Journeys teach us a lot of things, makes us meet new friends and give us experiences and lessons for a lifetime. My journey to Kumily and a day that i spent there was one such. It was an unplanned visit. So unplanned that it was only at 2300h on a Saturday that i decided to catch the first bus at 0330h the next day to Kumily. All i had was basic information from some blogs and a phone number of a tour operator that i got from the internet.
I took the second bus from Kottayam to Kumily at 0330h. The bus had commenced the ascend to the high range even as the first rays of the day kissed the earth. The valley was draped in mist and fog. It was a sight to see the golden light of the early morning sun breaking through the veil of mist. Ahead the winding roads kept disappearing in to the haze. I saw the low clouds floating below the summits of various small hills giving a heavenly stroke to the vista. As i looked out of the window with dreamy eyes, there was a prayer on my lips for a divine intervention to give me an opportunity to capture the beauty on my camera by stopping the bus. Instead we kept moving up to the empyrean above. The entire road was embellished with winding roads, rivulets and small waterfalls. The bus reached Kumily Bus stand by 0830h. In one look, Kumily is a metrical composition of layers of mist, thick fog, tall green trees, blooming flowers and of course the buzz of the wind. I had the luxury of spending only a day at Kumily and since I had no prior plans nor preparation for this journey, i decided to let my tour operator do the job for me. Here was the divine intervention that i prayed for earlier happened and I met Mr. Anwar, the proprietor of Gateway Thekkady.
After a hearty breakfast outside Kumily bus stand, the journey started. Our first destination was Chellarkovil waterfalls. Kumily is a border town between Kerala and Tamilnadu and the beauty of this waterfall is that it originates in Kerala and terminates in Tamilnadu. Located 15km north of Kumily, this beautiful sleepy village is a nature’s bounty. We first went to the place from where the waterfall originated and later to a viewpoint from where the entire waterfall was visual. All along the road, tall trees lined up with their huge green umbrellas to guard me. The Chellarkovil waterfall originates from a small stream and the place did not seem like any other waterfall that I have been to. If not for Anwar, I wouldn’t have guessed that there is a cliff ahead. The thick fog made my ability to judge worse. There was slight drizzle and the air was saturated with moisture due to the high humidity. The movement of mist along with a small drizzle was a pleasurable experience. The nature was a beauty and I couldn’t stop clicking. Hence, I would let the pictures speak the rest.
The next destination was Ramakkalmedu. This again is situated along the boundary of Kerala and Tamilnadu. This beauty can literally blow you away. The average wind speed here is about 25 km/hour and is recorded as the maximum in Asia. This ideally should be a great place for paragliding but i couldn’t see any sign of any adventure activity here. May be the winds are a bit too high for safe gliding.
The name comes from a mythological belief that during thretha yuga, lord ‘Sree Rama’ a Hindu God along with his brother ‘Lakshmana’ had set his foot on this rock when he was searching for his wife ‘Sita Devi’ who was abducted by Ravana the king of Lanka. Hence the name Rama-Kal-Medu (meaning the meadows that hold the Rama’s foot imprints).
From ramakkalmedu you can see the kuravan and kurathi statue. The statue is placed on the top of the Ramakkalmedu hills. Mr. C B Jinan is the architect of this beautiful statue, which was erected in 2005.The gigantic Idukki arch dam has been constructed over a gorge (periyar flows through it) formed between the two high massive rocks called “Kuravan hill” and “Kurathi hill”. As per history, in 1922 Shri Kolumban, the head of ‘Oorali’ race showed the way to the spot of present Arch Dam.
Ramakkal is the tallest rock in the meadow. Once you climb up to the topmost rock, you can see a red marking which i assume is where the lord placed his foot. It isnt a easy climb but its worth every effort. The beautiful scenery from atop the rock and the strong winds take all the weariness off. The final climb is a real challenge since the rock at the summit is over 8 feet tall. I clicked the panorama sitting above the rock (mind you, braving the strong winds that had the strength to push me off easily). Seeing my acrobatics, a group of youngsters who were standing below the rocks till then joined in. There is just a small iron rod, which i assume is a remnant of a lightning conductor, that you can hold on to against the winds. Sitting atop the rock, you can have a bird’s eye view of the villages and towns of Tamil Nadu. Here you can hear the winds literally roar. Been there, done that i can only say that the climb is totally worth it but one needs to be really careful since the winds are not steady and can easily gust to over 35 km/hour.
Thereafter we crossed the border and entered Tamilnadu. The drive to reach Cumbam (kambam) has 18 hairpin bends . It was interesting to learn that every hairpin bend has been named after a flower (in tamil). After having a stomachful of South Indian lunch at Cumbam town, we headed towards one of the various grape gardens that lie along the Kollam-Theni highway. Visit to a grape garden (vineyard) was exciting and gave an insight to the various innovative farming methods adopted by the farmers to cultivate grapes even when the weather is unfavourable. Moreover, it gave me a good opportunity to tweak my photography skills.
On the way back, at the lower camp of Theni district, we paid a quick visit to the memorial for Col John Pennycuick, the architect of the controversial Mullaperiyar dam.
Now it was time to head back to Kumily since i had to catch the evening bus to Bangalore. On the way back we saw the huge hydel pipe lines that carry water to the Periyar power station at lower Periyar in Tamilnadu.
This is obviously not a guide on what to watch out for in Kumily since I haven’t seen even a slice of it. But from what i saw i can confidently say that this is the place to visit not just if you love trekking, nature and photography but even for a break, some mental peace and tranquility. But do not just arrive (the way I did). Do plan your trip and make early reservations. Only then can you extract the most of what this place can deliver. I haven’t been to the Periyar tiger reserve, the Elephant camp, Gavi, Parunthanpara, Vandanmedu, Cauvery point and a lot many other places. So I need not mention that I intend to return, then with a plan in mind and one on paper, with a better camera and even better gear. For now, i just got a taste of what lies ahead, what to lookout for and most importantly i got the most of what a day can offer.
I cannot thank Anwar enough since he was with me throughout the day and not once did i feel that i have met this man for the first time in life. He was there like a long time friend guiding me exploring the area, assisting in composing my photographs, giving suggestions and even answering every stupid doubt i threw at him. Once back at the Kumily bus stand, I picked up my bags, walked ten spaces and entered Tamilnadu. Yes, it was that simple since Kumily bus stand is exactly at the border. Once my bus started moving, Anwar was there waving me a goodbye as if he was seeing off a family member. As i waved back, i realised that I was not only leaving behind a beautiful landscape embroidered with nature’s gems but also a good human being who did his job in such a fine way that it didn’t seem like work at all. Journeys do teach us a lot.