Chokramudi Trekking – The lonely giant.
I have been travelling in Idukki district frequently for the last three years atleast. The exclamatory part of the travel in the district of Idukki is that every time when I go to Idukki I will come back with minimum 2 or 3 new places added to my “to do list”. This time it was Rohan (Idukki trekking, Kolukkumala Trekking) who lighted the fire inside me to step on top of Chokramudi. Chokramudi stands as a unique piece of Elevated Mountain at an altitude of almost 7200 feet (not very exact as there are seldom any authentic descriptions on this peak in internet.) Unlike the other hill ranges in Idukki it stood separately and is not attached to any other hills or ranges of hills. I remember I wondered in the past trips to Idukki seeing this peak majestically standing there so many a times. But honestly speaking I never had any intentions or ascend Chokramudi.
Though you may not have heard of this peak earlier it is sure that you would have seen this peak at least once if you have ever been to Munnar. When going to Munnar from Adimaly side just before reaching Munnar you can see two majestic hills standing on the right side of the road in a distance in the midst of vast tea estates. But the actual base of the peak is in the gap road and the trekking starts from gap road itself. From Munnar it is almost 16 km towards Madurai SH gap road and right from the curve from where the actual gap road begins the trekking can be started. It was in my last trek to Kolukkumala with Madhu, Rohan mentioned about this peak and from that time itself I was searching for more details. At last I found Monichan’s number after a series of phone calls to old acquaintances and non- acquaintances of Munnar. I was told that monichan is one person who can help me ascending Chokramudi. I managed to get Monichan’s number. But it was very dis heartening to know that he is very busy with guests for the time being as it was a busy season in Munnar. But he was very good to me and gave the contact details of Sreeraj who was his friend and together they were starting an adventure tourism venture in the name of Astoria adventures. I contacted Sreeraj and soon the relationship flourished into a friendship and I was just waiting for an opportunity to meet them.
Thus on a Saturday evening I started for Munnar with a warm invitation from Sreeraj and Astoria. I reached Munnar by 9 pm and met Sreeraj on the way. We went to their new camp site at Pothamedu. The facilities arranged by Sreeraj were commendable. Luckily there were no guests for them that week end and I could stay in their Bamboo house in the night. The climate was very chilling and the night was well spend with a camp fire in the open area of their camp site. There was a family who takes care of the food and other amenities for the guests. The food prepared was sumptuous and I enjoyed the night to the core. Monichan, Santhosh and Suni also joined the camp. It was a very nice company and they made the day splendid with lot of crackling jokes and shared experiences of their daily life. We went to bed little late as they had a lot of adventure experience to share and I got a lot of valuable information and some ideas about some new routes from them. Our plan was to ascend Chokramudi in the morning. As Monichan was having guests he couldn’t join us. Santhosh and Suni also had their work scheduled for the day and hence left early in the morning
It was a comparatively cold night but it was warm inside the Bamboo house and I could catch a good sleep. I woke up early in the morning to the chirrups of numerous varieties of birds. I could see some species which I haven’t seen since then. Thought of roaming around for some time but as we had to start for the trek we got ready and started for Chokramudi. Having breakfast from the nearest hotel we straight away entered the Gap road. It is almost 16 Km from Munnar town into the gap road from where we were supposed to start the trekking. Needless to mention that the sceneries enroute gap road was very inviting and I couldn’t stop myself stopping for some pictures in between. As Sreeraj was very familiar with the areas he pointed the best places where I could have breathtaking views of the unending tea estates and hill ranges. In 15 – 20 minutes we reached the base point of trekking. Eventually I learned from Sreeraj that from this point the actual Gap road begins.
Parking the bike on the road side we entered into a private property through which we can reach the base of Chokramudi and start the trekking. The initial gradient was not that steep but consisted of small rocks and mud path. But soon the gradients become tougher and it was turning out to be steeper at each step. There was a clear trail leading through the hill side covered with grass. The view were good from the beginning itself. The view to the back side was literally superb.
We could see a vast portion of the gap road as we attained some heights. The curling road was very beautiful to look at from the heights we were at. There were numerous varieties of flowers every were and Sreeraj was very knowledgeable about each species. He named every species with their characteristics and I wondered how he knows all this things. He was equivalent to a researcher in this part of the world and seems to know every bit of the terrain. I envied him . Our climb was very slow. We have dedicated the whole day for Chokramudi and hence we decided to take it really slow capturing everything on the way. There were many varieties of butterflies flying all around and I could get some pics.
Some flowers captured enroute…
The trekking to Chokramudi can be divided into four parts. The initial stretch is more than an average steep climb with rocky, muddy and grassy terrain. After that the gradient completely changes into a complete rocky terrain which is steeper and a bit dangerous also. The rocky terrain would take us to the Cross erected on the second stage of the trekking. It is till this point usually tourists come and leave. From the cross we need to enter a small shola cover which is very dense and need to be taken care of due to frequent disturbance of animals including Elephant, Guar, Snakes barking deer and so on. The rest of the terrain is the actual hard core trek wherein we will find it very difficult to show respect to out lungs and limbs. Thankfully the shola cover is very small and we could cover the same in 10 minutes if we walk without breaks. Though the cover is very small it was one of the densest shola I have covered in recent past. After the Shola forest we will emerge into a grass land which will soon turn into a cruel hard core climbing experience possessing threat to all our senses and physique.
After reaching the second stage we had a little break. I was not feeling so tired as the climate was very pleasant and a little misty. The view to the back side was getting better at each intervals and the peak was getting covered in mist which was a wonderful view from our elevated view. We had to stop over for some time as there was thick mist covering the shola forest and rest of the stretch. It would be a bad idea to enter into the shola forest when it is misty.
Anything can happen over a mist covered shola cover and besides that the fact that we may end up in shaking hands with and elephant or guar made up our mind to wait for some time giving the mist little time to play its role. We dare not play hide and seek in the shola forest in that mist. The wind was strong and the mist was spreading all over the rest of the stretch. I could see the top of Chokramudi in between and the very sight drained out the energy which was left with me. I could easily establish that the last stretch of the climb is going to be a cruel one.
We waited for almost 20 minutes but there were no indications of mist getting cleared and finally we decided to do the rest of the part in the same condition. Grabbing some strength we entered into the shola forest. It was very dense and our views were blocked by the thick mist. Luckily the shola stretch was very small and we emerged out of the other side of the shola in another 10 minutes.
The very sight of the last stretch was truly discouraging. It was literally steep. Nothing else. In the last stretch we saw some variety of floras. There was some Rhododendron trees flowered. The ascend was very slow due to steepness and I was a little tired also. For some time the mist got cleared but didn’t last for long. In another 20 minutes we reached the top of the peak but were unable to have any views due to thick mist. It was really chilling and I was feeling very hungry. The breakfast we had has been completely consumed. Though the trek can be completed in two and a half hours with an average speed we took more than three hours as we explored all the nuke and corners of the peak.
After half an hour we decided to get back as there was no chance for the mist to get subsided and it was becoming very cold. The decent was also difficult due to the steepness. But comparatively easier to the ascend. It was almost 2 pm by then. Both of us felt really hungry. We explored the other part of the peak while descending. Clouds floating beneath our eyes and vast area of grass land and shola covers were a feast to eyes. As Chokramudi stood alone the surrounding places were so beneath us. We completed the top stretch and the shola in 30 minutes and had a break near the cross. In another 30 minutes we could complete the whole descend. By 3.30 we reached the normal grounds and headed back to our camp site. The road was so good and scenic. Chokramudi seemed majestic from the gap road and the actual shape and size of the peak was visible only from a distance.
Back at the camp I was so tired and so was Sreeraj. I was planning to return back on the same day but as it was already very late Sreeraj insisted to start in the early morning and so did I. We had an early dinner that night and went to sleep early. Woke up early in the morning to roam around birding. Had some good catch. I could see red headed bee eater, Bull bull, and Wood pecker.
By 7 am I started for Cochin bidding good bye to Sreeraj. That would a just a beginning of a wonderful acquaintance I am very sure about it. We have already discussed and finalized some other adventures. Hoping to materialize the same sooner. Thanks to Sreeraj Monichan and Astoria adventures for making Chokramudi possible for me and for their wonderful hosting.
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