Saturday, November 17, 2007

Enchanting Madayippara...

Text and pictures: A K Varun

Legends and history permeate Madayippara, an extended laterite hillock not far from Ezhimala that face the sea. Located on the northern side of Kerala’s Kannur district, this hillock is a synonym of peace and tranquility and it offers a soothing effect to the mind of any visitor. For an outsider, this Plateau with its shrines and remnants of historical ruins still gives off a sense of exotic feel.

It was on a rainy morning I had landed at Madayippara. The train had to cross a mighty river before reaching Pazhayangadi station. There was torrential rain outside. I had to take extreme care in the case of my camera while alighting from the train as any diversion in my attention may permit the rains to mindlessly damage it. The rains may have affected the number of passengers at the station. Not much hassle and bustle. There is not even the presence of the `chai wallah.’
A long umbrella was with me to fight the rain while capturing the entire beauty of Madayippara using the camera. There was a gigantic banyan tree just outside the railway station. Its branches and roots have created a green canopy to sit and relax. Somebody may have trimmed the branches of the tree as if moved by a wrong aesthetic concept. After all, what is the need of trimming a banyan?
The bus stop is located in the shadow of the tree. I had waited in vain for a bus to reach Madayppara for quite sometime. But there was no bus to take me there. At last, I found an autorickshaw.
``Where are you going?’ asked the driver.
``To Madayippara,’’ I replied.
The auto started meandering through the road that passing through difficult terrains.
``Look there. Are you seeing a hillock there? That is the Madayippara,’’ said an enthusiastic Nirosha, who accompanied me.
Nirosha is presently doing research work on Madayippara. Her research topics include its ecology, culture and history. So she knows every nook and corner of the hillock.
``It would take at least three kilometers to reach the hillock. To which portion of the hillock are you proceeding?’’ the auto driver asked. His Malayalam had a Kannur accent.
``Drop us near Madayikkavu,’’ Nirosha said again with enthusiasm. The vehicle left Pazhayangadi town and started climbing the heights. The terrain is difficult. The driver was taking extreme pain to pass through the country road.
Finally, the auto reached Government Guest House on top of the hillock.
``Okay. This is the place,’’ said Nirosha as if showing the red signal. The auto had gone away after I had paid the rent.
``Look. Herman Gundert had prepared his famous Malayalam dictionary by staying inside this ancient structure. He was here for a long time,’’ she said again. Then I had a detailed look over the guest house, which looks so old.
The vast expanses of the hillock start just behind the guest house. A panoramic view of Ezhimala that extending to the sea is also available from there. The sea is providing a rich background and on top of it a bunch of eagles were performing an air show. Big trees on top of Madayippara are providing nesting space for all the eagles.
The scenes have started thrilling my mind. Will it be possible for my 10-20 camera to capture all the rich varieties of the hill. Slowly,I have taken my camera outside. After adding the wide lens to camera body, I have started looking Madayippara through the lens. The view finder had started providing me dream snaps. With the opening and closing of each shutter, the dream frames have started turning into realities. The back screen of the camera has also started enthralling me with the beauty and vibrancy of each frame.
Nirosha told me to spend some time at Madayikkavu capturing its beauty. There is a gigantic pond in the close proximity of Madayikkavu. No cruel summer can dry up this pond. In the rich canvas of Madayippara, not only the hillock but also the sky, sea and this pond are providing new aesthetic sensibilities. The pond was calm and its placid waters were crystal clear. I had broken the silence of the waters by fetching a handful of water. It was very cool. Vibrations have started appeared in the waters due to my interference.
There is a small `kavu’ on the other side of the pond. Its reflections are now floating across the small waves of the pond. There were a number of plants and flowers on the vicinity of the pond. As if a botanist, Nirosha started saying the scientific names of most of the plants within a few moments. Though I had failed to follow all those scientific names, the one which made an impression in my mind was `Droseera Indica.’ Though it is a nice name, the plant is a predator which attracts small flies and creatures and uses them to satiate hunger.
I had wasted a lot of time in front of a Droseera to see its skill in attracting and eating flies. But the plant failed to attract any small creature.
Nirosha advised me to go to the western side of Madayippara, where Vadukunta temple is located. ``there is a butterfly sanctuary there,’’ she said.
``Butterfly sanctuary? Really?’’ I exclaimed.
`` Yaa. It is indeed a butterfly sanctuary. Because of the large presence of butterflies, environmental groups working in the area have named that area as butterfly sanctuary,’’ said Nirosha.
``You can see as many as 117 varieties of butterfly there. More than double of butterfly varieties available in the parks of Britain and Germany,’’ she added. It took about one hour walk to reach the butterfly sanctuary.
This rocky terrain would not make you tired whether it is rain or shine. The vibrant scenes would dilute the pains of body. Suddenly, I heard the sound of a rare bird.
``Don’t afraid. It is Chenganny Thithiri,’’ she explained.
``What it is actually?’’
``It is the colloquial name of that rare bird. Its sound is different,’’ she said. I had decided to chase that bird. I had started attempts to take its snaps by hiding behind a big rock. The bird with a red eye was walking through the greeny portions of the hillock. As soon as I started focussing the camera, Chenganny started moving from one rock to the other. Saying goodbye to Chenganny, I have continued my walk in search of the butterfly sanctuary.
There were plenty of plants with fully bloomed flowers on the rocks as if heralding the arrival of Kerala’s national festival Onam. Madayippara is in fact a rich flower carpet. Different flowers are blooming here during each season.
On the way, there was another pond with placid waters. It was reflecting the dark clouds in the sky. When I unfolded my big umbrella close to the pond which reflecting the dark clouds, there is one frame. An excellent frame. The frame in which a sky fell into a pond and a country made umbrella on its side. I had wasted not even a single moment to click it.
``This picture has two dimensions. It would be difficult to distinguish between a pond and a sky,’’ she responded.
The journey continued again. Now, we can see the Arabian Sea in close quarters. On the northern side of the hillock, Pazhayangadi River is quite flowing. There are small boats in the river. The bridge across the river is now carrying a train that providing me a wide shot. The visuals here are reflective of shots in Mani Ratnam films.
The rains have started. My camera failed miserably in carain’s fury. Finally, the walk ended at the butterflies’ park. It was indeed a different experience. I was really astonished while seeing different species of butterflies. They had different shades and colours. They had different moods and emotions. Each one of them was challenging my capability as a photographer. Each one is rare and exceptional. How can I show favouritism with any one of them?
Finally, I started capturing their moments in my camera. Some of them failed me. But some others have provided new aesthetic sense to my shots. Finally, I had chased a yellow butterfly which ultimately posed for me. A close up frame.
I had spent a few minutes in the company of butterflies keeping the camera bag and umbrella aside. A small meditation. Now, the butterflies have started a conversation with me. I have closed my eyes. In the depth of my soul, I had experienced the whisperings of the butterflies.
Sun light has started making a variety of pictures in between the intermittent rains. How can I capture all these images? No camera can capture the entire mood and tone of Madayippara. You can experience it while being in these hillocks. You should open up your mind and mood for such a everlasting feeling.
The rain was heavy as soon as I completed the photography expedition. Finally, I bid goodbye to the hillock with a wet body and mind. There was a magnetic power that told me not to go away from this paradise on earth. But I had to go.
``Will you comback again,’’ Madayippara asked me. ``Definitely, I will. I would come during Onam season when the hillock is turning an ocean blue due to the presence of Krishna flowers,’’ I replied.
The train from Pazhayangadi station took me back to the outer world. While traveling in train, there were distant views of Madayippara. It is soaked fully in rain. While looking at Madayippara through the windows of the train, a monosoon season unflded before me with a high decibel thunder. Rains have started preventing all the visuals outside.

Thusharagiri -the lone hillock

Text and pictures: A K Varun.

It was a day of respite from the heavy rains that lashed Thusharagiri hills since the outbreak of this monsoon. The distance from Kozhikode city to the famous Thusharagiri falls is of about 51 km. I had to pass through different landscapes that include hills, mountains, streams, rivers and rice fields. Journalism student Subin is accompanying me in this journey. Dearest friend Najeeb, who actually belongs to the same place, is my guide.
>The time was 8.30 in the morning. The tourism information centre close to the water fall seemed empty. The staffers were in deep morning slumber. However, they smelled the arrival of visitors instantly and appeared before us in blue uniforms.
``We are three and two still cameras are with us,’’ Subin said.
``The entry fee per person is Rs 10. You have to pay Rs 15 for each camera,’’ the man at cash counter said. ``You should also write your name and address in this register,’’ he added.
The `security clearance’ had lasted for a few minutes. Then there was a small trek to reach the water falls. On the way, there were small streams with crystal clear water. It seemed tastier when I gulped a handful of water.
``There are three waterfalls here. The first is easily approachable by all. A steep climb is inevitable to see the second one. Don’t go to the third one as the climbing of the rocks would not be easy. The rocks are slippery,’’ warned the accompanying security officer.
``If so, I wish to see the third one,’’ the adventurous Subin declared. Najeeb also extended solidarity with him. Then I had no option. I had also agreed to go along with them to the third fall with a little fear in mind.
The first fall had a frightening appearance because of the monsoon. The mighty rocks below are resisting these fierce streams and as a result rich sprays of water are vetting the entire ambiance. I had a plan to move very closely to the streams to take some beautiful pictures. But Najeeb prevented me.
``Don’t go there. See it from a distance. Unexpected down pours in the thick of the forests would double the waters in the stream at any time during monsoon. So it is risky,’’ he said. Subin was taking snaps unmindful of Najeeb’s advice. Somehow, Najeeb convinced him of the risk.
On the other side of the stream, it is dense forest. Yet another stream is flowing across that forest.

On reaching the other side of the first stream, I noticed a huge tree. It looked gigantic but its inside seemed hollow. The `hollow’ tree is still retaining its life. That is the wonder. We three had sneaked into the hollowness of the tree. The inside view of the tree was as if in a cave. It was very cold inside the tree.
The journey to reach other two waterfalls seemed long. The wild path was steep and slippery. Finally, I found the sign board leading to the second water fall. There were large expanses of solid rock in my vicinity. A stream was flowing across the solid rocks. The stream was mighty but it was unavoidable for me and my friends to walk across the stream.
The small streams of Thusharagiri are adorning a marvelous look in this spot. They turn enchanting and vibrant. The camera had no rest for quite a long time as the vibrancy of the scenes had put a challenge to it. Subin’s camera was also in the same spirit. Only Najeeb seemed an outsider. He was taking rest by laying himself on a rock. After finishing the camera works, I had also taken a small nap on the rocks.
Finally, my encounter with the last waterfall began. It was indeed a Herculean task. There was a steep climb through the dense forests. The forests have already immersed in darkness due to the change in climate. No ray of sun inside the thick bushes. The clouds were about to burst. Crickets were making the creaking sounds more loudly. On occasions, we had gasped for breath. The path ahead was getting more and more narrow. I have covered my camera with a towel and kept it close to my body to protect it from the rough climate.

Though the surroundings have immersed in darkness, the time was just 11.30 in the morning. The network reach of mobile phone had also a hide and seek game. The great canopy of the forests was preventing views of the sky above. There was no visibility of the path ahead. A return also would not be easy. There are heights after heights to climb. It was too difficult for me to climb the heights without damaging the camera.
Finally, all of us have decided to sit and relax for some time. However, the relaxing failed to continue for long. There were foot marks and dung of elephants in that area. There were bamboo breaks all over the area. Bamboo reeds are a favorite delicacy for elephants. My hands and legs have started shivering. Even in the extreme cold of Thusharagiri, I was sweating. I was feeling the presence of a wild tusker in the close vicinity. There was no mobile network. Nobody had any clue of an imminent escape. We have started probing a way out in the under vegetation. The hope of seeing the waterfall has eclipsed.

In the meantime, I have heard the voice of a waterfall. The sounds were emanating from an area filled with bamboo reeds. The foots have started moving voluntarily towards the origin of the sound. There was a huge valley closeby. Through the valley, the water is falling down to the rocks. It was a magnificent view. An exceptional waterfall indeed. All of us have immersed in the beauty of that waterfall setting aside the fear of elephants and the bad experiences of the journey.
A mist had started engulfing the entire area. A coll breeze was blowing around. The hillocks have worn green coverings. Trees with leafs of different shades and colours. Rare birds which flying across the area like flights.
Taking pictures is a difficult task. The valley close by has deep and unseen deaths. The rock on which I was standing was slippery. Subin and Najeeb had kept me in a tight hold.
``Take the photographs boldly now on, ‘’ they said. Then I started taking snaps of the majestic fall with a little bit of courage. Enough pictures. Even a passing glipse to the frightening valley would danger me. Is there anybody who filmed these views from this same place?
``Nobody,’’ I said to myself. The main reason is that there is no straight path to reach here. It would be difficult for even us to climb again here after a return to the mainland.
Subin was not able to take all these pictures. Instead, he satisfied his photography thirsts by capturing my adventures on the slippery rocks close to the valley. Without moving an inch from a particular point, I had taken 36 pictures.
The return journey was also tough. Risking life, all of us went across bushes and jungles without knowing even the direction. Long hours in a jungle which was engulfed in darkness.
Finally, the search ended in regaining the lost path. It took about four hours to reach the base point. One more risky journey ended. Also a rare experience of going inside the depth of a jungle. The memories are still lingering in my mind.