Soojimala Trekking – Ramakkalmedu Hill Range.
It was after a very long time that I got such a long week end. Four days leave in a row and there were plenty of opportunities. There were a bunch of plans in front of me like Kumaraparvatha (Which was cancelled due to the Political issues in Karnataka due to arrest and related issues of Tamilnadu CM). After that I planned for Thadiyantemol trek from Kannur Paithal mala (which was cancelled due to heavy rain in Kannur). Then Syam came up with an idea to go for a road trip from Trivandrum to Wayanad (which was cancelled as he had some inevitable official programme). All the plans got screwed up and I was depressed to have such a good long week end being spend doing nothing.
It was going to be a boring, extended week end. I started adjusting myself with that fact. It was a very casual call I gave to one of friend Rajesh Ravi whom I acquainted on my last visit to Ramakkalmedu. But that call turned out to be a game changing one. It was very welcoming to get an invitation from Rajesh to Ramakkalmedu. They were planning to go for a trekking to Soojimala which was the second highest of the Ramakkalmedu range hills (Anakallu being the highest.) They have planned the trekking for plucking wild Aamla which was very abundant in Soojimala. They usually go for plucking aamla in season wherein they used to get in kilos.
They were planning to go early in the morning on 2nd October and so I decided to start from Cochin on 1st evening. After office I started from Cochin in bike (139 km from Cochin to Ramakkalmedu). The route selected was Moovattupuzha > Pothanikaadu> Vannapuram > Kanjikuzhi > Chelachuvadu> Thopramkudi > Nedumkandam > Thookupalam > Ramakkalmedu. Though it was a route I have taken in some of my previous Trip to Meghamala and Trip to Palkulamedu ) it was very difficult to ride in the night and it was drizzling often. Reaching Moovattupuzha I had to stop due to heavy rain and I lost almost 1 hour there which was precious time with day light for me. I even thought of discontinuing the trip such was the harsh rain and I didn’t feel like I can make it upto Ramakkalmedu if it is raining like this. I called up Rajesh to update the status and he said there is no rain there and the climate is very clear. He inquired to some of his friends in Thodupuzha also regarding the climate and found it clear there also. As soon as the rain subsided to a level I could manage I started and took no breaks in between to avoid time loss. I don’t prefer long bike rides in the night unless and until I had to. At last by 9.30 pm I reached Rajesh’ s house in Ramakkalmedu where I was planning to stay. Felt very tired from the long nonstop drive. Had a sumptuous dinner and after dinner Rajesh proposed to go to Ramakkalmedu top from where the view of the Kumbum town was supposed to be marvelous. I also had some expectation in mind from his description of the view. It was almost three years back I visited Ramakkalmedu. That was a three day trip to Munnar and Ramakkalmedu covering lot of places. Like top station, Rajamala, Mattupetty dam, Kundala Dam, Lock heart gap, pothamedu view point, Adimaly spice centre, Kattapana, Ramakkalmedu etc.
What welcomed me on top of Ramakkalmedu was something I could not believe. The Kumbum town was completely lighted far beneath and that was a wonderful feast for our eyes. Cameras failed to capture the beauty as it was very far but our eyes could capture the beauty. We spend some time there and Rajesh said there is another place from where we can see a closer view of the valley. We came back to Balanpilla city. We need to take a deviation from Balanpilla city to go to the place Rajesh referred. We waited for Rajesh’ s uncle to come who was supposed to join us for tomorrows trekking.
It was a place called Bangladesh colony. From Bangladesh colony we need to go 15 minutes inside the forest climbing a small hill. On top of the hill there is a rock called Kumbumpara (called so as the whole Kumbum town can be seen from this rock) where we can sit and relax. The view was closer from this point and we could see the Kumbum town right beneath our eyes. I wanted to spend the whole night there looking into the valley but it was a place where wild animals including elephants roam around in the night and we returned back to Rajesh’ s house by 10.30. Rajesh’ s uncle and I were in one room and he was a man of knowledge. Being an ex-service man he had vast knowledge on geography and so many other fields. We discussed on many things and kept awake till 1.30. At last forcefully went to sleep to get ready early in the morning.
I woke up early in the morning and went to Ramakkalmedu for sunrise view. It was a very misty morning and hopes were less getting a good view. As expected the view didn’t come up to our expectations and we went back home. After breakfast we started for the Soojimala trekking. The trekking started from a place near to Bangladesh colony. We were a four member team. Me, Rajesh, Dileep uncle and Subash. Subash led the trail as he was more experienced in this part of the forest. We have taken packed lunch from a hotel in Balanpilla city as we were expected to reach back after noon only.
Initially there were trails but soon after getting to the valley of the first hill the trail disappeared and we had to find our own ways thought dense shrubs and grass lands. We climbed the first hill and on top of the hills there were many aamla trees and they started plucking it. I roamed around taking photos and helping them out. The next was the Soojimala and the very view of the Soojimala for the first time itself gave me a shock. It seemed huge and the fact that there are no leading trails bothered and thrilled me.
After getting on top of the first hill we had a view of Soojimala. We had to get down again to the valley to ascend Soojimala. The climb was literally strenuous as we had to find way to the top. Some point we had to climb steep rock boulders and walk through steep edges of the hill which was appalling. Got lot of bruises from the thorny bushes all around. It was not a severe concern for rest of the team but I had a burning effect on the scratches as I was profusely sweating. It was very difficult to manage to carry the camera in hand and bag on the shoulders. When crawling in the rock boulders I had to keep the camera inside the shoulder bag for safety. Finally we reached the top of Soojimala by 12.pm
As they were plucking aamla on the way it took more time than a full stretch trekking would have took. But it was a blessing in disguise for me as I could take rest whenever they stopped for plucking aamla. They were very careful in plucking aamla and didn’t even hurt one tree breaking their branched or something. They said if we break branches we are losing chance for getting more fruits in the next season. Intelligent and humble thought.
The view from the top of the peak was gorgeous. The vast plains of Kumbum valley with a margin of huge hill range on the right side. We could see the distant agricultural fields of Tamilnadu. The hill ranges remained as a barrier between Kerala and Tamilnadu and I felt there cannot be any other suitable border than this enormous hills. The beauty of Kumbanmettu and Soojimala range of hill is the vast plain grounds lined up by huge margins of hills. The hill along the side deepens the depth of filed and it adds a special effect on photos. I wanted to stay back till the sunset. I was sure that the sunset will be a beauty from this side knowing the fact that it will be an almost equal to impossible task to stay back on top of the hill till dusk.
We roamed around on top of the peak in search of more aamla trees. The quantity of aamla was very less compared to the previous year . So we had to look around for more trees deep inside the forest for getting decent quantity. Though it was more than worth a trekking for me for them the quantity of aamla decided the benefit of the trip. By 1 pm we stopped for Lunch. By this time the water we took had exhausted and there was no water sources on the way. We had just half a liter of water to complete the day and four of us had to manage with that. Though we came across some streams the flow was very less and the water was not suitable to drinking.
After lunch we started getting down Soojimala though the other side of the peak which was wilder and we had to crawl down on our knees some times to avoid horny bushes. Subash led in front clearing the way but I had a very tough time clearing though the thick bushes with camera and shoulder bag. Covering the shola forest we reached the other steep side of the hill and it was clear grass land. We took rest on top of a rock called Changalayadiyan para (it is believed by locals that during night time we can hear the sound of metal chains moving through the rocks) for some time and I noticed numerous varieties of birds are flying around in the area. From this rock we could see the Kurangupara and Anakkaramettu hills on the right opposite side. It was Rajesh who found a kind of centipede crawling over the rock where we were sitting. The creature had excellent color combination and was definitely poisonous. We let it pass on its way and took pictures not disturbing it. Even they have not yet seen this thing. Later on I found from internet that it is “The Indian giant Tiger Centipede “.
After 15 minuted we started turning back. After getting down Soojimala we had another hill to climb and cover which was turning out to be a very difficult task. There was no trail for some time and we had to cross thick bushes and forest cover for some time. After that a trail appeared and the walks become easier. Every now and then some horny plan caught hold on my dress and I had to remove the same bare handed.
By 4 pm we reached back at Rajesh’s house. Straight away went for a quick bath and rested for some time. Roamed around a while with Rajesh in the town and we bought some chicken and all for night stay inside the forest. We have planned to have a camp fire with food (grilled chicken). There were some more people who accompanied us to the top of the rock where we had our campfire and food. To my surprise they have made all arrangements pakka. One more night looking into the valley of Kumbum and the food preparation was excellent. I could never forget the night spent with them on top of that hill. Thanks to Rajesh Ravi, Subhash, Monai, Saju, Rajesh, Pappu, Dileep uncle, Satheesan chettan, Kuttappan and Babu chettan and all for making the day splendid for me.
Late night we were back at home and got refreshed. Though this was not the highest this trekking was one of the most dangerous one I had till now. There were lot of places I doubted whether to continue or not. Steep climbs, slippery rocks, rocky edges, walking through dense forest covers everything contributed to the risks we took. Every risk becomes adventures after one or two hours. Thanked Mother Nature for keeping me safe for the day. Due to the tiredness I fell asleep very fast. The next morning I had to get back
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