The car rumbled and creaked as it turned a sharp curve tossing away the gravel and tiny rocks that got under the wheels. If one would be sleeping this would definitely wake them up and not too gently either. And if one was waking up then they would expect to see the sunlight streaming in through the windows and the chirping of the birds. There was chirping indeed but not of the birds. They were chirping of crickets, locusts, and all sorts of insects. A gush of waterfall could be faintly heard in the distance along with the cawing of wild monkeys high above and a groan of another wild animal somewhere along the way. This was the sound of the Wayanad Rain Forest.
Located in the north-east of Kerela State, India, Wayanad Rain Forest is a tourist attraction for travelers that love a wild, adrenaline-pumping adventure. According to archaeological evidence the Wayanad rainforest have been inhabited for more than 3000 years. This evidence of Stone Age could be seen in one of the hills of Wayanad to this present day and that was where I was heading- Edakkal Caves (lit. a stone in between). The cave is in a remote location in Wayanad and it is located in the tallest mountain in the district. But I was nowhere near there yet.
Wayanad itself was a giant, tall hill. And we were riding through its dangerous slopes that the British once build for cultivating tea and cash crops. The roads were narrow with one side a dense, thick forest and the other a canyon with more than a thousand-feet drop. If a person were driving carelessly and recklessly, it would turn out to be their final moments.
It did not help when a massive cloud came our way, covering the whole mountain and the road in a heavy, white fog. The other cars and travelers stopped on the safer side and waited for the road to clear. Most of them got out and pointed excitedly at the smoke. Wayanad is a rainforest so it shouldn’t have been a surprise when a cold drizzle started to fall all of a sudden. It took a little while for the fog to clear, all the while hoping that a wild animal won’t come our way. With zero visibility it wouldn’t be fun to run around blind.
Once the fog lifted up we were on our way again. We made a quick stop at a rushing waterfall on the side to clean ourselves of sweat and refilled our water bottles. Splashing the cold water on our tired, heated faces were like heaven. The weather wasn’t hot. It was actually pleasant but the travelling and walking around in the forest made us heat up from the vigorous exercise. One of us would look around and stay guard to make sure that we weren’t attacked by wild monkeys while the other would refill their bottle and splash their faces with the clean water. Once we were thoroughly refreshed we were on our way again.
By sundown we reached Misty Hills Resort, the place that we would be staying for the two nights of our trip. The resort was surrounded by the forest yet it was luxurious in its rooms and kept so clean that for a minute you would forget you were in a forest in the first place. The owner came to us and showed us three rooms with three or four people accommodating each.
“Do animals walk around here?” I asked the owner.
“Rarely” he replied “we once had an elephant walk in here and then there was a time where a tiger did. But they walked out without making trouble” he assured “since this place is mostly noisy with tourists animals don’t come into this area. They are more into the denser part of the forest.”
That reassured me. It meant that any tourists who visited these places weren’t risking their lives. Exhausted from travelling, I retired to bed and the next day we set out for Edakkal Caves.
Since the cave was a tourist place one would think that it would be easy to reach especially with a vehicle. But that wasn’t the case. Remember when I said that Edakkal Caves was a journey for adventure loving people? It proved me right when we figured we had to climb one kilometer up the hill, comb our way through the forest, to reach the top and that was where the cave rested.
So I parked the car at the foot of the hill. It was only a one kilometer climb. It was supposed to be easy except that it wasn’t. The one kilometer was very steep leading upwards. Like the mountains before, while one side was a dense forest the other side was a canyon with rocks and trees jutting out in the way and the danger only seemed to be more real when we realized there weren’t any railings to keep us from falling.
The path first started out straight. The only problem was the steep climb. After a few steps the straight path would curve and then get uneven. There were no more proper roads except for stones that would help us go up. The stones were shaped like a stair that nature itself made but it didn’t ease our trekking. They were rigid, hoarse and so jagged that it would sometimes hurt your feet or make you slip. But that was the fun of it. It made the entire climb thrilling.
Once the stone stairs were over, there were proper railings made for tourists to go up. It was even steeper than before. At this point in time I was struggling, exhausted and the one kilometer climb felt like three kilometers or more; but finally I was reaching the top. The summit of the mountain was coming closer into view and that is where the cave lay.
The railing was over and I stepped into a small gap between towering rock-faces lined up on both sides. It was the beginning of the cave. The light streaming in was dim, the rocks were slippery and at some places we had to crouch to pass through. There were a few “off-limit” barriers here or there so curious and mischievous minds don’t get themselves hurt or in trouble.
After a couple of minutes, we were hit by bright light and a cool gust of wind. We stood at the opening of a gigantic cave- Eddakkal Cave. After about an hour or more of painful trekking we were finally there.
The cave was actually formed from an earthquake. These are not technically caves, but rather a cleft or rift approximately 96 feet (29 m) by 22 feet (6.7 m), a 30-foot-deep (9.1 m) fissure caused by a piece of rock splitting away from the main body. On one side of the cleft is a rock weighing several tons that covers the cleft to form the ‘roof’ of the cave.
A guard stood inside and guided the tourists around. He showed us the markings that were sharply and clearly carved onto the walls of the cave. These were markings of prehistoric civilization called Petroglyphs. “There are three types of petroglyphs here” the man explained as he pointed to the different drawings. One showed a cattle, another showed a lady, and another showed what would look like to be a cart, “These are dated back to 8000 years. These different types of markings showed that this cave was inhabited several times at different points in history as man evolved”
I was awed at the sight. It was amazing seeing something as prehistoric as the evolution of man and nature right before your eyes. I walked around some more, taking in the sight of how well the cave was structured in to receive the perfect amount of light and wind. The view from the top, the forest and its lakes, were the most beautiful sight on earth. Nature is truly a miracle.
The climb down from the cave was not as hard as the climb up. There were refreshments that locals made that stood on the sides for tired travelers who needed a break and a cold drink. It made our climb down way easier and, at least, slightly more effortless.
By the time I reached back down to ‘Mother Earth’ my legs were like Jell-O and I couldn’t feel them. The journey to Edekkal Caves was one that was full of adventure and thrill. The traces of prehistoric life surrounded by the beauty of nature untouched by man was a sight to see indeed.