Kolukkumalai Trekking… Chasing the clouds to the world’s highest organic Tea Estate
I was at my wits end. Usually at any given point of time I will be having at least two three places in mind which I could visit or in the “to do” list. But this time I was totally clueless and had no idea on what to do on a Sunday. There were some plans to visit Banasura hills which are long pending now. Even the tickets were booked but the bad whether took all my plans to a toss and I had to cancel that. …….. But suddenly I got an invitation on Facebook from Madhu Thankappan (Ente Yatrakal). They were planning for the Kolukkumala trekking. I was in without a second thought.
To say about Kolukkumala, It is around 31 km from Munnar towards the Suryanelli side. The Peak is actually in Tamilnadu but one can get there only through Kerala side via road. There are trails leading to Kolukkumalai from Kurangini side which is a minimum two days venture. Kolukkumalai is considered to be the World’s highest tea estate but I doubt the same is true. The actual elevation of the peak is more than 8000 feet but the reachable point is around 7130 feet. The tea factory on top of Kolukkumala was established in the year 1930 and still the factory is working with orthodox methods of making tea powder which makes Kolukkumala the highest Organic tea plantation. Though there is a motorable road to the top of the peak our plan was something different. We planned to walk up the hill through the tea plantation which is almost 8 km (not exact). Madhu and his friends have made this trip earlier also and the briefing he gave about the trip in his blog was really inviting for me.
Woke up early in the morning and got ready. Madhu picked me up from my place. It is a coincidence that we lived very close to each other. We reached the boarding point in front of the Cochin International stadium and there were already some people waiting who has come for the trekking. There were new people as well as old guys whom I met with in the last Trekking in Idukki Range. Although we were to start by 5 am as some of the team members were late to reach we could make it only by 5.30. The route selected was via Moovattupuzha >Kothamangalam > Adimali > Munnar > Devikulam > Chinnakanal > Suryanelli >Kolukkumala. There is another route through which we can reach without touching Munnar town and that is via Anachal > Bison valley > Chinnakanal. But as the road condition was good via Munnar we opted that.
We had a brief stop for breakfast before reaching Munnar. By 10.30 we reached Suryanelli. Though it was little embarrassing to take 5 hours to cover 150 kms our occasional stop overs justified the drivers.By 11 am we started the trekking form the base of Kolukkumalai which is inside the Harrison Malayalam tea estate. Mr Samudram who is a native of Suryanelli was our guide for the trip. The first part of the trek started through a jeep track and soon we entered into the tea plantations. The initial part was comparatively easier as the ascend was not steep.
After 20 minutes of walk through the picturesque plantations the trail through the plantation become steeper and we were attaining a lot of height. It was like a valley surrounded by three hills on the sides. The entire valley was tea plantation and the greenery was improvising at each step as we attained more height. Instead of taking the curvy jeep track we were taking the short root inside the plantation which was steeper. After crossing each small hill we reached the jeep track and again entered into the green through another trail.
Moving along the jeep track
We had two three small breaks to catch hold of our breath. The climate was comparatively very supporting. It was not a sunny day. As we attained height the temperature dropped to a comfortable level and mist started pouring in. Many a times we could not see the top of the hill which we were trying to climb and in a way it helped us to betray our own mind. After walking for almost one and a half hour we reached some vantage points from where we could see unbelievable vies of the tea estate. The Place was like a green heaven. The plantations stretched as far as our eyes could see. The laborers houses in the middle of the plantation were a spectacular view from the top. I am sure none of the villas or flats people buy for crores and crores of rupees will have such beautiful scenery around. It was evident that every one of us envied them. The rolling hills added additional leverage to the beauty of the scene.
The walk was becoming tougher and steeper. The bushes were so closely packed and we found it very difficult to move through them. Everyone would have got at least half a dozen bruises form the tea plants. Thankfully the Sun god was in rest like the Sunday god rested after creating the world(as per the holly book) and it made our life easier.
A sunny day would have juiced all of us. Unlike walking inside the forest this walk was different and will be very difficult to make in hot Sun. But another fact is that at this altitude it seldom becomes so hot. We had some short breaks for water and little snacks. The Biscuit served as kerosene in the burning fires induced the hunger emotions for all. Madhu kept on Pushing all of us to keep on moving saying that we will have a sumptuous lunch on top of the peak. Every one said it better be there. We reached on top of the Kolukkumala by 2 pm.
There were some bikers already on top of the peak and they were preparing to leave as we reached the top. A huge board was erected there with details of the place mentioned on that. The view from the top was unmatchable. To the right it is the Kolukkumala peak and deep valley of Kurangini hills. Towards the left it is the Meesapulimala range hills. To the front the Mighty Theepada hills stood as a barrier. But I was confused on the positioning of the Meesapulimala. The guide told that the Meesapulimala was behind the Theepada peak. But the positioning of both Meesapulimala and Kolukkumala didn’t convince me on his statements. As I have been to the top of Meesapulimala the geography was little familiar but the directions in which they stood looked confusing. Some google earth research has to be done in this regards to get into some reasonable convincing conclusion.
After a brief photo session there we moved to the place where our lunch was organized. Madhu kept his promise. The lunch was awesome and in some recent past I haven’t had such tasty food. Two reasoning facts for that embarrassing statement can be the 1. I was very much drained out and hungry from the long walk. 2. I am fed up with the nasty food daily taken from the hotels. Rice, Sambar, Fish curry (that too two types), Curd curry, mixed vegetable curry (avial in Malayalam), another vegetable curry (Thoran in Malayalam), and the spicy pickle made my day. I hogged like a hungry animal. After the lunch there was a small break. We were running short of time as we lost some time in the initial stretch and hence we had to hurry.
Everyone went to the tea factory. We need to get a little down to reach the factory. We took Kolukkumala tea there from the retail out post. The tea tasted different and energizing. The tea had a rejuvenating feeling on me. I bought some tea powder of different variety from there. Let my family also taste the tea from the world’s highest organic tea estate. Bought an additional packet for my friend as I promised last time. In between we went to the back side of the factory where we have a mesmerizing view point. The deep valley of the Kolukkumala, Kurangini and adjoining hills was a literal feast to the eyes. We took some pics there and had a group photo near to the retail outlet.
The climb up the hill from the factory was little tough as it was not even an hour after the heavy lunch. But once we reach the top it was all easy and the heart was also feeling happy as it knows that from now onwards it is only descend. The back pack was feeling heavy with the added weight of the purchased items. But as it was a descent it didn’t worry me. We had to take the same route back and at some points we took the jeep track for it was very difficult to move inside the plantation.
The descend was comparatively easy and obviously less time consuming. By 6.15 we reached the base back and our vehicles were ready to roll. Started by 6.30 am and had a small stop at Munnar town for dinner and some small shopping. reached back to Cochin by 11.30 and went to room with heavy legs but a joy filled heart. The walk to and fro have juiced my energy level and the legs were little stubborn. Had a quick look at the pictures taken and went to bed after the shower thanking Mother Nature for keeping us safe for the entire day.
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