Not often is a trail group closely followed for protection by a local tribal priest. And not often do said tribal communities allow outsiders to partake in their ceremonies. Much less get a quick crash course for one.
Our trail group witnessed a rather demanding initiation ceremony – lifting and shouldering a 65 kilo rock.
Sure, not everyone partook, but the experience had us all enthralled.
Especially our trail lead who just couldn’t seem to get enough.
But it doesn’t start here. Our trail group assembled at the Place to Bee, Ooty at around 8:00 am from where we headed on to Tarnad mund. The interim landscapes and group enthusiasm helped us get warmed up.
Let’s just say that there was a chill in the air and most of us were on an empty stomach. No chai breaks, no dilly dallying.
As we reached close to Tarnad mund, the landscape suddenly changed. A landscape as expansive as the North pole – No longer were we surrounded by looming trees on both sides.
To maintain our ambiguity with the locals, we decided to park the vehicles two hillocks away from the main hamlet. Wild, intrigued buffaloes were our least concern. We didn’t want to stir any disconcern with the local tribe.
After all, we were guests on their land.
Led by our local friend Thummudi kuttan, we entered from the east end of the shola. Rumours of elephant sightings within the shola brought about some nervous excitement but that was just another thing to look forward to.
Tarnadumund’s open landscapes were best for the bird enthusiasts in our group. Especially with all the equipment on board – hi-power binoculars and long-zoom-lens cameras.
We spotted black eagles, red-wattled lapwings, bonelli’s eagles and more.
He told us of the strict rules that bind their community structure, religious views, and sacred ceremonies. Of the restrictions on who can enter said premises.
It wasn’t just religious banter of the locals that dictates their lifestyle. One could say the land itself decides what goes and what doesn’t.
What flowers should bloom.
What animals and birds will roam.
Where the streams will flow.
We left wondering… what next?