Varayadumotta(also known as Varayattumotta) Trekking
When did the love for heights started in my life. I don’t exactly remember. But it is for sure that heights I have conquered have always enticed me more than the kilometers I traveled by road. I have been always curious to know what would be up there and what would be the feeling out there whenever I see high hills. Ponmudi in Trivandrum is one such place which has always enthused my urge to explore the heights. Can’t even tell how many times I would have run to the top of the hill early from my childhood. But there have been some other higher hills inaccessible to me on the other side of the hills which has always raised my curiosity. Those were the Varayattumotta hills also known as the Varayadumotta hills. The very elevation and peculiar shape of Varayattumotta was unique in this part of the world and the fact that a group of Nilgiri Tahrs resides over this high hills was so inspiring a thought to explore this mountains. I could barely imagine I would be able to go to the top of these mountains once. Varayattumotta is the highest peak in the vicinity of Ponmudi hill ranges. This is considered as the only place in Kerala, South to Rajamala Hills in Munnar, where we can actually see Nilgiri Tahrs. As per the last official census happened in 2011 a group of 32 Nilgiri Tahrs has been located in Varayattumotta. Not being directly connected with any other hill ranges in the vicinity the steep mountains and grass lands, the rocky cliffs and the high altitude make Varayattumotta a natural habitat of Nilgiri Tahrs.
Thus, provided an opportunity I was more than happy to raise hands in acceptance as it was too irresistible an offer. As usual Rahul was the sweat and brain behind getting the permission and arranging the trek. We were a group of 10 members from different areas of Trivandrum indulged in different areas of expertise. Students, IT professionals, Businessmen and other professional were there. I started by dawn from my house in bike and joined with Rahul on the way and we reached Vithura by 7.30. We had a brief break there for our breakfast, packed lunch and obviously for the rest of the group to join. By 8 all were there. Had a short introduction among the team members and we started to Ponmudi. By 9.30 we all reached the ticket counter cum check post of the upper Sanitarium from where the actual trek begins. Rahul was quick in completing the usual rituals at the check post and we were allowed two guides. We started walking along the tarred road to upper sanitarium and on the way we had to take a deviation to the left side losing some altitude reaching the base of Varayattumotta and then to ascend the peak.
The initial trek trail started as a 3 foot mud road along the sides of the hills. We were losing some altitude getting down to the base of the hills. In another 15-20 minutes itself we entered into the forest covers. Within no time the trail became so wild that early in the morning it was like the sun was about to go down. The canopy was so thick that it prevented sunlight to get into. The trail was not been used by anyone for atleast sometime now and hence there was thick vegetation around. There were obstacles every now and then in the form of fallen trees or dislocated rock boulders. After around 30-40 minutes we reached a clearing from where we could get the first clear view of the peak. Fortunately as it was winter season there were no threat from leeches. Soon we reached a place called Manassala. There is an ancient temple here which is believed to be built in the era of the British and local people come here to offer prayers in the season. An outpost for forest watchers was newly getting constructed there. It can be said that from Manassala the actual hiking starts. From the regular trekking trails we deviated into thick foliage climbing up the mountain’s base. Initially it was muddy and rocky terrain with thick undergrowth. We started attaining some height.
After 20-30 minutes the terrain suddenly changed into bamboo growths. The growth was really thick enough to create trouble for us to get through. Rock boulders swifted down the loose soil and created trouble for those who were trailing behind. We had a small break there to catch up with breath and started again. The bamboo growth was over soon and it was the beginning of the grasslands. As soon as the grasslands begun the heat of the day started worrying us. It was a very sunny day and Sun was at its best. The heat was really unbearable and the canopy has kept us cool enough till this time. The water bottles were emptied in a short while and there started our biggest trouble. The peak was far ahead and we didn’t have enough water to carry along. There were no water sources either. There were four five hills to cover on the way to the peak and the very sight of the top gave us some strength to continue. Such was the beauty of it. Due to dry climate the grass lands started discoloring to yellowish green.
We were moving through the thin ridge of the hills. The peak was surprisingly sharp enough to give us a thin ridge. Both the sides of the ridge were deep gorges. We ascended and descended each hills but after each ascend the top point was still unattainable. At some places we had to crawl on four and at some places we had to sit and slide. The rocky areas were very dangerous with steep edges. A small mishap there would be fatal. All the team members were extremely enthusiastic against all odds like the heat, lack of water, fatigue and what not. We could see the highest point of the peak far away but after climbing each mountain on the way the top portion still was far ahead. On the last shola cover we had a small break and from there we could see three Nilgiri Tahrs swifting down a rocky cleavage on the other part of the mountain. They gave us a split second view and hence we could not even think about taking our cameras. Even though we could take ours that would have been so long a shot. As we didn’t have water some of us voted against having food as it would be a bad idea.
Continued walking for another 1 hour or so and by 2 pm we reached the base of the top most cliffs. This was the cruelest climb among the rest of the mountains. We had to literally crawl on four to catch up with the steepness. It was sure that we would fall down if we try it on two foot. Everyone was drained out from the long walk and strenuous climb. Some of us decided to stay back just mtrs below the tip. With all the strength left behind we ascended the peak and in another 15-20 minutes we reached the top. Reaching the top I crashed down onto the ground grasping for breath. After a short while we managed to take a group photo there. The view from the top was ok types. We could see the Ponmudi hill ranges, Agasthya ranges, endless grasslands and thick foliage creating margins for the grasslands.
It was time to go back. But it was almost a task next to impossible for all of us to continue without water. The only place where water is available in this area is the base of the peak which we were standing. We were left with only one choice. To get down to the valley of the hill through the other side than to go back all the way back. Getting down for two kilometers though the extreme steep side of the valley it was assured by the guides that there is water. I would say no to it on any other occasion as the descend was dangerously steep through rough rock and slipping grass lands but I had no other choice than to accept it. Otherwise it was a walk back for atleast 7 km to get water which I can figure out would be impossible for all of us. Offering my prayers to Mother Nature and kissing my lady’s name on the wedding ring started descending through the steep side. Each step was risky. Most of the time we had to sit and slide on our back. Heat was in its best. There was no clear trail. Just had to get down through the hill side and grasses. That was the most strenuous exercise of the entire day. Ascending all this way was considered manageable compared to this. After almost close to 2 hours we reached the valley and ran to the rivulet to where our guides directed. Legs were shivering and couldn’t even stand. Kneeled on ground near the water and drank as much as I could drink for a normal two three days. The effect was clearly visible. Each and every cell was getting rejuvenated in a short while and we had a break there.
By 4.30 we started again. Now through dense forest, It was a manageable descend. There was a clear trail used by watchers and locals. This trail will end at kallar which is on the valley of the Ponmudi hills. We were planning to take the 5.30 bus from kallar to Ponmudi to reach the our parked vehicles. Due to fatigue and tiredness we missed the bus by 15 minutes and reached kallar valley by 5.50. The watchers were kind enough to arrange a jeep for us to reach Ponmudi. By 7 we reached Ponmudi and took our bikes. Legs were still shivering and saying goodbye to all I drove back to home in a hurry.
Varayattumotta trek can be considered among the top five treks I have done as on date. It was a perfect mixture of forest trails, bamboo growth, rocky paths, dense shola covers, challenging climbs, risks, grasslands and superb views. The incidents of the whole day is more than enough to ignore the muscle pains with which I am wring this log. Thanks to Mother nature for keeping us all safe for the entire day….
For arranging trekking similar treks in Varayattumotta please contact Rakesh @ 9745112411