The Adventures of Kodai (Quarantine Diaries)

Documenting a college trip is never easy I guess but amid a nationwide lockdown, I just felt let’s write something. Hence I came up with this idea, though on the suggestion of someone, to pen down that beautiful trip to Kodaikanal which we all 6 enjoyed together. So here I pulled out my study table, opened a doc file in my laptop, put my headphones on with Ayushmann Khurrana playlist and began to type from my flashback memories. We were 5 juniors of the same branch Anirban, Sunayana, Mridul, Kritika and myself Suyash; along with our senior Aishwarya.  Okay, let me introduce you to my friends. 

Anirban, a flamboyant person from Patna and seem to be quite popular among girls. Well, he was also the manager of this trip.  Sunayana, a sweet, charming little girl from Odisha. Mridul, a cheerful person who helped us all in ways to overcome certain challenges.  Kritika, the girl from Kerala who was mysterious yet carefree at the same time.  Our senior Aishwarya, pretty charming and optimistic even during trouble times.

So ready for an adventure!! Keep your seat belts fastened tight as we are about to take off.

5 4 3 2 1 Here we go.

It was a fine evening when we 6 began the journey. The idea of the Kodai trip was proposed by the charming little girl. She said she had been there in her childhood so it would be fun visiting there. Anyways the overall idea was to reach Kodaikanal by bus from Chennai (Approx 500 km, 10-11hrs) and then return by train. We all started in a cab to the CMBT bus station but after a while, we got stuck in a huge traffic jam. The bus was about to leave at 9 pm so a request was made to the bus driver in order to wait until we arrived. As the jam cleared our cab took its speed but we were a bit late. Okay next option, we had to ask the bus to come to a meeting point from where we could catch it.  It was a Pvt AC sleeper bus and had a different pickup point. For us, a new pick point was decided so the bus was supposed to come there in a while. In the meanwhile, we got down from the cab we had something to eat. Finally, the bus arrived got up and we were all set off Kodaikanal with an altogether different level of excitement. But the adventure had just begun.

All our seats were on the rear side of the bus. Within half an hour it felt like we were in for a medical emergency. The smiles, zeal, excitement, beauty seemed to have flushed out of our faces. The bus had not even crossed the outskirts of Chennai when Aishwarya began to feel dizzy and claustrophobic. Things began to degrade rapidly and in moments became unbearable for her. The movement of the bus and congested air-conditioned environment made her body wobble which ultimately lead to vomiting. She began to cry and said,” Please stop the bus. I beg you to leave me here. I won’t be able to make it. I am sorry. ” Honestly her words and helplessness made my heart freeze as I hadn’t experienced anything like that before. Okay now, what to do next. Somehow she had to go to sleep. We all turn by turn spent time with her whenever she needed anything. Initially, Anirban was there on duty then Sunayana then Mridul. I and Kritika were asked to go to sleep so that we can be there for her at midnight & early morning. After a few hours, the bus took a halt at a roadside restaurant. At that moment I had something to eat, though little. Aishwarya was deep in sleep. Things felt like coming under control. We loaded ourselves with a few more polythene bags. So off we started again.  

Till now the bus had taken its speed on the highway. I was on the upper bunk, rear side of the bus. In the meanwhile, even Anirban felt dizzy and then vomited. It was surprising because till now the uphill had yet not begun. The motion of the bus and the smell of vomit & other things had made the entire rear side a toxic suffocating area. After some time, even Sunayana gave up. I went down and tried whatever I could make them feel comfortable. Mridul didn’t sleep that entire night so he went up to sleep. When I went to Aishwarya she seemed to be in partial consciousness. She was blabbering many things then. I tried to comfort her and make her go to sleep. Sunayana was there with Anirban. I went back to my back and had a constant watch on everyone. Gradually everyone went asleep. Being on the upper bunk I removed the curtains and looked out of the window. Amidst the negativity all around I saw a beautiful sight. Checking out Google Maps, I realized we were approaching a river bridge. That was none other than the mighty Kaveri; lifeline of South India. As our bus crossed over the bridge the water seemed to sparkle for a moment in that pitch darkness. I was in wonder what it was. I turned around my wrist and realized it’s time for sunrise. It was overcast outside so couldn’t see the rising sun but as the bus moved on further it felt the entire earth gradually got illuminated.

In a few hours, we stopped at a roadside Dhaba for snacks. Aishwarya came out of the bus for the first time. As I stepped down I saw myself standing near the base of beautiful Nilgiris. The uphill was about to begin and we were a couple of hours away from Kodai. We all got up and the bus started the uphill. I requested the bus driver to let Aishwarya sit there. He was pretty happy about that. I told other friends also to go in front but they seemed unable to move. So here we entered the Nilgiris and began the ascent. For Aishwarya the frequency of vomit had decreased a lot. Though the sharp turns on the road made her wobble and even cry, things were working. The bus driver and I kept talking to her to keep her busy. Till now Mridul had also given up. Only survivors were me and Kritika. After half an hour she replaced me and I went inside to see what was going on. What I saw was unbelievable for my eyes. Anirban, Sunayana, and Mridul held polythene bags each and their vomit seemed never-ending. Such sites could even trigger mine so I simply sat down and began to watch the nature outside.

The phenomenon that triggered everyone was basically ‘Motion Sickness’. It’s a feeling of illusion is what I understood due to galloping off the rear side of the bus and yes the smell of a toxic environment. The remedy which struck my mind then was to look outside the window, listen to music and admire nature, ultimately distracting the mind. The bus driver tried something similar as he kept talking to her, though mostly rubbish. Whenever Aishwarya asked, ”How much time is left?”; and every time the reply came “Only Half an hour.” Later she realized its no use asking him any further. With all such incidents going simultaneously I agree the journey felt too long and exhaustive.

Each one of us was drained that morning as the bus left us near Kodaikanal lake. Finally, we reached our hotel and we all desperately needed some sleep. That morning we had brunch in the hostel itself. Finally, as I hit the bed few valid questions sprang upon my mind.

How are we going to spend these couple of days? Where can we go and how (conveyance)? Most importantly how shall we descend with underlying health conditions?

I got up and wrote down all the tourist places along with their geographical location from the city centre. Kritika helped me in choosing these places. She had a better experience in this more than any of us I felt. Ultimately that list turned out to be quite effective in tackling various incoming challenges. Our hotel was near the Bus Stand so issues as far as conveyance was concerned. Now the hours in the day also reduced as it was noon already. We had to decide fast what to do on that particular day. We had time till 6 pm only before sunset. So we dressed, got ready decided on that day we would explore the place on foot. We had lunch nearby and it was already 3 pm. Anirban did a very important task by booking our train tickets to return back to Chennai. Anyways Bike rides were not allowed and rented bicycles were only restricted to the lake perimeter. Meanwhile I, Mridul & Aishwarya went out to get these info near the lake whereas others went to explore a nearby International school. And as usual, these lead to several photo sessions near the lake. It was great to see the glitter on each of the faces; a glitter of happiness, a glitter of relief, a glitter of freedom, a glitter of immersing with nature at an altitude of 2100 m above sea level.

Then we headed towards Coaker’s walk. It was a footpath glued to the hill with a deep valley with 3-4 hills that widely opened in front of us. The rays of setting sun caressed those hills like a lover with her dupatta, not ready to leave but time had come. The path was little congested still manageable. From there we walked on further into unknown woods through the backdoor. It was probably the most beautiful evening walks we had during the trip. The gradual dimming of light and increased coolness gave a sensational level of experience. We went upto a church and then came back. Anirban had the best mobile camera among us so he kept taking several photos at various instances.  The ‘Satyajit Ray’ or ‘Christopher Nolan’ in him had come to life. Till now the sun had completely set and we were slightly drenched with the rain that followed later that evening. We somehow reached the hotel but realized “Restro is closed.” We couldn’t forget we had a girl from Kerala, Kritika, who was a Vegetarian. Hence began a hunt for a place for dinner which had Veg food compulsorily; Nonveg well and good as the others didn’t have any issue. So finally Day1 of the Kodai trip ended happily with smiling faces. Oh yeah at night while returning from dinner the girls were attacked by an ox, ahem almost. Don’t worry no one was hurt or too much petrified.

 The next day morning we got up a bit late, got ready and went for breakfast. It was decided to visit certain areas as per a package plan. The people at the hotel arranged a cab (with open windows) for us and we were off. The concern was still there “What if vomiting begins again in a moving vehicle or any such health conditions?”Ohh, before that, a beautiful birthday party (in advance) was organized by the girls. I mean seriously girls bring in charm during a journey out of nowhere and make the situation way lighter.

Our journey began from the most popular spot among all Upper Lake View Point, around 3.5km from the bus stand. Here we did some shopping, hats, sunglasses, selfie sticks, etc, along with a lot of photo-shoot keeping the lake as background. On the way, music was put on which eventually turned out to be a good start for the journey. Then our next destination was Moir Point followed by Kodaikanal Pine Forest. During these places, there were some disputes among a few of us which got resolved later. Though, most of us enjoyed it on our own so it wasn’t that big issue. Kritika’s selfie stick was in full action from this point. Some nice pics were clicked in the middle of an approaching mist in Moir’s Point that enveloped the entire area like a blanket. And yes innovative group photographs at the Pine Forest. We skipped the pillar rock though we got a glimpse of the Golf course and Pillar’s Rock. Next, we went to Guna Caves which was supposedly known as a place where Pandavas used to cook their meals. Though the road to the cave had been closed we simply explored the magnificent area invaded by roots of bug trees all over. We tried to go to the hilltop but it was getting increasingly difficult as the tricky tree roots popping out now and then.

It was afternoon and we were hungry. We had something to eat on the way then next halt Suicide Point, probably the last scheduled viewing point in the trip. It was a hub of mischievous monkeys. The girls bought ice creams for themselves but could enjoy only for very little time before the invasion. After some shopping of natural oils and byproducts, we went to the Chocolate market. Yeah, time to buy loads of chocolates. We came back to Kodaikanal city by afternoon and had a very good lunch.

Yes, several promises remained unfulfilled; like Byrant Park, Lake cycling, Dolphin Nose and few more places due to lack of time, including waterfalls. Our cab was booked from the hotel to Kodaikanal Road Station from where we would catch the midnight train to Chennai. We had to begin our descent during daylight, this was one very big reason and yes change in weather patterns. We were expecting rain so the descent needed to be quick reducing the risk factors.

So we began the descent at 5 pm. As our cab crossed the Kodaikanal Gate it was beginning of the end of our journey. In only a few hours this beautiful experience of nature, company of wonderful friends would get over. After this we will all get busy in our day to day life and who knows when we may get a chance to get together again. Someone said to me then,” It hurts to depart from a place or someone. Most of us keep that feeling to ourselves deep inside and pretend to move on. But only a few express it as they can’t lie to themselves.” 

Luckily by God’s grace, nothing happened to anyone hence the plan worked. But as we reached the plains adventure was yet not over. With over an hour’s journey left, from Kodaikanal Road station, it began to rain heavily followed by a thunderstorm. That created a sense of fright among some which continued until we reached the station. There we had dinner and simply loitered around the Railway station. The train came at midnight and then we were off to Chennai. As the train began its move towards Chennai few words escaped though unknowingly. 

”Bye Bye Kodai. See you again.”

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