Though Trivandrum is my home town I would say I haven’t explored it to the best possible levels. Besides the fact that I have been to Ponmudi “N” number of times. Being the only hill station of Trivandrum I used to frequently visit Ponmudi alone and with friends also. I would have been there more than a hundred times since my schooldays. Whenever I visited, this place has given me new experiences. I have seen different faces of Ponmudi hills like when it was engulfed in Mist, Heavy rain, hot summers, windy seasons and what not. Some of the hills nearby have always fascinated me with their thick vegetation and views. Once along with Syam I have even ventured into the thickets of the eastern slop to explore the Sita theertham but ended up confused inside a shola cover to find the right trail ambushed by leeches. We had to retreat from that effort without much protest as we were not allowed to get into that area. But the urge to see what was left there came back popped out of my inner self like a failed mission.
Months later when I got introduced to Rahul of Tree club I didn’t think at first that it is going to be worth an acquaintance and I am going to roll over these hills. Tree club is a non-profit organization who supports the same hearted people who wish to do treks, Nature walks, Birding, Nature camps, Nature preservation studies and Research. They are based out of Trivandrum and they conduct activities all over South India. When I got an invite to join their new Trek to Bison valley In Ponmudi Hill ranges my joy had no bounds. I have been longing to get such a company in the South side of the state to support my activities carried along in this part of the world. So to start with the tune I agreed to join the team and of course my frequent trekking companion Ajith just squeezed in. Thus on a Saturday morning we were all set to hit the new destination and Ajith picked me up in his bike from my place sharp at 6 am. It would be roughly 60 km from our place to Ponmudi (SH 45). The route selected was like Peroorkada> Nedumangadu > Vithura > Kallar > Ponmudi. It was a bit drizzling @ night but was pretty clear till the time we reached Nedumangadu. At Nedumangadu we had a bit of trouble from rain. Stopped for a while and continued as soon as the Nature’s cry was over. We had the second rain stop near Vithura where we were supposed to meet up with Rahul and to have our brain food for the day. We stopped at Vithura Malabar hotel and had sumptuous Appam and curry. We took our lunch also packed from here as was the plan. Within much time Rahul and Ratheesh arrived and by the time they took breakfast and parcel for the other team members who are yet to join we filled up the regular affairs.
Weather was clear by then and we started to hit the most interesting part of the entire drive ie from Vithura to Ponmudi. After Kallar the forest range starts and we hit the road inside the thickets. We were damn familiar with the roads as we were frequent visitors. I and Ajith were the first batch to cruise over this route among the team while Rahul waited for some more time for others to join. With it’s raining over a period of days for now the vegetation was fresh and it was lush green everywhere. Weather was cool with gentle breeze all over and mist showing up at some higher bends. It is 22 hair pin curves to reach the top station of Ponmudi. As Ajith was driving I could take a good look at the avian civilization. May be because it was raining, there were less number of inhabitants over the thickets (usually quiet a number of birds and monkeys would show up). In half an hour we reached the check post near the guest house from where pass need to be obtained for visitors to reach top station. As we have already informed we just had to wait for the others to join. In 10 minutes others also joined and Rahul managed to complete the formalities at the office quite fast. We drove to the top and parked our bike at the parking lot. It was not a surprise for me to see lot of people there early this morning. In earlier days (means before years) there won’t be many visitors here as there were no amenities provided here. Late in the last two years the cafeteria and amenities centre came in and families started coming here to enjoy a day out.
We had a brief introduction among ourselves in the guard’s rooms at the cafeteria. We were a team of 10 members including the guide and two facilitators Rahul and Ratheesh. It was a nice thing to meet up with 7 like minded people from different parts of the state joining hands and hearts to enjoy one of the most precious gift of Nature, the hills, rolling grass lands and the rich shola forests. By 9 we started our trek by entering into the shola forest of the eastern slope. Within no time we hit the leech infested area of the Shola forest and they were crawling all over. Though I was very familiar with these creatures during the past 10 years some of the team members feared and panicked. They stopped to pluck out one or two eventually allowing half a dozen of them to catch hold on to their legs. In 15 minutes we crossed the shola forest and reached an open area and it was the beginning of the grass lands.
We continued further up the hill and soon we reached the plain grounds over the hill top. We reached Sita theertham in 10 minutes. Sita theertham is nothing but a small rivulet originating from the sides of a rock. This is believed to have never dried up. Local believe that Sita Devi once satiated her thirst from this rivulet. There is a small deity near to Sita theertham. Once in a year local people come here to make their prayers and offerings to Sita Devi. Sita theertham is scripted on the rock here. We had a brief stop here after the break I along with Rahul walked in front keeping a distance from others so as not to miss any animal sighting. Our chances will be more when we move in small batches. Indian gaur and elephants and very often sighted here. Our guide pointed to a hill top at a distance and said that it is there we had to reach. The top of the peak was half immersed in mist and the very sight induced the enthusiasm of the trek. It was such a beautiful view. To reach the peak we had to climb two more small hills.
The gradient was fair enough for a leisure walk without any steep ascends or descends. Climate was chilling. Mist and the occasional drizzling took away all the tiredness of the walk. We had to walk through some rocky path and grass lands. At some places the grass was almost 10 foot tall and we had to make our own way through them. Everyone got their share of scratches and bruises. While walking through the grass Rahul told one of his previous encounters with a full grown mail gaur inside this grass. My heart stopped for a while. It was bad timing from his side I must say . We were walking In from and we almost reached the top of the second hill. As we approached the top four female Indian Gaur sprinted from the other slop of the hill right in from of us. We were so close to them may be just 50mtrs apart. We may have got some close looks but the wind was favorable to them. They swifted through the steep side of the hill that we couldn’t even have a second look at them. The abundance of them gave this valley this name. There was only one small hill to cross now to reach the top of the peak. That was easy a walk and when we reached the peak the view was impeccable. The weather was clear and we could get a long view of the valley. The other side of the hill slop had a balcony kind of a structure, an art of Mother Nature’s creation which enabled us to get a complete 180 degree view of the valley.
The right side of the peak was the Sankhili forest and left side of the peak was the Varayattumotta peak. When the mist got cleared we got a clear view of the peak. Trekking is not allowed to varayattumotta due to the presence of Nilgiri Tahr and extinct species of goat. Varayattumotta with its unique geological features is the only place in this range where we can sight this species. Steep gorges, Vertical rock patches and grass lands constitute to their habitat. But unlike the Nilgiri Tahr of Rajamala in Munnar this guys are Extreamely shy and fearful that they don’t give a sighting that easy. The fact about this species that there are only a few hundred of them left in the world signifies that they should be protected to the core and left undisturbed in their natural habitat to multiply. We spent quality time there appreciating the beautiful view of the valley and Varayattumotta. By 12.30 we had our packed lunch and planned to return. Myself and Rahul had other plans to check on that herd of gaur sprinted towards the slop. We left the group following that trail and promised other to join at the top of the peak after a short while other slowly returned back.
In 20 minutes we spotted the herd resting in a plain grass land. But this time the number was more. There at least 12 of them including infants. We moved closer to get a smart view but wind was towards them and they sensed us closing around and they sprinted into the shola covers leaving us some faded pics. Never disappointed and happy with what we could atleast see we started back to reach the group at the top. We moved slowly once we reached them enjoying all the beauty and viewpoints.
Back at the Sita Theertham we had our Group photo and again get into the final shola cover before reaching the cafeteria back. We reached cafeteria in 15 minutes for a quick freshen up. It was completely misty by then. Without wasting much time we bid good bye to the team and left Ponmudi before the rain gods came down with fury. Though I had made it to Ponmudi more than 100 times this was also different with a trek to the place I have been longing for and some more opportunities like Varayattumotta, Pallikoodammotta and Maruthuvamala etc. hoping to come back soon with another plan….
For arranging trekking similar treks in Bisonvalley please contact Rakesh @ 9745112411