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Saturday 3 October 2015

Vellarimala Trekking

Vellarimala Trek, Wayanad.
Write-up : Anish

Like every other hardcore trekker down south, Vellarimala ranges and Vaavulmala peak at the height of 2339 meters in wayanad was on top of my to-do wishlist as well. Two factors made this place a long reach. One was the terrain in itself which simply required extreme physical and mental toughness to complete it. Secondly these forest ranges were more popular and complicated surrounding the stories of presence of Maoist for the past 3 years. So permission to access these hills from the officials was hard to obtain. Somehow things clicked for me on my first try within a month of planning and we were allotted two days inside the forest. I thought if the climate favored us we would try to hit vaavul mala and return back without exploring the corners. A 3 day trek is definitely required here. Anyways i was thrilled to the fact that after nearly 3 years we were the first group to set foot again on these hills. It was a boys trek from the beginning and i really wanted all the members of our group to be a part of this special trek. From eight it came down to a 6 member team by the last minute. Since each of us had several trekking experiences before we were all charged up for that day. 3 Days of holidays from 2nd Oct to 4th everyone decided to travel and reach Muthappanpuzha the base village on 3rd early morning by 6am. Udhaya and Somasundaram started on 1st evening itself from Bangalore to Kalpetta. Next day they had sightseeing plans around Wayanad. 2nd morning myself and Loga started driving from Chennai to Gudalur. Reached home at 7pm. Took all the camping equipment's and started driving again. Sleepless night with a 700 km drive we reached Kalpetta by 10pm. Damn tired we started purchasing food stuffs, fruits and snacks for the next two days. With a long weekend almost all the lodges were filled up. Finally by  12am we were settled trying to sleep for 3 hrs. It never happened and by 4am we were ready waiting for Somu and Udhaya near the bus stand. They were on time. That is when i came to know that these guys went for chembra trek yesterday. If i had known their plans earlier i would have stopped them because i realized both of them had no idea what was in store for the next two days. We started from there. Anas started from Trivandum last night and Rakesh from Ernakulam was to meet him at Calicut. They will be reaching as planned. We drove of to Adivaram. Took left through the ghat roads and there was umpteen number of diversions. Offline Gps was our savior. After crossing Nellipoyil driving uphill we could see the entire ranges . Drizzling dawn with a dark surrounding It felt like an entry into the Jurassic park somehow. As planned by 6am we reached Muthappanpuzha and met the rest of our team and guides. Soon everyone jam packed into the car we followed the guides through the tar roads heading against the hills. Tars gave away to small concrete roads and then to jeep roads where we had to stop and park it safely. It started drizzling and by 7am we were ready for the fun.
Through the plantation  ghat roads it was a 2km walk crossing several rivulet. Half way i had to run down back to the car to pick up my trekking pole. Instead of warming up my heartbeats were on peak and with an empty stomach some of us felt tired even before the real trek started. Just before crossing the electric fencing border lines, appearance of leeches were visible and and without wasting time we were equipped with our leech socks to fight back.
As soon as we entered into the forest had a short break with bananas until the guides came. Each of us had a minimum 10kg backpack and things like tents, mats and bottles were always sticking out like a porcupine brushing and clipping against those thick bushes. The bushes led us to a small dried up stream with small rounded rocks. Within the next 30 minutes we could see the Olichuchatam Falls to the left.
Diverted and kept my bags on the top of the rocks where there was a small flow of water. A few minutes walk down we were under the falls. Had Chappatis and Dosa and packed the remains. Now i was in complete form. Back to the rocks rains started pouring heavily. Guides suggested that we wait until it slows down. No where to hide we found a new purpose with sleeping mats. Not only for sleeping it can be used for standing under the rain as well. Witnessed the depth of the falls slowly increasing. The guides had a story like once they were camping on the same place, the logged water nearby suddenly increased and washed away their tents during nighttime. Rains slowed down and we were back on the trial until we found some huge rocks blocking our way. Had to climb it. I was worried with my shoes, which was not at all suitable for wet terrains. The person above me was pulled up by the guide. Each one has to pull up the person tagging behind. Sadly the one who pulled me up couldn't withstand my weight and i slipped. The only reason we both didn't go down was luckily my toes struck the cracks of the rocks. Worried faces all around. Even if i fall  i just wanted to look down to see where i would land. Relaxed to know i wont die but a multiple fracture was sure. Somehow the guide rushed back to the scene and pulled me back. Rakesh and Udhaya was also pulled up. After seeing all this Loga and Anas tried climbing around some other rocks and succeeded to join us. Now everyone started realizing that this terrain was not funny at all in the rainy seasons.

Next was the olichuchattam top stream. All of us removed our shoes. While crossing through the rocks it felt like i walking on top of a banana peel and we reached on top of it. The view down was beautiful and long. The horizons which is hardly visible was Calicut district. After some clicks here and there kept heading straight up following the stream from the left side. Looking down into the waters through the thick green leaves and woods i was like it cant get better than this in terms of rain forest beauty. If i have to experience much better than this i will surely have to pack my bags to The Amazon. Orchids, Flowers, Spring like plants, wet trees very similar to ones in Nilgris with a backdrop of falls was like a wallpaper.Sadly all the camera's were packed inside the bags. Couldn't resist i took out my mobile from the waterproof pouch and clicked this one. After some more tough climbs it was time to remove our shoes again to crisscross the same stream. Tried walking through some of the fallen trees on top of the rocks and followed the guides from there on.
At some places there wasn't anything that we could call as a trial. Leech socks refused to stay fit on Udhaya and Somu because of their shorts they were receiving quiet a good number of leech bites. The walk through the woods again gave away to rocky ways which went straight into an other stream. Since the guides were no where nearby the vicinity we decided to sit and think about how to cross this one. Even though i was not thirsty we had some quick banana bites and sips. Jumped through the slippery rocks and caught hold on roots and plants and swiveled side by side through the banks of the stream. With clothes and bags completely drenched all of us could sense and extra 2kg additional weight. Somu was struggling with the tents he carried so i took it from him. Loga spotted a snake and they were behind it clicking pics.
By 1 pm we must have crossed 6km at an approximate altitude of 1200 meters. The group has slowed down. For the next 1 km it was steep till we reached an other crossing. All of us needed a break and relaxed over the rocks right in center of the stream. Even though i had a rain cover for my bag i was sure each and everything inside was wet. In the process of removing the shoes and plucking out the leeches, the force in which Anas pulled out his shoes flipped from his fingers and off it went in with the flow. Guides and Loga soon got down between the rocks and searched for a while not knowing the fact that his shoe would be floating somewhere in Iruvazhinjipuzha. I carried an additional set of flipflops, but to continue the trek till next day night was a tough ask, we neither had any other options. Such was his cool attitude with a smile he started walking. Had to jump though some dangerous tricky rocks completely covered with moss, gladly there was a fallen tree for support.

Took left walking straight for sometime leaving the stream way behind and turned right to climb upwards. Guides advised us to move faster in order to reach the peak before dark for collecting woods and cooking. But how on earth are they planning to light up fire in these wet conditions. Anyhow we tried to push our self to the max. Looking back Anas was walking barefoot, he couldn't grip it with the slippers at all. With heavy bags and steep trails for me it was a pain to watch one member suffering an extra pound even though he didn't show it. With nothing to protect his legs he was bleeding with a lot of leech bites.
Non stop 1 km from the last stream we reached Damodaran Kolli. A small flat camping ground hardly for 10 there was water source nearby. Crossing that we decided to have lunch with the leftovers Dosa and Chappatis. Nobody cared for the leeches anymore we just sat on the nearby rivulet under the rain and had lunch. Shared some chocolates and electral drinks it was 3pm with 7km already covered.

Next session was the Baap of all the steepest climbs ive even done in my life. It was a straight 35 degree climb through the thickest of wilderness. Root, plants, branches, trees, rocks and my walking stick was supporting each of us to climb higher and higher but we never saw the curve end of the hill. Through the dark forests each and every time whenever some lights popped out at the higher end we would just positively think that was it, but for meters and kilometers it went on and on. Rakesh asked me aren't you guys feeling like collapsing at all. Personally i was in Zen mode and not human at all to feel any kind of pain. As ive written before not just physically one should be so strong mentally to withstand such conditions to move forward. For every 30 meters we stopped for a moment to catch up with some oxygen. Till 5pm it was a struggle and finally we could see the top of Vellarimala glowing through the trees. Yes! It was definitely the top portion. It also boosted everyone's confidence. By 5:30 we reached the top of Vellarimala. Some grassy patches hear and there covered with trees on all four side it was misty.
Our camping was on rec para and the guides told we still have 15 minutes of walk. I very well know that according to the guides language 15 is equal to 1 hr. So mentally i was prepared for one more hour of trek. Initially we were walking on the ridge and slowly started descending to left.  Guides were always ahead of us and we used to shout and whistle to locate them. Vegetation changed from dark soil to soft clay. Trees looked strong but had lifeless branches. Whatever thing you caught hold for support would break or come up from the roots.
Every 20 mins a small round grassland opened up. But that wasn't rec para. From the peak Anas was wearing chapel but was really slow so we had to wait for him. Rakesh has already buried the idea of scaling vaavul mala tomorrow. As we walked trees appeared smaller in size. Already 6pm and dark we heard the guides blasting crackers way ahead to scare away elephants or gaurs. They were not in sight and we were a bit worried about what if some elephant came running towards us. All we could do was hands up and surrender. Climbing down finding the footsteps of the guides we reached one more grassland. It was sunk in water and loga got muddy inside his shoes. I just waited till he crossed to the other side. Anas walked straight into it barefoot and got stuck and sinking for a feet deep. I tried giving him my stick but he just couldn't pull himself out. Finally the guide came searching for us and pulled him out. It was a funny moment.
Next entry was Rec para at 6:20 pm. An acre of grassland with flats rocks welcomed us. With a stream on the other end and views of Vaavul mala facing us with lots of elephant dungs there was no possible ways to pitch tents because the grasses were sunk in water. Rocks were the only option.  Under 14 degree cold weather and breezing mist it was getting darker. Everyone started finding some place and were pitching their tents. We should have done the same but myself and loga just watched the show interestingly. Suddenly rain started and all the rest finished building their tents and flew inside the tents like a duck leaving both of us stranded in the rain. Anyways we were wet completely from the morning so be it. Lets just enjoy building a tent on freezing cold and rain i said to loga..he showed a creepy face to me as i laughed and finally after 25 minutes our tent was perfectly erected..the only downside was it was wet outside and inside.

Went inside the tent my fingers were almost numb. Opened my bag to see all the clothes drenched. Loga or me didn't have the energy to compress the wetness out of the clothes.We took out some bread and biscuits to fill our stomach and just laid there with open eyes. It was just 7:30 pm and all our friends were just nearby but we were separated by the chilling cold and rains. We could just hear voices from different tents but both of our voices were better heard by them all through the night. By 10pm i could hear snoring from the nearby tent..i was envious. All night we chatted, acted dead, took selfies, sit, stood, laughed and songs from my mobile played out non stop from our tents. Yes we were partying in the worst of situations which one could be in. At sharp 2pm both of us heard some noise from the forest. Switched off the lights and tried listening if there was anything nearby but nothing wild charged into the tents. With shivering teeth and unconscious limbs it was dawn. As soon as the dark vanished all of us had a similar story but we were the only ones without even sleeping for a minute. A terrible night which i will never forget.

By 7am all of us roamed around the place. Took pics of vaavul
mala which was partly covered with mist. Higher up the hills lots of strobilanthes (kurunji) flowers were shining. I was very keen to scale vaavul mala but with the weather so unfavorable all we could see was mist. So dropped the idea. By 8 am the guides who were staying inside a rock somewhere above left the idea of cooking rice and started preparing the noodles we had. With biscuits and noodles our breakfast was a big relief. Rolled up the tents, packed our bags and left the place exactly by 10am.

Returned back on the same forest lines and kept walking on the right side suddenly opening to an other rocky viewpoint named Ketanpara. Completely covered with mist at an altitude of above 2000 meters all of us sat there day dreaming about a wonderful view behind all those milky white barriers. After some group pics weather started banging orders to lock all our cameras and mobiles into the deepest of holes in our bags. It started drizzling. In an other 20 minutes we were on top of vellarimala.
Dark clouds turned the forest more darker. With the thickness of rains increasing mildly we started ascending. Nearly 11km of deep steep slippery terrain, all of us needed to be alert and cautious before placing each steps. Within the first 50 meters we started experiencing extreme danger everywhere because unlike climbing up it was difficult to support others by giving a hand or catching them. Regardless of the trail my plan was to never step on loose grounds and always tried to search for an untouched ground for each step. It was a tiring process but i enjoyed it until i slipped at some places. I could see each one of us slipping, sliding and tumbling once in at-least every 5 minutes.
While falling down each one carried a distinctive style like Somu would get up as if nothing happened, Anas would always slide 3 meters down crashing into some rocks and comes up with all kinds of facial expressions. Rakesh would get furious after a fall and blabber something in English. Udhaya flipped over a small rock and it started rolling down straight into Loga some 10 meters down. All of us screamed and alerted he just moved within a fraction of distance luckily escaping an accident. My trekking pole balanced me a lot. Our first break was after 3km near a big rock.
Stood there under the rain for sometime and continued. Water was flowing from every corner. At times it was confusing and frightening when our ankles got twisted by placing our legs into small pot holes filled with water. Joint pains started hitting everybody. At some places trees were fallen we had to climb on top of it and jump ahead.
Next stop was after 2km where we had bananas yesterday is all i could remember. Every rock (paara) had a name  in vellarimala like ( Rec Paara, Ketan Paara) so i decided to name this place as Banana Paara. Unlike yesterday the water was forcing down through the banana paara. Took some time to hang on to the banks of the stream and crossed it. Almost 6km crossed by this time. After this point there was water at every blink of an eye.
Each 30 meters there was a rivulet running from the top of the hills crossing our feet. Huge holes and steeps to the right side our left hands were always grabbing onto something for a balance. Rains became harshly heavier and the pounding of drops was felt hard. It became quite difficult to open my eyes fully. Guides came and warned us of the consequences of the stream getting over flooded and pleaded us to walk as fast as we can.
I could hear Udhaya screaming for food but the guides were running around us to move faster. It was a chaotic scene altogether. Without even having a break we ran to reach the second crossing. Didn't bother to remove the slippery shoes, just jumped into the waters and crossed it with each of us helping others as a team. So many life lessons in just two days i thought.
Still "no time to stand and stare" we were experiencing the horror side of these streams. 3 more streams we moved quickly. Each of us were at different places. Anas was always the last one to follow and the first contender for the maximum falls of the day. Rakesh and Somu started showing different kinds of pain reactions every now and then. Loga kept on scratching his stomach area as he was severely sucked by the leeches.
Just before the third stream we had to remove our shoes and socks as current was too high to handle. Guides supported us and we caught hold of all the rocks which came by our way. Again Udhaya screamed for lunch but convinced him that we have two more streams to cross and we will have a break for sure. As we walked down i just turned back to to witness one of the best views of the trek on the huge adjacent hill. I was awestruck for a moment. There was nearly 20 waterfalls, small and long ones. Most of our team was ahead and missed it. I showed it to Somu and he was like Wow! Sadly we couldn't click it because my mobile was with loga. Atleast wanted to watch this unbelievable sight for some more time but again came the advising guru's in the form of guides and and told Anish etta we still have to cross 2 more soon otherwise we would be forced to pitch tents inside here tonight. I said "it seems to be a good idea, one more day inside this forest with biscuits and chocolates we should  really try it.." The guide scratching his head smiled at me as i winked back and we started brisk walking again.
We were nearing the fourth olichuchatam top stream. Could hear the roaring and splashing sounds of water even before we saw it. And when we reached, it was nothing like what we saw yesterday. All the rocks were under water, the banks were overflown and the size of water level was increased nearly 2 to 3 feet. It was a steep 70 meter fall on the other end. One slip and this could be our last trekking expedition. We moved up along the banks upwards to find some narrower rocky sections connecting to the other side. With support from the guides we crossed that one too one by one at a time. To get back to the trial guides made ways by clearing all the blockages using their machetes. After sometime there it was the last stream which was a km long starting somewhere from the adjacent hills. The force was at its maximum. Even the guides were not confident to support each of us. Soon they found a skinny dried up tree to use it as a rope and from either side held it tightly. All of us were on our own this time. Plan was to grip and find our way to home or to hell. I was the last person in the queue and regretted of not taking up some circus classes a week before. After seeing loga and Udhaya crossing it i jumped the queue not wanting to do this daredevil act without an audience. Handed my shoes to the guide and my target was a rock at the other end. Didn't look anywhere else, slipped twice slightly. It all happened quickly i was on the other side safely. Finally i am done with the streams and alive. But i was not in complete peace before i finished the one last hurdle. That was the boulder in which i slipped yesterday. Sitting on the other side i just watched the facial expressions of Anas, Rakesh and Somu It was a comical show for which i only laughed. Udhaya started again like guys please stop for sometime yaar. Since we couldn't find a flat space we decided to have a break down under the falls. The boulder which i was worried got me down sliding swiftly. After the falls all of us stopped for a much needed break.
Loga and Udhaya left carried on with guides and we stayed back some more time for Somu. He was saying this trek was like ten trek put into one. All of us had the same opinion though. Started from there we lost the trail. Couldn't find a way to the right but the way was pulling up straight which we sensed was the wrong direction. After shouting and whistling the guide came back and and showed us a small stream to follow. One more km to the fence the final walk was a punishing end as most of us slipped and crashed into the pebbles and small rocks. Finally reached the electric fence lines at 4:20 pm. Again the last stretch through the plantation roads was a 2km walk. Stopped for one last break.
Some of the guys removed shoes and leech socks and changed their cloths. I didn't want to get leech bites till i reached the car so Loga and myself walked. It felt long but finally reached the place where we parked our car. Bid goodbyes to our guides who made all this possible. Rest of the team reached and started cleaning up all the leeches and bleeding's and by 5:30 left the place. Had a tea break at Muthappanpuzha. Crawling to the tea shop all the villagers were looking all six of us weirdly. They might be thinking from where did all these handicapped youngsters come from. Next stop was at Adivaaram. Stopped at the first seen hotel for biriyani as usual after every trek. Left Anas and Rakesh there, they will catch a bus to Calicut. Soon we left to Kalpetta. Somu and Udhaya had booked their bus tickets back to Bangalore at I decided to stay there and we headed to the rooms. By 10:30 they left to the bus stand and i had a good sleep. Next day both of us went for a movie " Ennu ninta moideen" the Iruvazhinjipuzha  in that movie was haunting me because all the rainwater and streams which we felt last two days in those mountains formed that river. By evening drove back to Gudalur and by 7pm i reached home. Straight into the bed with memories for a lifetime... wait isn't there some more work left in those hills like The Wayanadan view from 2339 meters, The Vaavul mala, The Mastakapaara...So Surely I will be back again with a new story soon!!!

  Author    : Anish vk
Clicked by : Udhaya, Anish, Rakesh
   Team: Anish, Loga, Rakesh, Udhaya, Somu, Anas
Place  :  Vellarimala, Wayanad
Km Covered      : 2 days || 25Kms


  1. Combine all of your blogs and publish travelogue book..the writing is spontaneous and powerfull.regards

  2. Combine all of your blogs and publish travelogue book..the writing is spontaneous and powerfull.regards

  3. Nice blog Ansh. Could feel the adventure .

    1. Thankyou Chitra mam for always taking time to read my trekking experiences.


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