A trek to Brahmagiri was decided out of the blue…viz I had no intention or plan to go there in the near future…I had decided to go for CTC’s Vellarimala-Vavulmala trek on 21st – 23rd Feb trek for which I had to reach Kozhikode (Calicut) on early 21st Feb. As I could not get a train tkt to Calicut, the only option left was to fly to Bangalore and onward by road to Calcut (8-10hrs). Since I was taking this route, I thought why not add 1 more trek to the itenary. Hence the plan to Brahmagiri came up…
So I left on 19th Feb evening by 5.30pm flight reaching Bangalore at 715pm. Took a airport Volvo bus to MSBTC (Mysore Satellite Bus Terminus Corp) stand (approx 2hrs) reaching there around 9pm. Luckily got a Bangalore – Cannanore KSRTC (kerala state) bus departing at 9.30pm. My destination was Mananthavady in Wayanad. The bus traveled thru Mysore– Gundulpet-Gonnikoppa–Sultan Bathery–Mananthavady (7hrs) reaching there at 3.30am on 20th Feb. As there were no connecting bus to Thirunelly (base village for Brahmagiri) till 7am, I had to wait at the town square shivering in bitter cold. Not many trekkers trek to Brahmagiri from Thirunelly side…Most of the treks are done from Karnataka side (Kutta-Srimangala-Irrupu-Narimale Peak-Brahmagiri Peak : approx 14kms).
I took the 715am Thirunelly bus from Mananthavady (32kms) & reached there at 8.30am. I had already informed the Forest office about the trek and had arranged for a guide too. (guide is compulsory for all treks inside Kerala forests as per local govt. rules). Mani, the guide was there to receive me at the Forest Bungalow. After deciding the route to take, we started off on the trek…First, we walked up to Thirunelly Temple from where we bought our packed lunch (parothas, peas curry & bananas).
About Thirunelly Temple : Thirunelly temple, also called ‘Kashi of the South’ is 32 km northeast of Mananthavady. This ancient temple is 5000 years old and the presiding deity is Thirunelly Perumal/Lord Vishnu. Legend says that Lord Brahma the creator performed a yagna and installed the idol here. The idol is in the form of Chathurbhuja. This Kerala architecture style temple with the background of three hills, Kambamala, Karimala and Varadiga in Brahmagiri hills reserve forests is both beautiful and divine. The temple courtyard consists of 30 granite columns and granite slabs has been used for the floor too. One can see t he mighty Brahmagiri Peak towering behind Thirunelly temple.
I had visited the temple during the Pakshipathalam trek in 2007 so I avoided going there this time. As I had to take a return 4pm bus to Calicut, we speedily moved towards our destination. A path from next to the temple leads us to Papanasini rivulet. We pass by Panchatheertam (5holy Theerthas joining together). We crossover the semi dry riverbed. As per Hindu customs last rites of dead are performed here. Whilst crossing the section we saw a family conducting the last rites austerities. We climbed further into the forest and reached a broad path (coming from the IB). This path goes upto the watch tower (approx 4kms). As the path would go criss-cross, we took alternate short cuts and climbed straight up reaching the forest tower in 20mins. It was quite a steep & exhaustive climb. We took a 10 min break at the forest tower. There are 3 routes to Brahmagiri from here. (1) A path emerging from the forest Tower on the left steepily takes one to the Peak -1.5hrs. (2) Taking the Pakshipathalam route deviate to the right after 2 small hills, walk on fireline towards Brahmagiri. (3) A steep 70% uphill climb thru tall grass just after the 1st forest patch after the forest tower. As there’s no water available on the peak and enroute, it was decided to refill our bottles at the small waterfall inside the forest patch after forest tower. After doing so, we took route (3) – right deviation and started the exhaustive steep climb uphill thru tall slippery grass. We steadily do so for 30mins reaching the hilltop. After a short break, we descend to a forest patch. The entire region is made up of shola grasslands with small forest patches here-n-there.
As the day heat is intense we take quite a few breaks and reach the fireline. The fireline is a huge broad path that runs thru the entire grassland. It acts as a preventive measure for fire to spread which is quite common in the Brahmagiri hills. The fireline here also demarcates the borders between Kerala and Karnataka. Hence part of the Brahmagiri lies and Kerala and rest in Karnataka….Anyways, from the fireline we can get clear views of the peak…Also a part of the fireline goes right upto the peak. Hence it is quite an easy route to find. We reach the base of Brahmagiri by 11.15am. The route from base upto the peak is very steep and inclined at 70% on most parts. The route is also strewn with loose rocks where one has to be careful to avoid casualties. Also walking on the burnt forest patch near route will obiviously spoil your pants, socks-n-shoes. Taking a mix-n-match careful route we reach the Peak at 11.45pm. What a beautiful view from up there. From the peak (facing Kerala side) one can see the Thirunelly Temple and surrounding areas below, and the forested peaks for Wayanad. Towards the right one can see the never ending shola grasslands of Brahmagiri, small humps like hills, Pakshipathalam Rock & Garudapara upto Aralam Wildlife Sanctuary. Towards the left one can see a long ridge (about 2kms long) starting just below the peak and extending up to Appappara (one can descend Brahmagiri at this side too). Well on the other side, one can see far stretches Kodagu region of Karnataka including Iruppu & Srimangala.
We decide to explore the entire peak hence descend the peak on the other side and moving towards the fireline reach the end of the peak in 1hrs time. This is the Appapara side of the peak. One can descend below to Appapara from here. However as I had left my sleeping bag at the Thirunelly forest bungalow we decided to opt of descending to Appapara. Anyways it was lunch time and the Parothas and Peas Curry were absolute relishing. A quick lunch, followed by some resourceful conversation about the surrounding forest and region, and a peaceful half-hr siesta atop the peak rejuvenated our strengths for the retun trip.
We started our return trip at 2pm from the ridge endpoint and by 2.45pm reached the peak again. From the peak instead of our ascend route, we decided to descend thru route (1). A route on the peak descends on the left straight to the watch tower. It’s a steep descend nevertheless a speedy one and will take one upto the watchtower in 20mins. We reach the watchtower at 3.10pm. From the tower we take the jeep track right up to the Forest Bungalow (approx 4kms) bypassing Thirunelly Temple. After a quick-n-refreshing bath at the Forest bungalow dormitory, Mani drops me at the nearest bus stop…I thank Mani for his guidance and take off in the 3.45pm Mananthavady bus. Further-on take a connecting KSRTC bus to Kozhikode (Calicut) via Kalpetta, Vythiri, Tamarassery & reaching there around 8pm. Am dead tired as I had been traveling from Bombay the previous day and the trek. I took a room at a boarding lodge near the KSRTC bus stand so that I could take enough rest for the CTC’s Vellarimala-Vavulmala trek the next day.
It was a great feeling finishing off the surprise Brahmagiri trek, which was not planned et’all. Also it was a great preparatory trek for the forthcoming tough Vellarimala-Vavulmala trek. Looking forward to four days of strenuous trekking out of which day 1 is over….
Way to go…Dinesh!!!
For Brahmagiri Trek Pics visit the photos section...