animals. Just as well that many of us weren't aware of this fact during the trek!
The igloo shaped tents seemed modern; they were made of nylon and had matting at the base. The matting really helped because the ground beneath was nowhere close to being flat. I got a tent near the edge, where the camp site meets the forest. The thought of being the first one to be attacked by a hungry tiger kept us awake, or was it the prospect of a drink or two? I don't remember exactly but it must've been the former.
The great Indian Rope trick..
One would think that the earlier you get up the less the rush for the limited toilet resources. But the problem is that all of us think the same way, so the earlier one gets up the more the rush for the Loo. That’s a piece of advice for the future. The agenda for the day way just to hang around, literally. Our primate cousins would have had the laugh of their life if they would have seen us on the ropes trying to cross from one tree to another. But what we lacked in skill, we made up in enthusiasm. We completed the Multi vine, the Burma loop, river crossing and rappelling. We had to wait hours on end to get a chance to behave like a monkey, but we waited, and waited and waited. Some watched, some slept, some played cricket. We had the inaugural Mookambika Mashes series, a hard fought best of three series, I was fortunate enough to be in the winning team. The mashes series will be a regular fixture on future trips. The trophy? a boiled potato.
Turtle Bay, about an hour away from our camp site, was where we were to spend our evening. With fish in the water on one side and fish on the plate on the other, it sure was a fine opportunity to mingle with the rest of the guys.
The Turtle bay resort gets its name from the sea turtles that inhabit the beach during the nesting season from October to December every year. A pity, coz we were a couple of months off. But nonetheless there was a lot to do, we sat around a bon fire for much of the evening eating, drinking dancing and making merry. The highlight of the evening was without doubt the 'Silent Dance' performed by some of us in a not so sober state. No singing no music, only dancing around the bonfire.
When the organisers decided that this was going to be a communication event little they know that it wasn't going to be all verbal.
After our antics the night before, a visit to the famous temple of goddess Mookambika almost became an act of redemption. The temple is built on the foothills of the western ghats, it has a big quadrangle and the statue of goddess Mookambika is housed in a temple inside the quadrangle. It is said that Adi Sankara himself installed the image of Mookambika. The temple is situated in the banks of the river, Sauparnika. We reached the temple just in time to see something most of us had never seen before. The Temple flag was being lowered; the flag had, what looked like a lion on it. There were two men standing at one corner outside the temple, but within the quadrangle.
One of them had a burning torch in his hand and the other, a cymbal. Both seemed very serious and were instructing the by now substantial crowd to give way. Just as the flag was lowered they began to run at full stretch around the temple. Seemed like quite an aggressive ceremony. Another interesting thing was that the men had to remove their shirts before entering the temple. In the olden days
this was to see that all those who were entering the temple were Brahmins, but today it is more a symbol of purity.
Out side the temple stood an Elephant with a mahout. On giving the elephant some money he would bless you by placing his snout on your head. The elephant seemed very intelligent, he was saving time by collecting a number of coins at once and giving away his blessings and then returning the collection to the mahout. One devotee offered a banana and the elephant did what most of us would have too, put it straight into his mouth. Just before we got into the bus for the onward journey, we decided to buy a soft drink from a shop right outside the temple. The MRP read Rs15 but we were charged Rs20. Suddenly it felt as though, all the spiritualism was fine
but ultimately, it was demand and supply that made the world go round!
Don't Varahi be happy
We rushed to the kayaking site on the banks of the Varahi river. The Karnataka Power Corp. Ltd. operates a dam here and generates about 250mw of power. Talking of which we must have consumed a lot of our power trying to kayak down the river. A truly refreshing experience and totally worth the wait. The swimmers amongst us were extremely confident but that was only until the instructor told them that the non-swimmers were much better at this, as they, unlike swimmers, always followed instructions.
At the end of the run we were bundled into a Mahindra four-wheel drive, the sheer power of the vehicle is evident in this terrain. We returned took a shower under a sprinkler in a nearby farm and had a hot cup of tea.
All in all, the entire trip was a great experience. If we are going to have more events with the same theme, I for one am glad that we solve communication problems in this manner.
Till we communicate again....