It was the month of August and the monsoon season in my place was coming to a close. And that means occasional showers when we least expect it and quite sunny, the day around. I had a particularly tiring week at my office and wanted to break away from the routine and relax. But as fate would have it none of my friends were in town and I was left all alone with a long uneventful Sunday ahead of me.
For no reason I woke up early in the morning and sat in front of my computer browsing through every odd stuff. Soon I got bored of that and I shut down the system and lay on the bed with my empty eyes on the fan on the ceiling. The blades made uninterrupted circular motion, slicing the air in a regular rhythmic and monotonous pace. And suddenly the idea struck me and I wasted no time to get into my trousers and t-shirt.
“Wouldn’t she be sitting alone and bored too”
I rang up one of my lady friends and asked her whether she’d be interested to join me for a ride to Ponmudi. And there begins a joyride to the Golden Peak, Ponmudi.
Ponmudi is a hill station, around 60 kms from my home town, Trivandrum. Unlike other major hill stations like Kodaikanal or Ooty, Ponmudi aka. The Golden Peak is rather a little place known for weekend stay overs, picnicking, hiking and trekking.
‘Everything that glitters is not gold’. Ponmudi used to be a favourite haunt for the cupid struck and honeymooners but now, not much people visit the place owing to the lack of descent amenities. The place does have a Govt. Guest House and a couple or other private accommodation but for some reason or the other, it has ceased to be a preferred destination for travelers. Lately, I heard that the KTDC (Kerala Tourism Development Corporation) is coming up with a premium resort at the top of Ponmudi Hills called the Golden Peak. If that is so, you can be assured of a descent stay if you'd care to spend a couple of thousands for a weekend getaway.
Coming back to the literature of the ride, we started our ride at around 9 in the morning with not much preparation other than me loading fresh cells into my camera. Hoping on the pillion of the bike my friend said she’s out with me for a joyride and that she didn’t want me to touch more than 40-50 km/hr. Ah! And there’s a perfect co-traveler for I never like to ride fast when I go for long rides. Besides there’s only 60 km ahead of us to travel and an entire Sunday stretching in front of us. What’s the hurry anyways?
Fifteen minutes of ride through the not so heavy traffic, but with annoying stops at every red signal, we reached the outskirts of the city. Another few minutes ride along the country road and I stopped at a rustic tea shop before we started our 910 meters climb. There’s always something good about the tea from such places – it taste really fresh. Maybe because they make it with the leaves fresh from the garden or maybe it's 'coz of the thick milk, fresh from the cow at their homes.
A brief 10 minutes break, gazing at the laid back country life with dogs lying around the road-side, unmindful of the occasional motorists who speed past them; the little kids, naked and running around their houses and the cattle grazing around in peace and chewing, chewing and chewing all the time, we resumed our ride.
Meandering along the winding climbs of Ghats we started to have a spectacular view of the lush greenery around, bordered by hills running along each other and little silvery streams trickling down the hills and disappearing behind the thick of the woods at the foot of the hill ranges. 25 km of ride without a stop and we broke the ride at the edge of a hairpin bend. The view of the green-green valley from there was splendid.
I did look around for a tea shop but gave up for two reasons – firstly the place was quite deserted with only the tall trees around us and secondly because my friend started showing annoyance, without any assumed sophistication of a new age girl, at my “odd” fondness for tea. She prefers coffee over tea and so do most of the people that I come across. Many of them go to the extend of taking lectures on how one should have that “fine taste for things in life” to enjoy coffee, and enlighten me to the fact that there are more coffee lovers around the globe than lovers for tea. Arguments apart, I still cherish the lingering taste of that really strong tea made of thick buffalo milk that I had at a rural settlement called Yelandur en-route to Coimbatore from Bangalore via Satyamangalam on one of my bike trips.
It was only another 15 km to reach the hill top and as I’ve told you earlier, we were in no hurry and we took another 40 minutes to cover that distance. It was 10 minutes to 12 at noon and our stomachs started whining for replenishments. But the only restaurant at the hill top of Ponmudi, which is the Govt. Guest House canteen, would start serving lunch only by 1 and we were informed that it was too late for break-fast. I was quite amazed that the canteen couldn't even serve us with something like bread & butter or maybe a serving of steaming omelets. Yet, luck wasn’t so hard on us as the departmental store near the restaurant was open. We brought biscuit packets and soft drinks to fill our empty stomachs.
We loitered around the place with a few prying eyes at our back and finally reached the spot where the picnickers hang around. This is a flat space at the top of the hill from where you can have a grand view of the valley and the rolling hills all around you. There were more people there than we had expected and what more? There was the shooting of a musical album going on. Initially, we were quite amused and even found it very odd to find a young couple in bright and colourfull outfits dancing around hand in hand. But seeing the camera focused at them from a distance cleared all the “oddity” in our heads.
A couple of hours there with the mist and the cool breeze to sooth our body and soul made us feel that the purpose of the ride was served. We started back at around half past two. I rode steadily for close to half an hour and we reached the thick of woods with the sound of a stream trickling by somewhere around the bushes. I parked my bike by the road side and we found the stream that added harmony to the silence of the woods. The water was cool enough to send a chill through my veins at the first touch and my friend had a good time splashing and playing in the water, becoming a 10 or 13 year old that she once was. A bunch of raving studs howling and whistling at us from a jeep ended all the fun and we hurried back to my bike.
We had our lunch at a township on the way and we hit the city by around half past 4. Dropping her back at her home I returned to my lonely room to spend the rest of the evening revisiting that winding Ghat road, those rolling green hills and the serene little stream in the woods.
Nearest railway station/airport: Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India (65 km)
Accomodation: Try your luck
Activities: Trekking, Hiking, Sight Seeing, Good place for a couple of good nature pics.