Kodaikanal - A different approach
Long back, there was a road from Munnar to Kodaikanal, which went through Top Station, Vandaravu, Berijam and Moir’s pont. In the 90’s, the road between Topslip and Berijam was permanently closed, on wild life concerns. There after, the one via Udumalpet, Palani, and the other one via Batlagundu in the Munnar – Madurai stretch, were the only known routes to Kodaikanal. Then I read somewhere that there is a Jeep track up to Kadavari in Kerala and also from Kilavara in TN up to Kodaikanal. That meant, the 5 km stretch between Kadavari and Kilavara remains unconnected. Did some research on it and got different opinions. Some said there is a horse track used by farmers of Kadavari (infamous for Ganja cultivation) to take their products to Kodaikanal, via Kilavara. And another one said, it’s a Jeep track, which is a test even for a 4 wheel drive. Let’s see……………
A family visit to Kanthalloor and surroundings has long been under discussion, and we decided to club it with our Poonchira visit. On the return from Poonchira, had a stop at Thodupuzha for lunch, and headed for Kanthalloor by 1.30 PM. Just after Thodupuzha, took a right deviation from Vengalloor, to have a narrow but smooth stretch, which joins the Cochin - Munnar route at Oonnukal, near Neriamangalam. There after, the regular road up to Munnar, and further to Marayoor, 40 kms of picturesque stretch from Munnar. Just after Marayoor, a right turn and another 15 kms, took us to Kanthalloor by around 7 PM.
I rang up Suresh, the care taker of ‘Cheeni Farm house’, where we had booked a cottage for two days. As per directions of Suresh, we took a right turn from the Panchayath Office junction, and after covering a km, along the bumpy road, reached the gates of the resort. Some sort of construction work was going on and we couldn’t take our vehicle inside. Suresh transported our luggage in his bike, and we had a small walk to our cottage. The cottage is atop a cliff, inside an orchard of about 10 acres. They had about 200 apple trees, oranges, tree tomato, suberjill etc., in their farm. The cottage was a two storied building, with well appointed bed rooms and a balcony in each floor.
The temperature was then around 18 degree C, and we went into sweaters. The cottage over looked vegetable farms of Kanthalloor, and it had a nice lawn, with camp fire and barbeque facilities. Suresh’s wife prepared Chapathi and Chicken curry, as he was busy with our barbeque. As we had planned earlier, Suresh had arranged a new 4 wheel drive Jeep, in excellent condition, for our expedition, the next day. Even Suresh tried to pull us back, from a family adventure along unknown terrain, but we stood by it. I had also an agreement with Suresh, to send a search mission along the terrain, if we haven’t returned by the next morning, for I knew that mobiles may not come to help. Went to bed early.
We were ready by 7.30 in the morning, and Satheesh, the hero of our journey, was waiting with his new Mahindra 4WD. Packed breakfast from a hotel at Kanthalloor town, with enough water and drove off towards Anamudi Shola National Park – earlier known as Mannavanchola. Tar road ended just 2 kms from Kanthalloor town, and the next time we saw tar mark, was after dusk. Jeep slowly crawled along the bumpy path, through the thick woods of Anamudi shola. We spotted the rare species of Giant tree fern in the woods, and stopped a while, to have a snap. Satheesh says that the locals call this tree ‘Kalyana theva’ and it is found only in Anamudi shola. After one hours drive, reached a forest check post named ‘Methappu’.There is a forest log house at this place, which overlooks Kanthalloor, and the thick shola forest, which can be rented for Rs.1500 per day. At Methappu, road split into two. Right deviation goes to Kundala dam – Topstation – Munnar. We took the left. Our first destination was ‘Kudalar Kudi’, a remote tribal settlement. Our plan was to move over to ‘Chilanthiyaar’, via KudalarKudi, and then to ‘Koviloor’, which is accessible from Munnar, via Top station. We found some tribals on the way, and Satheesh enquired about the track condition. They said the track is just motorable, and that a jeep has passed this way, 2 days back.
Went on and had a break, in the midst of woods, to have the food, we carried along. It was about 10.30 AM then, and we weren’t aware that the next stop for food will be at 7.45 PM. After about 10 minutes drive, we could have an aerial view of Kudalar Kudi. There were around 30 huts, scattered on a nature made lawn, covered on all sides by towering green peaks. They had cultivated potatoes, carrots, garlic and cabbage all around their settlement.
|Koviloor's Barbar shop|
We were confused, and Satheesh came up with the solution. ‘Let’s go and see. If it’s impossible we shall return’. Stocked more water and biscuits and went on. From the main track, a right deviation goes to Kadavari. Just got into the track, and we knew that things won’t be smooth ahead. There was a track, of course, but it was full of huge rocks and deep holes all around. The track went through beautiful fern hills and Eucalyptus plantations. At a place, while Satheesh was negotiating two deep pits on either side of the wheels, land slid, left front wheel dropped into the pit and as the vehicle was about to turn over, it rammed into a bund aside, and got stuck. Not for the bund, it would have gone upside down. Got the passengers down and asked them to walk up. I and Sunil stood on the right foot board, and Satheesh tried the reverse. Luckily we got it out of the pit, with a bent bumper and a broken suspension plate.
After long trips, drivers usually hand over their mobile numbers, for future communications. But here, I had to ask for it.......
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