Kolukkumala – Korangini – Top station Trekking – Munnar
Introduction to Places: Top station and Kolukkumala in Munnar doesn’t need any introduction in the circle of Travelers. Though for the sake of understanding of a larger group of readers I am debriefing about the places. Top station is the main tourist attraction place in Munnar which is approximately 40 km away from Munnar. It is a part of Kannan Devan Hills of Tamilnadu In the District of Theni. Though a part of Tamilnadu the access to the place is via Kerala only. Top station was the historic transshipment location of Munnar and Kannan Devan tea from to Tamilnadu via rope way from Top station to Kottagudi, Bodinaykannur and then taken to ports and railways in Tamilnadu for greater distribution and Export. Top station ranges are famous for Kurinji flowers and the Kurinjimala sanctuary which is mainly established for the protection of Neelakurinji plants is nearby. The view of Kottagudi valleys and the Western Ghats hill ranges from Top station are a feast to eyes and the cloud movements of Top station are very much famous among travelers. Kolukkumala is considered as the highest organic tea plantation in Asia lying at an altitude of 7130 feet. It lies in the Bodinaykannur Village in Theni district though the access is via Suryanelli in Kerala. Tea lovers across the globe desire Kolukkumala tea for its organic preparation and special flavor and Freshness. Korangini is a remote village at the foothills of Top station and Kolukkumala. Access to this place is via Bodinaykannur in Theni district. Main occupation of natives is farming and cultivation. The hills are characterized by frequently-changing weather, low-hanging clouds, chilly atmosphere and strong winds, and are home to a wide range of flora and fauna
Since the last Agasthyarkoodam trek I wanted to give it a pause to unwind my mind and body from frequent travels and treks. I wanted to sit back relaxed with some books, movies and music. Besides I suffered a small ligament problem on my left knee after the last trek as well. But suddenly the idea of conducting a Monsoon Trek bounced back to me. Some of my friends also were asking to conduct one and it was so firm a request that I couldn’t deny. I was looking for some good option, Agumbe, Thadiantemol from Pythalamala Nelliyampathy, Thenmala, Vellarimala, Wagamon etc were considered. I was checking the feasibility of all locations and it was then Ratheesh of NEST (Nature Education Society of Travancore) came with an idea which sounded promising and apt for me. He was planning for a two day trek in Munnar, Kolukkumala – Korangini – Top station to be precise. So analyzing the climate it was apt as per my plans also. We planned for a 15-20 member team but it grew and grew to reach a 32 member team by the end and so many people were ready to join again. But we had to stop by 32 as there were constrains to arrange for accommodation and food above that.
Thus the trek was planned for a week end towards the end of June when it was drizzling cat and dogs in Kerala. Though I had got more than 25 inquiries to join the trek I had to limit the numbers to 15 and Ratheesh also gathered 17 odd people. In my team there were 7 people from Kerala, 4 from Bangalore and 4 from Chennai. Chennai and Bangalore team was supposed to join at Munnar town from where the Pick-up was arranged to Kolukkumala. I along with Cochin team started on Friday evening after the office hours In KSRTC bus. We reached Munnar late night and checked in to the Dormitory which was already arranged. It was raining in Munnar town by the time we reached there. It was very cold and everyone was chilled and thrilled thinking about the next day’s Event. We had to wait for Manu who was driving from Alappey to Munnar as he couldn’t join us from Cochin. By 11.30 all were there and stretched our legs into the chilling night.
Day one :-
Next morning we woke up past 6 and were busy concluding the morning ablutions. We checked out by 8 and came to Munnar town. After breakfast we were all set to move to Kolukkumala. Bangalore bus was late to reach Munnar and hence we had to wait for some time. By 10 we started from Munnar and reached Suryanelli in about 45 minutes time. People who reached Kolukkumala earlier had already left and I had to wait for Bangalore Guys to Join. Had the privilege of having a tea from the Harrison Malayalam tea estate canteen. It was very windy there. People said it has been like this for atleast 4 days now. It was Drizzling also.
By 11.45 we started the humpy dumpy drive from Suryanelli to Kolukkumala. The 10 Km stretch would take atleast 1 hour as the road is just a concept. The jeep had to jump from rocks to rocks and the Driver was striving to keep the wheels on ground. It believes it would be easier to handle an untamed horse than driving a jeep in this terrain. By 12.40 we reached the Kolukkumala tea factory after stopping for a short break in Kolukkumala view point.
We met the other trekkers there near the Kolukkumala tea factory.All had the auspicious Kolukkumala tea. After a short brief about the terrain, Do’s and Don’ts we started the trek before it was 1 pm. Starting the trek at 1 pm was something very disturbing for me but was realizing the hustles of organizing and coordinating a trek. But as it is a 12 km descend from Kolukkumala to Korangini village I was confident enough to complete the stretch before sun down.
We took the deviation near the tea factory retail outlet and entered the trail to Korangini. It was very windy and we had to strive hard to keep up with the blow. At some points we had to kneel down not to get sweeped off our feet. The trail began like a small deciduous cover with lose soil and Pine growth at intervals. Evidently it was not a regular used trail.
At some points we could get a peekaboo view of the Korangini village and the greater trail to top station which we would be taking tomorrow. The very sight of the trail was inspiring. The zigzag trail in the green carpet was an eye smoothener but the ascending elevation unplugged the fact that tomorrow is going to be a tough day.
After covering the shola cover we entered into the grass lands and started getting impeccable views of the landscape. There were long selfie and group photo sessions. The climate was at its best possible levels. Though we were expecting some rain and dramatic cloud movements (as it is in Kolukkumala and top station all the time) we were treated with something else. Crystal clear jaw dropping views of the mountains and landscapes and wind that could sweep you off your feet and land somewhere else. The view from the grass lands bettered and bettered every time. The strong wind was taking away valuables of the team like umbrellas, Back pack covers, sun glasses, caps and alike. I have experienced such heavy wind only in Ramakkalmedu.
Again we entered into some small shola covers but briskly came out to the grass lands. We were moving along the sides of huge mountains covered in green carpets of grasslands. Though it was sunny it was not having any effect on us due to the cool climate and gushing wind. We had our lunch break under the lonely tree which is supposed to be the only big tree in the whole grass land. It can be seen from the Top station view point also.
At some points the speed of the wind was dangerously increasing and we had to lose some altitude fast to escape from the wind. After losing some altitude we could see the Korangini village right in front of us in the below valley and the Tamilnadu plains. It was a beautiful view. As some of the team members were suffering from muscle cramp I had to stay back with them. Others moved fast and we trailed behind. By 5 pm we reached Korangini village and there was 2 more Km to reach the camping site which was the Tamilnadu forest department anti-poaching outpost where our food and camping where organized. By 6 pm we were all at the outpost. We had three rooms and tents for camping. Ladies and the senior veterans were given rooms and we were planning to end up the day in the tents. Surprising us the tents were new and had a particular way of pitching which we couldn’t identify in the beginning. All of us tried and finally managed to pitch-in two big tents and two small ones which could accommodate all of the rest. Had an ok type dinner with Rice, Sambar, Resam, Cabbage, Pappad and pickle. More than what we could expect in such a place.
The night was long. The climate was not that chilling as expected. Towards the midnight it was somewhat ok. We spend chitchatting till it was midnight and somehow fall asleep creating enough trouble to the fellow tents.
Everyone was awake by 7 and we had plans to start the trek by 8 which I knew is not going to happen anyway. We went to the nearby stream to complete the morning rituals. After coming back we dismantled the tents into their previous condition and handed over to the officials. Had our breakfast and started the trek by 10 am. The initial trail started like a mud jeep road. We could see some distant hills towards the left side. Even our guides couldn’t name them.
We could also see the trail down the hill from the top of Kolukkumala to Korangini which we took yesterday. Looking at trail from the valley it was scarier and I exclaimed myself that “Yes I did that”. We didn’t touch middle station instead we took the longer but scenic route. After crossing the first small town we entered into the grass lands.
We could see mist hovering on top of the adjacent hills probably Kolukkumala would have been completely covered in Mist by now. We were so lucky yesterday to have such a beautiful clear climate and excellent views. Though I would have visited Kolukkumala quite a number of times I haven’t ever got a view this much clear. So personally also I had the advantage of capturing the beauty of the landscapes in camera as well as in the inner self. Besides, cameras only capture half the beauty compared to naked eyes.
The landscape was so wide and vivid that we need not frame a shot. Just point and shoot it would be a good frame. There were so many view points and vantage points in this route. Adventure junkies of the team had scary selfies and adventurous shots. I tried my level best to control such deeds for safety. The zigzag trail up the hill through the grass land was enticing. As I was doing the sweep for the day I was moving behind every one and I could see people moving through the zigzag trail like ants. The elevation of the peak was terrifying to look at but the trail was reasonable plain. There was a soft drizzling which smoothened the trek up the hill. The climate was pretty much clear other than the soft drizzle.
By 2 pm we had lunch. After a short break we started again. There were some steep ascends after that and I was getting tired. I knew that till the end of the trek this would be like this and was prepared mentally. The heavy back pack was a matter of concern for me. Stopping every now and then for sweeping the rest of the group was a tedious job as the flow of the walk was disrupted. After a point I could see the top of the peak and was confident enough that the team would make it and I can have a view of them even if I moved forward. Gained some momentum and moved ahead of the rest of the people informing then not to lag behind.
The final stretch was the cruelest climb of all and our lungs and limbs were tested and certified. By 4.15 we reached the top point and moved towards the road to have some refreshments. We waited there for the rest of the team to come. Within some time all arrived and by that time we hogged in some bread and omlets. When all were there we dispersed to our own directions after bidding good bye to all.
I along with the team from Cochin took a jeep from there and reached Munnar in 1 hour. It was raining heavily from top station to Munnar and by the time we reached Munnar town rain subsided. We straight away went to the hotel where we stayed two days before to take some excess baggage. We got the 5.20 bus to Aluwa. By 9.30 I reached Aluwa and went home.
Though I have done some treks in Top station this one was very special when it comes to the landscapes and scenic views. The views from Kolukkumala were simple superb and the rolling green carpet of grass lands would remain in the mind for quite some time. Happy to have such a great company of all and thank Mother Nature for keeping all of safe throughout the entire trek. Now when I am thinking back nothing I wanted to do but to go back and have those wonderful views once again.
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