Friday, September 3, 2010

Tholadi – Beauty Still Wild

               It was a fine Sunday morning in front of my desktop and power failed. Waited half an hour in vain and the travel bug bit me, all of a sudden. Rang up Pramod, Sunil and Anoj, regular DLC members and surprisingly all were available. Theme of the trip evolved to be recent news on a road project to Ambasamudram from Trivandrum, via Kottoor, along the thick woods of Agasthya hills. 
                      Research revealed that there was a track along this stretch earlier, which was closed by the then rulers, decades ago. Later came to know that there is a water fall somewhere near this track, deep in the jungle named ‘Tholadi’, by the tribals. At present there are two well built roads to Ambai from Trivandrum- one through Nagercoil and the other through Thenmala, Sencottai. This new project may shorten the distance, but at the cost of the last thin stretch of natural jungle along the Western Ghats. 

                          Thought of exploring the greenery, to the extent possible . Packed in Sunil’s Alto, drove up to Kattakada, took left to Kuttichal, and then straight to Kottoor junction by around 11.30 AM. Had tea from the junction and paid a short visit to Kappukadu elephant rehabilitation centre.

                 On reaching Kappukad, rang up Dinesh, DFO with the forest dept. On his direction, Mr. Shiju, forester with Agasthya  Bilogical Reserve came to our help. 

                    Planned a trek to Meenmutti falls as a starter, but dropped it on the way due to heavy down pour.   

                                 Returned to Kappukadu and revealed our original plot to Shiju. He assigned Mr. Ajayan, driver with the dept. to assist us. Got to know that the earlier track was still motorable up to a tribal settlement by name Chonampara. Chonampara is about 8 kms from Kottoor and we moved on, lead by Ajayan. The track winds through thick woods with occasional streams crossing it. 

                   Drizzling was somewhat consistent, strengthening in regular intervals. Shiju had warned us not to cross the streams if the flow was strong. 

               Somehow we managed to take our tiny vehicle up to Chonampara, and parked it by the way side. 

                   Walked along the muddy track listening to the roar of Anchu Nazhika River beneath. The thick foliage obstructed view of the flow. Walked by the side of Chonampara settlement, for about a km to reach Kattakutti, where the track ended at the river.

                On the other side it had narrowed to a foot path, due to lack of usage. Ajayan says, the path leads to Agasthyarkoodam and its just 12 kms from here. He has done the trek to Agasthyarkoodam, many a times along this track, and it’s just an 8 hour walk from here. He continued that abandoned wheels of chariots, that took the kings along this route, can be found along the way. It seems the rulers themselves had closed the route, by blocking it at many places, in fear of intrusion of unwanted elements from the Ambasamudram side. Deviated and continued along the river side to our ultimate aim – Tholadi falls.

As Ajayan wasn’t sure of the track, we took a tribal by name Ramachandran, from the settlement, as a guide. Crossed a narrow rivulet by name ‘Aana Nila’, which is a tributary to Anchu Nazhika River that descends at Tholadi, our destination.

            Halted at a place for leach check, and we could capture mist capped ‘Kathiru Mudi’, at a distance, where Anchu Nazhika River originates. 

                     Another five minutes walk took us back to the river side. Here Ramachandran urged us to cross the swift flowing ‘Anchu Nazhika’ River itself, and it was a risky attempt. The rain in the mountains renders the strength of the flow unpredictable. Feeling our frustration, Ramachandran went ahead with a demonstration, and that was a confidence building measure. 

                   Accepted the helping hands, and we made it to the other side. 

                  Crossing the flow, followed the river upstream, in the drizzle. After a 10 minute walk, we could hear the mild roar, indicating the proximity of our destination. Leaches started their spell, as usual, but none bothered the blood loss. Another five minutes and we had the distant view of the whiteness, filtering the foliage.

                      Once at the base, we realised that the gradient was of such nature that our view couldn’t cover the entire beauty. 

                 The milky white flow descended in several steps and our eyes could follow only four such steps. 

             The adventurer in me woke and I attempted to climb along the rocky ridge alongside the fall, neglecting the leach threat. But still the top of the flow was out of view. 

              Leaches would have had a laugh, as they could reach up to my elbow, while I was on the four legged climb. Ramachandran pointed to a tall tall tree in the jungle, at the top of which, one could have a descent view. None of us where good tree climbers and we chose to be contended with what we had from the base. We hadn’t carried umbrellas and were accepting the shower all along.

              Sat on rocks enjoying the wild beauty until someone was out of the magical spell, to realize that it was about 4 in the evening and our bellies wouldn’t bear it for long. Started the return trek under the shower, and walked briskly to reach our vehicle at Chonampara within 45 minutes. Ramachandran had left us at his hamlet by then. Drove back to Kottoor along the same wooded stretch. 

                Along the drive, Ajayan opened up on the hidden treasures of this region and as a regular practice by the end of every exploration, we, then and there, declared an immediate revisit. Left Ajayan at the Forest office, assuring a reunion soon, and took left just before Kottoor. Drove alongside Neyyar reservoir up to the Dam and deviated for Kallikkadu. Found a local tea shop along the Kattakkada stretch and had a stomach full of Dosas and other delicacies. The dishes were surprisingly good that I had it packed for my family too.
                Back home by 6.30 PM, all mud and damp. Handed over the food packet, and my wife was wondering what I had been up to. I told her that it was like an ‘Alice in wonder land’ experience…..for I’m back into the madness, after an eight hour dream.

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  1. Of course, it was a nice experience within that much time. We should rather try to move to Kattadikkunnu and Meenmutti next time.

  2. Of course Pramod.We shall Plan it soon.

  3. Shinu, i m planning my next trip on the same way you went, pls advice, my contact num is 9846706481

  4. Chinchu,
    Normally permission is not awarded to Private vehicles, beyond Kappukadu. You may contact the wild life warden for the same. Or else you may reach Chonampara settlement by a KSRTC bus and seek the help of tribals to take you to Tholadi.

  5. Dear Shinu, can I get some contact information about the tribal Ramachandran or anybody else there to help us?

  6. hai sir,i was ur student at jnv,................itz a beautiful life u r having,nice journeys,great best wishes!

    1. Thank you Hari Krishnan... Hope you are fine


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