PATHANAMTHITTA: Wrapped in mist even at noon, Gavi is a travellers’ delight. For the journey through the dense forest to reach the popular hill station in Pathanamthitta district is an experience in itself. And the increasing tourist arrivals is bringing in decent revenue to the villagers and the chief government stakeholders in the region -- the KSRTC and the forest department.
The picture would appear rosy, but there is a downside to it. There is only one bus to Gavi from Pathanamthitta town, and it is overcrowded with tourists on weekends and holidays. And that affects the villagers the most.
“On weekends, we are unable to travel to or from our village on the bus coming from Pathanamthitta,” says Gavi resident Praveen Raj, who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree course in the town. “Normally, we travel to our village from our hostel on Saturday mornings. Now, we don’t even get the space to stand inside the bus, and so hesitate to travel on weekends due to the heavy rush of tourists.” Nor are the villagers able to travel to the town without having to take leave from their work.
“Our village doesn’t have shops selling groceries or other essential items,” says Thankamani Yogarajan who works in a cardamom plantation in Gavi. “On Sundays, we depend on the KSRTC bus to go to Vandiperiyar to buy essential items, or visit our relatives in other places. The bus from Pathanamthitta reaches our village at 10am. It then goes to Kumily. The schedule was comfortable for us. But now we are unable to board the bus on Saturdays and Sundays.”
Also, travelling on a packed bus is dangerous on a route that has several hairpin bends and gorges, she says. “So we now take leave on working days to go to the town to meet for our needs.” Part of the Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR), Gavi is home to rare flora and fauna, and streams and dams. For the tourists, the trip also offers a peek into the lives of the tribal people and the Sri Lankan Tamil settlers. The village comes under ward number three of Seethathodu panchayat.
A majority of the families in Gavi are Sri Lankan Tamils, who speak Sinhala, Tamil and Malayalam. The villagers work with the cardamom plantation of KFDC and the Gavi eco-tourism project. “The tourists should come, and we are pleased with the increase in their numbers as many villagers find employment in eco-tourism projects. But the authorities should begin additional bus services for the tourists during holidays and peak hours. Otherwise, there is also the risk of accidents due overcrowding,” pointed out Praveen.
Ratheesh, another youth from the village, says they are sometimes forced to travel on the footboard. “The route passes through deep forest for several kilometres, which makes travel unsafe when the bus is overcrowded. So the authorities concerned should take immediate steps to operate more buses for tourists,” he says.
The KSRTC Pathanamthitta depot’s monthly collection from the Gavi service is around Rs 7.5 lakh. District Transport Officer Thomas Mathew says, “We too want to operate more buses to Gavi in tune with the increase in passengers. We have approached the forest department seeking permission for the same.”
The Gavi bus, a 36-seater, now begins service from the Pathanamthitta depot at 6.30am, with a one-way ticket priced at Rs 157. The daily collection of the service comes to around Rs 25,000, and sometimes touches Rs 30,000 on Sundays.
Gavi, which grew in popularity after the release of the Malayalam film ‘Ordinary’ in 2012, is now viral on social media as many YouTubers post videos on its natural beauty.
Ordinary makes Gavi special
Gavi shot into prominence after Ordinary, a Malayalam comedy thriller starring Biju Menon, Kunchacko Boban and Asif Ali based on the incidents related to a KSRTC bus to Gavi, turned a big hit in 2012
How to reach the spot
By road: 28km from Vandiperiyar and 51km from Thekkady
By rail: 128km from Kottayam station
By air: 160km from Kochi airport