Vandaravu Trekking – Pambadumshola National Park
Christmas… One among my favorite festival. Usually my Christmas will be with lot of stars, lights, carol parties, night rides and escapades with friends and all. But this time it was different. On the very day of the Christmas one of my wish came into reality and that was the Vandaravu trek. It was organized by Rahul of Tree club. I was longing ever since to get an opportunity to follow the famous trail of Munnar Kodaikanal trek and all of a sudden it becomes a reality.
As per the plans I started from Cochin by Noon in my bike to Munnar. Without much stops I covered the entire stretch and By 3.30 I reached Munnar. Others were supposed to meet me at Munnar but me kind of reached very early and hence decided to pay a visit to the top station any way I have to go to Pambadumshola through top station only. The crowd at Munnar was very irritating and hence I wanted to navigate away from there. By 4.15 I reached top station and went all the way down to the edge to get a better view.
Though it was a sunny day till 3 pm it was fast becoming foggy by then and hence I couldn’t get best views of the hill and valleys. Spend some quality time there and called up Rahul just to hear that they will be late to reach. I was advised to proceed till the Pambadumshola check post and proceed all the way down till the amenities centre if possible. By 5pm I reached the check post which was hardly 1.5 km from top station towards Vattavada. It was already chilling and the check post people said it would be close to minus in the nights. Reluctantly I have to node my head in acceptance. I spend some time at the check post while they were busy doing their routine works. A group of Nilgiri Langur grabbed my attention in the thickets over the back side of the outpost. Tried to capture some lovely moments but light was not good.
By 6 pm they assisted me to the amenities centre. Weather was chilling by then and I had to change and all. Was a little bit tired from the long drive. I lay down for some time and by 7 I came out of the room into the real world of Pambadumshola. I opened the door to see a group of Indian gaur gazing around the grasses around my room. I couldn’t believe what I saw. Can’t explain what was going on in my mind, surprised or terrified. For a split minute I was staggered. I didn’t know what to do. They were very close. Close enough to create trouble but they on the other hand where least bothered about my presence. Simply eating the grass and roaming around. They were a group of 15 atleast with two fully grown males’ two or three little ones and rest of them females. They didn’t even bother to look at me. I took the camera and clicked some snaps knowing that I will be getting funny results and all of them ended up the same. All I could do was to watch them without taking the eyes. I remembered in the past when I have to walk inside the forest and grass lands for kilometers to get a good view of these fellows ignoring leech bites rains and burning sun for hours. Like the Nilgiri Tahrs of Rajamala these animals were accustomed to our presence. By 7.30 all the others joined. The night was really cold. After Vellarimala trek this was another chilling experience. Myself and Rahul stood outside talking late night enjoying the weather. Tomorrow morning we will be trekking in the famous Munnar Kodaikanal route. With two blankets over the head it was still chilling to give me another sleepless night.
I woke up early in the morning to check out the magical cloud movements of top station. Getting out of the room was literally very difficult. But hard luck that all the gaurs have vanished from the vicinity depressing me. Along with Rahul we roamed around for a while and could find a group of gaurs inside the woods. I could get the best views and pictures ever. After that on the way back to the room we could see Malabar giant squirrel on a tree posing for us.
Nilgiri Langur and a fair amount of birds were also there. After the early morning expedition we went t to top station to check out the magical view of cloud movements in top station but was not lucky enough to get that. Bought breakfast for all and returned back to room. After breakfast we were all ready to trek. With Rahul speaking and convincing the officials we were allowed some extra miles to cover than the normal trek routes. But I could barely believe it would extend up to Vandaravu watch tower.
There is still a jeep track up to Kerala border where the wireless station and watch tower was situated. We started walking from the check post inside the National park. The avian population was strong with lot many groups of Langurs. Some rare birds were also seen but seemed very shy to pose for us. Right after 800 mtrs or so we could see pugmarks which were not so old. The chances of getting some sighting increased and team was fully charged up
But I was pretty confident not to sight anything. Being a 10 member team moving inside the forest we cannot expect luck to favor us. After around 2.5 km we deviated into the forest from the jeep trail and the terrain changed completely wild after that. It was a 50 degree climb and at 10 am in the morning it was half dark inside the woods with thick canopy saying “NO” to sunlight to take a peek.
The deviation into the forest was accompanied by a terrorist attack from the leech groups. Everyone suffered quite a number of bites including me. Some of us tried in vain to pluck them out. I was feeling quite tired of the ascend and hence could not focus on them but to catch up with the breath. I could sense some of them juicing me inside the shoe. After 1 hour or so we emerged out of the woods and again entered into the jeep trail. The terrain becomes somewhat easy from now but we were deep inside the National park. Another 2 hours walk through the trail took us to the wireless station of Vandaravu. It was a concrete building in the middle of nowhere. We haven’t carried any food or extra water as we didn’t know that we would have to walk this much. For the guide it was a cake walk as it was a daily routine for them.
We could see the Vandaravu watch tower from there itself. Guide said its 1 more Km from there. Following the same trail we reached the watch tower. It was the border of Kerala and Tamilnadu. Two states were separated by an Iron chain. It was a good feeling to reach there. The deviation to the right from the watch tower is the Kodaikanal road and there was another deviation to the left and it will go to Kadavari and Klavarai. But this road is nowhere there in the Google maps. Like the ones which are only present in the mind of people this road also lined inside the deep woods untapped and unexplored.
After a short while we climbed up the watch tower to get a better view of the surroundings. It was tedious a task to get on top of that. As the tower was erected up the high hills it was scarier to get on top of that. Some of the team members didn’t even wanted to climb it. I was the first one to climb up and once I was on the top I could get a 360 degree view of the surroundings. The hills surrounding the tower were making a geographical wall around the entire area. We could see the wireless station far behind. Even at 2 pm in the noon it was cool weather there. A night stay there would be something which will happen only once in a life time. But there should be something which is not possible all the time for us to continue the urge to explore more.
Spending some time there it was time for us to return back. We climbed down and returned back to the wireless station. They give us hot water which was great refreshment for all of us in the cool climate. Took a break there for 10 minutes and took the group photo. It was time to return back and without much delay we returned back. We took another way on our way back. It was more inside the woods and we barely took the jeep trail. It was dark inside and at some places was so dark that even I have to use flash to get pictures. The trail leads us to a totally different area. We took a half circle from the place where we started and reached on top of the log house which is above the amenities centre. By 5 we reached back to the check post and ended up with one of the most beautiful treks in the recent past. All were craving with hunger and wanted to hog something at the earliest. Bid good bye to the entire team and myself along with Aneesh took a leave as we were in bike. Reached Munnar by 6 pm and had a sumptuous biriyani and returned back. The climate was very cold and we wanted to get down to Adimaly at the earliest. We had three stops in between for refreshments and reached Cochin by around 9.30. Leaving the bike at my office I ran to the railway station and caught a train to Trivandrum.
Once again it was a wonderful day out. It was a trek which was in the “Not possible list” for a long time. Thanks to Rahul for making it possible and for the wonderful organization of the entire event. This trek will remain on the top list for some time at least….
For arranging trekking similar treks in Pambadumshola please contact Rakesh @ 9745112411