It took me more than one month to Pen down this event due to tight schedule and of course due to continuous events coming back and forth. Finally I had to manage time to write this. It is always fun to traverse the roads and trails which we already covered once. I used to correlate the present condition of places with which I have covered years back. There would be drastic changes for some places which we could not even believe and relate with our old memories. Some places have little changes and some places are intact with absolutely no changes over ages. One such place is Soochimala in Ramakkalmedu. Like a gem that is secretly kept in the lap of Mother Nature Soochimala still remain unaffected. Though Ramakkalmedu town and surroundings have underwent the charm of development Soochimala being unattended by the regular tourists kept its wilderness and virginity to a greater extend.
When I thought of having a trekking back to Soochimala after 3 years I could recollect the Sunny day at Ramakkalmedu, The barbeque session at Rajappara under the well-lit open sky, the comforts I enjoyed under the roof of lovable friendship, the journey to Soochimala on the next morning in search of wild amlas etc came popping back into my mind. Couldn’t believe that it has been 3 long years since I visited Ramakkalmedu. With the eagerness to go back to those pristine lands I planned one more trek to Soochimala with a group of 20 in the chilling Month of December. When the event was announced itself almost 25 members have shown interest and I was expecting 20 members from this list to turn up for the trek. As it was the year end the schedule at work was so very tight and hence I could not spend more time on coordinating with all. Towards the end a group of 5 from Chennai and a group of 6 from Bangalore withdrew due to various reasons and it was just a compact group of 9 including me. “Poor coordination “I told myself just before the start of the trek.
Four people from Cochin including myself started from KSRTC stand by 7.00 am in the Kattapana fast. Though the journey was nice through the lush green hill ranges the bus was very slow that it took almost 5 hours to reach Kattapana. From there we took the bus to Thookkupalam and then an auto to Ramakkalmedu having lunch from Thookkupalam. Ramakkalmedu has changed a lot. Lot of resorts and home stays have popped up like mushrooms. We checked into our hotel and refreshed. Rajesh who is our guide and coordinator was supposed to come by 3.30 and so he did.
We have planned to scale up Ramakkalmedu with him. By 4 pm we were at the base of Ramakkalmedu and we started going up slowly. As it was a week end it was very crowded. It is believed that Lord Rama and his troop rested in these rocks during their journey to Lanka to rescue Sitadevi and hence these rocks are called so. The ascend is not very strenuous but the steep gorges and vertical rocks will definitely arose fear and thrill on you at the same time. The matter of concern over here is, though it I a very dangerous place there is no safety precautions being implemented here. People scale up steep rocks and venture to go to the edges which would at least be a vertical drop of more than 1500 feet. As Ramakkalmedu is in Tamilnadu and the entrance is from Kerala both states don’t pay any attention to this place.
Rajesh being a native knew in and out of this place. His expertise took us to some special places where in normal tourists don’t come often. We spend until dawn there. We could see the Kambam, Theni areas from the top and the plantation areas below in square blocks. Rajesh explained that it mostly consists of coconut, banana and cashew plantations. We descended before it was dark. Taking a detour we reached Rajapparamedu in shortcut. This place gave us a bird’s eye view of Kambam Theni towns in the night light. The towns were well lit and we could see the distant town in the night light from this place. It was starting to get misty and our views faded gradually. We went back to the hotel and after the dinner everyone wanted lie down. The night was really misty. Could not even see closer views.
Next morning. We had to get ready by 8.30 am and everyone was in time. As the team size was compact coordination was not much of an affair. Having breakfast we collected our packed lunch from the hotel and started our second day journey. The trail to Soochimala starts from a place called Bangladesh near to Balanpilla city. It is always a matter of curiosity for me how there is another Bangladesh inside India that too in a remote place like this in Kerala. Not even the residents of this place know how this area was named as Bangladesh. From Bangladesh our guides Subhash and Babu joined us.
Before starting the trek Subhash gave us a precautionary notice that the trail has got completely covered in bushes due to non-usage and we had to cut our way up through the bushes and thorns to reach the top. No one has took this trail for a long time. We were excited to step on places where tourists seldom come. We started our trek downhill through a narrow trail to reach the base of the hill which we were looking at. Our destination was somewhere on the other side of this peak. The narrow trail soon disappeared and Babu and Subhash were already cutting the bushes down for us to forward. Bushes and thorns were all over and were giving us a hard time to move forward. Everyone was getting scratches and bruises all over the body. I sensed trouble. In between we crossed some rivulets. Soon we reached the base of the hill and started climbing up. We need to climb one small hill and descend it to reach the base of Soochimala. There were no trails. We were just moving up with our intuitions. We took a minor break in between. It was getting hot and all were sweating.
From the base of the first hill it took us almost 2 hours to the top of Soojimala through the rocks and grasslands. We reached the rocky patch of Soochimala. From this point it is completely grasslands for some time till we reach the top most portion of Soochimala where we will have to cross small shola forest every now and then. I am not sure whether this can be called as shola forest. Small trees and bushes clustered between the grasslands. Bushes and Bamboos were the most. Subhash said the bamboos were planted some years back as part of some projects but later the project was abandoned and so as the bamboo. As we attained some height we could see the 360 degree view of the area from the top of Soochimala. We could see the Ramakkalmedu and the surrounded area from there as a distant view. The horrible vertical fall of the rock is clearly visible from here. We were walking through grasslands as well as small forest covers. Though from the base Soochimala will seem to as one peak but in fact Soochimala is a range of hills which include Parunthumpara, Seethamala, and some other unnamed hills which are fortunately connected by small ridges. After reaching the top of Soochimala one can travel through the plains of the hills for more than 3 hours and cover all this hills. There are more than 6 viewpoints along this route which will give us fantastic views of the Tamilnadu plains and the adjacent hills.
The grass were of golden color due to early stuck summer. The rays from the sun landed upon the drying grass to give them golden color and we were walking through them as if in a Hollywood movies. The sky was so very clear. Clutters of clouds formed interesting formations in the sky. Margining to the sky was the horizon touching the plains and the hill ranges. The climate was good compared to base. As we attained the height the heat was absorbable and we could comfortably walk through the grass and the woods. We covered the viewpoints one by one.
The grasslands and the lighting made this place a photographers paradise. Steady wind was there which carried away our fatigue. We stopped at all view points and along the walk so many times to get pics. With almost a two and a half hour walk we covered almost all the view points and all the vantage points along the route. By 2 pm we reached a shola cover and a small rivulet running inside that. We deduced this was our best place to have lunch and we opened up our lunch packets. After Lunch we rested till the sun mellowed and started walking by 3.30.
From the lunch point it was a quick down the hill walk to reach the base of the hills at another point from where we can reach the trail where we started. Though quick we had difficult trail less areas and obstacles in between but we managed to reach the base by 4.30 and reached back to hotel by 4,45 having a quick freshen up we could get ourselves ready to catch up the 5,45 bus from Ramakkalmedu to Kattapana. Though the trek was not rated the best in terms of distance and severity it can be rated as one of the best in terms of views and sceneries. All the others were under the same impression and we all started back to our base points taking different buses to different directions hoping to catch with each other in another trek.