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

Saturday, September 24, 2011


        Elephants when in a playful mood are lovely to watch. I have had several opportunities of watching elephants in wild enjoying in their natural habitat which is something different from what we see in zoo, melas or in temples.

        In Kerala we have several elephant camps maintained by the Forest Department and the major ones are Kappukad, Konni and Kodanad.

        Kappukad elephant rehabilitation centre is located at about 25KM from Trivandrum via Kattakada-Kottur. It’s in the Agasthyavanam Biological Park which is in between Neyyar and Peppara Wild Life Sanctuaries. Forest Department has arranged elephant ride ( Rs 200/- per head) for the tourists and the camp which is inside the forest and nearby the catchments area of Neyyar Dam is a perfect spot to be with the family.

        Konni Elephant Camp and training centre is 11 KM from Pathanamthitta which is the most famous and neatly maintained centre. The Elephant Kraal which can accommodate 3-4 elephants is the major attraction here. The centre has also Baby elephants that are separated from their herd; they are trained and tamed here by the Forest Department.

        Kodanad, which is about 45 KM from Ernakulam, 12KM from Perumbavoor Town is the head quarters of Malayattur forest division. It is also known for the ‘Elephant Kraal’. The Forest Department also runs a “Mini Zoo” here which attracts a lot of tourists. Before 1977, elephants were captured from the nearby Malayattoor forests and trained at Kodanad. Capture of elephants was banned in that year and Kodanad center does not engage in capturing elephants any more. The Kodanad center now focuses on training elephants.


Pandipathu is situated in the Peppara Wild Life Sanctuary bordering Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve of Tamil Nadu. In earlier days the Britishers exploited the regions such as Briemore, Ponmudi, Bonacaud, Athirumala etc to the full cultivating coffee and tea plantations. But these hillocks were not accessible by motor and so they used to travel in horses and these horse tracks still exists. Pandipath was once used as a breakpoint enroute Athirumalai and Bonacaud plantation sites from Ponmudi. There was once a shelter for the horses which has now been converted into a small concrete building by the Forest Department.

 “Pandi” means Pandinadu which is local name of Tamil Nadu and “Pathu” means ten. Pandipath is 10 miles from Kallar region which might be the reason to name this place as Pandipath,

Pandipathu is almost 60KM from Trivandrum via Vithura –Bonacaud. Its almost 10KM from Bonacaud through the hillocks. One fine morning, four of us, Shinu, Nazar Sreejith and me reached the Kanithadam check post near Bonacaud and we were joined by Mr Varghese who is a 76yr old “young” man. As advised by Varghesettan we parked our vehicle in one of the Bonacuad tea estate factory office which is 4KM from the actual Bonacaud Bus Station.

A three hour trek is required to reach the top. The first half an hour trek through the plantation region too reach the horse track from Kallar region, almost made our lungs burst. Varghesettan, the “young chap” was seen smiling watching the apathy of four of us. On our way through we were listening to the history of place described by Vargheseattan and that made our trek enjoyable. We soon saw the first milestone showing 7th mile. 3 more miles to reach the pandipath region. It took almost 3 hours to reach the 9th mile point where the forest shelter is situated. We almost ran the last lap as we were welcomed by a sudden drizzle. The beauty of the place is something supernatural. It’s exactly Heaven on earth. We kept our bags and all in the forest shelter which is a small one with a single room and kitchen. The shelter is safeguarded against wild with a trench around.  The utensils and other things required for preparing food was sponsored by an Advocate      who is a frequent visitor here. There was no signal in our mobile but Nazar somehow got connection standing out of the shelter.

When the rain subsided we went for a walk through the hillocks. Vargheseattan was engaged in preparing food for us. He warned us not to move far as the place is dangerous for Bison. Once this place was notorious for bison hunting. We enjoyed the evening walking through the grasslands and the attack of leeches were least bothered. Cheemunchi hills are seen on the back side of the shelter from where the Vamanapuram river and Karamana river originates.  When the daylight was fading Vargheseattan called us back saying that we can go for a walk in the morning. We were lucky that once we reached the shelter the rain started strengthening with heavy breeze. The sound of the breeze blowing through the heavy woods was threatening. We had a nice evening listening to Varheseattan’s stories and experience and we were happy not to sleep for that night.
 Early in the morning when the sun rays embraced the water filled grasslands and reflected like in a mirror, Vargheseattan guided us towards the 10th mile which the pandinadu. This region has boundaries with Mundanthurai Wild life sanctuary of Tamil Nadu. We saw the 10th mile stone indicating that we are going to cross the boundary. The horse track route to Athirumalai enroute Agasthyarkoodam was clear. We walked further around 2KM in the Mundanthurai Reserve where there is a watch point of Tamil Nadu Forest Department. The presence of tiger in the region was evident from the pug marks shown by Vargheseattan

Our plans to go to Cheemunchi hills did not work as there was chances of rain and since we were all set for a revisit; we decided to return after having our breakfast. We reached our starting point in one and half hours time and as usual planning for the schedule of the next visit.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

DHARBHAKKULAM- The Nature’s pool

Dharbhakkulam is situated in the Peppara Wild Life Sanctuary almost 25 KM from Aryankavu, Thiruvananthapuram and 5km from Rosemala.

 When I, Shinu and Sunil reached Aryankavu, Shandy was ready there planning the schedule for the day ahead. After having breakfast from the restaurant famous for “Idiyirachi” we packed up the food required for the rest of the day and started our journey in the jeep owned by Kunju a local resident. Although the route up to Rosemala is not in good condition which is suitable only for jeep, the expertise of Kunju helped us reach there within one and half hour time. Accompanied by a watcher from the Forest Department we started our trek at about 11AM. It can be called as a soft trek when compared to the other treks which we had earlier.

 Although the trek was soft, the jungle was very bushy. Shandy was sharp enough to spot a green snake on our way. He spotted other tiny living beings which were hard to be identified by normal eyes. His experience and congruence with the jungle counts. In two hours time we reached Dharbhakkulam which is an excellent picnic spot. Amidst the thick forest and just at the centre of the huge mountains the natural pond is lovely to watch. As the depth of the pond is not known we didn’t try to have a dip in it.

 There is a forest shelter and idol of nature god in the spot. The place is famous for local Tamilians who visit here to do pooja to the nature god.

After spending 3 hrs we returned through the same route. On our way back Shinu was lucky enough not to have stepped on a vipier. He/she was seen taking rest on a rock in the trek path. It was hard even to identify it lying there. When the sun was about to set we reached the view point in Rosemala which is a mind blowing spot to enjoy the sunset. It was fun to watch the sunset in the background of the catchments area of the Thenmala Dam

When we reached the bottom Kunju was ready with the jeep and we reached back Aryankavu within one hour. A one and half hour drive from Aryankavu could make us reach home after a wonderful picnic.

Keerippara- Maramalai- Olakka Aruvi

Keeriparai and surroundings which is almost 80KM from Trivandrum seems to be an ideal weekend relaxation spot for those who are interested in silence as well as a bit of trekking. The route to reach Keeriparai from Trivandrum is via Marthandam- Surlacode-Thadikkarakkonam. Alternate route is via Kattakkada-Kallikkad-Vellarada-Tripparappu-Surlacode-Thadikkarakkonam- Keeriparai.

On a Saturday afternoon we four, I, Shinu, Anoj and Sreekumar moved to Keeriparai in a Wagon R through the second route which is more picturesque. Although it was raining slightly the drive was sensational. It took three hours to reach there as the road was not in a good shape. When we reach Keeriparai Jn , Vincent, the jeep driver with whom Shinu keeps good contacts, was waiting for us. He informed us that one Maruti car got stuck in the river water and we rushed to the location to find out how it happened. The Maruti car owned by a Tamilian was taken to the other part of the river in the morning when the sky was clear. Later when the rain started water gazed through the stream and while trying to come back through the same path, the car got stuck. Luckily the passengers were all safe. With the help of the JCB and efforts of so many people around, the car was brought out safely before darkness.

There is a small temple where the road from Keeripari ends. There is a small waterfall as well. Our main intention though was to go to Maramalai which is a private 42 acre estate in a hilly area. It required almost two hours of drive in jeep through the rocky road. We parked our vehicle safely near Vincent’s house and reached Maramalai in Vincent’s jeep at about 8.30PM. It was absolutely dark and our accommodation was arranged in an estate workers shelter. We had to prepare our dinner and all with the help of the estate workers and we had a good time spending time talking to them. Although we were late to sleep myself and Shinu woke up early in the morning before sunrise. The beauty of the mountains around in the early morning sun rays was stunning and we could gasp the flora and fauna of the place with the music from lovely birds in the background. While we were engaged in taking snaps and having shower from the little waterfalls within the estate premises, Vincent was preparing breakfast for us.

After breakfast we returned to Keeriparai. As Vincent had some other engagements we decided to move to Olakka Aruvi which is a known waterfall in the locality. Olakka Aruvi is almost 10KM from Thadikkaramkonam. To reach the waterfalls one hour trekking through the forest area is required. When we reached almost half a stage to the waterfalls, it rained heavily. We had no other option rather than walking in the rain. Luckily our cameras were safe in a plastic bag. We reached to the top of hill in one hour time and to our surprise there were lot of visitors (mostly Tamilians) in the place. This waterfall is as dangerous as its beauty. Although we couldn’t enjoy a shower, as the rain “helped”, the sight was exiting.

After spending almost an hour on the top we returned to our vehicle and changed our dress which was totally wet and cleared off the place to turn back home before late night.