The name sounded quite out of ordinary but the experience was truly extraordinary. Once there it was sheer ecstasy, which I doubt could be narrated by a few words. This place in Kerala called Gavi is a hit among tourists, mostly foreigners who prefer a holiday away from the hustle and bustle of modern life. We started off from Trivandrum early in the morning by car. Deviating from Adoor, we took the route touching Pathanamthitta reaching Vandiperyar by noon. The road branches off to a forest area from Vandiperiyar through Konnimara estate from here.
The Mullaperiyar issue, a bone of contention between Kerala and Tamilnadu was in the forefront as we reached Vallakadavu check post before entering the forest tract. The banner which screamed ‘welcome to the land of death’, send chills up our spines. This was so since the issue had political overtones. Thankfully, the entry point was not blocked and we were given passes to move on. The issues and disturbing sights faded into insignificance as the breathtaking beauty of the forest unfolded on either side of the road. We stopped at many places to enjoy the ambiance which only dense forests could give. Elephant dung could be seen at many places near streams along the route. After traveling twenty kilometers through the forest tract, we reached the Green mansion, a lodge run by Kerala Forest Development Corporation. The lake on the foreground was pristine and inviting. Since we had booked a package comprising food, accommodation and sightseeing accompanied by a guide, there were not hassles in this regard.
Our stay was in tents midst forest. The tents made of Eco-friendly material were our homes during the stay. After a refreshing and sumptuous lunch, we gingerly stepped out. The sprawling meadow on the edge of the lake proved an ideal place to rest and enjoys the tranquil surroundings. As promised our guide met us at three in the afternoon and took us to a waterfall on the other side of the lake in a row-boat. Hidden between rocks and vegetation, it indeed was a refreshing experience. Luckily for us the visitors were few on this day largely due to the Mullaperiyar issue. After a great bath in the natural settings we returned the lodge. Next was a trekking tour to the hills on the opposite side of the lake. The view from the top was stunning as we sighted mountain goats, wild buffalo and horn-bills. The flight of the horn-bill was a sight to behold. We were in for a surprise when our guide pointing to a column of smoke told us it was the Sannidhanam, the abode of Swamy Ayyappa. Many pilgrims trek their way to Sabarimala through these forests. The light was fading as the sun began its fiery descent across the hills. This was glorious sight, a sight so familiar yet so different to behold in different parts of planet earth. I felt humbled and relieved of all pressures as we become one with nature.
Tiger sightings are not common even though they coexist with other species in this natural haven. Our guide narrated to us his experience of a tiger sighting some years back at this very spot. The big cat, unaware of it being watched, stretched out in the sunshine for nearly an hour before walking away. As we walked back to the lodge, our guide motioned to keep mum. In a gorge on the side of the pathway lay a viper. We waited as it slithered away into the undergrowth. It was very dark when we reached our lodge, but the lights around helped us find our way. Once back inside the tent we refreshed and had supper from the restaurant. Shortly the electric fence around the tent came to life preventing animals from entering the area. We could hear a number of cries emanating from the adjoining forest area. Occasionally the trumpeting of elephants accompanied by the sounds of breaking bamboo could be heard. Spending the night in a forest was truly an exhilarating experience, that too when the moon was at its glorious best.
The next day provided further excitement as we went for a jeep ride towards Pathanamthitta by the forest road. This is another route, though risky but picturesque which will take you to Gavi from Pathanamthitta. A KSRTC bus plies between Pathanamthitta and Gavi covering around a hundred kilometers. This ride offers some amazing views and has attracted many tourists. Recently a Malayalam film with its story woven around this journey ran in packed houses across Kerala. This has also contributed to the making Gavi a much sought after destination. We were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a male elephant few antelopes and a lion tailed macaque atop a tree during the ride.
Our package was for twenty hours and it was time to bid adieu to Gavi. At half past noon we packed up and departed to Vandiperiyar, heading back to Trivandrum. The scenes near the check post in Vallakkadavu were in stark contrast to the experiences we had earlier. Slogan shouting supporters of a political outfit blocked our way for some time. When the road cleared and the car moved forward, we couldn’t help wondering. ‘Will there be people without nature’? ‘Sure nature will thrive sans mankind’.