Kempekarai,Man and Machine trip- part 7 (The Marauder of Kempekerai )

Kempekarai,Man and Machine trip- part 7
A gorgeous  tiger on prowl-  photo by Jaison
In that afternoon I planned to track my long dream place known as Kempaekare. It's a small village lying in between Manchi and Kodekare hills. Only one road leads to there. KA describes this place numerous times in his stories. So many incidents related to this place. This place lies in a starting point of spider valley as per his descriptions. It was Byra's place of living.
I'm very much delighted to ride that route in full motorable and decently renovated road till the village. I am lucky to have an early bird offer of the smoothness of the road. Marvelous work done by the government to make the forest road in such a condition. KA mentioned this route was very difficult to pass due to both crossings of river and a tour route intervening forest and helicopter plants. 

As I said before, from the forking of two roads from Geratti we should go straight to Pennagram road as per Google map. Actually this road is no longer preferred to go Pennagram. The other road through  Natrampalayam, Biligundlu, Hogenakkal is in perfect condition now. Even it's a rounded route it had no major bridges or fords. I too recommend that route to reach Hogenakkal. Before starting, I got many advice and warning about roaming elephants in Kempaekare route when inquired about  the proper route to the villagers. 
The sign board at Geratti
A rivulet on the way
 Our road bends down to the forest and cross some rivulets and within 10 minutes I reached a major check post. From here we have to take a left turn and about 5 km more to travel to reach Kempaekare. The other straight road to leading to Pennagram. I wanted to stop and talk to the gate keeper. But I thought ,by doing this, I may be given several answers and may be prevented to go further. So I kept riding through a small opening besides the closed check post with a facial expression of a daily user. This strategy worked in all check posts which  I passed through expect in Kerala boarder later. As I continued, Within half minute I found evidence of the intensity of elephant infestation. The newly paved road is deliberately designed by elephant dung throughout some length. I remembered the road will be closed after 6pm and the entire place is their own to playground. The road winds down through forest to a bridge and till there I could find the dung dispersed. I stopped then only to take some snaps and a small rest. This bridge seems newly constructed as well as  the approach roads. 
Near the Checkpost
By using some calculated guess I arrived in a conclusion that I have arrived the same river which runs through spider valley. It originating from the slopes of Manchi and Kodekare heights passes through Kempaekare and joins at Chinnar. KA described this river, in his story Ghooming in spider valley where he had some adventure with his friend .They met elephant herd and a couple of tigers in that day. They encountered a rogue elephant which eventually  crushed Byra's thigh bone. All this happened somewhere in the riverside. The riverbed seems itself some evidence  of flash flood in   the manner of broken branches and debris of all kinds of forest plants and trees stucked over almost all rocks and trees in the flowing direction. I could imagine how much force being applied the stand alone trees in  the riverbed. River must be swollen  by water of  Monsoon. But as per now the river carries little water.
Diversion to Kempekarai
Kempekarai 5 km
The river on the way to Kempekarai
Exact place is difficult to trace. But we got some clues.
A  new bridge and new road
Unicorn Having some rest in the  middle of forest
Spider Valley

Kempakarai- firstpage of The Marauder of Kempekerai
Those who have read of The Novice of Manchi' The Marauder of Kempekerai' will remember the valley KA have described in those stories and which he called 'Spider Valley'. It is a deep and densely forested valley extending southward for about twenty miles from Aiyur and enclosed between two lofty mountain ranges. This valley is the bed of a stream, and a narrow footpath accompanies the stream, crossing it every now and then as the stream turns to right and left in an attempt to shorten the overall distance. The mountain ranges to west and east meet at  the valley bottom, sometimes very close. A forest village, Kodekarai, on the slopes of the Gutherayan peak, and to the east of the valley, overlooks the scene as the stream and the valley struggle onward to their ultimate junction ten miles away with the Chinnar river, a tributary of the Kavery River.

Byra the Poojaree

He was Andersons old friend in shikkar, Byra the Poojaree, of whom KA had told you  in other stories. I asked some questions about  Byra in the face book group, and I got some clues from the members.

Anderson stated  that Byra lived in this village, in the stories; Ghooming in night and Novice of Manchi. He also describes Byra's son in law (Mara) was killed by Marauder of Kempakare. In another story, KA states that Byra lived in banks of Chinnar. I don't know the time gap between these stories, but surely he is connected to Kempakare somehow. Making dismay, the village people given no clues, on my enquiries about Byra and Mara. Even Poojarees are few there, they can't recollect.

KA writes about Kempakerai as being a poojaree village. The Mettur dam is completed in 1934 and by then the displaced people had already spread over villages like Hogenakkal, Oottamalai, and Biligundlu etc. Today Kempakerai is composed almost entirely of displaced people from Mecheri. Poojarees are reduced to small settlements in Kodekarai, Manchi and other parts of Jawalagiri etc.
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And also  got the information that Byra died some times in 1950s. KA described  that for the greater part  of the year this man lived with his wife and children almost stark naked in a burrow called gavies excavated in the steep banks of the Chinnar River. When the rains came and the Chinnar rose and the earth of the gawies turned too soft and  was liable to collapse and close the burrow in which they  lived, the whole family took service as cattle-grazers under  some rich agriculturist, who sent his herd of cattle into the reserved forests to graze upon the long grass that spring up after the rains.

The hamlet of Kempekerai was nothing more than a multiple cattle Patti, accommodating not only Byra and his family but a number of other families as well, all of them engaged in looking after different herds of cattle belonging to different owners. As a result, the animals actually in residence at any of these multiple pattis exceeded. But these are old stories. Now Kempekerai seems a calm agricultural village.
Old cart track is now a fantastic road.
The area in google map
Again I scanned the road and the riverbed for any clues of wildlife. Nothing notable for my inexperienced eyes. The road again bends up from the ravine. Flock s of goats and other domestic animals can be seen telling that my destination is near. I felt proud to ride alone in a newly paved jungle road without any vehicles for company. Probably I am one of the first and lucky fellows to ride in this road which has been neglected for so many years. This must be the same cart road mentioned by KA in his stories. 
Slowly moving in that greenery with full of musical cries of various birds from either sides made the trip a memorable one. Suddenly the forest transformed into a wide space of cultivating field after a small gate. Then only I could see the beauty of the plane of Kempaekare which seems sandwiched between two mammoth hills. I assumed on my right is Kodekare and on left Manchi malai. I knew I was approaching the hamlet of Kempekerai it was here that KA shot the tiger called the 'Novice of Manchi.

First view of the clearing of Kempekarai
On left of the road  Manchi Malai
On right side,  Kodekarai
The Stream and village
First part of village 
The Temple situated in the centre of village

Kempaekare is a small village exactly as per the descriptions and village resemble a rectangular shape in the Google map midst of forest. First 200 meters of the road inside the village is straight and bordered with fields. Then a place which has a school, health centre and community gathering area can be seen. Under Evergreen tall trees. If you go forward the Kempaekare temple can be seen. This point is a dead end of road. The temple situated in the middle and centre if road which runs around the temple and resembles a traffic Circle. Houses of modern kind as well as old fashioned situated all the other sides of the roundabout. From here a mud road running towards the stream and probably then serves as a cart road or forest pathway to Manchi. This junction has no shops of any kind except alone teashop like structure.
Around the temple, houses are packed
Main gathering place 
Second victim taken from village itself
This mud road runs into the stream and then to Manchi
 I made a quick glance by taking a round on the roads of village before I stopped the bike near the temple. Again some people answered my humble enquiries about forest and their livelihood. Villagers living here in a happy mood but they are well worried about the proposed plans to make the entire area under wildlife sanctuary. No other villagers can buy a piece of land here. When I changed my subject to wildlife and then to Byra, I noticed a serious but familiar expression on their face. I could read it that some other city dwelling men already came here and enquired about the so called Byra. So I assumed may be our friends from Bangalore did a good research and the outcome is anticipated. They told me no one knows Byra and Mara and the Poojarees are very few in the village now. All they knew is, people from Bangalore, or from other cities, visiting this village in cars and inquiring about Byra. I had limitations on language and time, so could not explored more.

The peak  seen in the background  is Gutherayan
Kodekarai village  situated on the top of the hill
I always seek permission to take pictures people and their villages especially to some elders. This gives some confidence in a strange place. I preferred to walk own the street one round and came back to the parked bike. Kempaekare is seemed sleeping as I couldn't find so many people along street. A simple village with some giant trees both sides of the road enough shadow made the scenery even beautiful. 
The Main road cuts trough the village in to two equal halves
My guess of the spots described. in the story.
A new building
Jungle and village is so close
old houses are also seen
The descriptions matching to the geography and topography of this area

Those who have forgotten the story and who have not read the story, this may helpful-

The Marauder of Kempekerai :The essence of the story. 

Kempakare is a small village in situated in between two hills named Kodekare and Manchi. It was so quite until a man eating tiger gives them sleepless nights. Anderson's friend Byra along with his son in law Mara lived in this village when the incidence took place. There were only three killings reported from the village and the last one was Mara. The others were a lone traveler to Muttur and a woman who gone for fetch water from community well  in a night. Both were never came back. Villagers were in terrible fear and shut their door always, But Mara  went to answer the nature's call every night daring the man eating tiger and had to give its price. 

Hearing what happened to his son in law, Byra went to meet Anderson to Bangalore with Ranga to invite to take revenge. Upon arrival KA tethered  two bullocks around the village and KA himself acted as a human bait. He sat on the side of well in a full night to attract the man eating tiger. Next morning Byra and Ranga discovered that one of the bullocks has been killed which was white in colour. Anderson sat on the bait at that night and the man eater suddenly appeared down at his machan. The Tiger tried to climb the tree and before Anderson could react, it mauled slightly in his buttocks and disappeared in seconds. KA abandoned that night shikar and returned to Kempakare to get first aids to his injuries. Next day the team planned an indigenous idea to attract tiger with a dummy. They placed it the riverbank and opposite side on sand they made a big hole enough to accommodate Anderson in lying position. They covered the hole with a cartwheel after Anderson was in and sealed with boulders. At night the tiger came but Anderson's shot was not from a good posture and only hurt the tiger. Then strong rain came and he escaped from the flooding hole by digging sand on one side. He returned at night with searching team and stayed 3 more days in the village without any further developments. Then some traveler s from Sopathy noticed fresh pug Marks of tiger and Anderson and team went there to Chinnar River. He sat himself on top of a long rock in the middle of the dried up riverbed. He used Ranga's turban to disguise and their vigil was not futile. 

The man eater leaped to the live bait it he couldn't climb the rock may be because of old wounds. Anderson's bullets sealed its fate. On examination the tiger had embedded bullets in his paws, which made him a man eater. 

Kempakare is  empty

I made a quick return to the forest and road in order to proceed to Pennagram. Whilst riding through the same route I decided to move forward through the abandoned route to Pennagram which was the only cart track to connect the village Gerhatti and Pennagram. This route running through midst of spider valley. KA described hand sized spiders are abundant at his time in this area and hence he called this name. The valley between the two hills named Kodekare and Manchi produce the river and it running towards south and join to Chinnar River at a place called Sopathy. The road running parallel to the stream crosses and re crosses several times. I have mentioned the route is not recommended for cars in spite of good road. The reason is the numerous bridges which were made perfectly strong but will met its fate in next rainy season to be washed out by strong currents. I remembered that This was the valley of helicopter plants too. 
The route to Kemprkare from Pennagram  which Anderson  was trudging is marked.
I reached again the  check post and turned left. The entrance itself to this road is little eerie as there is no other vehicle on the dark road. The road seems empty and narrow  which has over hanged tree branches on both sides? I waited some time anticipating a company such as a bike or car. But I was pretty sure that nobody will come in this way, so I passed through the tunnel like entry. I got some info that be care full about route up to Chinnar river as there is a chance to meet elephants on the way. It was clearly evident indeed our friends were on the road. Several places I saw elephant dung especially on the first half of my journey.

Road to Pennagram
Spider valley views
Intermittent tall trees and shrubs.
If some wild mammals in my way, there is no sufficient place on road to escape..
One of the river bed shows  debris of trees and the strength of water
Road and river  meet regular intervals.
The river is dried up now
A road cum check dam
Lush forest cover on either sides
Read the board
An approach road to the stream
most of the bridges  are in this condition
Anderson wrote about this area a very densely forested area and abounded in those days with elephant, bison, tiger, panther and bear. Sambar and jungle-sheep, rather than spotted deer, were plentiful because of the hilly terrain and adjacent mountain ranges- Rock snakes, commonly termed pythons, were said to be present in numbers, 
and smaller animal life was abundant. The tall, waving bamboos and the damp undergrowth were the home of millions of fireflies as well as of a luminescent beetle and three varieties of glow-worm'. He also  described that this was   the only area in Salem district  where, by virtue of the dampness of the evergreen jungle, a king cobra might be encountered.

After negotiating some hairpin bends down the hill, I reached some thickly wooded area. This means I am near to the riverside and shortly I met a bridge. The condition of the road is fantastic but the bridge is broken by the strong flows. I saw  several bridges in this road is  in bad condition except one. Sometimes we have to ride to the riverbed to reach the other side. And each banks were normally steep.
Negotiating some kilometers I reached a place with full of vegetation on both sides of the road. Road is almost blocked by outgrown wait- a -bit thrown and looks like a tunnel. I don't want to stop and take a few clicks. Because I knew this will be a dangerous place for a lone biker. If some wild animals on the way ahead, there is no space to pass them on the two meter wide road It looked fearful for some unknown reasons. The road  giving a message to  the traveler of an impression that he is in a leafy tunnel.
There were intermittent bridges and uprooted trees everywhere. I increased my speed when I reached a place seems safe. On the way I passed a small temple like structure with a stone engraved depicting two men and a tiger. The stone work  is half finished and used ancient tools to engraving. It resembles Vijayanagara stone arts and I think for centuries this stone stood here and worshiped in this part of jungle. Now it is lying on earth, some elephant or a passing vehicle tucked it down.

Road became narrower here.
This bridge is in good shape
But not this one. I have to  do some real offroading
Unicorn stucked in sand  a riverbed
I had to get down and  push the bike. together with  first gear it moved nicely 
Another clearings seen on a crossing of river
Road is blocked with this tree and i had to off road in forest again
The temple   along the way in midst of forest
The road is like a tunnel, gave a good experience.

At Sopathy,   I wanted to go to the big rock which Anderson described in the story. It lies exactly in the middle of the river according to google map. But thick bushes and forest obstruct my views to the area. I decided that it will be good   before exploring more, first to check some body in the watch tower. This is my precaution to avoid any unwanted incidencts from official side.  I would like to take some rest at the premises of the forest anti poaching tower. Nobody was there on duty.

 The rest of road to Pennagram has ordinary in style which runs mostly up hill. throwny bushes and short trees growing all over the hills. From the top of such a hill side I saw the distance I covered and it clearly marked with green tall trees on the bank of Chinnar and Morapore valleys. I negotiated the last check post and there was narrow a gap which I never seen anywhere else. Only a bike can barely sweep through between the permanent metal rod of check post and a large stone. The man in charge raised no query. Within 10 minutes reached Pennagram with lot of plain farming lands on both sides. By this time temperature was too high and my bear arms literally baked in sun.
Anti poaching  tower, at Sopathy
Google image of chinnar river crossing. the rock in blue circle  mentioned in the story. Red circle is the Anti poaching tower
The area  was totally empty
View of the Morappur valley I just coverd
Vegetation and condition of road changed
But nobody can be seen along this roads
Last look,  the  spider valley

Reached the destination.

Links to other blogposts related to Kennath Anderson stories:

The Man-eater-of-crescent-mountains