With Pykara Lake and Glenmorgan done and dusted with, it was time to make our beds for the night. Hotel accommodation was something we have not even considered as a Plan B. The primary purpose of this trip was to camp in the wilderness of Ooty. But this task seemed harder to implement than thought. Apparently, one needed to obtain permission from the Forest Department to camp in the wilderness. And whomever we asked we were told that no permissions were given to camp near the lakes for fear of wild animals et al.
With a thin ray of hope we approached the Forest officials to obtain permission. But being a long weekend and the lateness in the hour we could contact anyone for the permissions. This was followed by more questioning of the local store owners and hawkers for a safe place to set our camp near any of the lakes for the night. With light and hope fading fast, we had to take a call. We finally decided to go to Lake Emerald and see if we can set a camp without or without permissions. If that was not to be, then we will settle for hotel accommodation somewhere in the area.
And it came to be that we arrived at Emerald in pitch darkness. Except for a bungalow next to the lake, there was no sign of humanity in the immediate vicinity. But before pitching our tent here, we needed to be sure that we will not have any trouble with the authorities or the wild animals. So we asked the people who lived in the bungalow and a few more people further ahead in the next village. Upon enquiry we were told that this place is neither frequented by wild animals nor will there be any objections in setting up a camp here. Armed with this info we pitched our tents here. We were in the process of starting a fire when we heard a man raising a battle-cry from the other end of the lake. He also started using his torch light in our direction whenever we used ours. First we ignored, but his insistenance got a few of us worked up. We weren't sure who or what it was all about. One thing we knew for sure that we did not want to give up this vantage camping point. So if the mystery man was a Forest Official who was trying to shoo us away, then that’s a risk we did not wish to take. To compound our problems a little while later we heard a loud sound, something like a gunshot. Now this really shook us up. The mystery man just turned into a frightening man. Was it really a gunshot we heard? Or do we really want to confirm it was a gunshot? We decided against any adventure and just call it a night sans the campfire and dinner.
I had a rather sleepless night thanks to reverberating gunshot sound and the merciless cold of the Ooty night. At 3AM I abandoned all efforts to catch a decent sleep and slipped out of the tent. To my delight I found that KB was having a similar night as I. We decided to make things right by starting a fire. At 3AM we were sure the mystery man would be fast asleep. But to our horror the moment we got our fire started, the yelling started. Not wanting to risk hearing another gunshot or similar sound we put out the fire and went in search of a different location to start the fire - away from the watchful eyes of our mystery man. We found a comfortable location and started the fire. It was a herculean task to start a fire considering that all the twigs and leaves we collected were dripping wet with the moisture of the early morning. But we persevered and soon we mastered the art of fire making against all odds.
The growling sounds of the stomach called our attention to have food. Since we had all the material resources to cook soup, the two of us worked in that direction and pretty soon we were sipping a hot cuppa soup with the sun rising in the horizon. It was a scene unlike I had ever witnessed in Ooty or any other location. This was the high point of my two trips to Ooty. And probably the "best" memory I will carry in my heart for the years to come.
After the sun was out in its full glory we finally figured out our Mystery man. The man across the lake was just a farmer, who was protecting his farm from possible intruders. So much for all the worries and the sleepless night we went through. But then, the mystery of the gunshot still remains a mystery.....
Getting-there: Emerald and Avalanche Dam is where you should be headed to reach Emerald lake.
Must-Do: Enquire for permissions to camp for the night. Tents, Sleeping bags, Lighter, newspapers and bullet-proof vest will come in handy.