Like a Blossomed Rose
Look down flying up in the sky; you would see the rows of hills jutting out like the petals of a rose: 'The Senthuruni Forest', the name adorned by 'Chenkurunhi' trees. As if in the centre of the petals couldn't you see a valley of pollen stamens; that is the Rose Hill. What you see as the wilted down rose petals are the isolated hills in the lake. This resemblance of its nature to the roses is behind the name of Rose Hill. There is another view that the hill was named after Mrs. Rose, the wife of a British planter who had established an estate here. However it may be, the weather and the nature are sensual like a rose.
Now going by the land, we can reach Kazhuthurutti on the way to Aryankaavu from Kollam. The road through the jungle is arduous: steep ascends and descendsnm, broken tarred surface and a path strewn with round stones causing to hop over them. But by the mercy of the government, there is bus service: one each in the morning and the evening. That runs very laboriously. If overloaded some times they would make some passengers walk up at some steep ascends.
We went in a four wheel drive jeep. The Wildlife Warden Smt. Lakshmi had already made all the arrangements for the journey. Forester Rajesh, driver Navas and Guard Vinoj also accompanied us. While reaching the Rose Hill junction in the vigorously shaking jeep as having had the effect of a massage, it was noon. Do not imagine much about the junction: just four shops and four stones for the people waiting for the bus to sit on.
Having a country meal from Razak's shop, we got ready for the trekking. As usual, the main prepration for the journey was some preventive against the leech. We got a new technique in this journey. Put some shampoo leaves (thaalli) in coconut oil and keep it so for a week; you can use it after a week. If you rub it in well all over your legs, it would be there even after you get into water falls. As it does not any pungent smell, it is quite suitable for the hill. This shampoo leaf oil, prepared by the watchers, got finished within seconds.
Our first trekking was to the Darbhakullam in the inner jungle of Rose Hill, with the Forest Department's guards, Vinoj and Suresh, and the watchers, Salimkumar and Ravi. The journey passed over jungle streams and bamboo jungles. Salimkumar went in front. Since the way was blocked by a fallen tree we had to go around it. In this jungle, there are rare types of butterfly, frogs and mushrooms. Having guided many researchers in search of these through this jungle, Salim have some knowledge about such creatures in the jungle; he could even notice minute creatures also instantly. He showed us a green snake with its head raised. Ganesh quickly took a snap of it with his camera. Posing for awhile, the snake slithered away.
We reached a green house surrounded by a moat: a small shed of the Forest Department. In front there is a lake which got the sanctity of the Dharbhakulam forest. In the olden days there might have been 'dharbha' grass (Halfa grass) there; but it is not seen nowadays. You can see the reflection of the hills with thick jungle around on the quiet water surface. Uruliyaar (river) starts from here.
There are fishes in the Dharbha lake. These fishes are colloquially known as Aattuvala, Bloonchi, etc. Under the water there is moss, even in the peak summer the water does not dry up. The lake used to be about four and a half acres earlier, but when measured recently, it was found to be only two and half acres. Encroached by jungle, it got levelled. On the eastern side there is a pile of rocks. Here and there are caves. You can hear the sound of water flowing inside the caves. The watchers told us that hearing this sound there was a misunderstanding for some time that the people of Tamilnadu was pilfering water out making underground tunnel.
There is a jeep road to Chenkotta from here. Walking seven kilometers, one can reach Chenkotta. The Tamilians come here through that way; for their deity Karuppaswami also dwells on the shore of Dharbhasarovar lake. They come, do their rituals of worship and offerings and return.
The next jaunt is to the watch tower at Rose Hill. For this we will have to go by Rose Hill junction. Since there are only 250 families in Rose Hill, any newcomer is quickly known; that may be the reason why, as we reached the junction, many people gathered there. One should get to know Yohannan chettan among them; he lost a lottery prize of Rs. 2 crores just by the last digit of the lottery ticket number. For a day he became dumb. Even though for every lottery, there would be two such persons, since he is in a small place like Rose Hill, he became known. Another hobby for him is raising honey bees. Once, at a programme in which the District Collector also was attending, his participation in it sticking a beehive with bees under his chin as a beard became a well known incident: as he was climbing the stage, he slipped and fell down and the beard of beehive fell off; quickly gathering all the bees and the hive in his loin cloth, he saved the other people and himself and disappeared. Telling such tales and laughing over them, the ascend seemed less arduous.
Thus, we reached the watch tower. Looking down you get a panoramic view of Thenmala dam and around; a range of hills jutting out as if risen up after a dip in the water, a soft breeze humming away patting the still water surface and multi colored clouds under the fading sunlight. If the weather is good, the sunrise and sun set would be beautiful. If you look down atop the tower of the wireless station of the Forest Department, you would get an aerial view of the dam and the jungle as a spread of picturesque carpet.
The sound of a speed boat from afar: Navas, who brought us to Rose Hill, is now coming for patrolling with a forester; he waved at us. Alighting from the tower we walked again. We did not feel any problem despite the mobile phone being out of range. The only place where you get the signals is near Salimkumar's home. There will be always a crowd there: a meeting place of the people seeking mobile range. That is how Salim chettan's ear gets to know the secrets of the villagers. Unaware of the inhabitants listening below, people talk many many things through the phone. From one of such phone calls, it became known that Shaji, who had come to Rose Hill and started living marrying a local woman, was a muslim and his name was a false one and he had another wife and child at his own place. Next day, somebody enquired with Shaji about the welfare of his wife and children at his native place; shocked by that, he disappeared from that place in two days. The internal problems, romance and fights in many a families become public through this calling corner.
Sharing such news and walking, we reached again at the upper junction of Rose Hill. There are three shops where you get from vegetables, groceries to cloths, and a tea shop also; besides, a ration shop, a post office, a school with classes up to fourth standard, a primary health center where the doctos visit occassionally, two K.S.R.T.C. bus service and a four wheel drive jeep for hire are the basic facilities at Rose Hill. For the classes above fifth standard, you will have to go to Aaryankaavu. If you miss the bus, you will have to depend on the jeep. If the children become late from school, the parents would go looking for them; the wild animals being around there is always a tension for them. The jeep will charge you Rs. 35/- per head to come up and for going down, Rs.20. If the elephants come out from the forest the school would be closed. If it rains badly, the teachers would not come. Once, with an abyss burst in 1992, the village had got completely isolated. That day the road slid away in the water. At that time the village was rescued from starvation with the food brought from Tamilnadu on foot by the World Mission volunteers. By the time the tale of Rose Hill was finished, it had become dark.
All of a sudden the ant-drones broke out of their nest and a group of sparrow-hawk as emerged down from the sky; within seconds the ant-drones became a feast to them: even otherwise, they have only such short life!
We walked towards the watch tower of the Forest Department to sleep; walked totally about 18 kms and now rest. In a trench in the jungle, the watchers, Ajayan and Johny were waiting for us with the supper of rice porridge and boiled green gram.
The small fear created by the dim light coming from the fire flys and the low light coming through the open space in the forest was a plent sensation. The chillness of the night and the strange sounds of the forest brought us to deep sleep.
In the morning we ate the remainings of the supper and went for the next trekking. The aim was Pallivasal. Two kilometers of forest path. This is a pilgrimage center also. The forest path through the saint Said Mahsood Valiyulla had walked in old times. All his resting places were became pilgrimage centers. The places like Chandanakkavu of Kulathupuzha, Kuruvantavalam of Thenmala,Ottakkal Karintirimala of Nagamala estate are these centers. Here, he is known as Pallivasal Thangal. You can see agranite base on the shore of Uruliyar which is roling through the rocks. Believers of all religions give offerings here. They pray lighting agar bathies and oil lamps. They do free food supply also. Hundreds of believers from Tamilnadu use to come during the month Kumbha of Malayam era. Before going there you will have to remit an entry fee of rupees ten for the permission. We walked after worshiping Thangal. This forest path leads to the lake. This is the road which connected the Rose mountain to the outer world in old times. When the dam was built, the remaing place was gone under water. Later a new road was made to Aryankavu.
In the lake there were marks made by elephants. There was a tortoise enjoying sunlight siting on a floting wooden log. We heard the sound of the patrolling boat from a distance. The tortoise dived in to the water. Watchers waved us with their towels. The boat came to us. Range officer Heeralal and the boat driver Navas. The building of the Forest department in Umayar is destroyed by elephants and heavy wind. They are here to take an estimate of the repair work of that building. There was Kannansooraj, a still photographer with the contractor in the boat. 'You, in this forest', he wondered. 'How did you get here' There was excitement in the answer also. We have met Kannan in some cinema sets before. 'My home is nearby. My elder brother has a shop at Rose mountain'. Siting in the boat Kannan said. A lot of memories are dipped in the Thenmala dam. 'When the forest was removed for the dam, my father was also with them. Also the license was in my name. Asa a reparation for that, I made my small plot a small forest by growing trees.' Kannan told us.
The boat reached Umayar. A place like a sub island where the Umayar, Siruvani river and Uruliyar joins together. There, Chandrankutty was waiting for us. He came running to bring the boat to the shore. Eventhough Chandrankutty looks like a boy, he is the gradfather of a child. He collects agricultural items afrom the forest to make a living. He knows the inner parts of the forest well. Now he is working as a watcher in the forest department. He is accompanied by his wife Karuppamma. Here there is a shed facing to the lake. Eventhough it is surrounded by ditches, the elephants destroyed it. The remainings were destroyed in the wind that followed. Chandran and his wife is staying in ashed nearby. Their main company are the wild animals. Everyday ten or twelve peacocks will be coming there. Occationally you can see elephants and bison. Their releaf in this loneliness is a CD player. The words in Chandean's collection are some Tamil words of Sivaji;s age like 'thaai sollatu' and 'thattate' When we went there Karuppamma was out to forest to take fire wood. We said goodby to Chandrankutty and left.
Now we will have to go 28 kilometers through water. The speed boat roared again. The reservoir is spread out in the huge forest between the hills. Also many hills are hidden in that lake. The depth of the lake is about 115 meters. You can see only the top of the hills where the water can not reach. Now the lake is not that quiet as we looked it from the top. The waves moved in the wind. The boat is going ahead slipping on that.This boat also may have many stories to tell. The stories of war. This boat was seized from the Tamil militants. In a distance you can see water falls on the hills. Colurful rows of trees and mountains. When we go in the boat the imagination of rose petals changed. Water for life for a country which cana not be bare byanybody in a huge fort. Streems from the forest keep on filling it with water.
We are nearing Thenmala dam. We have to get down. The bot yard is destroyed. The tourist boat named Umayar is also sunk in the water.The boating was stoped after the disaster in Thekkady. The boat was sunken du to the wind where it was halting. As amark you can see the lifebuoy floating. The dam was overflown in the flood in 1992. The vehels and trees which were brought by the flood are some where in the depth. The boat ran over the waves came to the shore quietly, you can measure the depth of memories on Kannettan's face. The places wher people lived, the road to rose mountain, the old Kollam-Chenkotta road, roads to the forests, loading the timber to the trucks by elephants and suger cain plantations like waves in the pond of memories. The memories of this unforgettable journey started giving a feeling of hearing a lullaby in our mind also.
Located about 15 kilo meters deep into the forest from Aryankavu, has the best experience nature has to offer. A small community of farmers live here. The fresh and calm air, greeney and quiteness you experience here are hard to find anywhere else.
How to reach
The steap and winding road to Rosemala lies in ruines and is in a bad shape. Local people mostly get there by foot or by some local private 4-wheel drive taxis that runs from Aryankavu. The 45-60 minutes drive is through beautiful, thick forest tracts and is really exciting. On the way you pass several mountain streams.
kollam (70km) Aryankavu-12km (Broadgauge works are going on)
There are no public lodging facilities available here. There are couple of people providing tents for overnight camping facilities. The best way to enjoy and explore this place is to live with one of the local families.
Text : Jyothilal
Photos :P Jayesh
Translation: Balachandran P