On the day of travel, very unusual of him, Gopan arrived at chalakkudi at around 6.30 a.m and called me. I joined him in about 10 mins and waited for the Cab. We had booked a cab for the trip and rest of the team except us and Nishant were already in the cab. We were picked up by 7.30 and the only person remaining was Nishant. He also joined us from Ollur. It was close to 8 a.m and everyone wanted to have breakfast, especially the ladies who were off for a day from kitchen and we stopped at a small hotel at Pattikad. The hotel wasn’t open completely even at 8, and they were only getting ready for the business, so the menu was very minimal. We subsided our hunger with some poori and dosas. After breakfast everyone got into the spirit of the trip and wanted to do something to keep us engaged. Suman suggested starting anthakshari, though I was not an Anthakshari fan, I joined with the team and we split into 2 teams according to our seats and started the game. I should say we enjoyed it and I got a chance to clear my throats and my colleagues got a rare chance to hear my “sweet voice”. After a few cat fights over the songs and points we reached palakkad just after 9. Since Dhoni was in a remote area and there were no shops to get food or any other supplies, we were planning to take lunch with us. It was too early to get lunch to take away from any hotels so I proposed ordering lunch at a hotel near my college. All others agreed to the idea and I called up mash at Xanadu. Xanadu is small hotel cum department store cum snack bar cum and so many other things you see in front of all colleges and mash was the in charge there. I don’t know why everyone calls him mash, which means teacher. All our seniors used to call him mash and we continued that. I was even happier with the new plan that I can visit my college too. Mash said the lunch is not ready yet but he can arrange it and pack it in 30 mins. So we decided to spend that time at Palakkad fort and got down there. So that was a new destination out of our planned itinerary.
It was called Tipu’s fort and was located at heart of the city. There were a hanuman temple and Palakkad sub jail functioning inside the fort. Even after studying in Palakkad for 4 years that was the first time I saw many parts of the fort. At about 10 in the morning, the sun was not too hot and with a good palakakdan breeze it was a pleasant weather to explore the fort. Some guys went to the hanuman temple and others took some snaps and roamed inside the fort. After about 20 mins I got call from mash informing the food is ready so we cut short over Fort tour and continued our journey. The Xanadu and it’s annexe were almost same as it was four years back. It was one of the places where we used to prey upon the girls of nearby women’s hostel and since it was some holiday the hostel was empty and I was dissapointed. By the time we reached Xanadu mash had packed 20 steamy biriyanis for us. We had few snacks from annexe and continued our journey to Dhoni. Since I wanted to go to my college, I convinced my colleagues and took them to show around the college and we had a round inside the campus in our cab. After cherishing a lot of memories we left the place and headed to Dhoni. Reaching there we saw a forest check post.Though I had been to dhoni a few times before, we never took the straight route. We always go by some short cuts and escaping from the eyes of guards to save the entry fees. Since now we are the so called professionals and we needed to keep our etiquette, we took tickets from check post and embarked on our hike. Dhoni had a stone paved road from the forest gate till the water falls. The guards had advised us to keep the road, and the path will split few kilometers down the road. So as law abiding citizens we followed the road,
after moving from the guards eye sights few of us decided to go adventurous and took the short cuts directly crossing the paths through the woods. This new route was a physically demanding one and very soon after we got to it the fatigue took it's toll on us. One by one many of us started to take breaks and after climbing for few more meters the breaks became longer than the hikes. We started as a group of 15, now we got split into 3 to 4 smaller groups and each group taking its place to rest in route.
Our group took short but difficult routes and more prolonged breaks. Some others took the road and shorter breaks. Our group was taking all possible shortcuts and we used to intersect the motor way occasionally. But after taking a specific shortcut we were intersected by another road which was not motor able. This road was not a much travelled one and it was covered with dry leaves and fallen trees. We understood we lost the way and we should go back but by that time Santhosh had scuttled ahead of us and he had gone into forests. Chackochi went after him to get him back but returned very soon. Then he took Nishant as a companion and went searching for Santhosh again. When they came back with Santhosh and Nishant told the story only we realized why Chackochi had returned so fast first time, there was a abandoned house in the ruins on the way and he got scared of passing it.
By that time Anu and Gopan had found the right path. Though we had only missed a turn by few meters, we had to spend more than an hour to get back to the right track. And this detour took all others to the falls ahead of us. By the time we reached the falls, ladies had started to devour their share of biriyanies. The fall had nothing special about it, It was a small one may be a 20 feet high and the water flaw was also flimsy.
We decided to fresh up and take a bath in pure crystal like water. We were advised not to take bath in the falls as it was dangerous and it had taken a few lives before. The guard at the forest camp had informed us there is a safe place upstream to take bath so we moved there and had a very nourishing and rejuvenating bath in the fresh and clear water. The water was so cold that we had a difficult time getting adjusted to it. I remember once when we were in college, we came here with few bottles of beers and we chilled the beer by keeping it in this running water. We spent some time bathing and playing in water and then returned to have our biriyanies. It was almost 3 p.m and we had to head back. So we started our journey back without wasting much time. The descent was a bit easy than ascent and we could come down in half the time we took to climb up. When we got down it was difficult for most of us to keep our legs straight. By 5 pm everyone got the base and we left Dhoni and on our way back to cochin. On way we had some tea and snacks from Palakkad. The return journey was without any specific incident as everyone were too tired to move around and most of us fell asleep and others silently watched the movie played in the bus. Then the bus dropped everyone at their locations starting from Nishant at ollur, and myself at chalakkudi. That was the end of the much awaited team outing.