Nelliyampathy Pothupara trekking
It was four years back that I last visited Nelliyampathy. That time it was a one day trip in bike from Cochin to drive away a Sunday. We started early in the morning from Cochin in my bike and reached before 9 am. We rode through the regular routes covering the regular viewpoints like Seetharkundu, Kesavanpara, Green valley farmhouse and some other local sight-seeing. After years when I planned for a trek in Nelliyampathy those days are rushing back into my mind. But this time I have planned it different. This time I don’t want to go to the regular places and plans were to explore the other side of Nelliyampathy which is less known to the outer world. The plans were to trek to Pothupara a serene unexplored place in Nelliyampathy which falls under the forest reserves. We had to take prior approvals from Forest department for this trek and the same was managed by our contacts in Nelliyampathy. It was a team of 23 members from all over Kerala, Tamilnadu and Karnataka.
Our plans were to reach Nelliyampathy by Saturday noon have some local sigh seeing, camp overnight and trek to Pothupara on Sunday morning, spend time till evening and return back to Palakkad. All were informed to gather at Palakkad Railway station. We four started from Cochin Saturday early morning by KSRTC bus and reached Palakkad by 09.30 hours. It was raining from the morning itself and all the way from Cochin to Palakkad we witnessed descent downpour and I had my doubts on our plans getting completely materialized in this climate. As planned our vehicle was waiting there to pick us up and we went to Railway station for pick up others. Almost everyone has already reached there by then and within no time we were cruising through the country sides of Palakkad district covering paddy fields plantations and lot of greeneries. Two more Guys were to join us but as their train would reach by 12 pm only they were planning to reach Nelliyampathy on their own.
Our first break was at Pothundi Dam which is 42 km from Palakkad city and 8 km from Nenmara which is the nearest town. Pothundi dam is one of the biggest of its kind in India. It is one of the biggest earth dams in India and the prominent feature of this dam being its core wall which is made up of jaggery and quick lime. We went on top of the dam for getting the view. There was considerable amount of water level in the dam and it made the whole scenario more eye catching. Sunlight getting differed in the water and the reservoir was covered by thick jungle on the edges which made Pothundi really wild. As it was raining bit heavily for some days we could see some water falls over the rocks which was really beautiful. The silence was broken by the hushing sound of the windblown though the valleys. I could see lot of photo sessions here and I was glad that the climate was comparatively clear here unaware of the fact that something else was awaiting us on the way. From Pothundi Dam it is 17 km to Nelliyampathy town. We started ascending the ghat road from Pothundi in some time.
The road from Pothundi to Nelliyampathy is really wild. The thick canopy stood on top of us like a barrier to sunlight. Though the rain had subsided long back the trees still rained as a continuation. As we attained some height one side of the road was fully rock and other side was deep valley. The road condition was good. We could see the distant view of the dam from some turns. When we almost reached the top we could see the dam like a pot of water down below. Sooner we had to deal with mist covering the entire road. It was so thick that we couldn’t even see 10 feel to the front. Both the view points before reaching Nelliyampathy town was engulfed in mist and we couldn’t get any view from there. We could see plantations of orange, lemon, passion fruit and banana before we reach town. Our stay was arranged in Pulayampara dormitory which was inside a tea plantation.
By the time we reached there it was completely misty and our dormitory and church associated with that was looking beautiful covered in mist. All the surroundings were completely covered in tea plantation as long as our eyes could see. We planned to stay in tents inside the forest first but we later dropped the plan as we learned that there are animal encounter problems in that area during night. We had our Lunch served there itself and shortly after that rain started. The downpour was so heavy that we had to rethink on our plans for the off road driving that we planned already. But at the same time we cannot disappoint the team as well. Hence we formulated some other plans and decided to do an off road drive to another route which is safer. The two guys who were supposed to reach by noon could not make it to Nelliyampathy town as there was a road block on the way from Nenmara to Nelliyampathy due to a fallen tree on the road because of the heavy wind. They had to return and stay back at Nenmara and return back tomorrow morning to join the trek.
As we had to get special permission for driving through the second route we could start only by 3.30 pm. We had to go to Green land resort from where the off road track begins. We had our tea there and by the time we finished our jeeps for the off road drive was ready waiting for us. We started in three jeeps. The initial road was comparatively easier but sooner turned into a heavy off road track. To make things worse rain added adventures into it. At some points our jeep slipped and swinged dangerously onto the sides. All of us except the driver had fears in mind but tried hard to hold on to the vehicle. After an excruciating ride of 30 minutes we started climbing rocks which was terrific again. We were climbing rocks as slop as 50 degree. The jeeps moved ahead like a wild animal and the drivers enjoying the ride like a master in the ring with a tamed wild animal. Rest of us terrified to the core. Most of the time only three or two wheels of the jeep touched the floor and after a few minutes of hiking we reached a vantage point. It was a plain rock on top of a small hillock. The view from the top is simply awesome. Almost every part of Palakkad was visible. We could see some small dams as well. There were lot of opportunities for selfies and pics and all have started utilizing the same. I could also manage to get some clicks of mine.
We spent around half an hour there and by then clouds started globing around the sky giving us a caution that it is time to leave. As we walked close to the jeeps it rained and the rain strengthened. We were on the way and the descend was equally scary and adventurous. By 7.00 pm we reached back to our base camp. Our dinner was planned by 8 pm and we had one hour to chill out and to have some introduction and ice breaking sessions. Sharp at 8 pm we had our vehicle ready at the gates and we started. We had to travel some 10 km to reach the hotel where our food was arranged and every one enjoyed the meal is what I could understand from the feed backs. After the lunch we had planned a night drive. It was through a very lonely rod where no much traffic was there. First through the plantations and then through semi forest areas. We could see animals also enroute. It was still raining and we could not see anything most of the places. The drive lasted for almost 2.5 hours and by 11.30 we reached back to our base camp and every one was almost at the edge of slipping into sleep. Some of the team members opted to sleep inside the dormitory while the others pitched tents. It was raining throughout the night and the night was more or less sleepless due to the sound of the rain hitting aluminium sheets of the roof.
I woke up by 7 in the morning and it was still raining. The place where we had to start the trek was little bit away from the base camp. The plan was to have breakfast on the way and take away the packed lunch for the trek. We all started by 8.00 am and on the way we stopped at the forest office. The officer in charge briefed about the place and gave necessary information regarding the trek. Guides and the forest official joined us from office.
We reached the starting place which is inside an old plantation turned forest area and parked our vehicle there. We took 20 minutes to bag pack and started by 10 am for the trek. Initially the walk was through plantations and then turned into a jeep trail inside the forest. As soon as we started the jeep trail it started raining heavily. We had no other go than to continue. All were having rain coats hence we could manage. The jeep trail was infested with leeches and everyone has already started finding intruders crawling all over them. Soon we deviated into the thick forest which was much nastier in terms of leeches. Heavy rain added spices to that. The entire floor was laid off with fallen leaves and soil was very loose due to the rain. Most of the places our toes were completely inside the mud and water. When the hiking started we found it very difficult to step us due to the loose soil. We had to support on trees and creepers to keep moving.
We trekked for almost 2 hours and we came out of the forest into an open area which was a semi grass land and rocky patches. It was then we finally realized the climate. We were already in good altitude and the wind was blowing at a very high speed. Rain had no intentions to stop or subside. It was very difficult to proceed but we somehow managed to cover the grassland. After the grassland we reached a completely rocky patch which was the beginning of Pothupara , our destination. Strong wind carried mist and in no time the entire area got covered in a gulp of mist and the visibility was very low. We could hardly anything. The wind was unbearable and everyone started shivering. The cameras and mobiles were buried deep under the bags and were of no use in this climate. Some people tried hard to capture some moments in mobiles and ended up in unsuccessful attempts. Both the sides were deep crevasses and we all wanted to cover the rocky area as soon as possible. Rain was intermittently getting harder and wind maintained the same pace throughout.
We crossed the rocky session in half an hour and it was the beginning of grasslands. As we attained more altitude the rain and wind become unbearable. As it was an area were animals used to frequent and our visibility being so very low our guides walked in front of us ensuring we don’t bump into any of them. We almost reached the top of the peak. Suddenly we realized that the climate is changing. Rain subsided to a level and wind also kept a low profile turning into a cool breeze. Mist also gave way to some views of the valleys. All of us were relaxed and happy just to realize that it was just the silence before the storm. Following the silence was a huge storm and heavy downpour. We literally could not even move. We gathered into a group and stopped moving. There was nothing much we could do than to remain silent and take the rain as it comes. Rain drops were like bullets. Our plans were to proceed further exploring the other areas of the peak but in this climate it was out of question. There are some steep rocks and dangerous climbs in that stretch which cannot be taken in this climate. Considering the safety we dropped the plan and wanted to return back. Our guide went to check on a new route to get down in an easy way and came back with comforting news that the route is still usable.
We lined up into the new route and started getting down fast. The descend was comparatively easier except from the elevated risk of more number of leeches. They unleashed the attack and we protested. Most of the defending attempts were in vain. We had to cross some streams on the way. The flow of the streams were increasing in a rapid speed and luckily we could cover all of them before the level of water was high. We reached back to the civilization by 3 pm and by 3,30 we reached back to the starting point. We had our food there changed off the clothes and by 4.30 pm all were ready to go back. We started bidding good bye to our guides and others. Till the time we covered the ghat road session from Nelliyampathy to Pothundi I was tensed. Anytime there could be a road block due to tree fall or land slide which will screw up all our plans. Luckily there were no mishaps and all were dropped back to the railway station. That was one heavy rain trek after a long time. Though the last Palkulamedu trek was in a bit of rain this was really heavy and every one enjoyed it to the core. This trip Would be there in mind for a long time atleast till the next time I get drenched so very nice sometime.