Pythal Mala… The long awaited Trek
Vythal mala/Pythal mala in Kannur has been in my to do list for quite a long time. I have been planning it for atleast two years now. But due to the distance from Cochin as well as from Trivandrum it was getting postponed for a long time. Finally I have decided to kick it out of my pending to do list in April 2014 and keep it along with the done modules. Though in between me and Syam has been in Kannur and Kasargode for a two day venture we couldn’t cover Vythal. More over that time our trip was not meant for any adventure. We covered lot many plain grounds of Kannur and Kasargode, historic places like Mahi, Thalassery, Parasinikadavu, Bekkal fort, and beaches like Muzhuppilangadi. Payyambalam, Dharmadam and all. That was a nice week end with him and we enjoyed a lot. Normally it would be me who propose something like that but this time it was his initiative to Explore Kannur and Kasargode.
I have enquired for Kannur bus timings in the night three days in advance and could know that there is a bus starting from Trivandrum and reaching Cochin by 8 pm from where I was supposed to board. I couldn’t get any reservation in the same as it was starting from TVM. It was a working Saturday for me and after office hours I went to room and took my bag and camera with a spare T shirt only. I didn’t want to purchase any more things like energy bars or snacks which I would prefer normally when going for a trek as I knew that it was not a tough one after all. I reached bus stand well in advance by 7.30 pm and was waiting for the bus to come. It was a hot evening and the worst was yet to happen. The bus was late and every half an hour I used to go to the enquiry desk for getting status. Finally at 9.00 pm the bus came and for one and a half hour I waited there in the bus stand. I would not have hurried if I knew it will come this late. But there is no point in thinking like “it would have been good if things were like this” when things are not like that.
The bus was very crowded but I could manage to get a seat which was inevitable for me at that point as it was a very long ride for at least 8 hours. I couldn’t have managed if I didn’t get a seat. I don’t remember if I would have surpassed some others in my hurry to get a seat. It was very hot inside also. The bus was full in no time because it was a week end and lack of buses to the north. I didn’t even see a single bus coming from 7.30 to 9 pm to the north exceeding Trissur town. The bus stopped at Trissur stand for a food break after 2 hours and I had some Parathas and veg curry which was the only dish available. Due to the heat and tiredness I slipped into sleep after Trissur. Crossing Palakkad town we took a deviation through some interior roads due to some tanker lorry accidents in high way. The road was narrow and both way traffic made the bus move like a snail. Nothing I could do but to catch a sleep.
At 4.45 am I reached Kannur Stand. Without any alternate thoughts I stepped into the first seen lodge which was inside the KSRTC stand itself. I could get a fair deal from them as it was only for a freshen up. They charged me only 200 Rs for two hours. At 6.30 I checked out and from the stand itself I got a bus to Thaliparambu. It’s about 1 hour journey from Kannur to Thaliparambu and Kudiyaanmala is 35 minutes from Thaliparambu. At Thaliparambu I had my breakfast which was a typical Kannur model cusine which I didn’t like much. But adjusted myself to the fact that we don’t get our favorites on the go. From Thaliparambu I got Kudiyaanmala bus. The route between Thaliparambu and Kudiyaanmala was really beautiful. It was a hilly terrain and sometimes the bus howled to catch up with the steep roads. I could see hill ranges in the left side and rubber plantations everywhere.
Reaching Kudiyaanmala I asked for Vythal mala bus timing. Vythal mala buses starts only by 10 am and it was only 9 by then. I decided to take the bus to Kudiyaanmala and was planning to look out for alternate options from Kudiyaanmala hoping to get a jeep or auto. Reached Kudiyaanmala in another 20 minutes. Kudiyaanmala is a small town ship where hardly five six shops were there. There was a church there and as it was a Sunday there where lot of gathering in the morning. I couldn’t find any auto or jeep there but could figure out that Vythal mala is 4 km from there, from locals. I thought of trying a walk to Vythal mala so that it would be a warm up before the trek starts and after all to my knowledge Vythal mala is not a severe trek so that I could have some extra expeditions on the way.
It was a tarred road leading from Potenplavu to Vythal mala. Little steep but could do with ease. I hate walking through tarred roads when I am out for such expeditions but gave it a chance anyhow. Almost 1 hour I walked and the climate was changing. Rain clouds peeped in the sky and I prayed not to rain which could spoil all my plans. There were some deviation in the routes but sign boards where everywhere so that we won’t miss the route to the peak.
In one and a half hour I reached the Melepotenplavu junction where I need to take the final deviation to the road leads to Vythal mala. There was a small country shop there and from the 4 kms walk I was feeling little tired and wanted to have a break. I took some water, buiscuit packet and bread from there. In a chit chat with the shop man I came to know that it was heavily raining in Vythal yesterday and I may come across leach trouble enroute the top.
I was not even thinking about the rain and was terribly unprepared to have a leach encounter. Luckily I could buy some salt from the shop and continued to Vythal. But I was making a mistake by under estimating the trouble leaches could make inside a forest after a full length rainy day. In another 45 minutes I reached the point from the actual trek starts which is the govt guest house but it is not functional yet. The tarred road ends there and foot trail begins from this point. Crossing the guest house we can move along the trail in an open ground and after 600 mtrs the forest trail starts
It was dense from the very beginning itself and the trail was so beautiful. Huge trees and shrubs guarded both sides of the trail and in this hot summer also it was lush green everywhere. I moved forward taking pictures and enjoying the wilderness of the jungle.I would have covered hardly 1 km and it was then I felt something crawling in my toes. Till then I was paying little attention on the path. There were a sheet of wet fallen leaves in the path and it was completely covered with leaches.
Looking at my foot I was traumatized to see atleast a dozen of leaches stuck to my shoe and lower leg. They were all comparatively big sized leached and it was then only I become aware that I have already entered the leech territory. They crawled all over my legs and I started walking very fast for not giving them any chance to stick to me. I climbed up a small rock on the side of the path for cutting them lose. Used some salt for removing them from my legs and shoe but it didn’t had any quick effect on them as they were big ones.
From the rock I observed all over my body for leaches and removed my shoe and socks. I had almost a dozen bites altogether and I removed all of them with salt and pull up socks and shoe again. I observed the path and surrounding and could see hundreds of them all over the place. I was the first this morning to come through the way and they were eagerly waiting for a breakfast feast. They were even in the leaves of shrubs which grew over the path patiently waiting for any human presence. I decided to walk very fast and cover the leach territory as fast as possible. If I stay anywhere they have a better advantage over me to get on my body. Taking my bag I started walking again and this time I stared at the path very closely and avoided touching any leaves or shrubs on the way.
Just two minutes on the go I heard the cry of some children and some loud noises from behind the trail which I covered now. I was surprised for a split of a second and couldn’t stop myself from checking it out. I ran back on the trail and in no time I could see a family with three children and five adults on the trail very close to the place I stayed back for removing leeches. They also were facing the same issue. But honestly speaking I couldn’t figure it out when I first heard the cry. The leaches were all over the children and they were forcefully trying to remove them. I gave them some salt from my share and asked them to step off the fallen leaves and get over some rocks. They removed leaches and asked me whether it is like this only for the rest of the trail thinking that I am coming back after going to the peak. I said I have no idea on the severity as I am also just a first timer on this way. They were coming from Kasargode on a day tour to Vythal.
Started moving ahead again in maximum speed. I would have covered another two kms by now and the leech severity lessened and at this point of the path I could see more sunlight coming inside the canopy. In another ten minutes I came out of the forest on to a grass land from where I could see the top of the mountain in a distance.
I took a drinks break on the open ground over a plain rock. I cross checked my shoe and toes once again for intruders. There was mist on the top of the peak.
I could figure out that I am standing on another peak before the Vythal. I need to get down to the valley and climb a little more up again to reach the top of Vythal. I could see the Watch tower through the mist. After ten minutes I started getting down losing a considerable elevation and started climbing up the Vythal. It was an easy ascends. I wondered even in the month of April the hill top was like a green carpet. In monsoon and post monsoon it will be feast to eyes if we could make it to the top of Vythal in that season.
I reached the watch tower. The watch tower was nothing but a concrete structure of 10 foot high may be, in its ruined state. It didn’t give any special view than from the ground I could hardly see any views around. The mist completely covered the surrounding by this time. Nothing I could do but to wait till the mist gets cleared. I didn’t want to turn back after coming this far without having the so called view from the top of Vythal. I even read in some blogs that we could see Thadiyantemol (Highest peak in Karnataka, a part of Western Ghats) hill range of Karnataka from Vythal to the west.
People started coming in which included the family I saw back there. As it is not a tough trail family also could come and visit Vythal. From the Watch tower we need to get down further for reaching the view point which is called as the suicide point
The view from the suicide point is supposed to be breath taking but mist has covered the western edge to where we could see Thadiyantemol. I waited for some more time by then the mist was getting cleared. I could see the depth of the suicide point after some time though I could not get any glimpse of Karnataka range of hills. Took some photos from there also and I intercepted with some local people there.
One of them was Saji from whom I came to know that we can actually trek to Thadiyantemol through the forest covers of Vythal mala. It is almost 32 km walk through dense forest and grass land. They used to take people for the trek which can be done in one day reaching top of Thadiyantemol and come back to Irity the last town of Kannur on the way to Karnataka. I took his contact number for planning the Thadiyantemol trek from Kannur some other time. Any way its is not gonna happen in the nearest future as I need to travel to SriLanka on an official incentive tour and when I come back from SriLanka it would already start raining. So I am adding the trek in my to do list but not leaving it aside. Needless to say the available view from the suicide point was simply superb. The depth was so extreme that we could not even see the end of it from the top. There is a fenced boundary for the view point though I stepped inside the fence so as to get a better view of the steepness of the point. (Not at all advisable. Wind can be so strong here and a lose step can end up in a disaster. Only the tough nuts are advised to give it a chance but believe me it’s worth a try) A fall from this point will be fatal and will be a free fall of atleast 1200 mtrs. I spent some quality time there. Felt like being at the edge of the world.
It was time to return as it was already 12pm. I purposefully covered the return trail in high speed so as to avoid friendly bites of leaches. On the way I shared the salt to at least five groups who were flabbergasted on the surprise attack.
When I was about to get out of the forest trail I saw another group of people going back. The team leader was a local Named Thomas chettan. He acquainted with me very fast and was very friendly in nature. He was also taking some of his relatives for a one day outing. I started moving along with them as they were making it up to the required momentum to reach the base in the desired time. Reaching the tarred road to Melepotenplavu again we might have walked almost 1 km from where Thomas chettan aksed the whole group including me whether we are ready to go off road through some short cuts to Potenplavu. Being a local he knew the place in an out. I was the first one to raise hand in willingness and he took us through a forest trail which later turned out into a cashew plantation.
We were moving through a hard steep trail. Most of the time there was only some cleared muddy paths through which water drains down when it rains. It was somewhat tough but we were losing a lot of altitude in very short time. On the way we crossed some streams also. In just 30 minutes we reached the plain grounds wherein I took almost 2 hours to cover through the tarred road when I went in the morning.
The view of the Vythal mala was stunning from this point and I could see the view point only though the zoom of my camera. I couldn’t believe myself that I was on top of that when looking at the giant from the plain grounds.
15 more minutes’ walk in the plain ground we reached Thomas chettan’ S house which was only 300 mtrs away from Potenplavu junction where I started the trek. Despite their request to visit his home I straight away went to the junction saying thanks for a wonderful walk and save of time.
By 2.30 I reached the junction but the regular bus to Kudiyaanmala didn’t come as it was a Sunday. I had refreshment there from a shop. Waited for an auto or Jeep to reach Kudiyaanmala. After half an hour I got a jeep and he dropped me at Kudiyaanmala for a nominal fair. I had my lunch from Kudiyaanmala. Chapatti and fish curry was not so heavenly but I was very hungry and I took it. After lunch I took a bus to Thaliparambu and from Thaliparambu I got a Kannur Bus. Straight away went to the Railway station and got a Cochin connection from Kannur. Though I couldn’t make to get a sleeper class ticket I managed to travel without much hustle. By 12 am I reached Cochin took an auto from North station to my room. Had a refreshing bath and took a quick review on the pics taken. Thanked Mother Nature for keeping me safe for the day and went to bed by 1 am. Though the travel to and from was hectic I nourished some superb memories to survive yet another hectic work schedule for the rest of the days till the next day out.
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