Battling Winds

The year was 2012. Until I reached the Tirunalveli district, I did not know that the state of Tamil Nadu stands No.1 in the Country in energy production through wind (even as of 2018, Tamil Nadu is the highest). I also did not know that India ranked No.5 in the world with more than 6696 MW (as of March 2010) of installed Wind mills, which formed close to 41% of our National installed capacity of wind energy. (Update: As of 2017, it is No. 4).

The windmills we saw enroute to Rajapalaiyam

The reason for this heavy harness is attributed to three important passes namely Palghat Pass (in Coimbatore, Erode), Shencottah Pass (in Tirunelveli, Tuticorin), Aralvoimozhi Pass (in Kanyakumari). These are the “windy spots”. The tip of the Western Ghat region has a tunelling effect on the winds that come in this region due to the south-west monsoon. When katabatic winds blow through narrow valleys between mountains, the speed of the wind increases and this effect is what we call the tunnel effect. Thus these 3 passes, serve as passages that aid in tunneling of the wind thus increasing wind speeds in this region considerably. The average annual wind speed in these areas range from 18km/hr to 25km/hr. At higher altitudes, the wind speeds are much more!

So in July of 2012, when me and my friend Ram went hiking to Poomalai estate, from Rajayapalyam, we had the opportunity to encounter these “windy areas”. The Poolamalai estate, nestled in Kalakkad Mundanthurai, was used by the forest department officials to carry out their patrolling work when duty with the Anti- poachers watch (APW).

We had done a 14km hike uphill to reach the estate. The route traversed through beautiful mountains with shola forests.

The amazing scape of Kalakkad Mundanthurai.

The next morning at around 7am, I found myself in the middle of a discussion by the rangers. They were trying to convince us to take a longer safer route downhill. All the 3 forest guards who were to join us for the return journey were of the opinion that we shouldn’t go by the steep route. I was told that we would have to walk on cliff edges and the wind would be so strong that they would blow us away.

I listened patiently to all of their opinions. When others were out of ear shot, I asked Ganesan for his opinion, a local who had accompanied us uphill.

I asked: “Ganesan, what is your opinion on this matter? You came with us uphill, you know what we can do and cannot do… is the shortcut dangerous for us?

If he said that it would be difficult and dangerous for us, then I would have insisted that we go by the longer route.

Ganesan said, “The route they are talking about is difficult only for 2 kms and it is manageable…we just need to be extra careful about the wind”.

Convinced by Ganesan’s take on the matter, we decided that we will go by the short route. And so we began at 8-30am, our downhill hike to back to Rajapalaiyam. Ganesan and Murugan, the locals, joined us for the first one hour, just to get us past the first dangerous incline. To be honest, the downhill incline was not dangerous, but the wind managed to make it feel dangerous.

I did not find the incline dangerous, since there was plenty of vegetation to hold on to while getting down. It was the wind that concerned me. We used to walk a few steps and then sit down to let the gust pass. After an hour, we bid farewell to Ganesan and Murugan. The next 3 hours involved us battling the very raw forces of Nature. I cannot even describe what wind speeds we experienced here! All I could think of was- Maybe this is what I would feel if I was standing close to a huge exhaust fan! Battling these winds only made me realise more how little we are in front of nature. We are so powerless and helpless when it came to battling nature’s forces. And yet, the things that helped us battle these winds were again because of nature- thanks to the abundant vegetation on that mountain, which was able to bear our weight and grasp. We hung on to blades of tall grass with all our strength each time a strong gust passed.

IHolding on to whatever we could while coming down.

Just as one gust would pass, we would quickly move down a few more steps since getting down was a lot easier without the wind pushing you off the opposite direction. I quite enjoyed the hike down. I was trying to keep my weight down as much as possible, didn’t make hasty movements or run down the slope. It was one step at a time, ensuring at no point, you are moving without a firm grip on the plants.

The steep slope we were getting down (See the incline of the trees below).

At around 1-30pm, we reached the foothills of the first mountain. From here, the rangers told us that it was going to be pleasant walk through the forests. We stopped at one rocky patch near a well known local temple, had lunch and rested for a while before we resumed our journey down. This indeed would be an experience I would never forget in my life. Experiencing unadulterated forces of nature is a humbling experience. I would not like to call this Nature’s Fury. I felt this was more of nature freaking out and chilling! No disturbances, no human beings to ruin her day, no restrictions- she was just being herself 🙂

Here is a video clip that gives you a glimpse of our experience. Keep the audio ON to listen to the gusts of wind too!

A video clip that gives you a glimpse of our experience

References

Energy from the Wind (2011-12): Student Guide. National Energy Education development Project.

Thiru.Natham R.VISWANATHAN.(2012). Policy Note 2012-13; Demand No. 14. Minister for Electricity, Prohibition and Excise. Government of Tamil Nadu

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_power_in_India
http://www.projectsmonitor.com/PrintArticle.aspx?aid=9388&sid=0
http://www.teda.in/index.php?r=site/index&id=1Y1e4W1W4n
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0960148111001

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My name is Adithi Muralidhar. I am a nature enthusiast based in Mumbai, India.

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