Saturday, July 6, 2013

Kizhakkalaachi - The Eastern Heights

             Idukki Wild Life Sanctuary is a low profile reserve with all its beauty and majesty hidden and unexplored. Kizhakkalachi is one among the hidden wonders not even popular with the local inhabitants. Access to these heights, is only through a remote village named Kizhukanam, connected by a dirt road from Valakode, about 30 km from Kattappana, the head quarters of Idukki district. Few buses ply between Kattappana and Kizhukanam, apart from which jeeps serve the connectivity with outer world.

        Thus we boarded the 4 Wheel Drive vehicle owned by Babu of Kizhukanam, after parking our vehicle at Valakode. The jerky drive ended at the forest station of Kizhukanam, from where two of the forest staff,  joined us to guide.Our vehicle carrying the seven member delegation drove up to Kizhukanam junction, deviated left and switched over to 4WD option, for the next part of the climb. After half an hour  of jumps and jerks, the drive ended at ‘Mulla’ and we got geared for the trek.

         The initial part was along thick vegetation, which soon changed over to grass hills. The hike then went steep and the torching sun was almost above heads. Continued sweating and gasping, with occassional breaks at shola patches that weren’t that frequent. Soon we found ourselves amidst vast greenery of the meadows, which displayed the finest of its charms. Camera clicks tore the majestic silence and the light breeze carried away the pains.

           Crossed another shola and advanced up a hillock where we were greeted with the mesmerising view of the blue storage of Idukki reservoir, deep In the valley. Despite the harsh lighting, the valley wore a charm, enough to send an enthusiast out of sense.

               Some went clicking and others lied on the green carpet, with eyes wide open, filling it with the panorama. Folds of green hillocks continued from the other side of the storage, adding to the majesty of the frame.

              We had just entered the Kizhakkelaachi sector through the southern end and our plan was to cover the entire region on foot, and to leave along the northern end. As much walking still remained, got to foot soon.

            The next part went along a thick shola which, though a little lengthy, didn't pose any trouble, as the gradient was mild and the foliage served cover. Heard a mountain pigeon at the heights, but the canopy blocked the view. It took about half an hour to clear the shola and we were then walking along a ridge, with the center part of the reservoir beneath us. The undergrowth was unusually thick and it was difficult to wade through. Sreenivasan, our leader, then deviated left, along the ridge, descending a bit, to find a wedge shaped sharp rocky structure, protruding into the storage. Moved with caution, to the edge which falls steep into the reservoir, deep down.

          Sat at the edge of the cliff, with the spread of the pool, all around. The dam structure of Cheruthoni, to the far north, gave occasional appearances which wasn't sufficient for our camera sensors to detect. The arc dam of Idukki, to the north east, wasn't visible, as towering hillocks of the ‘Memari’ sector, blocked view.


                    It was 3 PM by then and we got up for the return trek. Climbed back to the track and started the descent, which went past a shola and then opened to grass hills. The cliffs of ‘Kalyaanathandu’, near Kattappana, was visible from the track, as we descended further.

                  The descent was moderate and we had an easy walk, which took just an hour for us to reach ‘Bheeman Chuvadu’, where our jeep was expected to be.

             Babu turned up a little late – he would have underestimated our trekking speeds, probably – which gave us ample time to explore the base. Found a large footprint shaped mark on the rocky surface and a tribe who came in search of his cow, missing for the last two days, clarified that it’s the footprint of ‘Bheema’, of Mahabharatha. As I stood amazed how Bheema would have landed on the rock, single legged, the jeep horn echoed in the valley beneath.

Pappilai Amman - The Deity Distinct

         Raj Vridhachalam, the man behind many of my trails, was the one to brief me on Pappilai Amman, the deity of a jungle shrine, deep i...