Kaakaa Oothu is an avian paradise and lots of adventure too
If you like ‘Man vs.Wild' on TV, there is a place near Madurai to do the real thing albeit in a small way. Reaching the place is an adventure in itself since there are no roads for the last furlong or two and nobody to ask for directions.
But if you take the trouble to go to ‘Kaakaa Oothu' (Crow Spring), besides experiencing the journey, the destination – roughly 16 kms from Madurai off the scenic Melakkal highway on the slope of Nagamalai hill range -- rewards you with sights and sounds in solitude.
Past Kochadai, Thuvariman and leaping across the Samayanallur-Virudhunagar four-lane highway, the road winds its way along the Vaigai through Keezhamathoor and Melamathoor. Slow down on seeing ‘Melakkal 4 km' milestone on the left, opposite Melamathoor bus shelter, a road turns left leading to Kamatchipuram.
Drive on past a mosque till you reach a library. The adventure starts right here because if you have driven in your car then you need to abandon it and rely on your feet to cover about remaining one-and-half km. But bikers can proceed on an exhilarating ride balancing precariously and shifting gears through loose sand other than negotiating the steep gradient near the spring. This definitely is not the place for trendy scooterettes and other gearless vehicles. Once leaving the village behind, search the horizon for a massive banyan tree on the hill slope. There are dirt tracks to follow for some distance, but some branch off to distant brick kilns or other unknown places in the wilderness. If you set your eyes on the banyan tree and approach it, in roughly 30 minutes you will be at your destination.
If it is early morning or late evening, you're sure to spot a variety of birds on the way. It is one thing to see the winged visitors on TV and it is quite another to encounter them in flesh and feathers – one never thought kingfishers to be this big and beautiful with striking plumage. Besides peacocks doing the mating dance before the hen, you can also see them in flight. Cuckoos, parrots, mynahs… you need to be an ornithologist to identify all those beautiful birds. This surely is a bird watchers' paradise.
Feast for the eyes
Even after reaching ‘Kaakaa Oothu' there is no stopping the sightings. There are hundreds on the giant banyan tree and nearby trees. Once you get use d to hearing the birds chirp, rhythmic cicadas will remind your presence on the hills. Since the place is at an elevation, it offers an uninterrupted view of the countryside for miles. Though no rolling meadows of the pastoral kind can be seen in this isolated place, the shades of green and brown, veiled by a mysterious haze, is nothing but a feast for the eyes. Occasionally, muffled hoots of locomotives passing through distant Paravai break the silence. Otherwise for those seeking solitude, this is right choice.
The huge banyan tree with its perfectly rounded canopy easily works like a shade giving umbrella to at least 200-odd people. There is an unobtrusive Nagalingam under the tree for the devout. A sloping pathway leads to a small but clear puddle. If you trace the origin of the water, it leads to the roots of the nearby banyan tree. The water is cool and refreshing and tasty as well.
Apparently, this spring never dries up even in hot summer, unlike the popular and easily accessible Naga theertham, two km further down on Melakkal highway. Once Naga theertham dries up, country medicine makers rely on ‘Kaakaa Oothu' water for making their formulations, it is said.
Let the summer go and be sure to undertake the memorable walking expedition with your family and friends. Children will surely love every minute of it.S. ABRAHAM MILLS