Sunday, February 14, 2010

Agasthyarkoodam Trip - Part V

There is a dormitory in Athirumala built by the Forest department for trekkers to take rest with a canteen that provides food - for a small price. Small considering that most of the ingredients are carried up there by tribals since it is not allowed for anyone to cultivate or take anything from the forest.

You get delicious hot ‘kanji’ and rice as well as other food during the day. They also provide free hot water to drink which is a blessing in the nights when it can be unusually cold. The building however has a scary look – not in the sense that it looks haunted but that it looks like it could fall on your head anytime. Another typical example of government inefficiency when you learn that it is only a few years old. Well something over your heads is better than nothing. At night the wind, which was a blessing during our long walk in the day turns into wild ravaging animal, smashing window panes and threatening to hurl the roof off and break huge branches over our head. It is also extremely cold and having to lie in the cement floor without sufficient blankets will make you feel frozen stiff in the morning.

However it a festive atmosphere inside with all kinds of people, nearing about 100, engaged in their own activities. Some groups chose to pray and sing hymns while others play cards or tell stories, some secretly smoke or drink – anything to make your forget today’s exhaustion and get ready for tomorrow’s walk to the summit.

It is from Athirumala that you can actually see the Agathya peak which you are going to climb. It sits like a huge boulder, like a sentinel guarding our territory. You can usually only see the summit during midday as in the mornings and evenings it will be covered with mist. Seeing the hills also remind you of something – that these hills like the Agasthyamala played an important role in creating the collective consciousness that we call Kerala. Bordered by sea on one side the Western Ghats somewhat isolated this geographical place from the rest of the Indian sub-continent and thus played an important role in shaping our culture. This is the reverence we feel when we stand at the foot of the imposing mountain range – that we owe something to them, something that is a part of us.

(To be continued...)


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