Pappani – Kalthotti River trekking Day One
Some treks are like that. It wont happen when we want it to happen. It will play hide and seek with us provoking and exciting us. As if Mother Nature tell us “ It’s not time for you to be there with me yet”. But later she will shower all the blessings and will open up the heavenly experience to us over binding all obstacles. The latest Pappani Kalthotti River trekking was one such trek which was postponed quite a number of times before it came out as a reality to me. It has been a wish for a long time now to do a river trekking. Escaping into the jungle of lateral woods and a voyage throughout the river course taking each dip of the foot in the ice cold rivulet as a treasure which nowhere could be found. After the last Nakkayam trek in 2014 I couldn’t try such a one. Though Nakkayam trek was not a complete river trek by all means I enjoyed the voyage through the Bhoothathankettu River into the woods and finally reaching Nakkayam falls in the deepest possible place. I had done my homework and research to find a suitable location and finally stumbled upon the trek route from Urumbikkara to Kalthotti through the Pappani River and the world of new possibilities was introduced to me by beloved Manoj Sir and Planet Green. Planet green is a Conservative Organization which originated as a friends group and later developed into a conservative non-profit organization which conducts and supervises adventure trekking, Birding, Nature camps, night camping and all. At the very first designing of the trek I have decided to take a very compact team with competitive abilities. Though I had to compromise on the second parameter I believe the first one was met with all its literal meaning. So after so much of filtration and dropouts finally it was a compact 10 member team including me and I was also happy with that.
Rajeev bhai, Safarudeen, Jayadev Menon, Syam and Kiran from Trivandrum, Rohit the youngest chap from Palakkad on his first trekking venture, Sumitra and Dinesh from Bangalore, Mahesh from Mangalore constituted the team. As discussed and decided everyone reported at Yenthayar by 9 am and without much delays we reached Manoj sirs home. After a cup of hot tea, some local snacks and a quick freshen up time for long traveled ones, we were on the jeep on the way to Urumbikkara from where our trek actually starts. We were in two jeeps and in no time we were out of the tarmac road and entered into the muddy, humpy dumpy off road route enroute Urumbikkara. After almost one and a half hour of horrible off roading we reached Urumbikkara Old palace. I was so disappointed to see that the old palace was getting refurbished. I still remember the old proud devastated shape of this building during my first trek to Irumulachikallu. I deliberately not posting the new pics if the bungalow. I was heart breaking to see the archeological piece getting a new face with fashioned new bees. We had our lunch distributed here and all the excess baggage was kept in the jeep which will come eventually to our camping site by the time we reach there. Now the rest of the distance had to be covered on foot and all of us geared up to catch up with Pappani River.
I was little worried on the rain clouds which covered the horizon. Though it was a clear day I could smell trouble as the top of the peak was still covered in mist and horizon was painted with dark rain clouds. We started our trek from this point without wasting any more time. The trek began as a stone paved trail and later entered into cardamom plantation and finally we entered into thick forest in about 40 minutes. As it was raining some two days back the floor of the trail was wet and we were welcomed by hundreds of creepy leeches which crawled on to us uninterruptedly and started feeding on us. Nothing much we could do but to ignore them and proceed. After all we intruded their territory without permission. Within no time we were inside thick jungle. And the canopy was so thick over our head that it prevented sunlight to peep in. It was mere dark at mid noon and the lovely chillness of the wilderness spread all around us. A cave on the way caught hold of our attention and we took a small deviation to check it out. It was big enough to contain all of us and it was cool inside. We had our shortest break here and started again. The unique flora, mushrooms, creepers, insects, etc gave a new experience for all of us
In about one hour inside the woods we emerged into a grass land. The grass was as tall as 10 feet and we made our way inside them. Scratches and bruises all over the exposed body parts were the result of that expedition. As it become sunny by then profuse sweating added chilly flavor into the bruises. It was a strenuous job to cut our way inside the heavy grass growth. We had some clear open areas in between and we could see some hillocks way ahead on the horizon. Some of these hills could be our destination for the day.
As we proceeded forward we could hear the roar of flowing water. It was evident that we were nearing Pappani river. The rest of the course is through the river. Pappani river become majestic only during rainy seasons. Pappani being the main constituent river of Manimala river is a small flow during non-rainy months and hence we selected this route for our river trekking venture. The rest of the journey is through the veins of Pappani. Some of the team members realized that this is a river trekking only then. We will be covering a number of small and big water falls during this course and hence this would be bit more dangerous from this point as there would be tricky places, slipper rocks, high rock boulders, deep ponds etc. All were given the brief and we started the trek. As Manoj and Shino were leading I had little things to worry about the safety. They know this place in and out like their fingerprints.
The course of the river was becoming beautiful at each point. They were irresistible not to stop for pictures. Though no one got into the water the team kept on washing face and dipped their foot in chilling water which washed away the tiresome. The difficulty level was also increasing with the beauty of the place. Small rocks were replaced by huge boulders. The ascend level was also getting tougher. We moved as a group helping each other crossing the river multiple times at difficult points, balancing on slippery rocks, jumping over boulders and supporting in over growths.
I took the lesson from Manoj sir that there is no better grip in slippery rocks than bare foot. Following me some others also walked bare footed afterwards. The canopy over head to an extend covered us from hot sun. The horizon was still covered in rain clouds which worried me as it would be very difficult to pitch tents and camp in grass land during rain. Besides the route which we are taking now would be very treacherous if it rains. Hence we had in mind an alternate route through grass lands over the banks of Pappani in case it rains but fortunately the rain gods didn’t show up. At some points we had to use ropes to get on top of vertical boulders. Everyone’s presence of mind and confidence kept us going and Shino and Manoj used to motivate the team every now and then. Though of different age limits the bonding inside the team positively helped all adventures.
By 1 pm we stopped near to a falls in an open area to have lunch. Everyone was craving for food after the strenuous stretch and sumptuous lunch mitigated the fatigue to an extent. Though the very same question of exhaustion “How far it is from here??” was visible in everyone’s faces. But to make things tough the difficulty level was becoming more and more severe at each step. The wilderness was increasing. Huge trees, age old creepers, bridges made of roots etc were sights of wonder for us. Very often we came to dead ends but Shino would find a way forward. The only hope was the fact that if we follow the river we will reach the top. The river was becoming narrower and that evidently constituted to the fact that we are nearing to its origin. The last part of the trek was really strenuous. We were moving through parts wherein no one frequents or barely visits.
Finally after so much of toil and soil we reached the top of Irumulachikallu near to our camping area by 4.30 pm. The place was a vast grass land with rocky patches in between and some shola forest near to the edges. By the time our jeep carrying tents and other baggage also reached and we pitched the tents randomly in the green carpet of nature. There was a jeep trail which divided the vast grassland into two. Mist was ready to engulf the whole area. We couldn’t see much as mist covered the whole area in no time. The sun was nowhere to be seen. The wind which escorted the mist gave a chilling feeling for all of us. We hurried and made some hot black tea and tried resisting the chillness but in vain. It sooner becomes dark. As soon as the sun down we prepared the camp fire and gathered around that. It was chit chat time and small introductions were there from all of us. There was a sumptuous dinner waiting for us inside the jeep and it was over in no time and we ate like beasts.
To our surprise the mist gave way to a clear sky and we had a wonderful view of the star filled sky. Crores and crores of stars gave us the best experience of our life. It was a joy to lay down on the rock gazing at the sky. Some of the brainy people in the team spotted some star constellations and other tried in vain to identify which is which. The night went on with adventure stories of team mates. At last by midnight every one crawled back inside the tents and slipped into sleep. Tomorrow we have to trek to Kalthotti.