11 Nov Road trip to the Remote Village Vattavada, Western Ghats, Kerala.
Munnar, filled with the lush magic of nature, its simple yet beautiful people always fascinated us. Unlike other tourists, I was curious to plot something different to apprehend and study the culture of tribal villages near the Munnar town. After some extensive ground work and research, I spotted few remote locations which can be explored. I was so excited and thrilled as this was going to be one hell of a road trip through the Chinnar Forest. A steep climb to Munnar from Kothamangalam was quite serene despite the downpour throughout the journey. The cold mountain air that summed up the rain exhausted me thoroughly and I was struggling to find my route to reach the resort. After a scrumptious dinner, I hit the bed for the next long road trip.
The sun rose the next day against a beautiful misty morning. I walked down a narrow trail filled with tea farms to reach the town and it was quite refreshing despite the 8 Km stretch. I recalled reading somewhere that most of the people weren’t aware of their own local villages, and it was quite a task to find a vehicle which would take me to my desired place. I managed to catch hold of one and boarded it with great excitement. The driver fired up the engine and whispered with a chuckle that it won’t be an easy drive. I questioned myself from various perspectives if I had chosen to thread down the wrong path but all my doubts were put to rest. A drive through the mountains roads can test you as well as treat you, to many zig-zags turns and serene views of lush green forests, and this in all, left me feeling absolutely breathless. Halts on the route paved way for capturing those beautiful landscapes and also helped me have meaningful interactions with the locals. Further down the route, barricades stopped us and some forest department officials made note of the vehicle number. I was confused with the procedures at that moment but soon realized that we were crossing the restricted area to reach the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, which is considered to be one of the finest Forest Reserves in India. A ten minute ride into the forest, I was overcome with immense pleasure and profound happiness despite the fact that we were asked not to halt anywhere as it might disturb the wild animals. The forest is enriched with vegetation and a dense account of trees of different varieties as we moved past the conservative area. The road ahead was not all smooth but the amazing view was fascinating and in turn made me forget all about the rough testing drive through the jungle trail. The Name board “Vattavada”, the hamlet of Western Ghats, offered a warm welcome to us and I at once felt at home despite how it was pouring throughout the journey. The main cultivation here is Cardamom, tea and cabbage. It was widely spread across the mountain valley where in some of the kindergarten schools were located. The path to the school was sluggish and muddy and it almost took me half an hour to climb down the mountain. The entire stretch was surrounded by vast stretches of Mountains and Valleys covered in patches of rainy clouds and it was a view to behold. The loud chorus of the school kids got louder as I neared the school premises. I strolled around the beautiful streets of the village Vattavada, the aroma of tea plantation filling the air and my soul with a sense of utmost fulfillment. I took it all in, rejoicing in the moment and wound my way around the poorly constructed roads. The people here were so warm and kind, and I found a leeway into their lives and interacted more about their daily life style and food culture. I clicked few portraits and observed that they were an ardent follower of communists since most of the house’s door were pinned with a symbol to denote the support. One could see the simplicity with which these people lead their lives and how despite the struggles and hardship they had the purest hearts. I was surprised to see their overwhelming care although it had to be cut short for an hour. By that time, it had started to rain as well and so I had to leave the place with a heavy heart. As I was packing up my stuff, some of the kids rushed to me with an expectant smile much to my surprise and asked “When would you be coming again?” I smiled and left the place and thought to myself to plan a trip to this place soon, in a couple of years time.
All Photographs and Article by Srivatsan Sankaran. This Content is edited by Pavitraa Swaminathan . Images are copy right protected.