Nilgiri Tahr

Nilgiri Tahr
Nature Beckons you....Listen to her whispers.....

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Agastyamountains Trek Report....May 2008

Agastyakoodam,1868m





Agastya mountains are located in the Kerala-Tamilnadu border and the Agastyakoodam(peak)towers at 1868m.(The highest peak south of Himalayasis is Anaimudi in Munnar).Eventhough I have hiked these mountains several times the urge to climb it one more time always exists .So we started off on 16th May 2008 to one of the few surviving tropical forests in India.




Sage Agastya




Kappukadu,Kottoor,The starting point of our Trek




Elephants at the Rehabilitation Centre



Google Earth view of the Area...



Agastya mountains lies within the Agastyamalai biosphere Reserve in Trivandrum District in Kerala.Agastyamalai Biosphere Reserve came into existence in 2001 and it is spread over 3500 sq.km.It is composed of Neyyar,Peppara and Shendurni wildlife sanctuaries in Kerala and the Kalakkad-Mundanthurai Sanctuary in Tamil Nadu.The forest consists mainly of moist deciduous and shola grasslands.Around 2000 varieties of medicinal plants can be seen here out of which 50 are endangered.The fauna includes the Tiger,Elephant,leopard,bear,bison and many more.





The Grasslands......Beautiful







Catchment of the Neyyar Dam at Kottoor...



Hump Nosed Pit Viper....




Sightings of Pygmy Elephants(Kallana in Malayalam) have been reported by many but no concrete evidence exists.The "Kani" tribe who lives in these areas vouches that the Pygmy elephants are real.I am waiting for my opportunity to photograph them!





Another View of the Grassland...





Remains of machinery used to generate electricity by the Britishers long ago



So we started off on 16th May at 7AM from the Kappukadu Elephant Camp in Kottor which is 35Km from Trivandrum City.We parked our cars there and started our trek with much enthusiasm.Our Trek party consisted of 9 members which included forest official Lenin and Guide Rajashekharan who knows the Agastya forests like his backyard.I was particularly excited because my gear included the newly purchased Canon 400D with the 18-55 and the 55-250 IS lenses.




Meenmutty Waterfalls....awesome




Can we call it the Snake Tree?!



Jungle streams aplenty in this area...


The total distance from Kappukadu to Agstyakoodam is roughly 25KMs and requires minmum 3 days trek.Our first destination was "Valia Meenmutty" waterfalls where there is a forest guest house."Meenmutty" literally means the end of way for fishes upstream."Meenmutty" is always a waterfall and the fishes cant swim the cascading water.





Attayar......


A Water moth....




We have to traverse the Neyyar wild Life Sanctuary first which is around 128 sq. km in area.Elephants are aplenty here apart from the other animals.Within the first hour of our trek we encountered the first wild animal.It was a Hump Nosed Pit Viper.We were taking a break near a tree which was uprooted and suddently the snake moved.It stayed for quite some time and I could take a no.of pictures.So the Pit Viper was the lucky animal to have been photographed by my new Canon 400D!





The Grassland Waterfall....




We reached "Cheria Meenmutty" at 12:30 pm and prepared our lunch.Lunch consisted mainly of rice,sambar and a vegetable curry.After an arduous trek we were really hungry and the food tasted very nice.Before the meal we all had a wonderful bath in the river which was slightly colder.The bath gave new fresh energy to all and after a good meal it was time for 1 hour rest.The trek resumed at 4pm and our destination was "Valia Meenmuuty".There is a clear trek path all thru to the Agastya mountain and at some places more vegetation have grown right on the trek path.Before reaching Valia Meenmutty we have to pass thru grasslands,thickets and cross rivers.Animals especially elephants are many here and I was praying for the Pygmy elephants to bump right in front of me!!




The water is crystal clear...


We reached Valia Meenmutty around 6PM and immediately unloaded our baggage in the guest house.There is nobody there apart from us and the building was little old and not very clean.We tidied up the place and went down a hill to have another refresing bath in the river.We came back to the building before darkfall and started discussing our plan for the next day.A rice soup was prepared for dinner and we all had a wonderful nights sleep amidst the beautiful jungle.We could hear differeant sort of noises and could "smell" elephants but didnt see one.There is a trench around the building and we knew that we were safe from the pachyderms.




Trek path is wider here but narrows down...


We started our next day's trek at 8AM after having breakfast.Now onwards the trek path becomes more upwardly gradient and our first stop for the day was "Unnikadavu" which is around 3 hours trek from Valia Meenmutty.We reached that place at 11 am and decided to rest for a few hours.Lunch was made and as usual before luch a refreshing bath.Before taking bath I could spot a checkered Keelback and took a few pictures.




Magic Leaf.....!


We resumed our trek at 1pm and our destination was Athirumala Estate guest house.We can call it as the base camp of Agasyakoodam.We reached at around 2PM.The route from Unnikadavu to Athirumla consisted of breathtaking sceneries which is the best in the enitre stretch of the trek.It consists of grassland and thick jungle.The fresh smell of the grass was invigorating and the Grassland- waterfall is one the beautiful sights I have ever seen.



A spider in the way.....

Misty.....on way to Pongalappara






Checkered Keelback....less poisonous


At 2:30 pm we parked our luggage at Athirumala guest house and started our final journey to the peak.Since we have to come back to Athirumala, there was no need to carry the eintire luggage.The stretch from Athirumala to Agastyakoodam is quite diffuclult and involved climbing steep trek paths.The climate was cool and we were very excited about conquering the second highest peak south of Himalayas.Leeches were aplenty on the way since it had rained continuously in the previous months.Everybody carried a small pouch of salt soaked in water.Just apply the saline on the spot were the leech has attched itself and it suddently falls off and dies.The bleeding stops in a few minutes.I was bitten by the leech a number of times that I have no fear of this creature any more!

Butterflies aplenty.....


We reached a place called "Pongalappara" and rested for half an hour.The source of the "Thambraparni" river which runs thru Tamil Nadu is here.Then our final phase of the trek started.Now it mainly consisted of climbing steep rock structures.We could see lights from cities of Tamil Nadu from the top.At last we reached the top of Agstyakoodam.There is a statue of Agsastya muni and we all thanked him for taking us to him without much trouble.One cant stay at the top for long since it is very windy and cold.Many times it is fully covered with mist.We all stayed there for a few minutes and started to climb down.We could again "smell" the elephants but none came before us.




Bonakkad Estate.....



There are many medicinal herbs and plants at the top.We are not supposed to pluck anything and all of us adhered to that law laid down by the forest department.While climbing there are occations when one would be gasping and a few minutes rest would reenergise oneself.While climbing down one may not gasp that much but the joints might not cooperate completely.Again a few minutes rest will lead you on your way.

Steeper Rocks at the final stretch...


We reached Athirumala and had a good supper and slept soundly.The next day we dicided to return via Bonakkad which is a shorter route.We reached by around 6pm at Bonakkad and arranged a taxi to get to Kappukad elephant Camp(where we have parked our vehicles)
Breathtaking sceneries all the way long....


The Agastyamalai trip is full of good memories where we were left with nature for a few days.This is very invigorating for the souls and any opportunity to hike the mounatins again will not be missed.We are planning a trip to "Pandipathu" hill which is within the Agastyamalai biosphere reserve with great opportunity to sight Bisons.But we have to wait till the monsoon gets over............



Another view of the Grassland waterfall...


We bow before Sage Agastya.......

1 comment:

Kavitha said...

thanks for taking us on a virtual trip to agastya koodam. NA...