19-Jul-2004 -- After we successfully reached 09N 77E, we drove towards Punalur where we planned to get some breakfast and then head out to Munnar where we would find 10N77E.
We asked the proprietor of the hotel for the best route towards Munnar and he had his assistant give us a slip of paper with the details of the route and the towns we would pass through. The note was written in Tamil, but we did not have problems as Nagaraj can read Tamil.
The route from Punalur to Munnar took us through Pathanamthitta and Ranni. From Ranni, we drove towards Udubanshola. All these roads were in the mountains and the scenery was a feast for the eye. Truly “God’s own country”. We stopped for a cup of coffee at a roadside café and spent a few minutes sitting and enjoying the beauty of the lush green hillsides with their numerous waterfalls. Straight line distances don’t mean much in such country where the road twists and turns continuously. The road kept climbing all the time and soon we were into thick cloud and rain. Visibility dropped off and we had to slow down. We were in tea-garden country and whenever the clouds cleared, we could see miles and miles of undulating tea gardens. It is very difficult to describe what we saw in words!
We finally passed through Devikulam and reached Munnar at about 1430 hrs. We enquired how to join the road leading to Kochi (Cochin) as it looked like the confluence was close to that road. It was raining quite steadily and all of us got prepared for a wet trek in a short while. The foliage on the route gave our GPS a hard time to keep lock and it did go blank on a few occasions. Finally, we started to notice that the GPS kept pointing to the left of where we were and we started looking for a road in that direction. With the GPS indicating a straight-line distance of 1.9 kilometers, we found a road leading left. We took this road and immediately found ourselves descending steeply down the hillside. The road soon petered out into a wet muddy path and we drove carefully as the red mud was slippery. After driving for about 10 minutes, we turned a corner and found a tree had fallen and was blocking the road. The GPS indicated that the point was 1 kilometer away. Time to get wet! We checked our radios and only Nath and I decided to give this one a shot. We found Thaims Kutty there and he showed us a path that climbed up the hillside towards the point. Putting all the camera gear under our water-proof jackets, we started out at 1500 hrs.
The first hundred meters proved one thing; I was totally out of exercise and was gasping for breath. The incline was pretty steep and the path was wet and slippery. Nath and found it easier to walk on the grass beside the path. We found helpful folks on the way who pointed out the correct walking paths in the dense foliage that would take us to the confluence. After climbing for 35 minutes, we found the path was leveling off a bit. But, in a few minutes, it started descending and we lost contact with Jagan and Nagaraj at this point. It was raining quite heavily and were soaked by this time; water-proof jackets notwithstanding! As we walked down the descending path, we were in for a surprise; the path joined a perfectly tarred road! This was probably the next road to the one we took to head down! The GPS still indicated 650 meters and we slowly walked up the road towards the point. Most of the local people found it amusing to see a couple of soaking wet characters, wheezing away and having a hard time walking up those steep inclines! I must say, Nath had fewer problems than I!
We found the GPS indicating that the point was about 500 meters to the left of the road and this was right behind a farmhouse. We walked down the driveway and a person immediately came out the house and asked us if we needed any help. We asked him (in Tamil) if there was a path behind his house. He said there was one and he would be happy to accompany us. His name was Baby and we explained with the help of the GPS the direction we needed to go. Baby led us quite rapidly towards the point. There were places where we needed help to cross through the plantation and after a little while, we reached 10N77E!
We were really pleased to get there. It was still raining quite heavily and the time was 1615 hrs. The altitude recorded was 625 meters. Without much ado, we quickly took the mandatory photographs and quickly stowed away our dripping cameras before heading back to Baby’s home.
Once there, his family was thrilled to see us and we quickly tried to dry out the equipment and ourselves. We took a few pictures of ourselves with their family and then bid adieu to begin our trek back to the car. The rain abated a little and though we were soaking wet, the exhilaration of reaching the confluence and also successfully completing all six confluences we had planned kept us upbeat.
We found our way back to the car and we all headed to Munnar for a welcome bite to eat and to plan our return to Bangalore. We found that it would be good idea to move out of Munnar as soon as possible and descend into the plains before we stopped for the night. Our route would take us to Udumalpet in Tamilnadu and it was 88 kilometers away. So, after a celebratory snack, we started off for Udumalpet. We encountered heavy rain and very limited visibility for a large stretch of the way until we were close to Udumalpet. We found a hotel to stay the night, and started off next morning towards Karur, Salem, Krishnagiri and Bangalore.
The team dropped me off at my home at 1430 hrs after a long, exciting adventure! Six confluences (11N 79E, 10N 79E, 10N 78E, 09N 78E, 09N 77E & 10N 77E) in three days and a round-trip distance of 1960 kilometers! It is interesting to note that all land-based confluences in Tamilnadu and Kerala have now been reached successfully.
It’s time to start planning another trip!