Translated by Deepthi Gopurathinkal
It’s been a while since I woke up to such a melodiously serene morning. This was nature’s music in its purest form, and I’d been listening to it since I woke up at five in the morning. The makers of this music must have been up much earlier, to go hunting for their daily fill. Isn’t that what we learnt at school?
The sounds kept growing louder. I could even hear the Waterfowl diving for their morning meal. Dogs from the nearby tribal colony seem to have woken up too. I tried to record all these sounds on my mobile phone. If only I had recording equipment like the ones carried by Resul Pookutty (Oscar Winning Sound Designer;). It would’ve been fantastic.
I could hear sounds from the car and figured Johar must be awake. He’d woken up at three in the morning and was gearing up to capture a few early morning shots. The entire environment was quite different from what it was the previous evening. The grass was wet, even though it hadn’t rained last night. And so was our tent! There must’ve been quite some dewfall last night.
This is the 10th day of The Great Indian Expedition’s trial journey. Now that we have almost completed testing our equipment (and ourselves), we plan to return to Ernakulam by evening. We wanted to capture some more footage on our way back. That’s when we decided to visit Pookode lake. The lake is quite near the Thamarassery mountain-pass, so we headed in that direction.
Being a holiday, Wayanad generally was quite crowded. And Pookode lake was no different. Moreover, parking was not allowed near the lake or on the road leading up to the lake. We had to park our car more than a kilometre away and walk to the gateway. Entry tickets were ₹30 per person and camera ₹ 150.
Pookode lies more than 2100 metres above sea level. The Panamaram rivulet which joins the Kabani river originates from Pookode lake. This freshwater lake is surrounded by lush green hills.
Pookode lake and its surroundings, as well as the tourist inflow, are quite different now than from when I visited a few years ago. Boating remains one of the main attractions of the place. Boating facilities have improved considerably. In addition to an increased number of watercraft, there is now a floating dock which has made it easier and safer for people to get on and off the boats. Moreover, Pookode now offers kayaks apart from the ubiquitous pedal boats and row boats.
The pedal boats are two-seaters. The seven-seater rowboats come with a rower assigned by DTPC (District Tourism Promotion Council) which can be rented out with just two people by remitting an additional ₹ 500. The Kayaks are priced at ₹ 250. Although these are tandem kayaks, solo paddling is permitted.
Johar and I settled on a seven-seater along with a rower, Ananthu. Ananthu who hails from Vaikom and works for DTPC as a lifeguard. He kept continuously requesting passengers on other boats to put their life jackets on. Being a lifeguard, he was aware of the importance of safety gear. Afterall, he was supposed to spring into action in case of an emergency. Unfortunately, no amount of requests from him could convince passengers to wear their life jackets. “They stink!” one of them countered. How worse would the stench be if they were to drown!
For nearly 13 years, I was accustomed to using all sorts of safety gear on a daily basis. In my line of work, I had also undergone training quite similar to what Ananthu must have received. Given my experience, escaping from an accident in Pookode Lake would be relatively easy for me. In spite of this conviction, the moment I saw the life jacket, my first instinct was to put it on. Because, no matter how trained you might be, things do not always go as planned. Wherever you are, always make sure you follow the safety instructions.
The lake was full of lotus and water lilies. Our oars were constantly getting entangled with underwater plants. Pookode is a plastic free zone and we hardly saw any plastic litter. Besides, tourists are neither allowed to pluck flowers from the lake nor dump any waste into the lake. Since the area is under surveillance it is easy to enforce these rules. Any deviation attracts a severe fine. We also saw on the lake a hatchery enclosure for freshwater fish, set up by the Fisheries Department.
During our conversation with Ananthu, we learnt the criteria required to become a lifeguard. Applicants should have completed their 10th grade and must be good swimmers. Those belonging to the fisher-folk community are given preference. During his test, Ananthu had to demonstrate his swimming skills at the Kovalam beach. After recruitment, the State provides all the necessary safety training.
The tip of Chembra peak is visible from Pookode lake. I have scaled Chembra twice. The peak has a unique lake named Hridayasarassu which is heart-shaped as the name suggests.
After alighting from the boat, we met the DTPC Manager stationed at Pookode. He promised to help us capture all the tourist spots of Wayanad in detail during GIE.
Next, I decided to go kayaking. I’d done this before at Munambam fisheries harbour and at the Kochi backwaters. Hence paddling solo on a tandem Kayak proved to be easy. Johar decided to capture the scene from the bank.
The last thing left on the list of activities at Pookode, was a bike ride around the lake. Bicycles were available for rent at ₹50 per hour. Visitors were making good use of the facility. I had to wait for a while after buying the ticket to get hold of a bike. The tree flanked path around the lake, which used to be tarred earlier, was now paved with interlocked tiles. I went around the lake and captured some footage on camera.
I’m usually very particular about wearing a helmet while riding bicycles, even over short distances. Unfortunately, the rental bicycles didn’t come with helmets. My own helmet, was lying in our vehicle parked one and a half kilometres away. Since the path was mostly free of vehicles I convinced myself to take a short ride without a helmet.
Day 10 of the GIE’s -Trial had come to an end. It’s now time for us to descend the Thamarassery pass. We’ve been able to take decisions on all aspects of the upcoming journey that need to be changed or added. The lessons learnt from this trial journey will be revealed in detail in another article. After applying the knowledge these GIE Trials provided us, and after making the necessary changes, we plan to venture into the Great Indian Expedition from Telangana.
Our vehicle descended the Thamarassery pass and slowly moved towards Ernakulam. One more journey has ended, and has paved the way for yet another more extensive journey.
To be continued… On a much grander scale!