Thollayiram – Wayanad Trek
Wayanad as a district has always fascinated me with its unique geography and immense possibilities of trekking and exploring. Though I have trekked in major places like Chembra, Banasura, Brahmagiri, Pakshipathalam, Neelimala, Ambukuthimala, Edakkal etc in the past there are a hell a lot of places left out there which I would badly want to go. There were many limitations for exploring pristine areas due to recent regulations and all. Despite that Wayanad trips are always exhausting in terms of distance to be covered from Cochin back and forth. It has been a long time since I have done any major exploring in Wayanad other than some off the records ventures. This time one of my friend rather a trek mate has thrown light into some explicit location in Thollayiram. (Aka Thollayiram Kandi after the release of Malayalam film Lord Livingston 7000 Kandi.) People started popularizing the name unknowingly believing that that is the original name. But having been to the places and knowing the actual name and even cause for that name I would not want to address it by a pseudo name. For me it was Thollayiram and it would remain so.
Getting the number from my friend I spoke to the concerned person and formulated a 2 day trekking and camping plan. It was like reaching Thollayiram by noon getting settled at the camp site and trekking the whole day on the next morning till evening and going back. Considering the difficulty to reach I was expecting a 15 member team. But to my surprise more than 45 people registered initially and the filtering narrowed the list to 28. I thought still there would be drop outs but everyone made it for the trek. Was bit worried with the bigger number fearing I would be able to manage such a huge team? I even thought of splitting the team into 2 and doing as two same events in the consecutive weeks but for oblivious reasons had to go with only one event and it was finalized like that. I was confident to handle that. With God’s grace and Mother Nature’s blessings I have never faced any such issues in the past and by virtue of that track record I went ahead with that team. Everyone was informed to report at Kalpetta Bus stand. Me along with some other team mates from Cochin started early morning from Cochin by train to Calicut and planned to take bus from Calicut to Kalpetta. Plans worked out and we reached Kalpetta little ahead of our expected time. Though the reporting time was 2 pm we reached well in advance by 12.30 at Kalpetta. Our team mates have already started reaching. But some of them were running late. We had lunch and called for our Jeeps to come. Our guide from Thollayiram had arranged for Jeeps. By 2.00 pm everyone had reached and we started for Thollayiram via Meppadi and Kalladi. Those who have come in car followed us from Kalpetta and parked there car in pre-arranged space and then joined us in the jeep. From Kalladi the road is steep and later becomes off road nearing to Thollayiram. Our guide’s house is on the foot hills of Aranamala and at a pristine and envious location. The view which we die to get is a regular affair for them. Such a beautiful place.
Our stay was arranged in a resort past his house. By 5 pm we reached there. We had rooms as well as tents arranged there and people started settling down. They didn’t know what plans were awaiting for them. We kept it as a surprise!!. After freshening up and refreshments we started for a walk. Actual plan was for a night trek but team was not informed. We said it is a warm up walk and later turned out to be one of the most beautiful adventure experience of all time for them. We started through the trail besides the resort walking through the plantations later entering into the jeep track from Kalladi. Soon we deviated into the wild from a random cut from the road. The very initial venture was a steep gorge. All had to get down crawling through the muddy trail supporting in creepers and fallen down trees. With great toil and soil everyone got down into the stream and then we traversed through the course of the stream in pitch dark. As we haven’t told that it was going to be a night trek none took torches. Only light source was mobiles. Stream was fully rocky and we had to jump from one to another. Sometime get into shallow water. Altogether it was a three hour trek through forest in the pitch dark. The end of the trek was in a small waterfalls. There was a beautiful pool on the base. People got into water as the water was shallow. The water was chilling cold. No one wanted to be in water for a longer time. Soon everyone got out of the water and we were back on track. By 9 pm we reached back into the jeep track taking a semicircle. We straight away went to the guide’s house for having our Dinner. Having dinner we reached back to our camp site. Small camp fire was set up. But most of the people were tired from the night trek and wanted to lie down. It was a cold night. Those who have slept in the tents outside felt the chilling sometime after the midnight.
The second day morning Everyone was ready by 8.00 am. We had our breakfast from the camp itself and started trekking with light packed food. We started on the same trail reaching the jeep track soon and deviating into the woods. There were no specific trails and all. We just cut into the woods. The intuitions of our guide was the only factor that took us further. I was doing the sweep this time also like always. The forest cover was so very thick that we had to squeeze in between the smaller trees. The under growth was also heavy. Trail was not there and we were moving on a bed of fallen leaves. As it was a big group doing the sweep was not that easy every now and then we had to stop for some obstacles in front and the rhythm was killed due to regular stopping. To catch up the tempo I deliberately lagged behind keeping a longer distance from the last person.
It was fun watching the team from a distance. People moving like ants between the woods, taking the curves, ascending and descending. There were small and medium streams. It was clear that we were moving through untapped places. No tress passers or any sign of past trekkers. Either any trails or any footprints. After an hours walk we reached a big Banyan tree. The tree was so very big that it reminded us about the Mother tree from Avathar Film. It would have been there for a 500 years at least. The canopy as well as the trunk had spread across at least a 40-50 cents. The Arial roots were all across creating bridges and steps all over. That was our first break for the day. After a 10 minutes break we started again. As we were inside the covers we didn’t feel the heat of the sun.
Ascending started from here. Some places were so very covered in canopy that we couldn’t even see the sky. Light was struggling hard to come inside. There were some new comers in the team and we had to cop up with their pace. Hence we cannot move faster. There were intermediate break to give them an interval to catch up with breath. Snacks packets got opened and exhausted regularly. Being at the rear end I could see a long line of trekkers. While ascending it was a good view. The ascend continued further. Most of the trek was through lush covers and there were no specific view points. We were moving to a view point from where we could get a 180% view of the Mighty Wayanadan Mala, Chembra, and adjoining hills. By noon we almost reached the view point. I was waiting get a closer view of Wayanadan mala for a long time. I had this view from Vaavulmala long back. It was bit misty hence the view was not very clear. We could only get a cataract view. Until Chembra peak it was more or less clear but behind that nothing was visible. I was expecting to get a view of Vaavulmala range from there but luck didn’t favored this time. Had a short break there gazing at the mighty mountains opposite to us. We were at the edge of a mountain. There was a deep and wide valley between us and the Wayanadan mala Range. From the place we stood it was steep fall of at least 1000 feet down into the valley. It would not be possible to get down from here to catch up a train to Wayanadan mala. But guide said it is possible to get down from here along the edges carefully and catch up the trail. He was also not very familiar with the track and we kept this exploration plan aside. Along with the guide I moved closer to the edge of the peak to have a better view. I tried identifying the known peaks. Chembra and Wayanadan mala was very clearly visible. And some unknown peaks played hide and seek in the mist in a distance. Probably those could be the Vellarimala ranges is what I can deduce considering the geography from where we stood.
It was time to start back. We continued on another trail. The descend started and it was equally difficult for us as dry leaves were slipping. Some dried out stream was our track for some time and later deviated from its course. I suspected that the guide was trying a new path and that is why he is following the stream downhill. Another two and a half hours walk down the hill brought us to the river in the valley. Walked half a km through the river and reached the jeep track again. We had to freshen up and our guide was taking us to a small falls. In another 30 minutes we reached the falls most of the team members freshened up there. The water was really cold. From there we walked to wards the guide’s house. On the way we had our bread packets and snack emptied. We had biriyani at guide’s house as a closing ceremony and Soon after that it was time for us to leave. Every one said good bye to each other cherishing the wonderful memories of yet another thrilling and mesmerizing trek. Guide has arranged jeep for us to reach back to Kalpetta. From Kalpetta everyone departed for their respective locations.