Trip to Kerala during the floods- 14-8-2018 to 20-08-2018


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The Neelkurinji flower blooms once in twelve years, and the Nilgiris derive their name from these blooms, during which the Nilgiris turn into the Blue Mountains. This phenomenon is eagerly awaited and to witness it, we had planned the Kerala trip from 14th August to 20th August 2018. The participants in the initial plan backed out because of the reports of heavy rains, and new entrants joined in, and finally it was four of us- two couples, all of us doctors by education but not by profession, embarked on this trip to Kerala and called it the Neelkurinji Quest. The journey was to unfold in a completely different manner than what was earlier planned, because exactly at the time of our trip, the state of Kerala was about to witness the worst tragedy in a century, and we were going to get there exactly when things were about to turn bad. Yet, by God’s grace, this trip went on without any inconvenience or difficulty, but the quest for Neelkurinji remained unfinished. This story is about how we moved around Kerala during the natural disaster, from one island of safety to another, all by the grace of God, and were able to witness what this beautiful state had to offer, amidst its worst natural disaster in this century. This is a journey of coincidences, chance encounters, providence and luck, this is a travelogue to Kerala, but at the time of its worst natural disaster in recent times.

I was at terminal 3 of IGI Airport, Delhi, at 2 pm on 14th August, to take the 6 pm Air India flight to Kochi. My wife was to join from Mumbai, at Kochi, and another couple was also reaching Kochi tonight, who had made up their mind just a day before. So it was to be four of us, on this uncertain trip to Kerala, which was conceived long back in May when I realised that this was the Neelkurinji year. The flower was to bloom July onwards, and in a normal course, 15th August would have been the perfect time to visit the famed Eravikulam National Park, famed for its Nilgiri Tahr, and Neelkurinji Blooms. I had made bookings in a hotel in Munnar, and for Eravikulam National park, along with cab booking from Kochi to Munnar. I was making continuous calls to people there and while the hotel guys were asking me to come over, my friends who work there had told that the road to Munnar had been closed for locals. When many people had actually confirmed that the road to Munnar was closed, and that the gates of Matupetty dam were open, and that there was water all around in Munnar, and that there was heavy rainfall predicted in the forthcoming days, I decided that its time to accept that we were not going to Munnar and we should look for a place to cool our heels till the situation improves. I also realised that the southern part of Kerala had lesser rainfall predicted, and having already been to Varkala in Trivandrum district and having known that it’s a beautiful place which I liked during my last visit there, I booked train tickets for Varkala, and spoke to the hotel guy there asking if he would let us check in at 5 am, which he accepted, since there were few bookings. Quickly, hotel and train booking was done and I boarded the flight to Kochi. After this, four of us got together at Kochi airport and then, proceeded to nearby Aluva town, from where we were to catch the 11 pm train to Varkala. On our way, we saw the Periyar river in spate, flowing just a few feet below the bridge at Aluva. It was raining continuously, without any break, and yet, around 11 30, the train Guruvayur express arrived, and we boarded it. At that time, we were not realising that the airport runway where we had landed, and the bridge we had crossed, and the railway track at Aluva and much beyond it, was about to get inundated, and things were about to turn much worse, just as we were leaving this part of Kerala.
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