Poombarai - Day 02

Continued From Here: Poombarai - Day 01

 14th  January 2024 

I woke up to a beautiful sunrise outside my window. I went to the terrace in the common area and sat there watching the view. Later in the day, I started a new sketch on Guna caves. Manan and I got ready and began our second day of exploration. We decided to take a shortcut towards Kookal. 

On our way, we stopped at the village of Gundupatti for breakfast. There was one shack where a middle-aged lady was serving food. When we went there, we saw a crowd gathered around the shack. Few men were having a heated argument with the lady. It was clear to me that it had something to do with money. We sat inside and waited for her to settle the dispute. The argument only intensified. Many villagers stopped to listen to the argument. They requested us to wait a little as if it were their restaurant. A few old men enquired about us and were surprised and happy to know that Manan had travelled all the way from Delhi on his bike. 

One of the helpers at the shack told me that the lady had taken a loan from a money lender to buy a jeep. She had not paid the weekly instalment and hence the money lenders had sent people to extract money or warn her about the consequences. Most Indian villagers take loan from private unauthorised money lenders for multiple reasons. Firstly, they do not have a stable income to avail a loan from a bank. Furthermore, they cannot pay a systematic EMI. These lenders on the other hand, offer some flexibility. However, the consequence of not paying the money back can also be severe. 

The villagers who had gathered there were all worried about us. Once the fight was temporarily resolved and the men from the lender's side had left, everyone reminded the lady of our order and requested her to serve us. Which was very kind of them to do. We had 3 hot idlis each, Parpu vada and Medhu vada. We also had two cups of black tea. All this cost us only Rs100. 

We reached Kookal and came across a waterfall. Locals were charging Rs60 each to let us in. The entry fee to the waterfall was more expensive than our heavy breakfast. The waterfall is beautiful and people were allowed to take a shower. There were a few people there. Women in sarees and chudidhars went straight into the water as is. The men on the other hand, were undressed up to their underwear. 

I did something stupid here. I wore my trekking sandals and went closer to the waterfall while taking a picture. I slipped on the wet rock and fell down. Thankfully I was not hurt. My white kurta was full of mud though. I cleaned it with the water. But I realised something interesting. When I fell, my brain had gone completely blank. I had no recollection of the fall – but only of the moment before and after. It is like the fraction of a second during the fall never existed. 

Next, we headed towards Kookal village. The main Kookal waterfall is located deep in the jungle. But unfortunately, the forest department is prohibiting entry to the waterfall. Upon enquiry, the villagers told me that if we could come there at 5am, they would take us to the waterfall. That way, we could return by 9am, before the officers arrive on duty. I registered the information for a future visit -  if there is one. What I noticed that my communication in Tamil is improving. We stopped for some time at Kookal lake. It was filled with violet coloured water lilies. 

After spending some time there, we headed back. On the way, we passed by Kookal grassland. There were a lot of bikers resting there. Most of them were college students perhaps in their teens. I wondered if they were like Mani and Mari whom I had met in Parvathamalai. With limited budget, they travel continuously throughout the night and explore the tourist places during day and head back the following night. Everyone does not have the privilege of working as a digital nomad like Manan or work part time and be a flashpacker like me. 

We came across a traffic jam on a narrow road. The drivers got off from their vehicles and figured out a way to solve the problem. I took a short walk until the jam was cleared. 

I took Manan to Jyothi’s cafe in Poombarai. We had lemon tea there and relaxed a bit watching the spectacular view in front of us. Do not miss this place, if you are visiting Poombarai. 

Both Manan and I had researched about this Italian restaurant called Passiflora up the main road. It had great reviews and we wanted to try the food there. But unfortunately, they were closed for renovation. We went to Woody’s/La Serre a few kilometres away. It is a nice place but slightly expensive. We had a pizza and Biscoff biscuit cold coffee – Both were delicious. 

After a sumptuous meal, we went back to the hostel and relaxed a bit. In the evening, Manan and I went for a short walk around the hostel. We watched the sunset and the waterfall. It was refreshing to see all the waterfalls in this region flowing full. 

Back in the hostel, we met other travellers in the common area. There were two men from Bangalore. They had funny stories to share about their planning of the trip. Both were in their mid-thirties and were under pressure from their families to get married. They had their doubts about it – Should they succumb to the pressure or continue with their carefree life? We discussed a bit on this topic. 

We also met two young boys - One from Chennai and the other from Mumbai. Disha and Bhavesh had gone to explore Kodaikanal and once they retuned, we gathered in the common area to play. A young couple from Bangalore joined us and insisted upon playing monopoly card game. I have played the board game but this was the first time I had heard about the card game. The whole process looked so laborious that most of us lost interest after a while. 

There were three boys from Bangalore who invited us over to join the campfire. One of them took the initiative in beginning a conversation and requested each one of us to pick a song of our choice, which he then played on the speaker he was carrying.  I was suddenly under pressure to pick a song. I can never think of one song as my favourite. I have liked different songs at different stages of my life. When I noticed that all the youngsters around me were choosing old songs, that gave me some assurance. I was happy to pick “Pal pal dil ke paas” by Kishore Kumar. 

At around 11PM, I decided to head back to the dorm and sleep. The Chennai biker and the intoxicated guy were already asleep. Earlier that day, the junkie was sleeping on my bed by pushing my clothes aside. When he saw me enter, he apologised and moved. That is an unacceptable behaviour in hostels. Some Indians are yet to learn the etiquettes involved in hostel accommodation. When me and the boy from Mumbai returned to our beds to sleep, he realised that his pillow was missing. The junkie had placed it on my bed while he was sleeping there earlier that day. I returned the pillow. The reason, I mention this is that one who reads this is made aware or reminded of the proper behaviour in a dormitory. 

That night too, I had a disturbed sleep. Someone was snoring and farting loudly all through the night. The Chennai biker had convulsions in the middle of the night. Some of us woke up and tried to enquire but he did not respond so, we went back to sleep.  I think the two had smoked up a lot of weed. I do not see the point in smoking up and staying zoned out in such places of great visual beauty. I have many such stories from my hostel stays around the world. 

CONTNUED HERE: Poombarai - Day 03