Let me start by writing about my quest to do this trek. For the past 3 years I have been trrying to gather information on Vellarimala but to no avail. Then I came across Jose's reference on Sandeep Unnimadhavan’s website….But Jose was too a tough nut to crack or bargain with in terms of money. He quoted an astronomical cost for the trek & I thought that it was cheaper to fly in space. In vain, I lost hope of going to Vellarimala and then Voila!!! Got a mail from CTC (Chennai Trekking Club) announcing their trek to Vellarimala & Vavulmala and that too at a down to earth cost.
About Vellarimala–Vellarimala(1930m/6333ft), adjoining the Wayanad ranges, is one of the most beautiful hill stations in Kerala. Vellari - with its unique geographical position, gorgeous waterfalls, thick forests shrouded in mist and unique flora - is fast becoming a popular trekking destination. Vellarimala forms a part of a high hill range of what is otherwise known as Camel's Hump Mountains, a part of the Western Ghats. Most of the hill range falls in the Meppady Forest Range of South Wayanad Division with some parts falling Thamarassery Range of Kozhikode Division. They are semi-contigous with Nilgiris or in separated by the Chaliyar Valley. The plateau of lies on the eastern slopes of these hills and merges gradually with the Mysore plateau. The hill ranges are accessible by foot from Muthappanpuzha, near Anakkampoyil, a small town about 50 km from Kozhikode. About 6 km by foot from Muthappanpuzha on the way to Vellarimala hills is the waterfall called Olichuchattam.This block of compact high mountains is floristically and faunistically similar to the Nilgiris Hills. The mountain terrain also resembles a South American rainforest.
Vavulmala(2340m/7678ft). The tallest peak in this range, is also the tallest in the Western Ghats to the south of Nilgiri Hills.
Trek: A 9km tough and strenous trek amidst bountiful nature,through Muttapanpuzha route from Anakkampoil will get you to the hill top. In a trek from this route one needs to climb an altitude from 450ft to approx 6300ft...Anakkampoil is approximately 50 km from Kozhikode via Thiruvambady and is linked by Kerala State Transport Corporation bus services. The peak can also be approached from Chooralmala village, Kalpetta on the Wayanad side and is supposed to be a moderate climb.
Day 1 : 21st Feb (9 kms)
The trek was fixed for 21st Feb to 23rd Feb. Since this trek was supposed to be a tough and strenuous one, CTC had screened all the members thru a basic fitness test so that casualties could be avoided. After a long and streneous Brahmagiri trek on 20th Feb, I managed to reach Kozhikode from Mananthavady, Wayanad well in time for the trek.
The CTC team arrived in Kozhikode by Chennai-Mangalore express and the rest of the trek members from Coimbatore, Bangalore & Calicut all assembled at Kozhikode railway station on 20th Feb 4am. From the start point we were supposed to reach the base camp Muttapanpuzha near Annakampoyil (Kozhikode Dist) by 6am. However, our contract bus arrived an hour late so we left the railway station at around 6am and reached Muttapanpuzha by 9am. Enroute we stopped at Pullyampara for breakfast. One of the buses that we were travelling in gave umpteen problems, nevertheless inching our way through we reached our destination. At the start point we loaded our sacks with all essential stuff and food (maggi, mtr, fruits, rusk, water, glucon). We met our guides – Jose, Mani and 2 others (total 4). Gosh! It was the same Jose with whom I had negotiated earlier for the same trek… Anyways, could not help it now…He gave a short briefing in Malayalam incl. the DO's and DON'TS on the mountain. As if he was the sole authority on Vellarimala.
We started our trek at around 10am. Passing by a cluster of houses, we crossed a couple of banana plantations and started our climb. From here a distant view of Vellarimala could be seen…sheer Amazonian look-alike forest terrain….Our first halt was at Olichuchattam (4km). The strong 61 members marched into the woods and steadily climbing reached Olichuchattam around 1230pm. The entire climb route was thru woods, strewn with elephant and bison dung thus signifying their prominent presence around. We rested for a while at Ollichuattam. Olichuchattam is a huge rock where water falls on a 85-90 degree gradient. Its difficult to reach the falls at this point. The only water source here is a tricklet on a rock portion which is just before the entry to Ollichuattam. We refilled our bottles here and climbed further on to reach the upper portion of Ollichuattam. Ollichuattam to Vellarimala top is about 9 kms. We cut across at this point to the opposite side and climbed further on…the route from here on, thru dense vegetation started getting steeper and slippery. Many of us slipped and grappled to gain ground. However, everyone kept climbing in high spirits. I’d say pure passion and zeal overcomes all…
We reached Damodar Koli at 1.30pm. After a quick lunch we proceeded further on…all of us were dead tired and took several stops during the climb but since our ultimate aim was to reach Vellarimala we push our strengths to the teeth and finally reached there at around 5.15am. We had climbed an approx altitude of 5900ft (viz from approx 450ft at base to 6300ft on Vellarimala top).
We set up our camp in an open area and soon a campfire was lit…Teams were formed to fetch water and firewood. Nearest water source was 2km away. Meanwhile kitchen was set and the menu for the evening was Maggi noodles and soup. The weather turned chill and by 7pm we were in our woollens. All being so hungry and tired we eargerly savoured the hot maggi and soup. At the campfire there was a session comprising of Tamil, Hindi and Telugu songs and later an acrobatic display of fire jumping by select CTC daredevils. By 9pm everyone starting crashing into their sleeping bags & blankets cuddling away…. The atmosphere was so serene & tranquill. The stars above shone in abundance as if they were in full attendance.
Day 2 : 22nd Feb (Approx 3kms)
We woke up around 7am. After refreshing ourselves we were all ready for the ascent of Vavulmala. It was decided that 3 people will share 1 bagpack so as to make the climb easy and comfortable. We left our campsite at 9am and moved into the woods. After a brief climb mostly thru shaded area we reach Kethampara. Kethampara is a huge rocky portion enroute to Vavulmala offering excellent vantage views of the ranges. We could see Mastakapara portion of Vellarimala and mountain ranges of Wayanad in a distance getting sunk in a sea of clouds. After a brief photo session there, we moved on again into the woods, reaching an open area in half hr. This is RECPara. This is the last water source point. The rocky portion of Vavulmala looks close from here. We again entered the forest and steadily climbing and wading thru the thicket reached a portion just below the Vavul peak. Again a brief session of photography followed and we spent about 15-20mins there. Now that the peak was so close, we did not want to waste time. Again we entered the forest thru a small thicket, & climbing further on all 61 members triumphantly reached the top of the Vavulmala at around 1130am. It was a jubilant mood amongst all. We reached the edge of the vantage point to appreciate the great views. We were on top of the world….even above the clouds….The clouds were repeatedly engulfing the high peaks and therefore we could’nt see much of the plains. We could see miles-n-miles of distant peaks, most of them unknown….However could identify Chembra Peak due to its shape (and also because I had been there earlier). I still remember having a faint view of Vavulmala from Chembra and now it was vice-versa…After a major photo session including group photos and a quick luncheon we started our return. This time we returned through a different route upto RECpara viz instead of the traverse climb route that we took a straight downhill path & descended straight down from Vavul to RECpara thru the forest patch reaching the campsite around 3pm. At the camp it was decided that whosoever was interested to descend that evening upto Olichuchattam could do so and whosoever wanted to remain on top and visit Mastakapara could do so. About half the group (who were not interested to visit Mastakapara) started their descent, while we moved onto visit Mastakapara.
From the campsite, we reached our watersource (2km), crossed the same and steadily descended thru the forest for about 45mins. We reached the edge of Vellarimala. Here instead of climbing straight uphill to go on the other side, we traversed from the left slightly getting into the forest and out into an open area. We took right turn here and climbed onto a sloppy rock portion and reached Mastakapara by 430pm. Here too, the entire region was engulfed with clouds and mist so we could'nt see much….But people enjoyed their brief stay there with great gaiety. Some were relaxing on the edge whilst some were showing off their acrobatic or rather yogic skills….After spending about an hour there, we decided to return back…this time again thru a new shorter route…We reached the campfire around 6pm. Meanwhile, some of those who had opted out of the Mastakapara trip tried their culinary skills and therefore we were lucky to be treated to a sumptuous session of maggi noodles followed by MTR savoured (tomato rice, sambar rice, bisebelli bath, pongal rice) and hot soup. This night too, a campfire session followed but on a much lower scale since half of the group was missing. The cold winds started blowing and by 8.30pm the weather was quite chill enough for us to tuck ourselves into our sleeping bags. Gazing towards the sky, I wished the stars a very good night or probably the last night I would see so many of them. We had an early morning wakeup call at 5am since we had to reach basecamp before noon.
Day 3 : 23rd Feb (9 kms)
We all woke up at 5am but since it dark, we waited for the first light. By 5.45am the entire campsite was bustling with people- packing their bags, collecting waste, etc etc all ready to leave…I guess it all seemed like a sheer desperation to return to civilization. We started our descent at 6.30am. Since the terrain being uneven and steep and that too through the jungle we carefully descended, but not too hurriedly,,,,so as to avoid any untoward incidents in the last stage. Enroute, we took a short break on top of Olichuchattam and then on a straight descent to the base village….We reached Muttapanpuzha at around 9.30am. Jose had already organized some breakfast for us . There’s a stream flowing behind the house where we had kept our luggage…All those who reached early there got a chance to refresh themselves at the stream…A well deserved treat…Meanwhile, me, Vinod Varghese and Sreekumar moved towards Muttapanpuzha main road to co-ordinate with the bus that was supposed to take us back to Kozhikode. Upon arranging the bus, we 3 proceeded to the Muttapanpuzha rivulet just behind a local’s house. Our bathing session there seemed absolutely refereshing and heavenly. We stayed there for about half hour and returned back to the bus pickup point. By this time all had reached the base. We started our return and enroute to Kozhikode stopped by Pullyampara for lunch (we had breakfast at the same place on 21st Feb). People gorged on fish curry rice, fish fry, beef curry, parotha, icecream, juices and what not….They were ready to eat anything and everything…After a sumptuous-n-burpy kerala meal we slept our way through the journey to Kozhikode reaching the station at around 4.30pm. It was time to part ways and after biding goodbye and thanking all for their great support and teamwork, I proceed to the KSRTC bus stand. Took a 7pm bus to Bangalore, reaching there at 3am following day. Took an immediate connecting bus to the airport and a subsequent 7am flight reaching Bombay and further-on home by 9.30am.
It had been a great trek with lots of memories for all of us. We all had a triumphant and jubilant feeling about the trek…I am sure that upon arrival in Chennai the CTC team would have also got a rousing welcome and applaud from fellow Chennaites as equal to A.R.Rahman. Though there’s no such official confirmation about this….
As for me, I added another feat, trek into my adventure cap thanks to CTC….A personal good feel factor was that it was indeed a pleasure to listen to my favourite smooth jazz song - Joyce Cooling’s ‘Before Dawn’ on top of the world!! JAI HO!!!
For Trek pics visit the photos section...