It was in last December I have done the second trek to Vellarimala trek. It turned out to be too risky an affair with almost all of us getting strangled on the other side of the river inside thick forest with heavy downpour and worst of the worst climate. That was a trek I would never forget in my life. It is fun to remember that now as all accidents will become adventures after an hour. The main thing I have missed during that trip was the views. We could hardly get any views from any viewpoints due to heavy rain and mist. We had to adjust with the fact to drop the idea of scaling the real peak of Vavul mala. It burned inside of me as a disappointment for almost three months now till the time Anish again arranged for the trek. As it was summer I knew that it would be my best chance to think about revisiting and to get what all I have missed during the last trek. Like last time Anish was the sweat and brain of the trek who was actually scaling Vellarimala for the third time in a row in just 4 month. I think he has fallen in love with this ranges.
This time it was planned a bit early and I also had amble time to prepare. I remembered last time ending up the trek with almost a burst lungs and brutal cramp on my legs. This time I knew that I had to make some pre trek preparations to attempt Vavul mala which is arguably the toughest climb of South India. I managed to walk long distance for more than a week which actually helped me a lot. Thus on the very first week of April 2016 we commenced the trek. I had to start by evening from Cochin so as to reach Kozhikode by late night. I stayed overnight at a tourist home near to KSRTC stand and have arranged for a cab to reach Muthappanpuzha early in the morning. The cab reached sharp at 4 am in the morning and I was in Anakkampoyil by 5.10 am waiting for others to join. The rest of the members were from Tamilnadu who were working for an Organization named Keystone foundation. A group of Nature Enthusiasts with a vivid knowledge of geography, flora and fauna. I was sure I could tag along them for increasing my knowledge about so many things but doubted my physical readiness to keep up with these guys.
As planned we started the trek from the fenced area by 6.30 am after reaching there in a jeep which the guide has already arranged. Unlike last time we made it to the fenced area via Anakkampoyil. It was apt to start so early and we had some weird plans in mind. If everything went well It was planned like to scale Vellarimala first and go to Vavul mala on the same day and come back to REC Para for camping overnight. Though it was done in a simple sentence we all had in mind that it would be almost impossible a task to complete the whole stretch In just 1 day. But we were confident enough to do that. By 6.45 we entered into the jungle crossing the fenced area and were moving in a comparatively good pace. As it was the peak of summer there were no leeches and in next one hour we reached Olichuchattam falls. The falls has almost dried up. There was only a small drain of water over the inclined rock and we had our first break here. In order to minimize the weight we decided to empty some food packets which we were carrying. I also had some chapattis and parathas with veg curry though I was not hungry. I didn’t want to hold down the whole group for another break for me. After having breakfast in a short while we again started climbing up.
The views were entirely different from last time. Last time I could remember the canopies where lush green, the floor laid down with wet leaves and attacking leeches, drenched mountains , Mist covered canopies and mountain tops, clouds hovering away with wind, streams full of gushing water and sun was nowhere to be seen. This time it was a good sunny day though we didn’t have any effect inside the foliage, dried up streams, the floor covered with loose soil and dried fallen leaves, slightly yellowish undergrowth, and some light popped inside the canopy unlike last time. It was somewhat easy to move inside this time. We took breaks only when it was very much required. In another 20 minutes we reached on top if Olichuchattam falls. We didn’t have a break here. Just took some pics and left immediately. The stretch after Olichuchattam was a bit tough and we had to slow down a bit. I was the last one to follow and all others passed me. I was profusely sweating and was tired to the core. I was pushing myself not to slow down the entire group but could not help it at some points. I took some unauthorized breaks in between to catch up with breath. Soon Anish could figure out that I was in trouble and he also preferred to move along with me which actually helped. We pushed ourselves maximum and moved along taking breaks only when it was impossible to move.
All the streams were almost dried up and we had no trouble crossing them. We filled the bottles at all streams instead of carrying more weight. We reached Damodaran Kolli by 11.30. Fast enough to abide by our plans. At Damodaran Kolli we had a long break and we started by 11.50 am from there. The following stretch was literally the toughest and the cruelest stretch of climb I have ever experienced in my life. It is almost a 60 degree climb with “N” number of obstacles. All were moving in a row grabbing what all things they could to ascend. Lot of toil and soil along this route and by 1.15 we reached Vellarimala top. Everyone crashed down on the grass lands of Vellarimala and we took an elongated break there.
By 1.40 we started marching against the next destination and that would be Ketan para. In 15-20 minutes we reached Ketan para and It was a bit misty over here and the view were not that impressive from here. But we had hope that it would get cleared as strong wind was there which could gush away the misty clouds any moment. Though we waited there for some time it didn’t seemed that it is going to be clear. By 2.20 we started again and reached REC para by 2.45. We did this trek in record timing and I have never heard anyone did this trek till REC para this fast.
Dropped all our luggage there and we were all set to climb and conquer Vavul mala. We had plenty of time to go check Vavul mala but there was a problem. It was fast becoming misty and for some time we could not even see the Vavul mala peak. It was obvious that it would be a bad idea to scale up Vavul mala and end up in a globe of mist with no views. I badly wanted to get the view from the top. I was longing all this years to get on top of this peak and get the views of the Wayanadan ranges especially The Wayanadan Mala and Chembra. I was very much sure that if we attempt to scale up Vavul mala also we won’t be getting any views. I voted against the idea to go up and Anish also supported. We convinced the others on the same and we decided to stay back at REC para. It was 3.15 by then and it was too early to call it a day. I roamed around to get some good snaps from the corners of REC para. But failed to get the views to the Wayanadan range. Vavul mala was playing hide and seek in the clouds. I along with some others took a small nap while others roamed around the area.
By 4.45 i woke up and some of the group members were planning to get the fire woods for the camp fire. I readily accompanied them and we fetched enough and more fire wood for the entire night. We went on chatting about lot of things. We never thought we would get this much time to spend on top of REC para. Soon the sun went down and guides started preparing food. Rice porridge and tomato curry though was not sumptuous was enough to mitigate hunger. It was a lovely night and the starriest night sky I have ever witnessed. The sky was fully lighted with lakhs and lakhs of stars. Lying down and looking up was like a dream. Some of the team members throwed some light into the facts of constellations, galaxies and some prominent stars. I silently enjoyed the starry sky and gathered information which were floating around while others were trying to capture the beauty of the sky in their cameras and through monoculars. By 8.30 pm it was becoming cold and we decided to make the camp fire. I was not carrying a tent but my sleeping bag expecting it not to rain and so as Anish. We gathered around the camp fire for some time and by 9.45 I stretched my legs inside the sleeping bag. I was not feeling sleepy so early and hence laid down gazing on the giant silhouette of Vavul Mala. Tomorrow I will be climbing this peak which has been a wish for more than half a dozen years now expecting to get some good views from the top. The night was bearably cool and I had a good sound sleep.
We all woke up by 6.00 am and was ready for the climb by 7. I got some superb views of Wayanadan mala from the right most corner. We ventured into the forest again following the guides. There was not much of a trail. We were just moving inside thick growth. The only thing we could do was to follow the peak direction up. There were so many trails around which are used by animals and it is very easy for one to get confused. The growth was so thick in this part and I got scratches and bruises for a life time. 15 minutes past the trek we came out of the foliage into and open rock which gave us a good view of the surroundings and the campsite down the foot hill.
The view of Wayanadan mala and the surrounding hill was becoming prominent as we attained height. Masthakapara also was clearly visible. All agreed that it was a good decision to climb the peak in the morning. We again ventured into the forest and came out to another clearing after some time. The views of the surroundings was becoming super while we attained more and more height. It took us 50 minutes to get on top of the peak and we went to the corner of the peak and the views were all clear. The Masthakapara, Wayanadan mala, Chembra and the entire stretch of hill were visible as long as our eyes could see. One of the most beautiful views I ever had and indeed a much awaited one.
Spend ample time there looking at the endless hills and by 8.45 we started descending down the peak saying good bye to Vavul mala. By 9.30 we reached back to camping site and packed our bags for the decent after completing the left overs of last night’s dinner. By 10 we started from REC para. On the way back I took a small peak at Ketan para but the views were not that promising. Nothing to regret as I have already had the best of the best view possible.
The descend was also swift. We took occasional breaks whenever necessary only. We were descending super-fast. But after some time all started getting cramps on their legs. climbing down is more difficult than ascending in these ranges due to the descending elevation. We slowed down a bit and took more breaks.
By 11.30 we reached Damodaran Kolli and by 1 we reached Olichuchattam. By 2.45 we were out of the fenced forest and walked back to the spot where we were supposed to be picked up by the jeep. On the way we crossed the stream again and some of us had a dip in the ice cold water. I also took some water in the bottle and poured over the head. That act had a rejuvenating effect on the stress of the entire day. By 3.15 we were picked up by the jeep and by 3.30 we reached the places where we have parked our cars.
It was time to say good bye to this place and we did so. I was supposed to be dropped at Adivaram from where I could get a Bus to Kozhikode. We had our food there and it was time for me to part with the others. Got into a Kozhikode bus and reached Kozhikode by 6.45. All my muscles were aching like anything and I was just walking under the impression that I had two legs but I cannot feel them. Caught a bus to Cochin by 7.30 and reached home by 1.30.
Vavul mala trek is a must do thing in all trekkers and hikers life. The geographical peculiarities, toughness, steep climbs, variety of flora and fauna make this place unique. It is rated as the toughest climb of south India and indeed it is. But the views from the top suffice every bit toil and soil we had to do for this trek. It was a long time wish and dream came true and with this I am planning to take a long break. But don’t know how I would manage to do so as i am having some events lined up for the third week and early next month. Vavul mala will remain as the top trek I have ever done in my life.
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