Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Paithal Mala | 17-18 Sep 2011

After hearing enough complaints of me not blogging about many things, i thought i should put in some extra effort straight away and finish this trek-alogue and post it, before it goes into the ah-now-its-too-late-to-post-it state.

The crew:
Bejoy, Deepthi, Richa, Shanid and myself.

The plan:
Sync up at Kannur. Then a bus to Taliparamba. And from there to Kappimala. Then a jeep to however high up the hill the jeep track could take us. And then head on the trail, until we reach the top of Paithalmala. Find a way to get to the adjacent Purathoty mala. Camp somewhere near the KTDC resort there.

The next day, we would ascend the purathotymala to the north, with mostly grassy slopes. Then head eastward, on a mild descent through rainforest proper, but still stay on top of the hill ridge, untill we reach the next clearing. And all this would be on unmarked trails carving our own route, unlike the previous day. And we would go on further, on the day after that, to reach somewhere near Choma kunda or Thadiandamol.

And of course we expected rain, as we were doing a monsoon trek in rainforest. Consequently we also expected helluva lot of leeches. We went armed with high spirits, some deisel and salt.

The map above was sort of the limits to which we could stretch the plan, rather than the plan itself. The above marked route might take 4-5 days or maybe even more.

The way it turned out:
Day1: We reached Kappimala by bus through a coupla hours of some rather run-of-the-mill kerala views. We gobbled some food there, and packed some for the night. All food for future days were already packed. Then we hired a jeep to get as much up the hill as we could.

The jeep driver kept asking the locals on the way about the situation with the elephants. It turned out that elephants had messed up with some plantation and was driven back into the forest, just the previous night. He warned us about the elephants, but didn't obstruct our intention of continuing our trek. He informed us that there are a few kiddo elephants who could innocently wander our way, but we'd be in trouble if their parents saw us anywhere near them.

We finally got onto our feet, stuffed our socks with salt, and started moving. We were anxious, excited and all of those on-the-edge-ey adjectives. And when we smelt elephant poop, we were reminded to keep staying alert. The slushy terrain preserved a lot of the footprints of the giants as well. But, after some time we were all possessed with de-leeching ourselves that, we couldnt spare it enough worry.  The occasional drizzle, lots of uprooted bamboo trees, streams, slush and leeches later, we were out of the forest and on the grassy hilltop of Paithal mala. Roamed around a bit, soaking in the awesome views of moving clouds all around us, and headed to the watch tower on the southern end, for a pitstop. Enroute we saw the trail to a jeeptrack to get onto the adjacent hill, Purathoty mala, which we followed after having a yummy food break at the watch tower.

The trail to purathoty mala was more or less a steady gradual descent through the forest, which we hurriedly went through, so that we wouldnt be caught in it during the dark. We emerged out into the grassland again, and the trail led us to the KTDC resort. To our astonishment, we found a rather well tarred road there (compared to a trail that we saw in google maps). This meant that we probably should have gotten to this side of the hill by bus in the first place, to have more time on our hands to do the more challenging bits. Anyway.... it got pretty cold quick, and our mildly rainsoaked clothes didnt make it any better. We pitched our tent near the resort before it got dark. After a final leech check, we were all inside, 5 people in a 3 person tent. We decided to cram ourselves, as it would be easy to stay warm, and less of a burden to carry the extra weight of another tent. Food, some spirits to warm us up, and a lot of chit-chat and laughter later, we were off to sleep.

Day2: We woke up at 6:30 and went about the regular morning routine, but with thoughts completely on the exciting day ahead. This was the day, when the actual interesting part would start, as we would carve out our own way, and into nicer denser forest. We packed our stuff, coated our legs with deisel (for the leeches) and started out at 8:30. Our first goal was to reach the top of the hill we were already on, by a mildly steep hike through the grassland-ish section. Most of it was easy, as the grassy parts were easy to grip. The occasional boulders werent too much of a bother, as we could circumvent it (They were too slippery to climb on directly).... The occasional patch of the rainforest trees, were a bit tricky as it was really slippery. But we got through without much incident. There was an elephant trail more or less around the way we were taking, easily noticeable through the uprooted grass and plants, and a LOT of poop. The poop wasnt stinking much even after getting wet in the occasional drizzle, which meant that this shit wasnt fresh enough to cause us much bother. We kept ascending while drizzles and sunshine were battling it out. Soon, we hit the top and saw the majestic view of the overwhelming amount of rainforest spread in all directions. Although we had expected the exact same thing from looking at the google map, actually seeing so much of rainforest covering you in all directions.... is an awesome feeling.

Except..... we hoped to see a grassy hill top in the distance, towards east, where we would aim to get to next. The grassy hilltop was nowhere in sight (probably occluded by stuff closer to us). We had just done the easy bit of the grassland ascent. the core of the rainforest seemed a little daunting. We decided against going into it, because the forest we faced until now was really slippery, and our rate of covering it would be too slow to reach the grassy hilltop before nightfall. And there was no realistic hope of camping anywhere on the slopes within the rainforest either.

The weather up there was changing every minute. One moment, it was all clear and you could see all the hills to the distance, and the next, everything is all covered up, and the next it pours, and then some mild sunshine, except its much more feebler than the sun we are used to. A much colder sun. We, saw clouds approaching from both sides of a hill ridge, and then colliding and forming a single big blanket..... Much of all the amazing stuff was happening when i couldnt take my camera out to take pictures due to the rain.

We stood there on top, hoping there might be some spark of thought that would give some new twist. We grabbed a quick bite, and relaxed for a while. Slowly, and heavy-heartedly, we were trying to get down to the reality that we would have to head back. And then it rained. And it rained heavily enough to not leave any room for second thoughts. We still waited a while for the rain to subside though. We heard some distant thunder. And realizing that the peak was not the place to be when there is a possibility of lightning, we soon saw ourselves descending through the elephant trail. Many slippery portions, a few not-so-nasty falls and few thorn pricks later, we were down onto the road again. Then it was a rather dull walk down the road to civilization.

Directions: Kannur => Taliparamba => Kappimala by bus. Then a jeep to go some more distance up. Then followed the trail to the watch tower. Then the trail to the KTDC resort.

Alternatively, you could come to the  KTDC resort side of it first, through Kannur =>Taliparamba => Pottem Plavu (via kudiyanmala), and then catch a jeep.

And then we went up the hill we were on, towards north (and headed back the same way down)

We hope to get back to it sometime probably during late winter, so that the rainforest bit wouldnt be too hard.

Current mood: Lazy
Currently listening to:  Blue sky - The Allman brothers band


Venky said...

Beautifully written, Sudhir. I was reminded of a few lonely hikes I did venturing deep into safer National parks during my Vermont visit. I'm sure the unfinished business would be taken care of you guys soon. Good luck!

Kaushik said...

Awesome! Splurge your next couple of stipends on a waterproof camera and lenses, I am sure you will find plenty of use for it.

neuromancer said...

Thanks venky. Am waiting rather eagerly to get back there. Winter is not far off!

neuromancer said...

@Kaushik: no stipend anymore.... But i am definitely gonna work on waterproofing the camera and lenses sooner or later.

Shanid said...

Awesome..You never miss all those tiny but amazing details of the trail..I am sharing this link in FB.
btw, i want all the photos when we meet in bang or in ernakulam :)

neuromancer said...

@shanid: please do. I'll get all photos including Meenvallam, Dudhsagar and this one. Including the bad pics :)

Richa said...

Good job Sudhir !! most of the details covered !!

Anonymous said...

Paithalamala is an enchanting hill station

Anonymous said...

8 acresplot suitable for resorts and other tourist activities is for sale near Paithalmala.The plot is in Kappimala.Three sides of the plot is surrounded by road leding to Paithalmala.Moreover the land has plenty of water.

Aswath said...

I plead you not to put the plot on sale. . . .once it becomes a tourist spot all it's natural beauty will be done with. . . .The ruggedness is what renders beauty to the place. . . . . .Please Sir. . .I beseech you.

varun said...

i also went to paithal mala but could not go to the waterfall im living in kannur and we were only two & studying in 9 th std