We, husband and wife, made a trip last week, to a place just 50kms away from where we stay. It just took a few hours more than half a day. Yet it turned out to be a memorable one. Though both of us like travelling around, we went only to very few places as tourists. This one is worth mention as it was a spontaneous decision to go. We went to this dam called Bhoothathankettu, a location near to Kothamangalam, Idukki district, Kerala. When we reached there we found that Thattekkad bird sanctuary was nearby and had a short visit there too.
When we started at 5.50 am, there was a slight chance of rain. It was the day Hudhud cyclone was supposed to enter Andhra, still we decided to take on the risk. (Risk edukkunnathu rusk thinnunnathu poleyaanallo). The roads were of excellent condition, contrary to our expectations. We took a detour into Kothamangalam town and had a sumptuous breakfast, though a bit more spicy for my pallette. One of our ideas for the trip was to tryout a local teashop, like the ones featured in Sathyan Anthikkad movies. But we never came across one on the way.
Another 10kms from there took us to the dam. Instead of stopping there, we decided to drive towards Edamalayar through reserved forest. We returned after a couple of kms and got off near the dam for a detailed inspection. Bhoothankettu was a natural dam, made by huge stones which fell down from mountains during floods centuries before. Local belief was that demons were responsible for boulders that obstruct the flow of river Periyar. Hence the name Bhoothathankettu. A man made structure was constructed later. On one side of the structure is the placid reservoir and on other bottle necked water gushes out of three opened shutters towards the valley creating much noise and mayhem. The contrast was amazing. There was supposed to be a walkway parallel to the river that goes through the woods. We desisted the temptation to explore the path after finding out it was muddy. The sky was also getting darker due to clouds. We stayed on the dam for some more time looking at the scenery. By 9.30 we started from there.
Our next destination was Thattekkad bird sanctuary. It is another 8km from the dam. Thattekkad is a place famous for the variety of avian life that it contains- perhaps biggest in India. Famous ornithologist Salim Ali had stayed there and catalogued many species of native and migrating birds. Public can go inside the forest and observe bird life after obtaining a pass. We took the pass and before entering forest the officials advised us to explore a few other sites worthy of a look- there was a mini zoo, an interpretation center and a water body housing aquatic birds. Mini zoo was a pathetic sight. I loved the interpretation center that had valuable information on the sanctuary, ornithology and birds of Kerala. Several pictures, photographs, models and specimens makes the exploration worthwhile. I took an immediate liking to the stuffed anteater. Establishing similar centers in schools and public places will be, in my opinion useful to cultivate interest among public. The water body is perfect for observing several birds like ducks, kingfishers and keels.
Next we entered the forest after showing our pass in the check post near the entrance. The walkway inside the forest is named Salim Ali Bird Trail as a memorial to the famous ornithologist (the spelling mistake on the board- Trial instead of Trail, was a light turn off though). The walk inside was a magical experience. Let me clarify this- don't venture inside thinking that birds will come in line and pose for photographs. Observation of birds need lot of patience, some basic knowledge on birds and a binocular. When we entered we could hear different variety of sounds made by birds- some strange and some familiar. We had a tough time spotting any of them, let alone photographing. But after a few meters we started concentrating more on the scenery. Narrow walkway lined on both sides by tall and strange looking trees, deep forest and small water bodies beyond them and river Periyar flowing on one side. On the background was a natural symphony provided by birds, beetles and crickets, a distant thunder adding beats to the score. Authorities had helpfully made several way pointers, but they soon lost any relevance. We walked a long way, were tired, but knew that we have not covered enough. The darkening of the sky and incessant thunder made us retract. We found time to check the view tower in between, but it was not worth the time. By the time we came out it started pouring.
We did not explore both the sites fully. But knowing that the journey is incomplete, realizing that another day we can embark on it and be amazed and surprised all over again is also a worthy feeling.