Where was I? Among the clouds or Mountains?. A Road Trip to Meghamala
Hitting the roads three times in a row for three weekends in a month seems so embarrassing. But just to remind myself impossible is nothing I decided to go for it. This time it was a little longer than the usual ones. Meghamala came to my mind on this week end. I heard about this place before some time and read it is one of the most serene and uptapped tourist locations rather a hill station. Meghamala is in the district of Theni in Tamilnadu. So going to Meghamala from Cochin it is like drawing a line across the state of Kerala from west to east.
The Google map said it is 200 km s one side which is going to be a strenuous ride of atleast 5 hours. The thought came to me on Friday noon and I searched in Google for some details of the place. But most of the articles and blogs available about Meghamala was repetitive and a very few seemed to be informative. There were some blogs which I usually refer felt more helpful. With not more of a thought process I decided to take the trip as a two day venture in bike. But due to some unexpected contingencies I couldn’t start Saturday. I had to stay back for the whole day. Hence it was decided to get done in 1 day which I knew is going to be a hectic task.
I started really early in the morning. The route selected was Valakam—pothanikadu—Vannapuram—Thopramkudi—Nedumkandam—Kambammedu—Kambum—Uthamapalayam—Chinnamannur – Meghamala. Google said its 200 km but I knew it would vary.
At 5 am in the morning I started and wanted to cover maximum distance before the sun hits. But the route selected was not so good and hence I couldn’t cover much of a distance every hour. Main reasons being 1. The condition of the road, 2. Lack of clarity in route (every now and then there were deviations and I had to stop for asking the route). By 8 am I could reach only Nedumkandam and I knew it’s going to take few more hours.
When reading about Meghamala in Google every article agreed in one single point about the place that is the pathetic condition of the road. The last 25 Km from Chinnamannur to Meghamala was said to be the most notorious and people wrote that it would take almost 2 hours to cover this 25 km.
Vannapuram to Thopramkudi and Nedumkandam Road was really steep. There were so many hairpin curves Enroute and hence driving was very slow and all my time calculation went for a toss. But had some good sightseeing Enroute. Reaching Nedumkandam at 8 am I took breakfast and without wasting much of a time started again. Finally I reached Kumbummedu and it is the first time I travel through the Kumbummedu. There were 18 hair pin curves. As it was a Sunday and early in the morning there were only a few vehicles passing over me that time. Left side of the road you can see beautiful hills all over. I wanted to take photos of the hill ranges but didn’t stop there as I thought I could do it when I come back
Cruising through the 18 hair pin bends I reached Kumbum In Tamilnadu. I couldn’t stop myself from stopping after getting down to Kumbum as the scene was so beautiful. There was a road going all along a long and enormous range of hills to the left side. The road was almost vacant and only one or two Tamilnadu Lorries passed. They looked at me in surprise sighting me staying there alone and taking pictures. The sun has started its effect by this time and the day was becoming hotter. After a short while I started to continue again and in 10 minutes I reached the main road. From main road I took left which leads to Chinnamannur. It is 22 km from Kumbum to Chinnamannur. The road is really good and straight. Most part of the journey of today was through winding roads. I was very happy to get such a good wide road.
Rode little fast so as to cover maximum distance in the clear road. In approximate 20 minutes I reached Chinnamannur and I had to fuel from there. Tank was almost half but I didn’t want to take any chances as I knew there was no petrol pump on the way to Meghamala. I asked people for the route and them all told it is so far and is a remote place. Someone exclaimed to know I am travelling alone. I knew something was wrong. From Chinnamannur the road to Meghamala is really lonely and there are no shops or anything on the way. After riding for 10 minutes and taking some deviations I reached the road that leads to Meghamala and Meghamala only.
The initial stretch I went through a road of which both side are covered with tamarind trees and the cover of the tree spread over to the road creating a floral cover on the road which made my ride cooler. In 15 minutes I reached a check post which is just a formal stop and I could pass through without stopping there. There were some more deviations and there were no one to ask there which road to take. I rode for some more time through the road which I felt correct and finally came across some Fellow men and asked the road. He pointed towards a road and said from this point there is no deviation and that road leads to Meghamala.
By this time a bus also came that way and it was also on the same road. The fellow men said to go behind the bus as it will be going on the same road. I decided to follow the bus not knowing the hazards of doing that. In another 10 minutes we reached the valley of the hill and the bus started its ascent through the tarred road.
In another 5 minutes the tarred road disappeared. We can say that there was a road here once upon a time. Every 10 mtrs there were gutters in the road and I understood why not many people don’t select to come here as tourists. We could hardly move in 20km/hr. To make things worst I was going behind the bus and there was hardly any chance of overtaking as the road was very narrow and hard curves were there every now and then. Due to summer the road was very dusty and I couldn’t even breathe properly as the bus was making a lot of dust through the road. Besides I couldn’t see the road properly due to dust and because I was travelling behind the bus I dodged into lot of gutters in the road. I decided to take a break for some time and let the bus go some distance. I spotted some place where I could get some good snaps of the hills and stopped by there.
While I was taking pictures there two more Lorries went that way and I knew there is no point is waiting there as if more vehicles are coming then the situation won’t change and there is no need to wait here. I decided to overtake the bus and Lorries somehow. Started again and in no time I reached the Lorries and the bus which was moving in a row. By this time we have attained a lot of high and the route become more and more wild. One side of the road was dense forest and the other side was steep valley. The dust becomes unbearable by then and I was yanking my horn to get ahead somehow. After some time the road become very humpy and the bus and lorry could literally scrawl there. Utilizing this chance I overtook the Lorries and bus somehow and it was then I could really see the road and surroundings I wish I could cover the whole stretch like this only as the wildness of the road thrilled me a lot.
There were also some tricky points on the way where in if we do not take much of a care we would end up in landing to the steep valley atleast a 500 yards down. Moving further the road become more slippery as small gravel and metal pieces were put on the road to cover up the gutters which would make it easy for buses and Lorries but it made my life horrible at some places. I even slipped dangerously at three points but somehow managed not to taste the sand.
After 10 km I could have a good look at the top most point of the hill. I believed to be Vellimala (Silver Mountain) as it is supposed to be the highest point of Meghamala range. The flora and fauna was very rich and diverse Enroute. There were quite a few sighting of birds of different species. But I could hardly get any snaps before they disappeared into their respective territory. One more thing I noticed was that there were a variety of butterflies roaming around all over the places some of them with beautiful color combination like I have ever seen. This Clearely signifies the minimal amount of pollution in the air. I have read butterflies cannot survive in areas where the CO2 level is high in the air.
Attaining more height the climate changed a lot and the heat was subsided to a tolerable rather a comfortable level now. The climate in Meghamala is said to be very inconstant and every now and then it can rain, there can be strong winds, it can change cloudy from a sunny day in ten minutes like that. It is actually correct and I witnessed the change. It seems sunny at one point of time and it turns out to be very cloudy right after the next hair pin curve. I prayed it not to rain because I was very sure that if it rains I won’t be able to make it a day.
It is dense forest till 19 km and after that we would start seeing tea estates which is a private property. At 22 km I reached the high wavy mountain which is referred to as Meghamala. Top of Meghamala is completely a tea plantation. There is no such a town ship or stop over there. There were some small settlements here and there where the workers of the tea plantation live and that too is inside the tea plantation and hence we could not directly interact with them.
Reaching the top I roamed around for some time there taking pictures. But I cannot even find one fellow men there. I don’t know it was like that because it was a Sunday or it is like this all the time. I moved closer to a set of two houses and I could see a lady doing some work there. I asked her whether this itself is the top station and she said it is the high wavy mountain. Another person came from the other house seeing me. Thankfully both where speaking Tamil which I could manage to understand and reply. I asked then about Vellimala and the man said we won’t be able to go to Vellimala through this way as the roads are completely damaged and even four wheel drive jeeps are not going now a day through that road. Besides that there were some issues of wild elephant and gaur herd sighting throughout the road. He referred to some incidents happened there recently where in some fellow men were attacked by wild animals in the night. They even don’t know what animal has attacked the inhabitant. The women said its bear and the men said it can be Tiger attack which has been a threat in Vellimala for some time.
I asked him whether he could accompany me to Vellimala but he profusely rejected that. I offered him some tips also but he was not willing to come as it could turn out to be a challenging scene if we encounter any wild on the way. I gathered some more info from them regarding the places in and around. There is another way to reach Vellimala through the other side of Meghamala hill range through Theni. It is some what a motorable road but the entire area is under private people.
In Meghamala the tea estates are really beautiful as they are very close to the dense forests. When we look at them it we could see the dense forest over the plantation boundaries.
After a chit chat with them I planned to ascend. I wanted to see the Dams in Venniyar and asked them the route to reach there. They have told me the other route from where I took the deviation to reach the High wavy mountain.
It is roughly 3.5 km from that deviation to reach Venniyar. The road was very lonely. Both the sides were dense forest. I even had a rethink after 1 km through that road to return back and it was becoming wilder. But wanted to see the dam. But at Venniyar it was a sad scene waiting for me. There was not even a single drop of water in the dam. It was completely dried up and the Dam site was also closed for entry. It is said that wild animals often come to the catchment of this dam for drinking water. Now it is irrelevant to think about sighting any wild life here as the dam is completely dried up.
I would have spent 1 hour there and was planning to return as it was already 12.30 by then. From morning 5 am to this time my bike was running all the time and hence I wanted to give a break to it. If my bike goes for a strike then I believe it will take minimum three days to get it ready in this place. I parked the bike near to the settlement and roamed around for a while again taking some pictures, talking to some other people, having a bite which I brought and all. By 2 pm I decided to start my return. Biding good bye to Meghamala I took the road back to the valley. I did the descend very slowly as most of the places the road was very slippery due to loose sand and rock gravels. I took utmost care not to lose my grip on the road. Most of the time I was in 2nd maximum 3rd gear to avoid any mishaps.
There were no vehicle coming or going in either side of the road. I remember only one bike passing me in the entire stretch back to the plain roads. I stopped at two three points where I couldn’t take pictures when I ascended. The afternoon light was good for photography and I got some good clicks. The Western ghat range seen from Meghamala is undeniably a feast to the eyes
I couldn’t stop myself from clicking picks. The clouds played hide and seek with the mountains and their shadows fall on ground creating a dark hole in the sun lit fields.
After the 10th hair pin curve the heat again struck. As it was the hottest hour of the day (2.30 pm to 4 pm) the wind blowing was like steam coming from pressure cooker. I had to close the windshield of the helmet so as to protect my face. After reaching the plains grounds I went to a grape garden/ plantation on the way. There was a farmer there who whole heartedly allowed me to enter the plantation and roam around taking pictures. He has given me ripe grapes to eat and this is the first ever time am seeing a grape plantation and having such fresh grapes. I bought 1 kg of Garden fresh seedless green grapes from there just for Rs 40 which is sold for 100 or more in my place.
Reaching Chinnamannur back I was very tired and my back started aching as it is almost 10 hours now since I have been riding. I stopped for a quick break to have tender coconut water and refreshment. After 20 minutes again started for Kumbummedu. This time I took pictures where ever I wanted. The landscape from Kumbummedu also is very beautiful. I wanted to stay there for some time but thinking of the roads I need to cover before I call it a day I couldn’t spent much time there.
I decided not to take the road I came through. I decided to take the route through Kattapana> Idukki> Cheruthoni> Thodupuzha >Moovattupuzha > Kolenchery > Cochin. I had lunch from a country side hotel in between Kumbummedu and Kattapana. Though I have to travel a 20 kms additional I knew the road was superb through the Kattapana thodupuzha stretch as it goes into the rich woods of Idukki. Though I could not gain much of momentum through the winding roads the road was very clear and vacant so that I can have a relaxed drive. By 5.30 pm I reached Cheruthoni and wanted a break very badly. I had tea and local snacks from road side shop enjoying the beauty of the mighty structure of Idukki Arch Dam.
By the time I reached Thodupuzha it was almost 7 pm. The real difficult part of the ride started from here. Bright head lights of the vehicle coming from the opposite direction slowed me down every now and then and some points I even have to stop to the sides so as not to get hit and run by the overtaking heavy vehicles. As the Kolenchery thodupuzha road is so good everyone speed in this road making it very difficult to ride. By 8.30 I reached Cochin back had food and went to my room. Took a long bath to wipe out all exhaustion. My back was paining a little from the fourteen hour ride. Had a very quick look at the pics I took. Thanked Mother Nature for keeping me safe for the day and ended the day with a sound sleep.
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