Thursday, March 19, 2009

Along Agasthya Mountain Base

              Holidays in chain always tempts. And this time planned a two day trip along the fringes of Agasthya Biosphere - a complete circular lap with occasional peep ins. As always Sunil & Renji conceded. Started off at 9 AM on 22nd Feb in Sunil’s Alto. Drove upto Kallikkad near Neyyar Dam, took a right turn, and we were on Nedumangad – Arulvaimozhi road.

Chittar Reservoir
         First stop at Thripparappu Falls. Little water and overcrowded.

                 Left the place soon for Kulasekharam. Mathoor is around five km from Kulasekharam which boasts of the hanging trough, which connects two peaks with streaming water. Place worth a visit and the view from the trough is somewhat decent, not to call awesome.

                   Fresh pineapple sold at this place was equally sweet. Now a sudden twist in our planned program and Pechipara dam site is being introduced. Another deviation from Kulasekharam towards the mountains, and after around 10 kms ,we were at Pechipara. From the security officer at the dam site, we came to know about Lower Kodayaar power plant. As we weren’t in a hurry, headed for the camp which was another 13 kms along the same stretch. Least optimistic, we approached the officials there for a permission to explore the plant. Though initially reluctant, they conceded, to our surprise. An official was even kind enough to come along with us and to explain how the power station functioned. 

                       The penstock pipes carry water from Upper Kodayaar reservoir to the plant, which drives the huge turbines. A steep track runs parallel to the pipes up the slope and a winch is employed to take workers from lower camp to the upper and back. The upper winch point and the Upper Kodayar reservoir falls within the Kalakkad – Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve and it can be accessed by road only through the other side of Agastya, via Ambasamudram. Thanked the officers and were back at Kulasekharam by 3 PM. 

                   Took a left turn from the junction and we were on SH45 leading to Arulvaimozhi, via Thiruvila, along the Agasthya base. Pretty smooth, picturesque route, less frequented by vehicles, and we were at Arulvaimozhi by 4.30 PM. Had nice food – call it lunch – from a small hotel over there. Arulvaimozhi is on the Nagercoil – Thirunelveli stretch. We proceeded upto Kavalkinaru in the Thirunelveli direction and took a right turn for Kanyakumari – 24 kms. We had bookings at the Kerala House there. Reached Kanyakumari by sunset.


                     Left Kanyakumari after breakfast by around 9AM, travelled back the same path up to Kavalkinaru and headed for Valliyoor, in the Thirunelveli direction. Hundreds of windmills on either sides of Kanyakumari – Kavalkinaru road resemble a plantation.

                  From Valliyoor took a left turn for Kalakkad via Kothasseri. Grass lands bordering Agasthya, flanks either sides of the road. Gracing cattle and goats and the mountain folds at the backdrop – great landscape.

                    Immediately after Kalakkadu took a narrow road to the left from Karuvelankulam which leads to Pachayaar dam (about 6 km) via Patahi village.

                        At the dam site, we were lucky to have Muthuswami – an employee at the dam site – who was willing to serve as a guide. As per his directions, we drove along a bumpy unlaid track, parallel to river Pachayaar, which caters to the dam. The river got its name from the green color of water it carried and the color is attributed to its medicinal values, acquired along the flow through the dense forests of the Kalakkad range. We parked the vehicle at the end of the track and then walked along a narrow path, following the upstream. After a 20 minutes walk, we found Pachayaar, within the woods ,inviting, bit shallow here and there, so clean and crystal clear, that no one could resist a dip – not even Muthuswami.

                    Spent a while, enjoying the cold flow, and in fact, Sunil went ahead in consuming the natural tonic, on inspiration from Muthuswami. Sunil even managed to whisk away finely rolled stones from the river base, of course, aided by Muthuswami.

                  On the return drive Muthuswami directed us through the road over the dam wall with the vast stretch of greenish water on one side and the greenery of plantations on the other side.

            The dam wall runs up to 3.6 kms – another interesting fact.

                   Bye to Muthuswami and back on the Kalakkad – Ambasamudram SH117 by 3 PM. SH 117 runs with Agasthya on one side and cattle grazing grasslands on the other side.

          At Kallidakurichi – just 2 kms before Ambasamudram – took a left turn for Manimuthar falls. This region is famous for granite of which idols are carved out. We found many such quarries and polished slabs of such granite, along the roadside.

          Manimuthar dam is on the way to the falls and there is a forest check post at this place.

             Normally private vehicles are permitted only up to the falls. Written permission is to be obtained from Ambasamudram Range Officer to proceed further into Kalakkad – Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve. This is the road which leads to Uupper Kodayaar (via Manjolai), which I have mentioned earlier in this blog, and its about 40 kms from here, through dense forest and Tea estates. Just after the check post we found two Sambar deers which ran into thorny bushes before we could shoot – using camera of course. Manimuthar falls is about 6kms from the check post. Even at this part of the year, with no recent rains at all, it had enough water which would force one, bent his spine. 

         Had a feeling of nice massage under the falls and the bath was refreshing.

                  Should come back again, in very near future,with permission to visit Manjolai and Upper Kodayar. Reached Ambasamudram by 5.30 PM. Had food from a vegetarian hotel – again call it lunch. Now, our plan was to travel through Tenkasi - Senkottai – Thenmala – Madathara – Nedumangad and to Trivandrum, thus completing the circular lap around Agasthya. After little hassles on the route, we reached Shenkottai by 8PM and we had our hearts sink to hear that, Shenkottai – Thenmala road is closed for repair works. The only deviation available was a lorry track that leads to Punalur via Achankovil. The local people strongly insisted not to try that route with our small Alto. We felt it difficult to convince ourselves that the only way out, is to travel back all these distance. Decided to take Shenkottai – Thirunelveli – Nagercoil – Trivandrum route and reluctantly shifted to reverse. 

               Driving heavy hearted, I jumped a red signal, it seems, and the traffic police cornered me. Even those rude minds fell soft on knowing our plight, and they let me go free with a sym-pathetic advice – “Pathu Ponga Sir”. Now – Everything is decided – No tensions – No worries - Smooth roads – Nice drive – Back home at 2 AM.

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  1. Lucky guys!to have both the time and luck to go to all these lovely places.keep filling in the details of your next trip,so we can enjoy reading your experiences.

  2. Yes Mini. People like u are my strength

  3. hw u possible 2 go 2 these places?hw to update ur blog man?superb...........wil u pls discover ernakulam district pls///////////////

  4. cool... Very nice to go through your blog.

    I also travel from trivandrum to ambai through the tvm-marthandom-aralvaimozhi-panagudi-kallakad-cheranmahadevi route once in a while --to my farm. However I still have visit all these waterfalls and forests. I have visited only the coutralam falls and the agastyar falls at papanasam. everytime i travel, i enjoy the beauty of the western ghats and always wished if there was a route from vellanad or poovachal of trivandrum through the western ghats to vikramasingapuram--i could have enjoyed the beauty of the western ghats and also have a shorter route. I have heard that such a route is being thought about by the government--but not sure. Do you know of any possibilities or a new route through the western ghats. then you can count on me to accompany you in your next trip to tirunelveli. my email is


    1. Johnson
      Though there are many passes which cut through the western ghats, the only motorable track is through Keeripara - Balamore - Upper Kodayar - Manjolai - Kallidakurichi - Ambai. And it falls in the highly restricted core zone of Kalakad - Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve. Still I managed a ride once

      Apart from these I had done some research on trails that can be done on foot across the Ghats and found these
      1. Rajathottam - Kundar - Senkottai
      2. Thenmala - Rosemala - Darppakkulam - Kundar - Senkottai
      3. Bonacaud - Pandipath - Baanatheertham - Papanasam - Ambai
      4. Kattakkada - Kottur - Athirumala - Papanasam - Ambai
      (Not yet posted)


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