Trekking in Idukki – Vagamon Range
It all started with just an SMS. Message was from Madhu Thankappan one of the most prominent organizer of trekking trips in Kerala. I have read a lot about his travels from his blog “Ente yatrakal”. He was inquiring on the last trek I have done to Soojimala. Our conversation went on and it was very tempting to know from him that they are planning a group trekking in Idukki range. It was too much an offer for me to turn back and without a second thought I accepted it. The same was planned for the first Sunday of November. It is first time I am doing a trek with such a big group of almost 28 members and I was doubtful initially on keeping the decorum of the trip when moving along with such a big group. May be the solo trekker inside me voted against the very thought at first. But it was all proved wrong later on and this trek has transformed into one of the best I have ever had.
We were supposed to leave from Cochin by 5.30 in the morning and I woke up early and reached in front of Kalloor Stadium by 5.10. In a short while Madhu along with Raju reached the spot. Though we have spoken over phone many a times it was the first time that I met Madhu. Other people also started reaching the starting point and by 5.30 we were all set to move with two 14 sitter travelers. The route selected was via Thripoonithura > Moovattupuzha > Thodupuzha > Kanjar > Vagamon. I have already taken this road from Kanjar to Vagamon in my last trip to Ilaveezhapunchira We picked up some more enthusiasts from Vytilla, Thripoonithura and Moovattupuzha. In between we had a brief stop for Breakfast. The group was a mixture of people of both sexes from different parts of Kerala. There were doctors, Engineers, Business men, Students, Professionals, IT people, NRI’s and to add essence to the kitty they all were from different age bars ranging from 18 to 70. A couple from Ernakulam was at their late 60’s and inspired all of us with their enthusiasm and stamina they have shown for participating in such an event. I wondered how they could possibly venture a trekking but later on they just surprised me with the passion for doing such travel and trekking.
By 10 am we reached the base point of our trekking. It was time for all of us to get rid of the machines and start boosting our legs and lungs. Initially it was a plain walk through a bushy terrain attaining some height. A guard accompanied us from the place where we parked our vehicle. He took us to the forest outpost almost 1 km inside the covers. We met the senior forest officer there who gave us a brief on the terrain and the dos and don’ts of the trek. They allowed two guards along with us to take us through the entire day and both of them were so friendly and helpful.
The real trekking started from this point and in just 10 minutes we were rewarded with the sight of a herd of Elephants wandering in the mountains opposite to us and this was the first time I had a close look at them that too with a little one along them. Every camera went on capturing each and every moment of their sight and all of us were in joy except two of us and that was the guards who accompanied us. It was because only they knew that the Elephant herd was actually positioned on our way which may create issues if we move too close. Hence on their discretion we had to take a detour to avoid close encounter with them.
After walking for about 15- 20 minutes on the grass lands we entered the shola cover and what awaited us there was an attack from the inhabitant leeches which scrawled on every one of us and made some trouble. The forest type is ever green and i haven’t seen such wet forest in some recent past. There was a thick layer of leaves fallen on the ground and sunlight hardly came inside the canopy. Though i have done some expeditions in the Thommankuthu forest, Chinnar wild life sanctuary and Pooyamkutty forest range on my visit to Thattekad. Although we were carrying salt and all the population of leeches outnumbers all our defensive tactics. Almost everyone suffered bites and those who bothered too much about their presence suffered the most. Some of them suffered dozens of bites but I was one among them who grieved the least number of bites.
I don’t know why but they have always been sympathetic to me. I remember in some past trekking also I escaped with least number of bites while others had almost double the numbers. Is it like even leeches find it difficult to keep along with me ? We were inside thick forest by this time and as we moved deep and deep inside even sun light was finding it difficult to reach the ground. As it was an ever green forest the canopy over the head was too thick to allow light inside. The ground was paved with a thick layer of fallen decaying leaves which contributed the best habitat for leech. There was nothing we could do than to fight them or ignore them. I preferred the later.
In between we had to cross two small streams. After almost one and a half hour we crossed the shola covers and entered into the grass lands again. It was just undulating hills of green carpets as long as our eyes could see. Leech effect subsided when we reached grass lands. Walk was also easy through the grass lands. But we had some steep mountains to climb up. As some of the team members found it difficult to do the same in one stretch we had regular breaks/ stop overs .
From the top of the hills we could see the reservoir down the valley and was a great view. The full view of the reservoir is not available from that much places. We were at an altitude of 1125 mtrs approximately. Walk through the grass lands continued for a couple of hours and by 2 pm we stopped for lunch. The lunch was arranged by the organizers and all we had to do was to carry them with us. The Chappathy and Chicken curry felt sumptuous. We all were drained out from the long walk and desperately needed some refreshments to boost up our stamina. The lunch and the associated break contributed much to that part and we had a 40 minutes break there.
By then it started drizzling and we were at the middle of nowhere. Mist also came associated with the rain and the view was blocked upto 10 mtrs at most of the places. Till now we have covered almost covered 8 kms and our guide said we are almost reaching the top and we will be taking another route instead of the same way back to the base camp. They said the terrain will be completely grass lands and hill and there won’t be any leech problem on our way back. It was a soothing word for all of us that we need not worry about the leech on the way back.
But things were not as easy as we thought. We had to cover almost five huge hills to reach back to the base station. It was becoming difficult to cover the hilly terrain in the rain and most of the team members slipped at least once or twice but luck favored us not to land into trouble. The fog slowed us little down but the climate has completely changed with the rain and it was becoming cooler as we reached more altitude and mist. We took some breaks in between. But our guided insisted not to waste much time or else we will have to cover the last stretch in pitch dark.
It was then a walk through unending grasslands. It was cruel climbing at some points. We had to take some more breaks in between as it was really a lungs testing affair. We ascended almost 5 mountains and by 5.45 we reached the heaven on earth. It was one among the highest mountains of that range and we felt like we are in heaven. The clouds were below our altitude and we could see an unending layer of hills above the clouds. Being at the edge of the hills I felt like stepping over the clouds and walking above them. The hills down the line were getting covered by clouds and mist and we were in another world for some time. The setting sun and the blissful colors of the sky contributed to the beauty of it. We couldn’t leave that place soon and we took some nice pics. Had posed for some single and group photos.
By 5.50 we realized that we are far behind the base camp and have at least two more Km to cover. The light was getting lower and I knew we are going to be in total darkness in no time. The terrain was equally stressful with some steep ascends, slippery rocks and all. It was very difficult to move in the darkness and we had to depend on only our phone torch lights. Almost 40 minutes we walked in total darkness and then some help came from the base camp. They brought some lights and guided us to the base camp. In another 15 minutes we reached the base camp.
It was turning out to be one of the most beautiful treks I have ever done. I admired Madhu for his wonderful ability to coordinate such a crowd. It would be a task next to impossible for me to do such a thing. But I must say he managed it very well and I would recommend to trek with him if anyone gets a chance. I would raise my hands in acceptance if I get a second chance to accompany him.
The trek was still not over. We had to reach back to the place we have parked out vehicle. It was again a 1 km walk through the bushes in a relatively plain ground. The darkness made it another heavy task for us. By 7.30 we reached the vehicles and started our tour back to Cochin. The route was same through Kanjar. The road from Vagamon to Kanjar was literally scary. Not even a single street light on the way and dangerous curves made it difficult for our drivers to cover the stretch in the night. Had to drop some of the team members at Moovattupuzha, Thripoonithura and Vytilla. By 11 pm I reached back at Kalloor and went home bidding good bye and thanks to Madhu who was the last one to leave. Reached room in another 10 minutes. Had a quick review on the pics taken and went to bed with sweet memories of another unforgettable trekking saying thanks to Mother Nature for Keeping everyone safe for the entire day.
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