[Contd. from Passing or trespassing?]
The dawn broke over the serene valley and we woke to the exhilarating rhythm of the falling waters. We looked eagerly forward to another day of bird watching and making several new jungle friends of the winged variety – bulbuls, Magpie Robins, hawks, eagles and many, many more! I was particularly enchanted by the little drops of sunlight caught amidst the clusters of leaves, and as I watched – whoa – they spread wings and flew away! They were tiny sunbirds! The bright yellow beak of the male hornbill, the shining yellow plumage of the Eurasian Golden Oriole, the flame-backed woodpecker – I had never before seen such a pleasant medley of different yellow hues! And then there was the haphazard array of the yellow flowers of silk cotton!
Baiju had promised us some adventure earlier in the morning and as promised, he took us trekking over the treacherous rocks on the riverside near Ittiani. We passed several scenic off-beat locales that had flitted across the silver screen in a plethora of Indian films. As we walked, precariously finding our feet, we saw that the raging rapids, over time, had moulded the rocks into different shapes. There were pits created on the rock floor and walls that were large enough to hold two or three humans at a time. No wonder bodies that fell into the falls were oftentimes not discovered even days later! Some of these rocks were in rustic shades of pink, another wonderful handiwork of nature.
A delightful buffet breakfast later, we were still craving for more of nature, and having kept the best for the last, we set out on the last leg of this rainforest experience – a steep climb down towards the waterfall through the woodland behind the resort. On our way, we discovered little sunbird nests and wild mushrooms in vibrant hues. We walked through thick shrubs of snake plant, known colloquially as mother-in-law’s tongue due to its extraordinary length and sharp edges, which is, it seems, a healing plant for burns.
The climb down brought us to a stretch of the river from where we enjoyed a beautiful uninterrupted view of the falls. Here the river was neither deep nor shallow but exciting enough to wade through gingerly, watching one’s step across the rocky bottom of the river. Through the water, across the rocks, past the bamboo thickets that were infamous for King Cobras, we reached so close to the waterfall that we could actually feel the spray on our faces!
Surely, there couldn’t have been a better culmination for our weekend holiday experience – an experience of nature in all its exciting forms – forests with its exotic flora and fauna, rivers, rocks, and waterfalls! One regret remains though. Baiju had gathered and filled all of his cargo pockets with mango ginger roots for me to take back home. We forgot all about them and they remained with him as we bid goodbye after the best weekend in my life ever.
[The Weekend Holiday concludes. The series starts with The journey begins.]