We meet many people on the road, both locals and travelers alike who help us in time of need or distress without expecting a return. Last week of every month I bring you stories from travelers who have experienced kindness on the road and like to share and spread it for the love of travel.
This month’s story has come from India’s Divyakshi Gupta who takes us to Valparai. Getting lost in a forest is something I don’t want to even think of. Let us see what she has to say about it.
Over to Divyakshi Gupta.
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It was nearing dusk and we were on our way to explore the forests of Valparai. This was my chance to see the lion tailed macaque and I was so excited.
Birds chirped endlessly as we rode on the curves. The forest canopy was thick and the driver seemed to know where we were going. Immersed in the beauty of the South western ghats, I looked out of the window, not wanting to miss even a second of this therapy.
We were a group of five nature enthusiasts and there was cheerful banter, exchange of wish lists of sightings we wanted to see. Our guide was supposed to meet us at a pre decided spot and we were going for an hour long walk in the off beat forest trails of Valparai known for its elephants, birds, barking deer and the elusive leopard.
I was particularly interested in the Hornbill and looked forward to this exploration since many days.
The vehicle came to a halt and we waited for our guide.
Five minutes became ten. Ten became twenty. This is when the warning bells went off in our minds and we guessed something is amiss.
The driver (not a local) was unperturbed. While we made frantic phone calls to ask the guide where he was, he calmed us down and said he knows the way and he’ll take us to the spot where we can hop off the vehicle and do the trail ourselves.
Without thinking we say yes to him and off we go on the curves again. The forest is denser and the canopy thicker. Soon we are truly in nature’s lap (Read: no network zone) and to be honest, I get this sinking, something -is-not -going-right feeling.
We are dropped somewhere. ( not a person in sight) In my nervousness and anxiety, I cannot help but notice the astounding scenery around me. Straight out of Jungle book, with the cicadas singing and birds going home, chirping happily.
We walked along the stretch of the road and back and then thought its best to stick together whichever direction we go.
And then someone spotted a Malabar thrush and all the birders lost it. We chased the bird as it flew from branch to branch and tree to tree.
Then we turned, deciding unanimously that we should go back to the vehicle and not venture further into the forest. Only to find that we had actually ventured a little too far and now every curve seemed that curve and every left turn lead to a similar clearing.
The sun had begun to set and fear crept in. We realised we were only going round and round in circles and with no network it was impossible to get help.
Scary thoughts circled my head and I tried to keep calm and not think of anything negative. While another part of my head cursed myself for not reasoning.
Ten minutes later we saw a local. Heaving a sigh of relief, we rushed to him only to find he couldn’t speak Hindi or English.
None of us knew Tamil and we tried to convey that we are lost. He seemed to understand and told us to wait. He was our only hope and we chose to wait. He returned with a 20 something boy and introduced him as Anand BE, beaming proudly.
We then understood that Anand was the only lad with a BE qualification in their village and he got him to help us.
Anand promptly got to work, asking us where we were staying and how we landed here. After listening to our story he agreed to accompany us to our vehicle and we were relieved!
But then he stopped in his tracks.
“Would you like to see something, now that you have missed your forest walk?”
We looked at each other, not wanting to be in a soup again.
Anand insisted and his earnest enthusiasm persuaded us to follow him. (No other option when you’re lost in a forest).
He said it is just 2 minutes away and off we went. I was starting to get irritated and before I opened my mouth to complain, my jaw dropped.
In front of me were rock pools! I hadn’t seen something so beautiful in a long time.
Anand looked at our expressions with a triumphant grin on his face. “I told you!” he said.
The place was heavenly with green waters, fallen tree trunks, absolute silence, not a single human in sight. Like it was hidden away. One of those secret hideaways where Enid Blyton’s stories were based.
I clicked but the pictures didn’t do justice. The place was far more magnificent in real than in photographs. Getting lost was never so much fun.
Anand accompanied us till the vehicle and honestly if it were not for him, we would probably be lost for good in the forest.
But not only did he help us back but also guided us to a ‘secret’ paradise.
Somewhere deep down in my heart, I felt happy we got lost, only to find this unheard of heaven.
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Divyakshi Gupta is a travel blogger and blogs at www.quirkywanderer.com
She is a door lover, a mountain child who adores long road trips. Loves travelling to off beat places to discover new cultures, meet new people, find new stories and in the process, her own self.
If you have been helped by someone during your travels and want to share your story with the world, feel free to connect with me in comments section.
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