If I remember correctly It was long back in 2014 that I paid a visit to Brahmagiri hills. I wonder how I become so late to come back to a place so beautiful. Seems like I was too busy exploring new places but I should go back to some of my favorite places. Ajith was my frequent trekking companion those days. We have done lot of treks together like Brahmagiri, Bison valley, Meesapulimala, and Banasura etc. Unlike last time I planned for a group this time instead of going back alone or with a compact team of two or three. I planned for a maximum of 20 people and as soon as the event was announced almost 18 members registered and the registration was also closed in one week. A group of 8 members from Infopark and then some of the regular members who joins almost all the events. But as days came closer there were lot of attrition in the list. Very poor management from my side I must admit. As I was also busy with very tight schedule at work I couldn’t involve much till the last moment for replacing the attrition. At some point I even thought about postponing the event but later voted myself against that. Finally it was a compact team of 7.
As Brahmagiri trek is a moderate one day trek the event was planned in such a way that everyone reports at Thirunelli on the first day. Camp overnight and trek Brahmagiri the next day and return back on the same day. I started from Cochin along with two others from Tvm and reached Kozhikode. From Kozhikode we took bus to Mananthavadi and from Mananthavadi to Thirunelli by another bus. By 4 pm we reached Thirunelli and met two of our team members who have already reached there by bike from Tvm. Two more was to join and they were running late. By dawn we paid a visit to the Papanasini River and roamed around nearby places. By 7 all the team members reached. After a brief introduction from all we had a very early dinner by 7.30 and returned to our dormitory. Some of us joined to play cards for some time and all went to sleep by 10.
We were supposed to reach Thirunelli forest IB from where the permissions and guide has to be procured. We had our Breakfast near the hotel and took packed lunch form there. By 8 we reached the forest IB and completed the formalities there in no time. A guide was allotted for us and we started the trek. We were the first group to start. We expected some sighting as it was the first group. The trek starts through the jungle cover as a jeep track and it continue to be the same till the watch tower. Though it was a sunny day the initial part of the trek didn’t bother us as the thick covers protected us from the heat of the sun. The route was very wild and was almost the same when I visited some 3 years back. I felt happy as the forest didn’t suffer many changes.
Our guide charged in front and we followed like obedient pupils. The streams on the way were almost at the wedge of drying up. We could see some impossibly beautiful formations in trees and we spotted a number of Malabar giant squirrels which are abundant here. Though we were out of sunlight all of us were sweating profusely. The sun already had its effect on us.
With some breaks in between to catch up with breath we continued the trek and a little passed two hours we reached the watch tower. We took a longer break there. There were lots of changes there. Some cottages are being erected here as part of the ecotourism programs. When I visited last time there was only the watch tower and a small concrete shed was under construction. Electric fencing is made around the cottages for keep animals away.
By the time the sun was at its best. We climbed on top of the watch tower to get a better view of the surroundings. Must admit that climbing on top of that shaking structure is worth doing as the views gets really better and we could get a 360 degree view of the surrounding forest covers and the destination. I remember we spotted some India Gaurs far away during our first visit from the watch tower. The wind was so comforting there on top and we had some photo sessions there.
By then one more group was closing to the watch tower from the base camp. We could hear them howling and making noises as they approached. It is very unpleasant that people still are not aware of the etiquette to be followed inside a reserved forest. We didn’t want to give them a company and hence we climbed down and started the trek before they reach the watch tower. There are two trails from the watch tower. The one which goes to the right is the way to Brahmagiri top and the one which goes to the left side is the way to Pakshipathalam which is strictly banned for any sort of tourism activities. I have also made some valiant efforts in the past to get permission to Pakshipathalam but in vain.
The real trek to Brahmagiri actually starts from this point. Crossing the fence around the cottages we stepeed into the grass land and the elevation also is becoming challenging from this point. Though it is not rated as a tough trek the heat of the sun will give you challenges and turmoil. First stretch is comparatively steeper than the later ones. But First stretch had some shola patches in between where we could take a break when it is too hot to continue. We acquired some decent elevation in 40 minutes and the view to our back side was simply awesome. The might structure of the watch tower seemed like small miniature behind us and the cottages down there like match boxes scattered around the miniature. After climbing the first hills from the watch tower we could barely see the watch tower down there. This is the place where we realize our altitude when compared to our position near the watch tower. The views of the distant hills and forest covers were comparatively clear. They become impeccable as we attained height.
Though initially the peak looked near after climbing each hills it went away and away. It seemed like this is becoming a never ending climb. We couldn’t move fast due to the immense heat and had to stop every now and then. But stopping was also an issue as towards the final stretch there is not even a single tree or shola covers till the end. Finally after lot of toil and soil we reached on top of the peak by 12.30 to 1.00 pm. The view from the top is worth all the toil and soil. We actually step on the Kerala Karnataka border. The rolling hills are a feast to the eyes. It lacked some greenery due to the early summer this time. We could identify the vague positions of some of the hills. The trail from Narimale guest house from Iruppu side was also visible.
After spending time gazing around we had our packed lunch. By that time the second group also reached. A bit more time on top and it was time to start the downhill. Descending is somewhat easier and less time consuming in this terrain as descending elevation is so very less. In less than 30 minutes we could reach closer to the watch tower again but one of our team mate had a muscle pain and hence we had to wait for him to join the crowd.
By 3 pm we reached back to the civilization. All of us badly wanted to take a dip. As Papanasini was almost dry and may not be sufficient enough for all of us we proceeded towards another exit from the forest and reached the banks of Bhavani River. A dip in the ice cold water of the forest stream washed away all the fatigue and tiresome of the entire days trek. By 4.30 we came back to Thirunelli and bid good bye to each other and returned to our base.