The following is a description of an exciting photography expedition to Kolukkumalai, about 40 km from Munnar, boardering with TamilNadu. Me and Biji Started from Cochin on May 14, at 9.30 P.M. Everything went smooth till the call of nature struck when we were just before the town of Adimally. We parked the car on a shoulder of the road which was fairly wide, opposite to the Eastern’s School. When we were about to get back in to the car, I noticed that the cars wind shield needed cleaning. Biji agreed. But remembered that the washer fluid container was empty. This is when the trouble started. He took a water bottle and got out after turning the engine and light on so that we could get some light for pouring the water in to the washer container. Bad luck struck. Biji closed the door and all doors got locked. Got locked out about midnight in the middle of nowhere. If Biji had not turned the lights on we would have been completely in the dark. Started waving hands to Autos which passed by at very small intervals. No one stopped. Then one auto stopped. Biji went to a workshop and brought a mechanic to open the car. Lost an hour in the ordeal. We reached ‘Thokkupara’ at Siby’s residence at about 2.00 am. Went to sleep.
Got up early and proceeded to Kolukkumalai, Joined by Siby, Monichan & Arun. Breakfast at Munnar. Left Munnar towards Surya Nelli. Parked the car at a small Resort. Took the Jeep ride towards Kolukkumalai. It started raining slightly on the way. Talk about bumpy Road… this is it! Literally riding through rocky patch. Winding and Bumpy. But we passed through some great scenic terrain. Started taking pics at regular intervals, when ever we saw something interesting. And there were plenty of it. We reached Kolukkumalai Camp at about 3 PM. We walked around to photograph some scenic views. This area has immense importance. Kolukkumali tea garden is the Highest tea garden in the world. It is also in the process of acquiring its organic certification. Kolukkumali stands at over 7000 feet above sea level. The mountain far and near changing its character as the light changes. We walked around the hillocks late in to the dusk. It starts getting cold at Kolukkumalai area by afternoon, and by sunset it gets really cold. It gets so cold, we had to turn on the heaters in the room. Got some good sleep after a great dinner.
Monichan was in charge of waking everyone up early in the morning. Our door bell rang exactly at 4.00 am. In 15 min black tea was ready. Felt great sipping in to the warm tea in the cold morning. We got our camera gear ready and put some warm cloths and ear protectors and started the day. It was pleasant and still without wind. We could feel that we were in for a great day. We started our walk towards Kolukkumalai Summit. It was still dark. We waited at an opening in the winding road where we could get a wide angled view ahead. In about 10 Min. we could see sun breaking shades of red in the firmament. Just before this the mountain ranges appear as layers of grayish blue shades.
Started clicking away. Both Biji & Myself had cameras, and we kept the shutter busy. The unique feature about these mountain ranges is that when you walk through these winding roads it gives many different perspectives and varying scenic beauty. And everything keep changing by the minute; the sky, the shapes of the mountains etc. New mountain ranges begin to appear as layers behind the mountains in the foreground. We kept shooting, and finally we reached a peak point. My thought was something like this: there are very few places on earth with that kind of spectacular, panoramic view. It is a field day for a photography enthusiast. Left, Right, Front , Back, the view is astounding. And since the sunrise is still young, the light shades and shapes keep changing to give different compositions every few minutes. We were lucky that there was no winds. Biji who has been there before, told me that last time he was there the wind was unbearable. But this day is perfect. Perfect light, the right amount of clouds, the temperature etc. were just right for photography. We spend about two hours there and the sun was too bright by then. We decided to head back to the camp still shooting interesting flowers, herbs and plants on the way. Suddenly Monichan spotted a Nilgiri Thar way up on a flat rock projecting out of the tip of Kolukkumalai. This is a rocky mountain range on the left side. There were a few more Thars grazing just below. In the trees at the bottom of Kolukkumalai we started seeing Long tailed Langur. They were jumping from branch to branch. It was a great sight. By 8.30 am we reached our camp. Since there was no mist, we could see the top Station, Centre Station and Bottom Station clearly from our camp. Siby met us at the camp and he got all excited when he spotted 5 elephants on the mountain top far ahead through his binocular. We all shared in excitement even though they were like small specks because of the huge distance. Had breakfast, and it was time to head back to Munnar. We packed up and the jeep was ready to take us back.
This is perhaps one area that people miss, because of the long rugged jeep journey. But it is worth every bit. The temperature is cool, and the view is exceptional. If you ever visit Munnar, extend your trip by another night and spent some memorable experiences at Kolukkumalai.JOHN MATHEW. Creative Director. J&B Associates. Kochi