The hillocks to the right of the Ghat road that leads to Achankovil, from Senkotta, had caught attention in an earlier expedition, through that sector, and it was a recent info that the stretch is named Thooval Mala. This mountain range draws the border line between Tamil Nadu and Kerala, with thickly wooded valleys and plays the mother role of many a stream, which flow down either sides, benefitting TN and Kerala. Though part of Kerala, better access to the sector is through Senkotta of TN, if not for the jungle track through Mullumala, near Punalur. And it is believed that there was a bridle path, through this heavily wooded sector, to Sabarimala, used by pilgrims in the good old age.
Vehicle can take you up to Kottavasal Forest check post, from where the trek starts. Opted the route through Senkottah and the four member team landed at Kottavasal, in a pleasant morning. While gearing for the trek, the lone guard at the post shared his helplessness in assisting us and we decided to guide ourselves. Ten minute’s climb through a shrubby patch took us to the base of a grass hill, and we proceeded wading through.
Wind assumed might as we hiked and its whistle was the lone wave audible. In another half an hour we were up the hill and the view ahead was inviting. Another fold of grassy mount of double the elevation stood ahead, with a reed patch up to half the height, and a deep ravine on the visible side.
Now the challenge was two sided – To clear the reed patch without deviating to the ravine side and to keep away from elephants, whose presence was evident from dung scattered all over.
Spent a while, analyzing the geography, and confidently decided the direction to follow, as we could see reed jungle and the grass hill atop it, right ahead. Entered the patch, hiked for about 20 minutes and we had the intuition that we are not on the right path. Stopped hiking and decided to deviate to right as we knew the ravine is to the left. Luckily cleared the reeds in another twenty minutes and the grass hill opened before us, though our landing was not exactly where we had planned to.
Took some rest, quenched thirst and went ahead with the climb, through thick grass growth. Once atop, you have the planes of Tamil Nadu, green paddy fields and the Mekkara reservoir, resembling a pond, to the east.
Its even more elevated grass hills to the north and the thick woods of Achankovil range, to the west. Sat on rocks, not to be carried away by the mighty wind, simply looking around, until it started drizzling.
Woke up to the reality that its time for the down climb. It wasn’t that tedious as we had marked our way, while up.
Got back to the vehicle and drove about 6 kms ahead for ‘Kumbavurutti’ falls. Parked the vehicle by the track side and a brisk walk of 15 minutes through the cleared track, took us to the plunge.
Roamed around a while and headed for the famous jungle shrine ‘Achankovil Ayyappa Temple’, about 8 kms further ahead.
Then the debate was on the return path, and the decision was to drive ahead along the jungle track through Mullumala, which leads to Alimukku, near Punalur. It took about 3 hours for our tiny vehicle to clear the 30 km stretch and it was a difficult task behind the wheels. Still that was a memorable drive, though not feather light.
This article was published in May 2012 edition of 'Destination Kerala'