19-Jul-2004 -- After successfully reaching 09N 78E, we thought it would be fun to see if we could reach 09N 77E before sunset. This meant that we would have to reach Tirunelveli and then head west towards Shenkottai. We had decided that we would halt for the night in Shenkottai.
We joined the road leading to Kadambur that was 18 kilometers away. Then disaster struck. We had a flat! So, we were back out in the sun again to change the tire. It was hard work with the sun still pretty high up in the sky. After we cleaned up, we decided to rest a few minutes and that’s when we realized that we hadn’t had any lunch! The sweets packed by Jaikanth’s Mom came in handy and after we polished them off, we started off again. It was pretty clear now that we would not be able to reach 09N 77E before dusk today. So, we drove at a reasonable pace towards Tirunelveli.
Among other things, Tirunelveli is famous for “Tirunelveli halwa”, a sweet that is made with wheat flour, jaggery and butter. We enquired where we could get the best halwa and were directed to a shop with a very quaint name; “Irrutukadai Halwa”. In Tamil, "Irrutukadai" meant “darkened shop”. We drove through the narrow streets and a policeman pointed the shop out to us. Unfortunately, they were closed as it was a Sunday, but they had a sister-concern where we could still pick up some halwa. There was a huge crowd outside the shop and it took Nath about 20 minutes to buy the halwa for all of us. We started off immediately towards Shenkottai.
Shenkottai is in the hills and is located very near the Tamilnadu – Kerala border. We encountered very heavy traffic on the road because the route took us through Kuttralam that is known for its healing waterfalls. It is believed that a bath under one of the numerous falls in Kuttralam would cure one of any ailment, even madness. That was one place we surely wanted to avoid, as we probably would never do such long confluence hunting trips again if we got cured! We reached Shenkottai at 2100 hrs and found a small hotel to spend the night. Nagaraj scouted around and found a small eatery that offered freshly made food. A good tasty meal and we turned in as we planned to leave at 0430 hrs in the morning and head towards 09N 77E.
We packed up and moved out at 0500 hrs towards the Kerala border on the road leading to Punalur. Though the GPS indicated a distance of 16 kilometers in a straight line, the twisty mountain roads increased the distance almost two-fold. Slowly, the GPS counted down and when we were about a kilometer away, it indicated a turn to the right. We went a little further to see if there was road we could use, but found nothing. We backtracked slowly and were happy to find a narrow road leading in the direction we wanted to go. It descended rapidly and we were now driving along a large irrigation canal. At one point, the GPS indicated that the point was 45 meters away and on the other bank of the canal.
We parked the car near a pedestrian bridge and walked across. It took us just a few more minutes to reach 09N 77E. It was 0630 hrs. We took the mandatory photographs and it was difficult to take ones eyes away from such breathtaking scenery. The point lay in land owned by Mr. Prabkakar and he told us that the nearest village was Udayagiri.
After chatting with him for a little while (none of us speak Malayalam, but Mr. Prabhakar seemed to understand a little Tamil), we bid farewell and head back to the car. There were high-tension electric lines passing just overhead and their corona discharge was so loud that we could not hear ourselves talk.
This was the fifth confluence we had in our list and we were excited that we just had one more to reach on this trip. We drove towards Punalur (7 kilometers away), had a good breakfast and then headed towards Munnar when our maps indicated that we would find 10N 77E.