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Thursday, December 03, 2009

Trekking the Nilgiri Mountains from Kodaikanal to Munnar in Heavy Rains!!

10 friends got into a Tempo traveler (mini van) at Bangalore and headed towards Kodaikanal. The plan was to trek from Kodaikanal, which is in the state of Tamil Nadu to Munnar in the state of Kerala over the course of the next 3 days.


We had gotten our permits done a month back from the Kodaikanal Forest department and all necessary arrangements had been made. The only thing against us was the weather. There was a depression over the Bay of Bengal that had been causing heavy rain in Tamil Nadu and continuous rain at Bangalore.


However, we had decided that rain or no rain, we were going ahead with our trekking plans. It was early morning when we reached Kodaikanal. There was a nip in the air when we reached the Silver Cascade falls. The waterfall was thundering down and it was surprising to see so much of water as we were approaching peak summer. All of us enjoyed the sight of the Silver Cascade waterfall and the nip in the air with a cup of steaming masala tea in our hands.


Shortly, we reached the main city of Kodaikanal, had our breakfast and headed towards the Forest Department office. The forest department officers informed us that the rains had caused serious damage to the trekking trail, landslides had ensued, lakes were overflowing and it would be very dangerous to trek in this weather.


Somehow, we convinced the District Forest Officer of our intentions to take good care of ourselves and armed with our forest guide Mani, we proceeded to our starting point near Berijam lake. But, as we drove through the reserve forests and towards our starting point, we found trees blocking the road. Hence, all of us had to disembark from our vehicle and start our trek 5 kms before the actual starting point.


Thus, began our trek under heavy mist cover and in heavy rain. Till Berijam Lake, we followed the tar road. Then, we got onto our trekking trail. We came across some small villages and then we got into complete wilderness. The trail was very slippery and was infested with leeches. Since, most of the folks in the group were amateur trekkers, the progress was slow and the evening set in even before we had finished 50% of our distance.


As darkness set in, our headlamps and torches came out. Then came our biggest hurdle of the day; we had to cross an overflowing lake where the current was strong, the water came up to our hips and there was a 20 foot drop on the other side. What ensued next was classic teamwork, 10 guys and the guide, held hands together and crossed the lake slowly and steadily. We had a few slippages and some backpacks getting completely drenched, but all of us came out safe and sound at the other end of the lake. The best part was that all this happened with just our headlamps and torches to guide us.


Finally, we reached our destination for the evening and set up our tents in heavy rainfall. Then, followed the cleaning exercise of drying the insides of our tent and cleaning the insides of all the muck from our feet. We had managed to spot to set up a camp fire, cooked our food over it and slept for the night.

It was an early wake up call the next morning. We packed up, had our breakfast and got back to our trekking ways.


The rains had given up a bit, but the temperatures had plummeted leading to heavy mist cover. The trail got steeper and the terrain more rugged. There were small branches strewn all around us and huge branches on our trekking trail. A lot of places we had to climb over logs that measured over 5 feet in height from the ground. The inclement weather over the previous few days had lead to some breathtaking views of the green Nilgiri mountains.


We stopped for lunch at midday and enjoyed our concoction of spicy bread and cheese and some energy bars. After rejuvenating ourselves, we continued on our expedition. In a short while it started raining again, but we were getting close to our destination for the day.


By 4 pm we got to our destination and found a place to pitch in our tents. Since, it was raining most of the while, all of us were either inside our tents or under the nearby shade and next to the fire.


After a relaxed evening, we had a sumptuous dinner of noodles, rice and paneer and turned in for the night.


I woke up early the next morning. My first sight of the day was fantastic. The entire world around me was lathered in bright green and the mist covered them like a halo.


Soon, the entire group got up one by one. Laughs were shared during a group brushing session. Shortly, we head breakfast, packed up our stuff, took some group photographs and set off on our trek.


Today, the terrain had varied inclines and declines. Some stretches, we would go tumbling down as the decline was nearly 70 degrees. And during such slides, the leeches would have a field time.


It was just before lunch that we began our steepest ascent for the day through slush and muck to reach the highest point of this trek. On a clear day, one can see Munnar from the top of the view point.


All of us took an hour off once we reached the top. All of us just revelled in the views offered. All of us would eagerly wait for the mist to shift to provide us with breathtaking views of the villages below. Next, there were some funny photography sessions.


After spending an hour at the top, we began our descent. Soon, we neared the end of our trek. Jeeps were waiting to ferry us the last 20 kilometres to Munnar.


Just before the end, there was a small waterfall that was ideal for a bath and that enticed us to wash our muck covered and sweaty bodies. While the other guys were on their way to the end line, me and my friends grabbed a quick relaxing shower.


After refreshing ourselves, we got into the jeeps and made our way towards Munnar. We could see landslides at a lot of places, but what grabbed our eyes were the lush green tea plantations of Munnar and the sights had never been better.


The jeeps dropped us at the Munnar bus stop and where our mini van was waiting for us. Most of us had a quick bite of omelettes and tea. All those folks who didn’t take a bath under the waterfall in the forest, got into a nearby hotel and got themselves a hot shower.


It was a phenomenal 3 days for us. We had trekked over 70 kms in the the last 3 days from one state into the other and through heavenly terrain. A great trekking experience in the Nilgiris!!

To view the entire set of photos, click the album below.
Trekking the Nilgiris in heavy rains from Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu to Munnar, Kerala in India


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