The two hill stations, Kodaikanal and Munnar, about 175km apart by road in the Western Ghats, should really be covered by trekking to taste the beauty of the forests. Trekking through the wild is a passion and so, we three (Myself, Shinu and Biju) set out for an adventurous trial trekking of almost 50KM from Kookkal, Kodaikanal to Chinnar, Munnar. Earlier there were some other jeep roads connecting the two hillstations through the forest area which is blocked now by the Forest Department. Of course I would at the first instance thank Mr Raj who helped us for the trail, without him this would not have been possible.
As the distance between the source and destination of the trek is too much for the transfer of a vehicle, we rather opted to go by other means - from Trivandrum to Madurai by train and Madurai to Kodaikanal by bus. After reaching Kodai at about 10.30 we waited for Girish, the manager of Mr Raj to join us. After lunch and little shopping we reached Kookkal village via Poomparai at about 5PM. Poomparai, Mannavancholai and Kukkal are interior villages in Kodaikanal.
We had to move down the hill 5KM to reach the valley where our accommodation was arranged. We moved down enjoying the scenic and picturesque beauty of the hills around and it became dark when we reached there. The sudden rain pushed us to reach the bunglow fast. The valley is known for the presence of leopards and the attack of leopards often occurs during the evening time. We had a pleasant and comfortable stay at the bungalow that night.
Early in the morning when we woke up Biju, the bird watcher was missing and later we found him with his camera flashing behind a rare species of bird. Girish showed us the way to the private waterfalls inside the estate area which was rather a rare sight.
At about 9AM, after breakfast we loaded the things for our further trial. It was rather a hard trek covering steep mountains and grasslands with no trek path at all. Girish is an expert in identifying the route with regard to the location. Two helpers with utensils and food accompanied us. There were small streams in between from where we could quench our thirst.
We reached Nagarkulam at about 3PM. Munichami, the helper prepared rice porridge for us which tasted too nice as all were that much tired. After having lunch we went to the caves down the hill where we had to spend the whole night. . Even though we had spent nights in shelters inside the forest before, that night inside the cave in the middle of the forest was a wonderful experience. It was unique with stone platform to sleep and natural breeze of chillness instead of A/C rooms and feather beds. We knew that we were trespassers inside the cave. From the remaining and the smell inside it was clear that wild animals use the cave as a shelter. Munichami was quick in making fire bowls to remove itches and insects from inside the cave. When it became dark, not only the cool wind with noise but also the fear about the ferocious animals did make us shiver. Fire was the only safety measure for us. I couldn’t sleep the whole night because of the groaning and howling of animals and the chillness. I had black tea and rice porridge at 3AM to keep myself warm. The stream nearby the caves had water but it was rather hard to reach the stream we had to make a track of our own and there was always a danger of spotting any wild.
I was much relieved when the daylight gazed the wet grasslands. We could spot some bison in the next hill. After the breakfast we began our next part of the trail which was even difficult than the earlier one. We had to cover again a distance of 15 KM to reach Manjappatty village. When we reached down the valley our helpers bid adieu. They were happy to take snaps with us and we collected their address to send the copies of the pictures to them.
By 4PM we reached the Amaravathi river side where Manjappatty village is situated. Manjappatty village is a place which we cannot imagine even in our dreams. Blessed with all natural things the people here are engaged only in agriculture. No schools, no hospitals, no roads, no basic infrastructures. Girish introduced us to Mr Alexander, a social worker from Tanjavur who is engaged in educating the children of the village. He uses a small shed as a school. From his words we could know that the parents of the children are not willing to send their kids to school as their motive is only to make hard earned money for daily living. Alexander is more engaged in conducting awareness programme to the parents and so his work begins early in the morning before the kids are sent for work. Our accommodation was arranged in the school shed. Two of us had stomach upset which caused some worries.
Early in the morning we witnessed the routine of Manjappatty village. As usual Alexander was running here and there for students and the parents of the children hiding behind to escape from his eyes. The village was seen active even at 6.30 in the morning.
After having black tea we were again on for the last lap of almost 20KM. The route from Manjappatty to chinnar via Thalanjy is somewhat boring as the route is somewhat dry. I didn’t have breakfast becoz of the fear of stomach upset and so was worried of sun stroke. When we reached Thalanjy village luckily we got some tender coconuts to energize us.
We had to run fast through the Thalanjy -chinnar route because of the tremendous heat. There we witnessed a pack of jackals hatch a deer. At about 2PM we reached chambakkadavu settlement area which is inside Kerala Forest Limit. In order to cool ourselves we had a long dip in the Chinnar River. We were burned out for further trek and so arranged a vehicle from Chinnar to reach Munnar and to take the overnight bus back to Trivandrum.