"He who does not travel does not know the value of men"

Saturday, November 6, 2010


 Ranipuram is somewhat an unleashed hill station situated in the Kasargod District of Kerala. Its old name is Madathumala. It is right at the North Eastern part of the state sharing border with Karnataka. It is rather difficult for the tourists to access the place because of the poor transportation facilities provided over there and also due to the restrictions imposed by the State Forest Department. The nearest railway station is Kanhangad, which is about 25 Km south of Kasargod. Ranipuram is at a distance of about 55 Km from Kanhangad. One has to hire a vehicle from Kanhangad or opt to travel by local transport buses plying towards Panathur, which is Kerala-Karnataka border. Regular buses are available in this route. Panathady is the nearest stop from where Ranipuram hill station is about 9KM. There are no other options than hiring a private jeep (Rs 200/-) to move to Ranipuram from Panathady. One Janakeeyam jeep service is available which is preferably for the locals moving for day to day needs. One bus service from Kanhangad is also available which is at 4PM and reaches Ranipuram at 6.30 PM. There are no established accommodation facilities available in Ranipuram. Kochettan’s home Stay is the only alternative. The Tourism Department has initiated a project of constructing a Yatri Nivas over there and the building is nearing completion.

In order to reach the top of the Ranipuram hill, one hour trekking through the forest is required. From Ranipuram there is a jeep road which goes up to the Karnataka Border. There is one forest IB at the top of the hill which belongs to Karnataka Forest Department. There are also trek paths to Talacauvery (origin place of River Cauvery) and Kottagiri from Ranipuram. During the 70’s Kottayam Roopatha arranged a settlement in Ranipuram which consisted of 45 families. Since the first settlement area was in a place called Rajapuram this place was named as Ranipuram. Now there are only 6-7 families left in Ranipuram. Due to the poor transportation facility and poor infrastructure development, families couldn’t survive there and they left the place. Moreover cultivation of crops also couldn’t earn much result due to the frequent attack of wild animals. There is still one small school and a church there. No network coverage for the mobile users! Only when the wind favours, signals from towers in Karnataka State comes and goes. It is known that BSNL is planning to install a tower over there in Ranipuram.

We a group of 6 started from Trivandrum by Maveli Express and reached Kanhangad at about 7.30AM. We had arranged rooms in Government Guest House, Kanhangad. At about 9AM the vehicle (Tavera) arranged by us reached on time. We first visited the famous two Ashrams, Nithyanandha Ashram (4KM from Kanhangad) and Ananthashram (6KM from Kanhangad). These organizations are mainly engaged in charitable activities which is highly appreciable. Our first priority was to attend our friend’s sister’s marriage. After having heavy food from the marriage party we started to Ranipuram at about 2.30PM from Kanhangad. We were lucky enough to get the company of Madhu a local person of Ranipuram, who was also there in Kanhangad to attend the marriage.

Roads up to Panathady in the SH is in good condition but after that the distance of 9KM to Ranipuram, it is terribly damaged.We bought the requirements for our belly (meat and vegetables) from Panathady. Fahad, the driver of our vehicle was good enough to drop us up to the top in spite of the poor road condition. Our accommodation was arranged in the Kochettan’s (Joseph) house which he usually rents to tourists who are familiar to him. Madhu is the care taker. There are only two rooms with attached bath there. There is one private room with kitchen for the use of Kochettan also. The main attraction there is a small pool near the building.  Kochettan is a gem of person at the age of 66 enjoying his life. He was a Government contractor and the road up to Ranipuram from Panathady was actually contracted by him. He got attracted by the beauty of this place, owned land over there and constructed a house for his summer stays.

In order to reach the top of the Ranipuram hill a 45 minutes walk through the forest is required. It is not only a test of your stamina but also a measure of courage in you because one needs to cover some distance through the kingdom of leeches. As it was drizzling through out the month the place was ruled by leeches. We started our trek at about 3.30PM. After 500 mts walk, as expected, two of us failed the tests both in terms of stamina and courage and returned to the room. Half of the trek route is through the Shola forest and the rest through the grasslands. We couldn’t even pause for a second for a deep breathe in the forest area due to the mass attack of the leeches. Somehow we managed to reach the grassland portion which is outside the boundary of the leeches’ world. We could only enjoy the beauty of the green hills covered with grass for some moments and soon fog covered the entire area. We found it difficult even to see each other. We spent about one hour there at the top of the hill taking snaps and enjoying the climate which was quite rejoicing. Soon it started drizzling again. Three of us enjoyed the scenario by getting wet in the rain two of us were “unlucky” to have umbrella with them.  Our return trek was in a hurry due to the rain and the attack of leeches. We reached back to the bungalow in half an hour time.

 Our next effort then was to remove the leeches from our legs. Madhu was quick in removing those leeches using salt. We then enjoyed a bath in the chilled water of the pool. We had a nice time talking to Kochettan and listening to his stories. After having a heavy dinner we went to bed very late. Some of us even had sleepless night as leeches troubled even in their dreams.

The next morning sun was shining bright and that enabled us to catch the views of defrosted Ranipuram and its bewildering beauty. Madhu soon turned up with our morning tea and breakfast (Poori masala). Intermittent showers made us lazy and we were late to get ready for the return journey.

In order to avoid delay we hired a jeep to Panathady (Rs 200/-) and Fahad also turned up there on time. After having lunch from Kanhangad, we went to Bakel Fort. As it was drizzling, we could survive from the extreme heat during that time and enjoyed the beauty of the fort and beach with a unique ambience. The fort is now under the control of the Archeology Department. The history of the Fort and the details of its construction are written outside.  We spent about 2 hours having fun and sharing jokes. Our friend Tarun was seen pumped up by taking snaps and singing the song” Uyire Uyire” all the way. By evening we settled in the Kasargod Guest House.


The next morning all were ready by 7.00 AM and setting aside all the other activities, we completely transformed ourselves to Pilgrims and visited the following temples

Mallikarjuna Temple: (1KM from Kasargod); more of Karnataka influence.

Madhur Sidhivinayaka Temple: (7km from Kasargod); a “U” shaped temple which is pretty old.

Ananthapura Lake Temple: 10KM from Madhur. Temple is the in the middle of a pond. Padmanabha Swamy is the main deity (total 7 deities). The temple is considered as the “moolasthanam” of the famous Padmnabha Swamy temple at Thiruvananthapuram. There is a crocodile aged 68 yrs, as told by the priest, inside the pond. There is a special kind of calm and quiet atmosphere inside the temple premises which makes it an ideal place for meditation. The approach of the priest and temple authorities to the pilgrims was also appreciable. The landscape where the temple is situated is really attractive and from the top of the hill we get a perfect view of the Kasargod district. Posadigumpe, a famous picnic spot shooting place is nearby.


Within no time we were again distorted to wandering tourists from the sanctity of pilgrims. Everybody pulled up their socks and waited eagerly to move to our next spot, Chamundikkunnu, the land of our friend Sasidhara.


A lovely portrait painted by an artist on the wall of nature-that is Chamundikkunnu. It is almost 10-15KM from Panathady. You will find each and everything that you expect in a village. Hills, rivers, streams, ponds, cultivated lands, fields, temples, innocent lovely people and everything that one would dream about an ideal village. We could see the children, way back home after the school; having fun by throwing stones at the mango trees and picking the roadside stuffs as collections and running behind vehicles making noises. The atmosphere around the place made us nostalgic about the experiences that we had during our childhood days, which our kids are really missing.

The kind of reception that we got from Sasi’s family was amazing and unforgettable. The scenario from Sasi’s house was simply eye-catching. We were all like naughty kids enjoying each and every moment we spent over there. Some of us had a nice bath in the streams and some were on top of the trees. Each of us devoured like horses and was finding it difficult even to move. We were rather upset with the time we got there as we had reserved train tickets the same day evening. For a moment we even thought of cancelling the tickets and staying back for one more day. We somehow managed to leave our thoughts and desires behind on decision that we will again come for a 2 day stay afterwards. We needed two hours drive to reach Kasargod Railway station. Luckily we were on time and so was the train. After an overnight journey we reached Trivandrum again into the busy schedules.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


At present, the only meter gauge train operating in Kerala is the Punalur – Shenkotta Passenger train which stretches to a distance of 39 Km. The route is going to be a history soon as railways has decided to convert it to broad gauge. This route was commissioned by the Britishers at the beginning of the 19th century and initially it was from Quilon to Thirunnelveli. Recently the track Quilon to Punlaur has been converted to Broad Gauge by the Indian Railways.

Our decision to explore the route was sudden when we were having a discussion on the meter gauge trains in India. Since we could operate it as a one day programme, the decision was unanimous and all of us stuck with the plan.

We, a group of five ( Nazar, Shahul, Anish ,Tarun and Myself) started from Trivandrum at about 6.30AM in the brand new Chevorlet Beat car owned by Nazar. The Punalur-Shenkottai train departs from Punalur Railway Station at 8.30AM. We could somehow obtain tickets on time, thanks to Tarun for having made up his mind to be in the queue even before we reached there. Tarun came directly to Punalur from Quilon by bus. Being a working day, there was quite rush out there in the railway station and the train was also fully packed with students and office goers. The reason behind that may also be mainly because of the difference in ticket rates between train and bus. The ticket charge upto shenkottai is only Rs10. Bus charge might be three to four times higher. The train runs at a speed of 17KM/per hour and it takes almost two and half hours to reach Shenkottai. It has got 7 halting stations in between Punalur and Shenkottai which are:

Punalur-Edamann-Ottakkal-Thenmala-Kathuruty-Edappalayam-Aryankavu- Bhagavathipuram-Shenkottai.

Since we had to carry our vehicle with us for proceeding further from Shenkottai, Tarun, Nazar and Anish moved into the train while two of us, Shahul and Myself traveled by car from Punalur.

We also started at the same time when the train left from Punalur Station. The railway track is little away from road upto Thenmala and we could see the slow moving train in between our drive. Punalur is known for the hanging bridge which is a protected archeological monument. In 45mts time we reached Thenmala Railway station. The train takes almost one hour after halting at Edamann and Ottakkal stations before reaching Thenmala.

When the train reached Thenmala, almost 50 % of the passengers were getting down, most of them were office goers and traders. As the Onam vacation started the train was packed with students enjoying the route and having fun. There were also local traders who were moving towards Shengottai. It was the turn of Anish and Nazar to drive the car from Thenmala upto Shengotta and Shahul and I joined Tarun in the train. From Thenmala the rail track and the road (NH 208) moves parallel to each other. The railway track has got more elevation than the road. The train and our vehicle moved almost close to each other upto Aryankavu pass.

The track up to Thenmala from Punalur is through plantation areas. The greenery around with tall mountains covered with fog makes the route a unique one. There are three or four small tunnels too. The track from Thenmala to Shenkotta reveals the architectural marvel of the Britishers in making such a route possible. The 13 Kannara Bridge which is a curved bridge with 13 pillars is a delight to watch from inside the train.

After the breaks at Kathuruty and Edappalayam stations the train reached Aryankavu station. Aryankavu is the Kerala- Tamil Nadu border. From Aryankavu if we travel by road, we have to drive down the hill through the ghat road. The “S” shaped hair pin bend in the ghat road is attractive as well as dangerous. But the train cruises through the Aryankavu pass ie, the long tunnel piercing the hill. This reminds us of the Konkan passage where we could find a lot of such tunnels. Remember, this tunnel was constructed almost hundred years back with hardly any technology that we have now. After the Aryankavu pass there is on more station before reaching senkottai which is Bhagavathipuram. After Aryankavu pass the whole ambience changes and we were amazed to see the sprawling paddy fields and cultivated lands on both sides of the track. The change is landscapes and atmosphere was clearly visible and felt. It looked as if we were watching  a gallery of canvas painting.

When we reached Shenkottai at 11AM Nazar and Anish were waiting for us. They reached there half an hour earlier.

Shenkottai is somewhat a moderate city having qualities of a good village too. There is not much attraction around the place except that of Courtalam (Kuttalam) waterfalls, which is a famous one in this part of the world.

As we had the whole day left, we moved on with our plans to mess around Senkottai and adjacent places.

Thenkasi, which is around 6 Km from Shenkottai is known for its amazing landscapes. Being the valley of the Western Ghats the fertile land here facilitates enormous agricultural production. The delightful sight of the true village as we move along the suburbs was a treat for the eyes.

The feel of the warmth of the atmosphere was a great sort of relief and change for all of us. From Thenkasi the main road has got two diversions-one which go towards Thirunnelveli and the other one towards Ambasamudram.

Kashi Vishwanthar Temple is a famous temple situated in Thenkasi. It has got a huge sculptured gopuram or tower which resembles to the one which we find in Madurai temple. The temple is not as big as others that we find in other parts of Tamil Nadu. When we enter the temple through the gopuram the heavy wind blow makes us feel that are pulled in towards the temple and while moving out we are pushed out from the temple. May be the gopuram is constructed in such a way.

Courtallam waterfalls is almost 5Km from Thenkasi enroute Shenkottai. Although the waterfall is a famous one which attracts many local tourists mainly from Tamil Nadu, we didn’t find any peculiarity over there. The reason for that may be because we have got the beauty of Athirappally, Vazhachal, Meenmutty and other terrific waterfalls in Kerala on the back of our mind.

There are three waterfalls in courtallam

 Courtallam Main falls

 Old falls which is around 7km from main falls

 5 falls

The entrance free for the vehicle is Rs 20, 30 and 20 for main falls, old courtrallam and 5 falls respectively. We went to all three waterfalls and all of them were overcrowded. The thing which attracted us the most was the maintenance of roads which is a rare sight in Kerala.

Thirumalai temple is around 9KM from Shenkottai. It’s a big Murugan temple situated on the top of the hill which attracts a lot of pilgrims. It would have been nice if we reach there by evening as climbing up the hill at that time with sun shining bright was not that easy.

Achankoil the famous Sastha temple 20 KM from Shenkottai. Lot of pilgrims visit the temple during the Sabarimala pilgrimage time. At about 4PM we started our return journey. Enroute to Trivandrum we took a break near Thenmala Dam. While we were looking for a tea shop for having a tea Tarun was seen missing. I suddenly found him waving his hand from inside a KSTRC bus to Kollam. As usual his decision was spontaneous as it is easy to move to Kollam from Thenmala rather than coming to Trivandrum.

After having darshan at Kulathupuzha temple we reached Trivandrum via Madathara, Nedumangad at about 7.30PM.