Back in my early 20’s I was a frequent visitor of Ponmudi hills ranges in Trivandrum district as I was a native of Tvm. As part of my little expeditions I have visited Mankayam as well as Braimoor also. Those were casual visits to see the water falls and that was the maximum extent to which I would have explored this area. But I remember during one of such visit some body from the VSS has told me that there is a trail leading from Mankayam to Ponmudi. Though it aroused my curiosity I couldn’t try this trail till now.
After a long time, In fact after some years, I planned a two day trekking event in this range along with my Trivandrum Buddy Rahul. It was planned as a two day program. First day to trek From Mankayam to Ayaampara, a core forest area in the vicinity, and Second day from Braimoor to Ponmudi. It was a group of 21 members. All were asked to report at Trivandrum railway station from where our transportation was arranged. I reached Railway station by 8.30 am itself and waited for the team members to join. By 9.30 all were there and we started by 9.30 from Railway station to Mankayam our destination. On the way we stopped for breakfast. By 11 30 we reached the Mankayam Check post and proceeded towards Ponmudi valley resort where our stay was arranged. We had quick refreshment there and took our packed lunch which was kept ready. Unpacked our backpack and left the luggage in respective rooms.
Our first day destination was Ayaampara. We had to trek for 6 km approximately inside dense forest to reach Ayampara falls. Our plan was to reach there, have lunch there, and return back. We started through the tarmac road and it soon turned into muddy track. We were moving through Manjiyam plantations. We had to cross numerous small streams on the way. The track through which we were moving was wide enough for a jeep.
We crossed almost 8 to 10 small streams and finally deviated from the main track and entered into the forest. It was drizzling a bit. For past some days it was really raining across Kerala and that was a worrying thing for us. As we had to cross so many streams and rivulets inside the forest heavy rain would result in increased water levels and would cause hindrances to our trek. We started moving inside the dense forest. There were small rivulets and water falls all over as we expected.
We had to walk along the course of a rivulet for some time. The water was crystal clear and chilling cold. The woods and creepers were so huge that it depicted the ages. It was raining every now and then. The hike was somewhat easy and the climate also was cool. Huge rock boulders were there with peculiar shapes. The roots of the trees popped out of the floor making hilarious patters. Huge Creepers dominated small trees. Surprisingly we didn’t see any other animals or birds on the way except for some centipedes, crawlers, insects, wood spiders and a couple of toads. The silence inside the woods was so comforting. As we were expecting some animal sighting everyone was silent and I really enjoyed walking along that silence. I said myself that I had to come here one more time alone and thoroughly enjoy the magnificent ambience. I preferred to walk bare footed which gave me an intense feel of the wet floor of the jungle.
As we went inside for some 1 hour we could sense the presence of Elephants. A group of Elephants were some where very close to us and we could figure it out with foot prints, smell and all. We had to take utmost care not to have a direct encounter with them. We slowed down our pace. We moved along the same track with them but luckily didn’t come across any. The woods were so dense. Hardly any light peeped in. Most of the time we walked in half darkness and pics had to be taken with flash. Leeches also gave some trouble.
We had walked inside the forest for almost 2.5 hours now and we reached a falls where we could all have a dip. The falls was not so very high but was wide enough for all of us. As soon as we reached there most of the team members wanted to go crazy under the falls. We spent almost 1 hour there enjoying the falls. We had our packed lunch here and as soon as we finished our meal it started raining. We had plans to continue further inside the forest but the climate and circumstances was not so promising. We had all chances of Elephant encounters and cannot predict the rain also. We decided to walk back. We took the same route back and came out of the forest in 1.5 hours.
Our guides suggested going to another view point named Ayiravallipara. It was a rocky area on the edge of a small peak. Walking through the plantation areas and a bit of forest we reached Ayiravallipara in 20 minutes or so. Though it was not a very high place we could get a decent view of the surroundings from there. We got a balcony view of the surrounding forest areas. We had a longer break here and started from there to reach our resort by 4 pm. Our refreshment, Tapioca and chilly chutney were ready waiting for us there. Sumptuous it was after the long walk.
After the short meal we all went to the nearby stream to take a dip. Due to the intermittent rain we had enough water to enjoy the rest of the day. Everyone got into the water and had a good time. Till it was really dark all preferred to stay there and by sun down we went back to the Resort. We had an introduction and ice breaking session before we hit the dining tables. Food was again superb with Chappathees, Chicken curry, Tapioca, Vegetable curry for vegetarians and all.
Some of the team mates decided to go to sleep after the dinner and the rest of them didn’t wanted to call it a day. They opened up packets cards and started playing. Till midnight I accompanied them and went to sleep in my space of accommodation. It was raining all the night and I was worried about the next day’s trek throughout the night. It was raining heavily at night and I knew that tomorrow we will have a tough time.