Prologue : https://pixeltrailz.com/2017/02/23/mentally-prepared/
Part I : https://pixeltrailz.com/2017/03/03/conquering-the-blues-i/
Part II : https://pixeltrailz.com/2017/03/24/conquering-the-blues-ii/
It was close to a 30 minute drive winding and snaking through narrow, misty, green and uninhabited roads before we reached our stay for the night, a beautiful secluded tea estate bungalow right in the middle of a tea plantation, owned and maintained by Glendale. The pretty evening sky was making its way to a clear starlit light pollution free atmosphere. The estate bungalow was well maintained with 4 large rooms and attached bathrooms. While our cook was busy preparing some evening tea and snacks, the tiredness caught up with us while we gathered around the living room to relive our day. After a nice evening get together we quickly dispersed off to freshen up and rejuvenate for the night that lay ahead for us.
I am a very cynical person by nature and believe that majority of the relationships are just superficial. With the advent of social media, it has hit the extreme and it is not uncommon to find an individual with two conflicting personalities, one real and one reserved for the social media. To illustrate this, I had a small challenge with my family. I changed my Facebook settings not to display my date of birth or send a notification to anyone regarding the same. I also modified my settings to disallow anyone posting on my wall or tagging me. I celebrated my birthday a few days ago and the result was interesting. 2 years ago with no restrictions, I had about 200 wishes including my wall and pm. Last year without wall posting rights, it trickled down to about 50 or so pm and this year, down to one single wish and a few Whatsapp wishes from family and a few close friends. Why do I rant tangentially at times is a question I cannot answer myself, so let’s leave it at that. What I expect is good and a sincere relationship with folks I know and to put in perspective with my birthday experiment, it translates to “I am happy if someone remembers my birthday and wishes me. I am happy if someone doesn’t know my birthday and do not wish me, however I find it weird and superficial when folks whom I hardly know and merely acquaintances wish me because FB reminded them”.
Why this philosophy here ? because I cannot express the camarederie and the connection I have built with this group over the past 3 years. It gives me great pleasure and a sense of freedom whenever I go out trekking or railfanning with this group, each one unique with a distinquished background and social statuses, but everyone down to earth at the grassroot level sharing and enjoying a common passion and there is nothing superficial about it or the relationship which we have built over the years. We freshen up soon, settle down, get into some spirited discussions running late into the night accompanied by Ilayaraja’s gems duly distorted and thrown out by overworked speakers of our vehicles, the free spirit getting out the poets and artists amongst us and in the end, a night well spent in the middle of nowhere with like minded friends and without a care in the world. Now that’s what I call a stress buster that can last for a long time. It is moments like this which make you feel alive and worth living for.
Dinner, drinks and and loads of discussion ranging from stones used in railway ballast to nuclear submarines, the group gradually disintegrated to call it a day and start fresh the next morning. It was an absolute beautiful morning. Bright sunshine, dark blue cerulean sky, some real tweets, a few local kids enjoying a brisk game of cricket in a short patch of available flat land among sloping landscapes, mist rising and gliding across the mountains and interspersed thin waterfalls and a variety of breakfast items and tea / coffee on demand from the bungalow caretakers. We continued from where we left the previous night and soon found ourselves cruising our way back to Coimbatore after a heavy lunch. One group left early towards Mysore / Bangalore. Another Chennai / Bangalore bound group bid us goodbye and were onboard the train towards their respective destinations. My usual travel partner trundles off towards Palghat to be with his parents and I had the young company of a senior citizen, bound for Udupi the next day and younger than most of us as we settled down for a restful night with the windows sneaking in light overlooking the platform no 1 of Coimbatore Junction Railway Station.
By 8 AM the next morning, done with breakfast and other trivialities, we find ourselves waiting on PF No 1 to board the 16565 Yesvantpur – Mangalore Express. Led by a Vijawada WAG5 we were soon cruising through the beautiful landscapes on offer between Walayar & Kanjikode. We reached Palghat a few minutes ahead of schedule, where my regular travel partner, PK was waiting with homemade food for our return to Bangalore by 12678, Ernakulam – Bangalore Intercity Express. We bid goodbye to PKV, the young senior and a delayed 12678 ensured we had a good time roaming around the station soaking in nothing but the typical railway station vibes from one of the cleanest railway stations of India. 2 days of enduring unusual physical activity, quite uncommon for majority of the working IT population in the current world meant that our body wanted a bit more of rest to compensate and match our primarily sedentary lifestyle and being used to unnecessary luxuries of life, we wanted to upgrade our second sitting ticket to AC Chair car. One look at the incoming train and it was clear as day. No room in AC. The second sitting was cramped and the coach was occupied like a typical Rohit Sharma career. Bits of brilliance with extended patches of mediocrity. The area we were seated was cramped and I was right between two giants. A few seats ahead it was wide open spaces. By the time we reached Erode Junction, the crowd had eased considerably and the journey turned out to delightful. On hindsight it was good that the AC coaches were full. Nothing can beat the fresh wind, rhythmic wheels of motion, the typical clickety clack of wheels moving over rails and the feel of being out in the open of a second class of an Indian Railways travel experience.
We soon depart Salem and enter the single line diesel section towards Bangalore via Hosur. This section is an unexplored paradise for the rail enthusiasts. It boasts of a small ghat section too, but not quite like the towering mountains connected by large viaducts or piercing through the mountains in long tunnels. We have to climb close to a kilometer above the sea level from the ground over a distance of 200 kilometers. The train passes through sunflower fields, mustard fileds, small hills and innumerable sharp curves and bends. Muthampatti and Rayakottai are one of the many beautiful areas this route covers, the former known for its Hanuman temple and innumerable monkeys and the latter for a very famous horse shoe curve. This is a section unexplored and is in the list of to do things in future and best enjoyed during the monsoons.
Street food, Junk food and following the same train of thought, railway pantry food especially when you can feel & smell the fresh fried items in stale and expired oil is ironically enticing and we succumbed. We indulged in a wide range of junk unhygienic food only to find myself in the washroom every five minutes cleaning out my gut and stomach. My friend and travel companion PK was able to pride himself of his superior resistance for for about 10 minutes longer until he decided to join the fun. A typical case of food poisoning and thankfully mild enough to leave us with enough strength and energy to complete the last leg of what would be a memory etched forever. We crossed Hosur and held up Karmelaram for a while to let the Bangalore Dharmapuri DEMU to cross. A simple 10 minute delay now escalated to almost an hour as were held up prior to descending the Byappanahalli ramp and join the Chennai Bangalore mainline. It was then that I realised that the one that would have been affected the most in this fiasco would have been the Mysore – Mayiladuturai express who would still be waiting for us to clear the line and it was no surprise to find it waiting at Byapanahalli with headlights off waiting. An absolutely bored and resigned loco pilot waving us the green signal as we chugged past accelerating and clearing his line towards Bangalore Cantontment, where we were deposited around 8:20, a good hour late from our scheduled arrival. Thankfully for us Island Express bound to Kanyakumari, the one I started this trip with was just entering Bangalore Cantonment. A brisk sprint, we were onboard the Island and the breathing returns to normal a few minutes later as we disembark at KJM, Krishnarajapuram. We bid goodbyes, ready to do it all over again next year and a half hour later, I was there ringing the doorbell, back to reality, back to the chaos this world has to offer, back to the concrete jungle from the real one, fresh, charged and rejuvenated, ready to take on the challenges until I run out of charge, however I am rechargeable and until then, back to the grind.
I hope I was able to take my readers along virtually on this quickie litte recharging trip across the Nilgiris. Do let me know your feedback and comments. Until the next one….
Meanwhile, a video & photo compilation of the memorable trip
Flickr Link For Trip Photos : https://www.flickr.com/photos/ponds186/albums/72157676295739252