Off the grid for a time being
It's been a year since we all met our friends since we had all the loose talks, chit chats, quick lunches, short sprint to reach the class, group studies and so on due to the pandemic. So and in the case of hostellers, we would have missed even a lot more. And that too after missing out on our internship in cities and attending the frustrating online class all day, we all felt that void. A need to be surrounded by friends, talking about anything that we want, going out anyplace anytime (before 9 pm - hostel curfew). When we were filled with all these feelings, we received a call from our hostel supervisor to come and move our things out of our room and put them in a room which was just on another floor. So with that invite, the discussion started with our friends and came out with an extended weekend trip plan, in a single discord call discussion.
CBE, you know me
So we boys all come from a different place and the plan was to unite at the hostel and do the necessary things over there. Just the day before the trip, I went to play badminton and in an attempt to take a drop, I twisted my ankle. I felt nothing so painful until I slept. I managed with Oxalgin and Volini. But the pain started to kick in while the sleep, and when I woke up, my ankle has swelled up a lot. I was hardly able to walk. I didn’t tell about the injury to my folks, as they wouldn’t surely allow me to drive for the whole trip with that elephant leg. Luckily one of my school friends had a birthday party to be attended in Coimbatore. So I somehow managed to with the help of Volini, to drive to his place and from over there he took the wheels. I had to also pick up another friend on the way to Coimbatore, and in one pitstop we exchanged the driver seats again.
We straight away went to the hostel by 12 pm, but the supervisor over there told us to come after 2 pm. So in the meantime, we thought of visiting our faculties, but none were there as that day PM was visiting for propaganda. We simply had a college campus tour for my school friend. From there another friend joined us and we decided to have lunch at the pride of Coimbatore ‘Annapoorna’. Being in Coimbatore after almost a year, I got completely unfamiliar with the roads which resulted in roaming the city for a while, and when finally when we found it after navigating using maps, we couldn’t find any parking over there. And the other two friends who were coming from Kerala arrived at the railway station. After picking them, we stopped our search of Annapoorna and had our lunch in SMS. From there my school friend departed and joined his college friends.
We went to the hostel to vacate our rooms. It was really a hot day, even my hometown Sivakasi felt better than that. With a thirsty throat, we all went up to our penthouse room. It might be so dusty, but our room had a cosy feel well with it. After packing all the important things and dumping the wastes, we moved all our things to the cloakroom. As it was still a question that whether that might be our last hostel stay, genuinely I felt sad while vacating. Despite the cramped rooms, always occupied bathrooms, unflushed toilets, not so great food at the mess and strict supervisors we really had great memories over there and I really missed that once staying at home during the lockdown for a very long time.
After all the heavy liftings at the hostel, we reached the Hotel Orbis with a tired face through a road maze as the main roads were blocked due to PM’s visit. Then we all refreshed in our interconnected room and watching the IND vs ENG test match. From there we planned to go to Brookefields mall, go bowling, then to Sherlock Pub just for the vibe. While we were just wandering over the mall, two other girls from our class joined us in the evening. The bowling plan was dumped and all wanted to go to Sherlock straight away. So we were 6 men and 2 women, in that one, didn’t have shoes, and three of us weren’t 21 yet (That’s including me, millennial, hey!!!). One of our friends who already went there said there will be no entry fee. But they had, and as any pub, it was free for couples and women, and 1000 rs for stags. But they offered the voucher for the same amount which could be used inside for the food and the drink. The ambience was really good. I felt it spacious than 10 Downing Street. I really love DJ and dance floors. Even with the injured ankle, I started to dance and all others were so hesitant to join in the dance floor. A 100 Rs bet, made between the guys made one ask a girl who was sitting alone to come dance with him. The result was a sweet rejection though. After using all the optimization techniques that we studied in the gone with corona semester, we ordered the food within the voucher’s budget, and all of them were so good with a pretty decent quantity too. The worst memory in that whole night was when the bouncer put a rope separating the stags and other women on the dance floor. Later all of us were dancing with all the stags who were vibing in their alcoholic state. One could get high just by their presence. After a long frustrating DJ party with so many Hindi, Punjabi, English songs we left the place by 11 pm. I, personally expected ‘Vaathi Coming’ and do the shoulder drop, but had to put the step for Chaiya Chaiya at last.
Zostel, the Hostel
We had to stick hard to the timing as there was a Lab test that afternoon. So we should reach the Zostel before it. As I have been to other Zostels earlier, I knew that they would have a good internet connection, but my friends didn’t believe it and they were too anxious about the test. Many people come there and work, make use of the perk of work from home. And the Zostel even have some offers for the people who stay over a week to promote such people’s visit. We checked out of the Orbis Hotel, and we stopped at Metupallayam, Saravana Bhavan for breakfast. My friend who doesn’t have a very great history with going up the hills by road had a minimal meal. The plastic covers were in the reachable distance for him in my car. Actually, we did reach our destination way earlier than we/google maps predicted. While checking in the manager asked for Covid negative certificate, but we managed it by showing the E-pass to them. Then he showed us our dorm. All six of us in the same room, according to Zostel rules, when there is a group of 4 or more, they’ll purposefully separate them in different dorm rooms. When I said this to my friends before, while booking for the trip, my friends didn’t get the concept at all. They were like, then why should we even stay over there, what’s the fun in that. And that time I promised them that, if they didn’t have a nice memory over Zostel, I would sponsor the stay over there. I hope they were all satisfied, as they didn’t ask for any money later. As we got in earlier we were walking around the place, and then got to know that the wifi had some issue. But fortunately, the mobile data was sufficient enough to attend the lab test. We all attended the lab test in our dorm, sitting next to each other. At one point our faculty asked us to switch on the camera, initially, none did, but later everyone did so after a threat over 10 marks. All of us had the same background in our video. After finishing the adventurous test, we had our lunch, ordered in the Zostel itself. It was a limited menu, but it was good enough for our empty stomach. There was a huge dog, disturbing us while having our food. Finishing our plates, we were walking around the place and there my friend had sight of some ‘STUFFS’ being rolled there. And he even had the guts to ask them to share with him. But again it was a sweet denial, as they said they just got very few of them and wished him luck to get it over the town.
Later all six of us packed in my swift, headed to Lovedale. We definitely went in the off-season, it was sunny and clear, no mist or anything. Lovedale is a railway station, and we were taking pictures over the track. I tried my usual dab pose, then my hurt ankle hurt me even more. Then on the way back to Zostel, we stopped at a fuel station and while filling the guy working over there had a little talk to us. Suddenly he offered his phone number and asked us to ring him if we want any help to get some hemp, leaving a bright smile on my friend’s face.
From the eve, the magic of Zostel started to happen. The mingling with strangers is the best part of it. We had great funny chats with many people over there. And the manager arranged a campfire and barbecue that night. We played carrom and UNO, while they were setting up the barbecue. The chillness came with the wind and darkness, and to heat ourself we sat near the barbecue, and they started the campfire too. With some tasty paneer and chicken, sitting around the fire, we had a great time. After the starter bites of BBQ, we had our dinner again at Zostel, but my dish was so spicy. My friends with so much pride said that he got a guy’s number who could get them, what they were looking for so desperately to all our fellow Zostel mates. But while calling that number it was kept on forwarding to another number and left unanswered, leading to a severe disappointment. We thought of overcoming that by having ice-cream so again we all went into town in my car in search of ice-cream now, but all the shops were closed already. So now, with double disappointment, we were heading back to Zostel, and following google maps lead us to a very narrow, steep road and eventually to a dead end. I had to reverse my car in a very tight space, as there were cars parked on either of the sides. That really tested my driving skills. While we reached there, there was no fire in the campfire, but some heat and people were sitting around it. And I joined them, while two went to sleep and others went for a drink. And they were talking about life, travelling and a lot more philosophies. It really felt so good to see people with a similar mindset. There was a travel vlogger who was sharing his experience. And in some time many others joined the circle and we were playing some party games. With lots of new perspectives of life, we went to sleep that night in our cosy dorm.
The next morning 2 friends, who helped us in reducing the entry fee over the Sherlock was coming. We ordered the food again in the Zostel kitchen and went to pick them up from the Bus Stand. Again the google map wasn’t so kind to us. After orbiting the bus stand for a while we reached Zostel and had our breakfast. After settling the food bills, we packed all the luggage in the trunk and we headed to the highest peak in the Nilgiris, Doddabetta. A few years earlier, when I went to Doddabetta with my school friends on the bike, it felt so hard to climb those steep hills, and many parked their vehicles down, and they were walking up. But I was surprised to see well-laid roads, which weren’t that steep, so all the cars went up to the peak, which results in finding a place to park hard (Driving Skills ++). Then we all just went up to the observatory room but didn’t go inside and look through the telescope they had over there. taking some photos and then walking through the pathways. I also noticed that, when I went there last time, there were many monkeys, trying to snatch the food that we have in our hand, but this time there were no monkeys at all. We actually spent very little time over there. It wasn’t hot, but it was so sunny. Being at a higher altitude, and with no clouds to shade us, the sun felt easier to hit us harder. So before us getting dehydrated we left the place.
Eagle Dare Adventures
Getting the car out of the parking lot (Driving Skills ++), my friend’s driver, who actually didn’t feel like a chauffeur but a one among them, as he had better fashion sense than us (He was in Beach costume, for the hills station), suggested a place nearby where there would be many adventure sports like, Zipline, Skybridge walking and so on. I too have heard about that place from one of my cousin. Hearing zipline suddenly my mind thought of a zipline tour over a big hill, or pine forest or over a lake, but after reaching the place it just seems to be 300-400 meter (could be even less, damn I expect so much). There were many such activities like zip cycling, rock climbing, and so on. We all were so excited to experience it. But later only I noticed in the entrance there is a weight limit and unfortunately, I was heavier for any of the activity. Suddenly all the other friends felt so down as I couldn’t join them until they got their tickets. Also, I became the bearer of all the wallets, glasses and mobile phones. I wasn’t disappointed at all (actually slightly, which made me make my fitness plan), it was also fun watching them screaming at each activity. They take pictures when you are coming in the zipline or while you are walking in the sky bridge, you could get the hardcopy from the place for an extra price. I was also having a nice talk with our friendly chauffeur. He said when he came to the same place last time it was so misty. He also shared an incident that when he came there was a girl who went for the zipline with so much fear. The moment they went on the zip due to peak fear, the girl just fainted out in the start itself, and it was also captured in the photograph. When my friends were returning from that area, they said it was fun but still they felt it was overpriced.
Our next destination was Pine forest, and the way to reach over there was so good. We all were listening and singing to music on those curvy roads. We actually even extended our ride far beyond our destination, so that we could listen to some more music, and also there was no parking nearby. After getting the entrance ticket, we all went in, actually down. It was a steep down walk, and while walking down to the lake in the middle, we saw a monkey, trying to open some person’s bag, and it started to tear when it failed to open it with the zip. People were throwing stones at it, when people near the monkey, it even tried to attack them. It was picking some ID card and throwing them away. We walked down to the lake. The water in the outer ring seems so different, so we all stayed out of the water. There was horse riding over there. We were collecting pines taking pictures and taking videos of us doing some Fortnite emotes. It was getting late for the two girls who joined us in the morning, so we left the place and went for lunch.
We went to Shinkows, the Chinese restaurant after parking the car far away. We all were starving as we had a very light breakfast over the Zostel and the hiking in the Pine forest. They gave the menu after a long time, and over that place, there will be a serial number for each dish on the menu, they will give us a slip, we have to write them. After having a good meal. I and another guy dropped the girls over the Conoor Bus stand and were singing over the course. While the others went to our next stay site. After dropping them, while returning we were discussing music and were listening to some classic masterpiece, most of those tracks were Ed Sheeran’s. The group who went to the campsite shared the location, and again the roads were becoming steeper and narrower, by nearing the location (Driving Skills ++).
This was my second camp stay, my first experience was recently over Vagamon, and it was so new and adventurous. Hence I also wanted my friends to experience it and booked over there. Again my friends didn’t believe me, they were like we should stay in a camp when we could find a good hotel at that same price. “It’s not about comfort boys. It’s about the experience”, I managed to convince them. And when we were arriving at the location, they were already playing cricket with the other people over there. There were three young auditors, working in TVS, who all came for a colleague’s wedding at Pollachi. Two of my friends had an interview with a company, so all others went to help them. While I sat alone in the steep fields over there to enjoy the beautiful sunset. The only good thing about having a clear sky over there is to witness that magical sunset. At the time of dusk, over the fields, many insects kept jumping from the ground, and there were also more than a dozen birds hopping around to get those insects. I was listening to some peaceful music then, and after the last light, I walked to the site. There my two friends were sitting outside in the cold breeze and attending their coding round. While the other two were playing table tennis with those friendly auditors. It got so cold. After booking, in the itinerary that they sent to us, it mentioned that the lowest temperature could go down to 5℃. And that was the first time I went to my car and used the car’s heater. Finally, that feature founds its purpose. For some time we were watching the latest episode of WandaVision inside the car. We ordered our dinner at the campsite itself. And the quantity was enough to fill any big stomach and delicious too. The campfire came as the saviour in that freezing cold. We were sharing ours then to date trip experience with the auditors. We were discussing many things and they really did share some valuable advice about our career and future. Even in that cold, we had Arun Icecream Casatta to fulfil our yesterday’s desire. And we were dancing stupidly to the songs exploding out of the speakers. By 11 PM they put of the campfire and we all went into our tent, where we started to play UNO in a phone flashlight. For 6 of us, 2 tents were assigned. One with 4 occupancies and the other one with 2. The flooring of the tent was a mat, over there they laid a yoga mat, on which we are supposed to sleep inside a sleeping bag. I felt so hard to fit in that sleeping bag, felt so mummified in that. During the night somehow the mat beneath me slipped somewhere, and the floor was so chill that, suddenly my back started to freeze in the midnight. We woke up early in the morning, and I rushed to have my bowel movements, which should be the Shinkow’s. Again used the car’s heater for some time. We all had teas and coffee, then we left soon.
We had to leave early as the two Kerala guys have to catch their train in the afternoon. For some moment, even with the heaters on, only cold air was flushing out the vent. And my motion sickness friend didn’t find the downhill ride so smooth, we had to stop twice to get his head’s fluid stable. We had our breakfast in Adayar Ananda Bhavan in Mettupalayam. From there the two cars had to split up, one to Pondicherry, another one to Coimbatore. After converting all the luggage from the cars. We had our goodbyes and goodbye selfies. I started to feel so sad, in the first hairpin bend itself. And that feeling got stronger at each hairpin bend. On the way to Coimbatore Railway Station, we were talking about some hard philosophies and the chaos in the current world. After dropping the one with the earlier train, we went to pick our just arrived from US friend to lunch at our favourite butter barbecue chicken place, Arunachala, though I was vegetarian that time. The best thing about visiting a just arrived friend from abroad is getting many chocolates. And finally, I started my drive back to Sivakasi, via Palani to drop one friend. It was a very long drive for me that day, from Ooty to Coimbatore, and wandering inside Coimbatore for some time, then to Palani and Sivakasi. And while going to bed that night thinking of again attending the online classes, I said to myself
“Oh shit! Here we go again.”