My Dad who had travelled all around India at the age of 23 always told me to write a “yathravivaranam”/Travelogue whenever I came back from a school excursion. It wasn’t meant to teach me something, but I think it was for keeping a mark on paper on what you’ve gone through, more like to remember the good times you had when you’re reading it again after some time. Honestly, I don’t think my Dad meant any philosophical or literary growth in writing about the journey more like it was supposed to keep me at bay without making any absurd requests to him on going there once again.
So here I am writing another travelogue after my dad told me to write one for the first time in 2007. In the time between 2007 to 2022, school had become college and writing on a piece of paper became typing on my laptop and the language had changed to English from Malayalam. But rather than a travelogue, it is a more philosophical approach from my perspective.
The final year of college and the end of undergraduate studies is nigh. It’s more likely to end sooner than expected since the amount of easiness of ending is making me dizzy. It may be the calm before the storm. I still remember my high school last days when people cried because everyone was leaving and choosing their path. It may be because of the sudden understanding that the same people might not be in your life as you expected and this is frightening. It’s like a breakup in a sense, you get overwhelmed with all these feelings and emotions and you only think to focus on the darker side of all these and you end up in denial and later on somewhere along the lane, you accept it and move on! New friends, new ideas, new frontiers!
Change is mostly a good thing, a change is required to shift the tide at times, to bring peace to the mind and bring a sense of belonging. Changes can lead to rekindling friendships, relations and talking out grudges. Two required changes happened in my personal life in 10 days. One was IFFK and the other was a college trip. These words are going to be around the latter and how perspectives got “changed”.
There was a government order for colleges to allow students to go for Industrial Visits(IV). Here Industrial Visit is the fancy name given for going on a trip outside Kerala to enjoy and get back before the final semester exams start, kind of like a stress buster but a costly one. Anyways, the IV coordinators did an excellent job in organizing the whole in a week. The journey would start on the 22nd of March and end by the 27th. The destinations were a few, it included Chickmagalur, Belur, Dandeli and Gokarna in Karnataka. Honestly, I didn’t even check the places until the day before the journey and that was just to pack. We were a total people of 45 students, 2 staff from the college, bus drivers and cooks
Fast forward to 22nd March, the day for kicking off the journey. Packed and set for everything but I was a bit under the weather but something pushed me to travel. The push to travel was (1) I’ve paid the whole amount for the trip, (2) I won’t get a chance to travel with the whole class ever again.
The second reason introduced a new internal conflict within me since the thought that my education was coming to an end, the friendships I’ve made in college are going to be like withered flowers on the roadside in summer, golden yet broken.
The morning of 23rd March was cold and we were already in Karnataka. I slept when the bus crossed the Kerala border and now we are in between the plateau region of India, sandwiched between the Arabian Sea and the Western Ghats. Unlike the similar sandwich seen in Kerala, Karnataka felt arider but colder in the morning. We surpassed towns, highways and lakes to reach our first destination, Chickmagalur.
Chickmagalur is the coffee city of India. Almost all the major coffee brands source their coffee from the plantations here. The climate here is apt for coffee just like the climate in Munnar is apt for tea and the climate in Kumali is apt for cardamom. Being a coffee enthusiast which I had inherited from my mom when she used to make black coffee in the morning when I had to wake up in the morning for my studies. So, one of the first things I brought home was coffee.
The main attraction in Chickmagalur from what I had gone through was the hillside activities and viewpoints. There is a tourist hill in nearby the town. It holds a waterfall, wildlife, a lot of coffee plants, a few resorts, some temples, a few hairpins turns and a few viewpoints.
We were all taken to the hills on a few jeeps. Jeeps were old but they were best for the terrain and their brakes were the best for the road. The jeep which took us had no music system so we just sang through the whole journey playing music games and stuff. Our professor had also accompanied us on that jeep ride, he knew a lot of Malayalam songs and we were all merry. The first stop of the ride was a big statue of the “vanadevada”/ jungle diety. None of us found it amusing so we just took a few group pictures there and continued the ride.
Our next stop was a viewpoint. The viewpoint was also a Shiva Temple. The long vertical hike to the viewpoint was tedious and made most of us tired but as soon as the height increased, a really cold breeze embraced us making us sit on the rocks between the vertical climb. The rocks were also really peculiar ones, all of them were made from a layer by layer stacking of stone sheets. Maybe these were the aftermath of the Indian subcontinent colliding with the Asian continent a few million years ago(I may be wrong). When we were at the peak of the hill, we were able to see the whole valley town of Chickmagalur and its neighbours. There were also a lot of yellow and white flowers there, I couldn’t get the names of them but there were so many of them. By the side of the temple, there were two caves, I couldn’t get much through them but some of us did and they said it was pitch black and there were bats inside.
I was more interested in sitting on the ledge rocks and enjoying the view with chill air on my legs. Plus I find it fun to travel through the not so much travelled walkways where there were more rocks and more yellow flowers and more ledges to sit on. After a lot of photos and exploration, we climbed down to get back on the jeep to continue our journey.
The next destination on the jeep journey was a small waterfall on the hillside, it’s an artificial waterfall with water flowing from a dam. It was cold and refreshing to sit by the waterfall and have our feet dipped in the water. There were ruins of the destructive power of the same water that nearly broke that bridge across the waterfall. After multiple photos, it was almost time for lunch and we were taken to another resort on the hillside called “Kumble’s Resort”(I remember it because of Anil Kumble). The first attraction of that resort was a brown Husky. The Husky had heterochromia, one blue and one brown eye. It was friendly a bit and most of us pet it. We ate our lunch by the coffee plantations. I noticed the height of the coffee trees, they were all knee-long unlike the coffee tree at my house which is towering and spans many areas. The coffee all were fully grown with hard stems. They were similar to the tea trees in Munnar or Vagamon with thick stems and taking less space. After having our lunch, we went to another temple on the hillside.
After the temple we went to another viewpoint, it was on a nearby hill. There were two viewpoints and two hills in that same location. We walked the terrain which was just stones. The view from there was nice but the fog had reduced the visibility of the valley. It was 4 pm and the place was without much sunlight. After a photo shoot and many ledge rocks later we went to another temple nearby that viewpoint. There I met an old friend who had come for his IV too with his classmates. I was seeing him after 4 years and we talked a lot. The next destination was another viewpoint there and that was downhill. Our jeep driver was so skilled that he didn’t turn on the jeep for the descent, he just started the jeep for the initial push, then switched to neutral and turned the jeep off. We were gliding the hill pass without much control but with music and a bit of fear. We didn’t go to the viewpoint but stayed there and danced to some music from another jeep that was with my friends, took a photo and went on with the descent.
The descent also was an opportunity to sing, my friends teased me for suggesting bereavement songs. Turns out I only know those songs since most of my taste in songs has been boiled down to that mood. The Sun went out during the descent and there was the fog, the red brake lights of the vehicles in front forming a Tyndall effect with the fog and the light of the halogen headlamps of our jeep showing the road.
Belur is close to Chickmagalur. Our first activity on that day was something called a “Banana Ride”. There is a lake in Belur where the said activity is supposed to take place. First, they give us life jackets and tell us to get on a long banana-shaped floaty. The floaty is attached to a boat with an engine joined by a rope. 4 people have to get on the long floaty and the boat pulls to floaty to the middle of the lake and a small manoeuvre is done by the boat and this manoeuvre flips all the passengers to the water. Then the passengers are pulled again to ride the floaty and are again tossed over to another part of the lake near the land.
A lot of us were initially afraid to do this but we found the courage to do it and were all happy to have done this. Plus all of us got to swim in the lake.
After the “Banana Ride”, it was time for lunch. We had our lunch and then moved on to visit two old temples in Belur.
First, we visited a Temple with so many stone carvings. The stone carvings got me thinking about ancient Indian craftsmanship and architecture. There were so many stone carvings telling war stories, carvings about Lord Vishnu’s avatars and many more deities. Everything was made of stone plus there were golden domes on the temple entrance. There was also a pond with many fishes and turtles and a few other stone buildings.
After that temple, we went to another old temple nearby. I forgot the names of these temples though. The second temple was less intricate than the first one but it had compensated for that with elaborate lawns and statues. We walked through the temple taking pictures and looking at the architecture. There were also really big flowering trees on the lawn and one of them bore bright blue flowers. We took pictures beneath the trees where the flowers had formed a blue carpet on the bright green grass.
At these temples I understood one thing, we had grown up. We weren’t the 19-20-year-olds who had gone on another trip just before covid. Our enjoyment levels changed, friends groups changed, perspectives changed. These are all that I came to understand about my friends and sometimes these might make sense to some else consider these just ramblings of mine to come to terms with the sudden shift in the state of life. We were more focused on taking pictures of ourselves in different lighting and some group pictures with some specific friends. Yes, taking pictures can serve as a memory for times to come but at what cost? There is no probability that we’ll be able to see those structures and enjoy the finesse and craftsmanship. But yeah, preferences.
That day ended with the second temple and many more photos and sleeping on the bus on our journey to Dandeli which is at the Karnataka border. All of us dozed off while watching a Malayalam movie(Ajagajantharam) on the bus' TV.
The landscape and the view had changed from an urban-ish setting with roads and farms on the sides to Forest. Later did we find that Dandeli is in the middle of a reserved forest area. There was a river which is from a dam. This river has strong rapids and much small whitewater falls.
We reached Dandeli in the morning but we were delayed a lot by the food. All of us got freshened up, played carroms and cycled along the village where we were staying till we had our breakfast. It was almost noon when everyone got settled and we went to our activity for the day, which was rafting, zorbing and kayaking.
So we reached the destination for all the water activities in our polyester clothes. The first was rafting and we were taken in two rafts to circle a part of the river. We paddled the raft with guidance from our experienced “professional” and went under branches of trees. The same person kinda hurled water at us with the oar and then we were left off in the middle of the river. That was called “Jacuzzi Bath” or something but ironically the water wasn’t slow nor hot. It was a small rapid where the water from the flowing river was made faster by the rocks. It was also shallow and had a rope in between for people to balance themselves. That pseudo “jacuzzi” was really enjoyable and most of us didn’t want to get out of that.
We were taken ashore and were next in line to zorbing. A huge transparent plastic cylinder cushioned with air in between the two surfaces. One surface touched the water and the other was where people stood. We were supposed to spin that big plastic cylinder from the inside while water was thrown on us. It was tiring to do since sometimes your friends end up kicking your face and other parts.
Kayaking was fun. Only some of us got in to do it and I was the only one who fell from the kayak. Kayaking was also tiring. Most of us didn’t get the hang of it and some of us went away from the group but the “lifeguard” on the kayak saved them. The river had a good current which made it even harder. We paddled on and on and later paddled ashore. With Kayaking it was the end of the water activities in Dandeli.
We came back to the stay by almost 5 pm and had our lunch then. There was a pool at our stay and we jumped in them. Almost all of us got in the pool and enjoy the cold water. Some of us knew swimming and some of us didn’t. We threw people into the pool by holding them from their hands and legs. We also helped others to swim too. Some of us did flips, backflips, butterflies, backstrokes and cannonballs to the pool too. It was really fun. After the pool, we went for a rain dance. No rain was involved, but water was.
After the pool and rain dance, we got ourselves changed from the wet clothes and moved to have our dinner. After dinner, our trip planner had arranged a campfire at about 10 pm.
The campfire was one of the best nights we had on that whole journey. The whole class of 2018-22 except a few had gathered around the campfire along with the staff to speak about the IV and other things. We sat down with fire to warm our legs, the stars shone above us with the Leo constellation on top of us whereas Castor and Pollux from Gemini overlooked us. Some of us talked about their whole college journey, the friends we made along the way, how our lives had been shifted due to CEK. I talked about making lifelong friends and savouring these final days of college. We talked a lot, almost all of us talked except a few. Those two hours were the most priceless hours of my whole college life, considering that was the first time all of us came together to talk about college and life in general. We had to end our discussion by midnight since we were supposed to get up and go to our next destination by 5.30 am.
But all of the guys stayed up all night. We danced, karaoke-ed to old Malayalam music to another campfire. It was one of the best nights. While writing this blog, I’m still having really warm and fuzzy feelings just recollecting that night. Some of them did go to sleep by 3 am and all men were supposed to sleep inside tents which was cool. I went to sleep by 4 am.
After that night’s fun, we all woke up at about 5 am to get ready and got ready by 5.30 am but we were delayed by 3 hours to get on the bus due to food issues. After boarding our bus, we slept like sloths due to our sleepless night before. Our next destination was Gokarna and Murudheswar. Gokarna and Murudheswar are by the border of Karnataka and Goa and both are beach towns. We travelled along the Konkan railway line with Gokarna as our first destination. Most of us were still sleepy so some of us only had gone to the beach of Gokarna and that beach was called Om Beach. Om Beach was muddy and hot compared to the beaches we have here in Kerala where the sand-swept us whenever the sea came close to touch our feet, here it was just mud(talk about red flags). But we stayed there for a while taking photos and climbing up on rocks there to watch the crabs which walked to embrace the ocean and watched some fishes in the ocean. It was fun to watch the fishes, crabs and the water embracing the rocks which stood out from the water.
After Gokarna, we had our lunch and we went on to travel to our final destination for the trip, Murudheswar. The sun was unforgiving and we were all tired by the heat of the noon. But it wasn’t as hot as Kottayam though. With full bellies, we dozed off on the 80km journey to Murudheswar. By 4 pm we reached Murudheswar.
Murudheswar is a coastal town with a very huge entrance to a Shiva Temple and a big Shiva statue. We were all astonished by the size of the temple. There were stone carvings of Hindu deities at the entrance to the temple. There is a lot of mythology revolving around that temple that temple was one of 5 temples of Shiva in that region and one temple was also in Gokarna. We roamed around taking photos. We took one final group photo to put the cherry on the top.
Now it was almost time to go home. We were planning to reach home in the morning of 27th March and we had to conquer a lot of distance for that to complete. We got on the bus to get home and we initiated the journey back home by 7 pm. We listened to more songs, we danced on the bus till all of us were drained from energy. We had our dinner in Udupi which was one of the places we visited the last time we went for an IV.
We didn’t reach home by 10 am. We were late by a few hours due to the Traffic since it was a Sunday and people were enjoying the weekend. There was no breakfast for the morning of the 27th but we did eat our breakfast by noon of that day. I did reach home by 2.30 pm that day and my classmates did reach home by evening.
Here I am writing a few days after coming back home still hungover from the trip. I feel like I am missing something like I had lost a part of myself somewhere along the way. I find this loss feeling good since I lost that something when I was enjoying those days. But one thought still haunts me though, the thought that I won’t be able to get another trip with all these people ever again and my 4 years(mostly 2 years of IRL) and those 4 years are coming to an end.
To my classmates/batchmates who are reading this, I’m writing this from the last day of March which gives us roughly 40 days to be together as a single class with a shared goal of getting our engineering degree. After that last day of exams which is supposedly the 22nd of June, we’ll all be another group of people trying to muster the courage to persevere through life. I hope we don’t become strangers along the way. As most elders say life is hard, plus it’s like a box of chocolates, we won’t know what we’re going to get and that is what makes it enjoyable. Also, I know I’ve not been the best in these past years but all of you were kind enough to keep me as your friend. I’m forever grateful for that. I know that part of the journey is the end and I’m savouring these final days of college.
“Eternal Union is a dream and Severence the world’s law supreme” - Muhammed Iqbal
Plus I’m dedicating this blog post to Gokul who was unable to come and had told me that he’ll read about the whole trip from my blog.
I’m closing this blog with a quote from “Looking for Alaska” by John Green,
“We think we are invincible because we are, we cannot be born and we cannot die. Like all energy, we can only change shapes and sizes and manifestations”