Yenthayaar – Thoniyamkadu – Kolahalamedu Trekking
It was a few months back that I have read about this place Irumulachikallu in Yatra magazine. A wonderful event conducted and recorded by the team planet green. I tried searching for this place in internet but surprisingly nothing was available. My instincts grew up and wanted to go visit this place before so many intruders explore the serenity of the place. I couldn’t stop myself from calling up Manoj Sir as soon as I saw the article about Irumulachikallu. Such was the beauty of the place. The article was made by a team consisting Manoj sir, Naseer Sir and some unknown nature lovers. I called up and Manoj answered on the other end with a friendly node. We discussed about doing a trekking to Irumulachikallu but as the Monsoon becoming prominent Manoj said it would be a task next to impossible to do the trekking in that climate. I was also unfamiliar with the terrain and wanted to know how it is. Hence I decided to make a trail trekking in that range and Manoj suggested to do a trekking from Ilankadu to Kolahalamedu to the origin of Manimala River which originates from the marshy lands of Vagamon hills. I felt it interesting to follow the trail of a river inside the forest which I haven’t done yet.
The Manimala River is believed to have originating from the Muthavara hills in the Western Ghats near the Kottayam Idukki border. Majority of the constituting streams of Manimala River originates from the Marshy lands of Vagamon, Kolahalamedu, Urumbikkara, Irumulachikallu and Ilankadu top. The streams traverse down the hills becoming Pullakayaar (Local name of Manimala River before it becomes the Manimala River at Mundakkayam.) We had some discussions and by the first week of August monsoon becoming feeble I along with Manoj commenced the trip. I started early morning 4.am from Cochin in my bike to Yenthayaar where I was supposed to meet Manoj. The route selected was Cochin > Thalayolaparambu > Kaduthuruthy > Pala > Erattupetta > Poonjaar > Koottikal > Yenthayar.
Though I was hearing the place name Yenthayaar for the first time the place itself have some historical importance. In 1904 The Irish John Joseph Murphy established the first Rubber plantation which was the first one of its kind in India at Yenthayaar. Murphy was a philanthropist and his good deeds are still remembered and cherished by the people of Yenthayaar. It was roughly 110 Km from Cochin and I was confident that I could cover the same in less than 3 hours. We planned to start the trek by 7.30. I reached Erattupetta by 7 am and had my breakfast from there. I brought our lunch from the same place.
I got the best of the best views of the valley of Yenthayaar on the way from Koottikal to Yenthayaar. The entire valley below was covered under a sheet of mist/fog and the view of the same was a feast for the eyes. And some other small water falls were there on the road side which grabbed my attention. I had to stop at two three places for some clicks
Manoj Sir ..Fully loaded..
I reached Manoj sirs home by 7.30. I was meeting him for the first time. Manoj is a teacher by profession and nature enthusiast by passion. A warm welcome followed by a tea and we were all set to move within no time. We reached the starting Ilankadu by bike itself. It is hardly 5 Kms from Yenthayaar to Ilankadu from where we need to take a deviation into the woods for venturing the trekking. Parking the Bike near the road we continued into the muddy path and not more than 200 mtrs we had to take a deviation into the woods. We were welcomed by a small waterfalls and I fully got immersed in capturing the falls from all possible angles. Interrupting me Manoj said we will be walking along the falls until we reach the top and we would come across more enticing water falls in the due course. I was charged enough to continue but had a disconnected feeling inside about moving inside the falls as I was not good in balancing ever the slippery rocks. But I had a belief in Manoj and continued.
The range is a discarded plantation which was invaded long back by the people but now abandoned as people moved more into the town areas. We could see some abandoned plantations of coffee and cardamom along the way. The nature was literally invading it share back and the under growth as well as the big trees were signs of the nature’s invasion. Manoj considered it as a good sign. He told me about some quarry invasion in the hill ranges which was interrupted by the local people so as to protect the hills from being demolished for mining. He pointed to a huge enormous hill which was chosen for mining. It was so huge and under covered surrounded by lush green vegetation. I couldn’t even imagine such a hill getting eradicated for mining and I shared my prayers for its long life.
It was an overcast day and hence it was not well-lit inside the covers which were a blessing as well as an issue for me getting good pics. When it came to shoot waterfalls the over cast climate was so helpful in managing the aperture and when it comes to landscapes and canopies I felt it very difficult to switch between the modes. I even could not remember how many water falls ( small and big ones) I would have clicked. The place is heaven for those who love water falls and streams.
some small streams inside the covers…
We were moving through the falls itself and the slippery rocks were slowing me down. I felt it very perilous to move with the camera on my hand and bag in my shoulders. Manoj could easily understand the same and offered to carry my bag also. When I had to accept the offer I was diverging from the golden rule of trekking/hiking. But I had to do that. Manoj was so very knowledgeable about the terrain and he moved swift into the woods through the slipper rocks. He knew every nook and corner of the place and gave me some breath taking falls view where no one usually visits. The range was the home for numerous medicinal flora species and Manoj almost named every one of them surprising me. He was so helpful and explained everything came on the way. As we cannot come back by the same terrain we had amble time to go in detail.
The trail we were taking narrowed and narrowed and after some time we were literally cutting our way up the hills thought the falls. We had to crawl on our knees some times and we had to use ropes to get down to some places where some good views were hidden.
We could hear the chirping of so many birds and we spotted almost 15- 20 varieties of birds and heard more than that. We could hear the Malabar whistling thrust (choolakakka in Malayalam) singing loud for almost the entire stretch. We saw Malabar whistling thrust, Black drongo, Common mynah, red header beat eater, small green barbet, red headed barbet, Common fly catcher, Red whiskered bullbull, common parrot, Robin bird, Lucky bird, White throated king fisher, wild hen, Wood pecker, Sunbird and so many other varieties which I couldn’t identify by name. Unfortunately they were safe enough from the range of my camera. Many rare varieties of butterflies also were seen but I am not so knowledgeable in that part of the world to name them. J . After Thattekad trekking I have not seen this many birds at one go in any of the places. Surprisingly we saw birding at 12 noon which is an odd timing to get a view. If I could see this much varieties when I was just passing through I am sure we could find at least 4 times the number if we spend some time for birding.
We took some brief rest in between and the route was becoming wilder as we move inside. We had to cut the lush green under growth to find our own way to forward. We came across places where bamboo growth was immense. Manoj named at least four varieties of them and the prominent growth was a variety name Mongi (local name).
After the bamboo growth we took our lunch near a falls. By this time my energy sources had all drained out and my legs started slowing down. We didn’t took any water with us as Manoj told that we are moving close to water source and no need to bring it. In 20 minutes we finished lunch and started again. It was becoming cloudy and feared it would rain. But luckily the rain gods showed mercy to us. After lunch Manoj suggested two routes one was to climb up through the falls and other one to carry on along the forest covers. Being already slipped in “N” number of times I could only think about the latter option.
The trail was horribly ploughed by wild boar in search of the roots and worms. We had to keep every step carefully as one side of the trail was steep slope. If we slip down we may end up in falling full length into a bamboo growth or into the steep rocks. The under growth was so thick that I had to take scratches and bruises all over the body. Manoj lead the way clearing the bushes though has took so much of bruises. There were leach attack also but we cared the least for them as we couldn’t do anything to get rid of them. The only way to move forward was to ignore them. At intervals I used to pluck out the bigger ones and ignore the others. I would have suffered more than a dozen hard bites and the socks were almost wet with blood. By 3.30 we almost made it to the top. We reached some clear lands and grass lands. We took rest in a workers place in the middle of the forest. The local name for the hut was layam as mentioned by Manoj where the workers of the cardamom plantation used to take rest and keep stocks when it was functional long back.
From this place it was hardly 500 mtrs to the top and in another 20 minutes we came out of the grass lands into the road on top of Kolahalamedu. I was feeling tired after the long walk and straight away went to the only shop present their which is meant for tourist coming to Thangal Para. The view from the top was beautiful. The Thangal para stood high at onside and the steep valley of Valyentha constituted the opposite side. The clouds were arising blocking a clear view. The only resort at Kolahalamedu stood alone painted white among the green surroundings.
The cut through which we get binto the Valley end alias Valyentha
On the grass lands below Thangal para we took rest for some time and by 4 pm we planned to get back. Initial plan was to call a jeep from Ilankadu so that they can pick us from Kolahalamedu. Manoj asked whether I could walk for another 8 km down the new road which is a proposed High way from Kolahalamedu to Ilankadu. Manoj said we can have a view on the route which we took for ascending the whole stretch if we walk down. After a good one hour rest I was good to go and agreed to walk down. Our Only worry was the rain but decided to walk. After walking for hardly 2 km a jeep carrying workers of the resort in Kolahalamedu came on the same way and we could jump into that.
But the road was literally humby dumpy and the rest 6 km was a once in a life time journey. The jeep was jumping like anything over some places that we found it very difficult to stick on to it. Back was aching and I feared to have a tiresome 3 hours ride back home. Luckily everything went well and we reached the place where we have parked the bike in another 15 minutes. We went to Manoj’s house again and had refreshment there. By 5 pm I said good bye to Manoj and started back. It was the beginning of a new friendship which would last a long time. After knowing the terrain I just cannot wait to go for the Irumulachikallu trekking.
The day was well spent in the lap of Mother Nature with the life line of Manimala River and lush green covers of Thoniyamkadu range. The range is unique in its flora and fauna. The avian population is a thing worth spending a day. I have plans to come another day only for birding. Thanks to Manoj for introducing me to a world of new possibilities and some new trekking routes. Thanks Mother Nature for keeping us safe for the entire day. Hoping to join with Manoj for the Irumulachikallu trekking soon.
To trek this route please call up 9745112411