Muyalpara and Palkulamedu Trekking – Monsoon Special
I have not done any expedition since Last SriLanka trip which happened in May fist week. With the Monsoon already started I also thought that there could be a gap of atleast two months as none of the hill stations or trekking spots can be approachable for the coming two months. Though I have made a plan to go Banasura hills Sijo chettan (guide of Banasura hills) advised me not to go as it would be completely misty and we may not get any view. So it got postponed to October. But this monsoon doesn’t seem so prominent and one of my favorite destinations Idukki which was near to me also (from Cochin) reported a very less precipitation. The month was also very hectic for me in terms of exertion and I felt like going somewhere very badly. Thus came the thought of Palkulamedu in Idukki which is one among the highest in the district as far as height is concerned. Though it is a very prominent place in Idukki very few people opt it as a tourism option because of the fewer access to this place (thankfully). I have heard about this place first in a latest Malayalam movie “Idukki gold “ and after that read about Palkulamedu recently while doing some exploration on internet about Idukki. I called up some earlier acquaintances of Idukki to know more about this place but surprisingly they didn’t know about this place very well. I wondered how come they don’t know this place being a resident of Idukki. Thanks to DLC (Destinations Less Crowded) author Shinu and George Thengumootill’s blogs which spread a little light into my curiosity for Palkulamedu.
Palkulamedu is situated 12 km from Cheruthoni. The trekking starts from Churuli from where one can reach the base of Palkulamedu in any four wheel drive vehicle. After that if we need to reach on top of the hill we just had to walk half an hour uphill. But my plans were different. I was planning to reach Churuli and cover as much as distance in bike uphill and then by foot. So I called up Cheruthoni Vazhathoppu forest office officer Mr XXXXXX (name not revealed for some reason which will be explained later). He has promised me all facilities including arranging a guide to accompany me. Thus on a Sunday morning by six I started my journey from Cochin in my bike. The route selected was Moovattupuzha > Pothanikaadu >Vannapuram > Blathikavala > Venmani > pazhayarikandom> Kanjikuzhi > Chelachuvadu >Karimban > Cheruthoni. As it was little raining it took more than three hours to reach Cheruthoni though it was only 106 kms. I had to stop two three times due to rain. By 9.45 I reached Vazhathoppu forest office and Called Mr XXXXXX. But he came to me with a bad news. He said as it was a Sunday he couldn’t find any one to accompany me. He asked me whether I could postpone the plan to another day. I told if he had informed me earlier I wouldn’t have started from Cochin. After coming all this way I don’t want to turn back. I asked him if I could go alone. If it is possible I would go alone. He right away said “yes” there is no problem in going alone and he told me to go to Churuli and then go up to the base of Palkulamedu in Bike itself. I felt it was so irresponsible an action from the forest official and he decently tried to avoid me somehow.
I started from Cheruthoni back in the way I came and in between Thadiyambaadu and Karimban I saw a board pointing to the left road written Palkulamedu. I stopped and asked the auto rickshaw stand and they confirmed that road also leads to Palkulamedu. The place name is Asoka Junction. But again there were some disappointing news from the auto rickshaw drivers. They unanimously said it is very dangerous to go ato Palkulamedu alone as there has been severe Elephant sighting there for past two weeks and compulsorily told me not to go alone. They said I may be able to get some guide from the next Junction which is Mulakuvalli. They were so concerned about me and they were good people. I went forward thanking them and reached Mulakuvalli after three kms. Mulakuvalli is a small junction with hardly two three shops out of which only one was opened. I went there and asked about chances of getting some guides to go Palkulamedu. I met Saji Chettan there a young chap of 30 may be. He called up two three people and asked about their availability but was in vein. But surprising me to the core Saji chettan himself showed willingness to come with me without any naution. I should admit that the people’s willingness to help is so admiring and everyone seemed so helpful. He even closed his shop and went with me. We went to his home which was in Kokkarakulam two kms from Mulakuvalli towards the Palkulamedu. I went to his home and he introduced me to his family Dad and mom. Knowing that he has closed his shop his dad went to open it and told us to be very careful. His mom gave me water and jackfruit. Lovely people they were all.
Saji chettan changed his dress while I was having the snacks and we were ready to move. First he said that he will show me the Kokkarakulam Palkulamedu water falls which was visible in a long distance from the road. The water falls from the top of the hill down to the base and was a wonderful sight to witness. He said it is very beautiful in rainy seasons and I was sure that he would be 100 percentage true to that statement. His house is actually in the base of Palkulamedu water falls. We walked through some of his own land and through some others and reached the base of water falls in another 10 minutes. Though we couldn’t see the whole of the falls from the base it was a beautiful scene there.
As the rain was not good the falls was lean and we could go very near to the base. The real trekking to Palkulamedu started from this point. It was then only I came to know that we are going via Muyalpara. I have read about this place in George Thengumootill’s blog. But I was not aware that I will be taking this route. Muyalpara was a buffer for me apart from Palkulamedu. There was a small trail for some initial distance and soon we entered the forest area where in we couldn’t see any trails or paths. I still don’t know how Saji chettan found the way or he was also following his intuition on the direction where the peak actually situated. Saji chettan was carrying a round headed knife (koduval in Malayalam) and at some point of time I asked him whether it is really a requirement.
He exclaimed how we can go on to a place like this without some kind of a weapon in hand. .I really don’t know whether he was trying to scare me or he was serious. But the weapon really become useful for us to clear the way enroute as there was no particular trail in our way and we had to cut down some loose shrubs and tall grass to make our way and he did it very well. I asked him to do the damage to the minimum possible level. I didnt wanted even a leaf to be cut down. Saji was an extra ordinary narrator and descriptionist. He described everything on the way including places, rocks, animals insects everything. I literally had to ask little as he explained a lot
In another half hour we were in real deep forest and have continued the ascend. We could either take a break or take a sit as there was nothing on the route other than bushes and large trees. In 1 hour we entered into grass lands which were as tall as four foot and we had to find our way through the grass. As there has been slight rain over a past few days the grass has grown over the trail which he said he knows.
On the way we saw some snakes, wild cock and all but couldn’t even take another look at them as they disappeared into the bushes on the very sight of intruders. Then came the scariest part of the trekking. We were moving through the edge of a steep slippery rock. Luckily there was a fence made for the trekkers. The rock was almost 60 degree inclined and if we slip down from that place we will land up in the valley of Palkulamedu from where we started the trekking. I was so scared to take each step but Saji chettan easily made it with a good old pair of slippers while I was fighting hard to keep my grip on the rock. I would not do it once again.
By this time we had reached the base of Muyalpara. The view from this point was spectacular to the south side. We could see a huge mountain and a valley in “U” shape. The long range of mountains was so beautiful. I asked Saji chettan to take a break at this place but he persuaded to move little bit more and advised that we could take the break on top of the Muyalpara. We were supposed to take a break there.It seemed there was no one else other than us. I loved the silence and loneliness over that height. One should feel the silence in such places then only they will come to know the beauty of it.
It was then I saw a man coming out of a shola forest cover. I wondered what he was doing here alone. Saji chettan knew this man and he called him Binoy. He came to us with a pleasant smile and initiated a chat with Saji. Saji introduced me and he inquired my ware about also.
Saji chettan briefed the whole story of the day from the morning till we met in just two sentences. I asked Saji chettan what he was doing there alone and the answer I got was really surprising and it was one of its kinds which I had never heard. He was looking for his cattle. He domesticates cattle and he had let them gaze in the mountains for months. He will come and have a look at them every three four days. Four almost seven months this happens. When the summer hits the grass and water become scarce in the base of the mountain and at that time they bring the cattle on top of the mountain and leave them here. The cattle gaze over the grass on top of the mountain and the abundant supply of fresh grass and water keep them strong. I couldn’t even believe what I heard. I asked is that safe to leave them alone here and what happens if something happens and all. But he said there is not much of a problem. The cattle will gaze there for six seven months and he will also have a look at them every three four days. Incredible people and incredible life styles. But today from the morning he was searching for the cattle all over the hill but couldn’t find them till the time. He pointed to a hill which was long enough to walk for atleast two hours from where we were standing. He said he has been looking for them from that point.
He was very friendly. When Saji chettan told him that we were heading for Palkulamedu he said he will also join us to go to top and he could also take a look at the cattle from the top where he would get an entire view of all the surrounding hills as Palkulamedu is the vantage point of that area.
Palkulamedu was a range of hills for atleast 1km up the hill and we had to travel all the way to the southern edge to find water stream. The water bottles where already empty but Saji chettan has promised to find some stream down the hill. We took another quick break over the top of upper Muyalpara which was the base of Palkulamedu. The wind was becoming stronger and we had some food there which me and Saji chettan bought. Binoy chettan was least bothered about having anything but took some bites for the sake of doing it.
We three started walking to the southern base of Palkulamedu and entered into a shola cover after walking inside the shola cover for 10 minutes Saji chettan found water. It was a small stream of fresh water coming down from the top of Palkulamedu. We collected water in both the bottles and should say it was chilling cold. As soon as the bottles were full moisture started covering the bottle like it was just taken out of the freezer. I felt the real taste of natural water.
We are used to chlorinated water but this thing was different. It tasted the real life giving water of Western Ghats. After collecting water we came out of the shola and started climbing the peak through the northern edge. Being a veteran and familiar to the place this time Binoy chettan took the charge of showing the way. He said we could take the short way to move up the hill as it would take time if we ascent through the roundabout way. But he also said it would be a steep ascend if we take the short cut. After the break and having water I felt a little energetic and I said ok for taking the short cut. For them it was more or less the same on what route we select but for me it was a tedious task. I had to stop every 50 mtrs to catch up by breath as it was almost a 60 degree inclined steep.
But within no time we reached the top of the Medu and walked to the northern edge which was the highest portion of the entire range. We had to cover a ridge of hills to reach the northern end. After walking for almost 20 minutes on the ridge we reached the highest point of Palkulamedu.
Before getting a view I had to take a sit for catching my breath but soon after some long breaths I was good to get up. The oxygen level was so high on top of the peak that I could do another hill again if required. The view from the top was super to all the sides. The peak was completely covered in lush green carpet of fresh grass. Saji chettan said we could even see Cochin town from top of Palkulamedu on very clear days in summer. He even mentioned they have seen ships moving in Cochin from there. I don’t know whether it was true but if it was then I would die to see that and I wouldn’t mind coming here again in the summer. Saji chettan told me about one of their camping on the peak last April with their friend when they camped there overnight making food and all. I wish I could do a night camping on top of Palkulamedu some time. I took photos on all directions. Binoy chettan also said the sunset is very beautiful from here in summers.
After taking photos and roaming around for some time we decided to get back. By this time mist started coming from nowhere and there were symptoms of drizzling. Me and Saji chettan had to get down to the side from where we started the ascend but Binoy chettan had another plans. He wanted to take a look in the shola cover on the other side of the valley of the peak where he suspected his cattle to be. Saying good bye to Binoy chettan we started climbing down the hill through another shortcut which was also very steep. In seconds the whole of Palkulamedu got engulfed in thick mist. While climbing down we looked upwards from where we came down but we couldn’t see any bit of it. It was good that we have not taken any long breaks in between the ascend or else we would have missed all the view.
Though it was an acquaintance for only two hours of less I will always remember Binoy chettan as a peculiar character. We had to get down fast as we needed to reach back before it rains. On the way down Saji chettan has promised to show me the so called Palkulam pond which has never dried up even in worst of the worst summers. The Hill got the name Palkulamedu because of this little pond. It would be a disgrace to return back without seeing the pond which is the highlight of the place after coming all this way. From the base of the Palkulamedu peak we need to lose a little altitude to reach the pond. The pond is nothing special but a small pool of water. The water flowing down from the Palkulamedu peak is accumulating on a small pool in the rock and then spills downwards. It is from this pond the water flowing down making it the Kokkarakulam Palkulamedu water falls.
Taking few pictures we started moving down through a shola cover. Then to a grass land and then to a rocky edge. After 45 minutes we reached a rocky edge and wanted to take a break. Saji said we will rest on the rock. One side of the rock was shola cover and the other side was a vertical rock I had no idea on the elevation. The view from the edge was so beautiful. We could see some villages/Town, down a curvy tarred road, some churches etc. We rested there for 15 minutes and the wind over there was awesome. I dint wanted to start again and if I would have stayed there for 10 more minutes I would have slept there itself.
The ascending was through a different way through the other side of the peak. We covered some more grass land and shola cover for another 20 minutes and we were taking a short cut instead of taking the normal route which may take longer. Soon we reached private properties of cashew plantations. In another 10 minutes we reached Kokkarakulam the base of the peak. As soon as we reached the civilizations it started raining. It started as a drizzling and we managed as Saji had carried an umbrella. ( I didn’t know he was carrying it in the polythene cover he was carrying till the time.)We managed to reach the point where I have kept my bike and it was time to say good bye to Saji chettan. Though he has no intentions to take any money from me and was reluctant to take I paid him well for making the day possible for me. I couldn’t not even think about going all the way to Palkulamedu top without a proper guidance. Saying good bye to Saji chettan I started from Kokkarakulam by 3.20pm. It was still drizzling and I stopped after two km before reaching Asoka junction because of rain. But there was no hope the rain would stop so I decided to keep on moving. I took the jacket and ensured that my bag won’t get wet and camera, phone and all will be safe. The rain become more and more harsh. After entering into the SH high way from Thadiyambaadu it was heavy raining and all I could do was to keep on moving as there is nothing on the road other than woods. Those who have traveled through this road would know that both the side of the road is dense forest. Though I have seen some bus stand and all I didn’t wanted to stop as if I stop and lose time I may have to drive in the night. Till the place we take diversion to Moolamattom the rain continued and I was all drenched. I was wet like I have ever before. From Moolamattom diversion point the rain subsided and the climate was clear. Reaching Thodupuzha it was clear like a summer evening. When stopping for a break 6 km after Thodupuzha I was still dripping water and people looked at me in surprise and asked from where I was coming and where is it raining. I removed my shoe which was already flooded my foot was completely immersed in rain water and I drained the water out of shoe. Removed my socks and put another one. (Though it is of no use as the shoe was fully wet.) Without wasting much time I started again
I wanted to reach back before it gets more late. The last time when I was coming back from Meghamala I had to cover more than 80 km in pitch dark which was a tedious task for me. I reached back to Cochin by 7.00pm. I was shivering when I switched on the fan. After having a quick look at the pics taken I took food. I was feeling very tired and sleepy. Thanked Mother Nature for keeping me safe for the day. Surrendered to sleep.
Name : Palkulamedu
Location : Idukki Kerala
Topography : Hilly terrain
Height : 1192 m, 3911 foot.
Nearest town : Cheruthoni Idukki -12 km, Kattapana-40km, Adimali 27 km,
Best time to Visit : All around the year except Monsoon time (Jun-Sep). It may be misty in monsoon and you may not get a good view
Things to do : Trekking, Animal sighting, Photography, Viewing sunset, Night camping on the peak (strictly accompanied by locals-choose at your own discretions)
Nearest city : Cochin – 110km, Kottayam- 105km
Nearest attractions : Munnar – 40km, Ramakkalmedu-51km, Vagamon-80km, Parunthumpara – 89km, Ilaveezhapoonchira – 67 km, Idukki Dam-19 km, Idukki wild life sanctuary – 74 km
How to reach : Idukki is well connected with Cochin and Kottayam the nearest cities from there one can get KSRTC buses to Idukki. From Idukki need to take Auto/ taxi (even buses are available time not available) to reach Cheruthoni. From Cheruthoni One can reach Churuli via bus/auto/taxi. From Churuli it is advisable to take a four wheel drive jeep. Jeep goes till the base of Palkulamedu. From the base one need to walk up the hill to reach the top.
The Route described in the above descripton is a non-conventional route and those who want to try this route are highly recommended to get a guide(choose at your own discretions) either from Asoka junction/Mulakuvalli/Kokkarakulam. As the route is through very dense forest area one cannot find the correct way as there is no particular trail on this route.
Nearest ATM : Union Bank-Karimban, Federal bank-Karimban, SIB- Cheruthoni
Nearest Hospitals : Nirmala Hospital-Kambilikandam,CSI Hospital-Chelachuvadu, Morning star Medical mission- Adimali, AGM clinic- Karimban
Nearest Stays : Cheruthoni, Near Arch DAM, Karimban, Munnar
Contact Details : Not published for open use. Please contact author.
For arranging similar treks please contact Rakesh @ 9745112411
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