Neyyar Kombai Meenmutti trekking
I have been looking at different options in Trivandrum for a two day event lately. There has been many inquiries from South Kerala for trekking and most of them wanted me to do an event in South Kerala as they could not travel to Central or North Kerala where most of the recent events where planned. Ponmudi being the only hill station in Trivandrum my options where petite. Hence I started looking on to the other options like Peppara and Neyyar Wild life Sanctuaries. There were some considerable options but all of them where day treks or very short treks. Kathirumudi and all are good treks in terms of views and all but it’s hard to find a camping location nearby. Finally with some serious amount of research and utilizing all the possible contacts I decided to do an event in Neyyar Wild life sanctuary. I had to negotiate hard to get three of their offbeat packages combined into one 2 day event and finally the Neyyar Kombai Meenmutti trek become possible which came along with a beautiful Boat Ride through the Neyyar Dam, Stay in Kombai Island and trekking to the mighty and pristine Meenmutti falls on the second day . Usually they give this as three different programs but were customized for us as one single 2 day program.
Neyyar Wild life sanctuary is spread across an area of 128 square km in the Southern tip of Western Ghats around the Neyyar Dam. Though the Sanctuary was officially declared in 1958 wild life conservation activities started in 1985 only. The sanctuary holds a variety of mammals including tiger, leopard, sloth bear, elephant, sambar deer, barking deer, bonnet macaque, Nilgiri langur, 176 species of birds, 30 species of reptiles, 17 species of amphibians and 40 species of fishes are reported from the sanctuary. A lion safari park was also set up years back but is not in good condition now with two dying lions for the sake of the name. Neyyar dam is notorious for the presence of Crocodiles in the dam and there has been reported crocodile attack incidents in the past in the banks of the river. There is a Crocodile park also there in the Dam. The Neyyar along with its main tributaries Mullayar and Kallar Originated from the Mighty Agasthyakoodam which is the highest point in Southern Kerala. (Some info has been gathered from google sources for data completion. Feel free to correct if you find any misrepresentation of facts.)
The event was planned for a Saturday and Sunday. As food was not an inclusion if any of their packages, I had to gather things for the whole event well in advance. My Trivandrum Buddy Rahul was my close companion for the entire trek, Organizing and Coordinating the links making this trek possible. We started the purchase by Friday itself and started from my home early in the morning. On the way I picked up Rahul and we had some final round purchases like chicken vegetable and all. Procuring all the required Items we reached Neyyar by around 10.00 am.
Reporting Time was mentioned as 11.00 am and people have already started reporting. We were waiting at the information centre for all to come and. One set of people who reported early was send to the camping area in Kombai with food items and all so that they can start making our lunch. All reported by 12.30 and we started from the boating area to reach the Kombai Island around 50 minutes. On the way we could get the beautiful view of the Agasthyakoodam range of hills. There are very little places from where would could get a close view of the entire Agasthyakoodam. Kathirumudi is another place like this.
Kombai is a land mass inside the reservoir covered fully by reservoir water except for a small tail which is attached to the main land. From the boarding point of the boat its hardly 100 mtrs to the building. While we reach, there the first batch was already waiting for us. Our care takers were busy making our lunch. The building is a concrete shed with a huge hall, 2 bed rooms , Kitchen , and a work area. The place is sufficient for 30-40 people. We unpacked our luggage and settled down for some time. Some wanted to take a dip in the dam and one of our guides accompanied them and closely watched as Crocodiles are still there.
Some other roamed around in the Island itself birding and picturing the beautiful flora around. By 2.30 pm our lunch was ready and everyone was hungry enough not to wait for any more time. After the lunch it was time for a short break and we had plans to take a short walk around the tail of the Island into the woods. It was drizzling and some of the team members could get a ride on an open boat which was owned by a tribal settlement nearby. After the ride we all went for a short walk into the woods. The walk was short we stopped after 30 minutes furthering and stopped. As it was raining the light was diminishing and our guides were not so confident enough to take us forward as they smelled elephants nearby and considering the safety we returned back to base camp. Before returning we had our introduction section there.
The night was not very cold but was pleasant with moderate climate. By 7.00 pm we arranged a small campfire near the river bank and gathered around. Our Dinner was getting ready and we had a good time around the camp fire cracking jokes and playing some games. Usually we organizers give surprises to the trekkers but this time there was a surprise planned for us by the trekkers. Our trek mates have arranged for a cake cutting for me and Rahul who had our birthdays on the previous day. It was a good moment to celebrate the birthday inside the forest like that. Followed by the celebrations we had our dinner and people started settling down for the night. Most of them were coming from distant places and the long travel made them tired. The ladies were given a room and boys were to sleep on mats and beds in the hall. While most of them preferred to stay inside I preferred to stay out in my tent. It was not very comfortable inside the tent as it was hot. I kept my tent zib open so that I can get some air to mitigate the warmth. Late in the night I remember it becoming cold enough to comfortable sleep. Another day in the woods.
By 7.30 – 8.00 am almost everyone was ready and we had our breakfast. Though the food was not really great it was the maximum our care takers could manage. As tribal their way if cooking is different from ours. Sometimes we can’t really appreciate the taste and combinations. The night food was also not very commendable. One thing I always don’t compromise for my events is food. I have always tried my level best to provide best of the best food. I felt sad as the food was not as good as we expected. After the breakfast we started our trek to the Meenmutti falls which is 8 km from the camp site. We took the trail behind the campsite through the tail of the island which leads to Meenmutti falls. As it was raining for last few days in the afternoon the trail was wet. The woods were dark, canopies green and the trail was moist with thick undergrowth. The trail was clear and hence we don’t have to get confused at any point of time. We had 3 guides accompanying us to Meenmutti. We were carrying our groceries and food items so that they can cook it at Meenmutti camp site. We had enough and more time to enjoy in the falls and explore the adjacent areas as it would take minimum 2.5 hours for our lunch to get ready.
The trail started through thick covers in the beginning but later came to some openings and we crossed 2 tribal settlements also on the trail. The forest was really thick and ages old. There were huge trees and enormous creepers depicting the age of the place. We crossed some stream in between. The trail was not very frequently used by trekkers and hence there were many obstacles.
We had our first short break at Kombai para. There were small ascends and descends on the route. But none of them were strenuous and as the climate was favorable our pace was good enough for our schedule. We reached a big rock cave on the way. A huge rock was balancing on top of another one leaving a spacious cave and in between. It was scary to know from the guides that two tribal families used to live inside this cave earlier. Recently for security reasons and animal encounter issues they were shifted into houses. I couldn’t even imagine people leaving in such places in the core forest. Salutes to those who had the courage to stay there.
As we moved inside the trail was getting wilder. There were small ups and downs but comparatively the trail was flat. We had to cover almost 8 km from Kombai camp shed to Meenmutti through thick forest terrain and we were supposed to reach. In between there was a portion wherein we had to walk plain through the banks of the Neyyar River. It was deep inside the jungle and the stream was wide and wild. The water was shallow.
In the midday there was no light coming inside the canopies into the stream. The trees from both the sides created an umbrella canopy over the stream which made the place so very cozy. From there it was only a 45 minutes’ walk to the mighty Meenmutti falls. We covered 8 km through the thick forest and reached Meenmutti camp by 11.30 am. From the camp shed we have to walk for 500 mtrs inside to reach the falls. The falls in amazing and picturesque. The falls has a wide mouth and a side trail. As soon as we reached the falls people started getting into the water. There is a square pool in the base of the falls which is not very deep. There are some points which are deep but most of the other areas are safe for all. We all were enjoying while our care takers where making foo for us. The fun didn’t end there.
The best part of the trek was yet to happen. There was a trail leading to the top of the falls where normally tourists are not taken. We could go there and that was one of an experience. The views and scenarios where mind blowing the Neyyar riven was wide and wild in this place. The mighty river origination g from the Agasthyakoodam was flowing in full swing through the wild. Rock formations were awesome. As the water level was low we could traverse through the banks of the river enjoying each and every bit of it. It was great to see the river coming out of the wild and taking its course down the path.
There were many pools and we got into the best we could find. All had a very good time there and soon it was lunch time. Everyone was feeling hungry. We went back into out Camp site and the food was ready waiting for us. Nice vegetarian meals with lot of dishes. Hunger catalyzed the taste of the food and within no time the lunch was done. By the time we completed the lunch it started raining. Though it was good to see it raining inside the forest it could be dangerous while trekking. The drizzling didn’t get strong but it neither subsided. We decided to start anyway. The return walk also took some three hours and we were back to camp by 5.00 pm.
One group started first in the speed boat as they had early buses and trains to catch. Every one bid good bye to our care takers and got into the Boat. It would take another 45 minutes to reach back to Neyyar. The view of Agasthyakoodam nd adjacent hills were clearer than when we came this way. We had a good look at the full range and by 5.45 we reached back to the boating starting place. It was time to shake hands with all and good to know that all enjoyed the trek. I have got good feedback about the event from most of them. The event was different from normal events with boating, views of the reservoir, Stay at Kombai Island and full of water bodies all around. I wish I can take my family here for a one day stay and a small trek to Meenmutti falls. It would be good enough an experience for them. May be I have to plan this again.
Picture courtesy – Fellow trekkers also…
For arranging similar treks please contact Rakesh @ 9745112411