Friday, July 24, 2009

KochuPampa Gavi Revisited

Just after the trip to KochuPampa, mentioned in the earlier post, an occasional mention on the beauty of the place, to Manu and Manoj, forced me to get ready for a revisit, just a week after the earlier. This time I should make it to Ponnambalamedu – I decided - had discussions with ShibuChettan – the only man who could be of help - and set out by 4.30 AM on 18th of May 2009. He is an Engineer at KSEB KochuPampa, from where Ponnambalamedu is just 4 kms through woods. Picked Shibu Chettan from his residence at Kilimanoor and stopped at Nilamel to accommodate Rajan Chettan, a friend of Shibu Chettan, who opted to join us in the last minute. Paleo 1.3 Multijet, owned by Manu, took only 7 hours to take us to Vandiperiyar, nearest town to Uppupara – via Ayur, Anchal, Punalur, Pathanamthitta, Ranni, Erumeli, Mundakkayam, Kuttikkanam. Loaded the vehicle with eatables and reached Vallakkadavu Check post by around noon. And now it was test time for the Paleo. We had to take Raju chettan, the official on duty at Uppupara and another watcher along with. The track to Uppupara from the tarred road is meant only for four wheel drives.
          Finally I, Manoj, Rajan Chettan and the watcher opted to take the entire 11 km forest track on foot, so that the car could be at ease. We, the peddlers were ahead of the car, as it was struggling to negotiate the rocks and pits. Leeches were very happy on us and half a km ahead Manoj left the walk and waited for the car. Another half km and Rajan Chettan gave up.           We continued and could spot Bisons and a lone elephant on the way.          As we reached the Grasshills, the track went more even and the car could over take us.   Manu went ahead and came back to pick us, so that we could save a trail of about 4km.   The newcomers to the place, Manu, Manoj and Rajan Chettan were thrilled at the experience.             Manu and Shibu Chettan transformed to chefs of this lonely place and ended up with ‘Kappa Meen/Beef Curry’ which was decent. All of a sudden it started raining and mist covered the region.                  Though we had a plan to spend the night at this place, we dropped the idea as it was getting very cold (we didn’t have warm clothes) and the small single room of the shelter wasn’t enough for seven of us to live in. Next option was the KSEB inspection Bungalow at KochuPampa, and left the place by 6 in the evening, though it was still raining. Heavy shower had developed many pools of mud on the track along the grasslands and we got stuck in one such mud hole. It was getting dark, raining, and we were in a trap. All of us got out into the rain and could some how lift the car out of it. In the struggle, I fell into it and was all mud and dirt. Fortunately, spotted a forest stream nearby and had a wash up. It was pitch dark by then and we had to travel 8 kms through rocks and another 30 kms along a pot holed path, through the dark woods of Periyar Tiger Reserve, to reach KochuPampa. Tuskers pose real threats in such paths and yeaah, we had an encounter. To our luck, he was in a hurry, and didn’t have enough time to spend on us. It was a wonder to me that the Paleo could some how manage to climb up and down the terrain with out any casualty. Hit KochuPampa, without many happenings, by around 9. God’s grace, the KSEB canteen man Gireesan had some food left over and we could just sooth our stomachs. Hit bed dreaming of the morning trek to Ponnambalamedu. 

            Morning greeted us with a heart break – the forest dept officials and the tribals of the region had a hassle the previous day, regarding taking people to the restricted zone of Ponnambalamedu and we may not be able to trek through the jeep track to Ponnambalamedu. I was desperate, as this was my third attempt, going haywire. Shibu chettan came up with an idea of trekking through the woods and grasshills, were actually no path exists. He also offered to arrange the service of a tribal who knows the direction to walk. He also warned of the risks – elephants, leeches, rain, mist, lack of a path etc. But we were determined. And thus we started the trek by around 9 in the morning, lead by Sasi, an inhabitant of the place. It was drizzling and slightly misty.
             We knew that we have to walk around 6km one way, through the woods. About half a km through the grass hills and soon mist spread. It was so thick, that visibility got reduced to about 4 to 5 meters.                      It didn’t bother us, as we had Sasi with us, for whom the region is very familiar. Two more kms ahead and we found ourselves aside thick woods, and the walk became more difficult.            In addition to the agony, leeches started their spell.                       We were watching Sasi and we could smell something bad. As we feared, Sasi admitted that we were lost in the woods. Mist thickened further and visibility dipped. We could hear cracking sound of perches, indicating presence of elephants near by. Took out our mobiles and heart sank; no coverage. Sasi asked us to stay on a rock and disappeared in the mist. There we sit, in the mist, hopeless and confused.                           We cursed ourselves for such a foolish attempt, despite the warnings. Sasi appeared from the mist, still confused. He is not to be blamed, as nothing can be seen around. Finally we came at a decision – to take a U turn and walk in the same direction with out deviating until, we reach somewhere – literally somewhere!! We walked and walked and, there goes a path cleared of grass. We yelled in joy. And we heard Sasi whisper – It’s the path used by elephants (Aanathari) and not by humans. Half a km ahead, Sasi could spot a distant tower of KSEB, like a thread in air and ooughhhhh…, came a sigh of relief. Within 20 minutes we were back at our starting point, after another unsuccessful attempt.

                         It was half past eleven by then, and we had enough time left. Sasi came up with a compensation offer – ChenthamaraKolli – a gorge within the woods, accessible by car. Yessssss and we drove towards Gavi. After about 5 kms, took a deviation to the left, into the woods. Just before the deviation, we found a bold creature – a giant squirrel – atop a tree, ready to pose even for a close up.
          About 2 kms through forest, Sasi called for a stop, and we had to walk for 5 minutes towards the destination. The view was mind blowing, for the gorge was that deep.            Even at the start of rains, the water fall was alive.                We could spot a large number of Nilgiri Langurs at the base of the falls. It’s a very dangerous place too, as there is no fencing or any such protective measure.                       Suddenly mist covered the region blocking the view of the opposite cliff and with a chill, we discovered that the place is highly leech infested.            We had lots of them not only on our feet but on our palms too, and it took time to get rid of them.
                          Returned to KochuPampa, had lunch from Gireesan’s canteen and after a visit to KochuPampa reservoir and dam, started our return journey, by 5 in the evening. We found three Sambar deers, atop a hillock facing us, and waved to them – see you next time, on another venture to Ponnambalamedu.            Then came a Bison family, to see us off, but the mother and the baby was too shy to pose.                        It started raining heavily then and we had to drive at snail’s pace. Just before Moozhiyar, an uprooted tree blocked our way, and we all had to step into the kingdom of leeches again, in an effort to lift it off.          Had food from Pathanamthitta, and reached back by midnight.

                 Next day, by noon, I received a call from Manu, who was waiting at the Paleo service centre for long, to get his damaged suspensions replaced. And now, its his own worry; why should I be bothered…

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  1. om my god .. u went with a paleo .. ? unbelievable . i have gone there some years ago on a jeep.. now i like to go there once more ,, did u followed the way from vandipperiyar through vallakadavu.. is there any other way (coz ur path seems strange, does not seems usual road .) please tell me .. Anyway u've done a great trip.. congrats ...

  2. Of course u can enter thru the other end from Aangamoozhi near Pathanamthitta. Track is thru Moozhiyar, Kakki, Kochupampa, Gavi, Pachakanam.

  3. Recently gone with my Swift. The road condition is poor from Moozhiyaar...

  4. Yeah..The monsoon would have done all the damage.

    And its good to be so.
    only those enthus would try the go.
    those janthus could spare the woe

  5. Hi Shinu etta..I'm planning to drive from Trivandrum to Thekkady this month end by the route you've mentioned: Pathanamthitta > Angamoozhi > Moozhiyar > Kakki > Gavi > Periyar and then to Thekkady.

    Wish to know if this route is open to general public? I'm not planning to stay at Gavi, just drive over. Also, any idea on how's the condition of the road in this route?

  6. Dear Shinu, I have gone through most of your travelogues..You have got a wonderful experience in the wild..I am also interested to udertake such type of trips...have undertaken around 10 trips so far...but know that u are exploring new destinations..If you don't mind, will you allow me to join one or two trips with you in future. Wish you all the best

  7. Dear Shinu, I have gone through most of your travelogues..You have got a wonderful experience in the wild..I am also interested to udertake such type of trips...have undertaken around 10 trips so far...but know that u are exploring new destinations..If you don't mind, will you allow me to join one or two trips with you in future. Wish you all the best...Harikumar.N, Trivandrum

  8. did you you went to ponnambalamedu after this? I am eagerly wish to go there.


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