I did not want to hurry up to the start point and be exhausted during the expedition. With that in mind I decided on further halts in Bangalore, Hubli, Mumbai, Surat, Ajmer and Chandigarh en route to Jammu. Except in Surat, where I had planned to lodge in a hotel, I made arrangements in advance for accommodation in railway Officers’ Rest Houses.
The rubber plantation in Dhoni, Palghat is not far from
the forest and the Dhoni waterfall. The KasturiRangan report on environment had
even identified the area as ecologically fragile – the irony of it being that
places on the fringe of the forest were exempt; the reason being that
politically influential people operated quarries in the area, which actually
harmed the environment! To rub salt into the wounds, as it were, the
plantations became elephant paths and home to so-called protected species of
wild animals including wild boars, deer, monkeys and peacocks. Besides immense
damage to crops people lost their lives to ‘mis-behaviour’ of elephants. Over
the last five years the situation in Dhoni, Palghat had gone from bad to worse.
We were losing agricultural lands to marauding wild life and the forest
officials, who were asked to address the issue, pleaded helplessness as they
were engaged to save wild life and not that of humans!
Hari of Greenz became my Facebook friend prior to the
London expedition when he had sent a few items to spruce up the car windows.
Before i started out on the Trans Himalayan expedition I requested Hari to ‘do
his magic’ on the windshield. As arranged prior, he met me en route and took me
to his garage where I met up with his partner Shaiju John of Carzmetics. Both
had teamed up to provide solutions for better upkeep of the car interior and
exterior, windshield and windows. In slightly over an hour the windshield of
the Endeavour had been done.
Thanks to Dr.AnupDayanand, Senior Divisional Commercial
Manager of Bangalore Division I had my stay confirmed in Maples Railway
Officers’ Rest House. He invited me to his house, for what turned out to be
full-fledged dinner. I spent a lovely evening with a wonderful couple, Rebecca
Singh and Dr.AnupDayanand Sadhu, and their energetic son, Aryav. I got a
glimpse of how the couple manage an excellent work-life balance despite the
husband’s high profile and stressful jobs. It was an enjoyable end to Day 2 of
the 30 day expedition.
The departure from Palghat, in the morning, for Bangalore was so timed as to ensure that the elephant paths were cleared. The NHAI had done commendable work over the past couple of years, the result of which was almost completely four lane roads to Walayar form Wadakkencheri. Vexatious long queues that stalled road traffic for hours at the notorious Walayar check post of Kerala were a thing of the past. I got smoothly across the border and motored into Tamil Nadu. My favourite ‘tiffen’ stop is the SaravanaBhavan, a few km short of Salem. After I had a sumptuous breakfast fare consisting of dosa and vada I stepped out to stretch the back a while before continuing on the leisurely drive to Bangalore. That is when I met Jinu from Trichur. While inside the restaurant I had spied him looking in my direction a few times I made nothing much of it. Now outside the restaurant he asked if I am so and so and if I was on another expedition. He seemed to have covered the London and Singapore expeditions in the Press. He wished me the best for the tough Trans Himalayan drive and went his way.
Further towards Dharmapuri I spotted a Classic Polo shop near an A2B restaurant outlet. I went in to examine what they had to offer and was told by a young sales boy and a smart sales woman that a few plain coloured t-shirts were on offer. I picked up three of them, besides a couple of comfortable night wear. While I was awaiting the billing a couple of youngsters came into the shop wanting to meet me! They were rally enthusiasts who were en route to Bangalore for a rally. They had seen the brightly decaled car and dropped in to exchange a few words of greetings and photos. In all this I missed the detailed billing and while I was ell on my way I realised that the bill did not reflect the discount promised. I kept the bill in safe custody to tackle the matter on my return trip!