Feel the wind on your face at Ramakkalmedu
When I set off on my journey to the mighty Western Ghats, 3500 metres above the plains, my mind was filled with the roar of the incessant wind on the mountain top- the wind that has persisted on the high peaks like a never-say-die traveler. I was past Adimali when my phone rang, it was Babu, more of an elder brother and less of the Assistant Tahsildar (Peerumedu) he is otherwise. This time my friend, philosopher and guide had a derailment plan in mind for me- what about a detour to Chokramudi, the mount thronged by the 12 year wonder of the blue swaying mountains?
Our vehicle turned right and we were soon on the road to Chokramudi. Via Rajakkad and Bison Valley the road took us to the bottleneck leading to the Mathura Highway. Above the steep road is Chokramudi, the roads on either side adorned with groups and rebels of the blue 'kurinji' which has bloomed after 12 long years. The place was filled with tourists when we reached. The once in 12 years' wonder draws an indescribable spectacle even as I lose words to tell the world what my eyes were blessed with. Soon the camera shutters went on a rampage only for the fog to come in between the sea of swaying blooms and the camera.
The Kurinji blooms in different parts of Munnar. But the most spectacular of these blooms grace the hills of Rajakkad and Chokramala. Chokramudi set into a bloom in 1990 and 2002 and Rajakkad had the glory in 1994 and 2006. I started off on the next leg of my journey on the NH leading to Kumily. Once on the road the roaring wind started blowing away the blue sea I had just lifted myself from. It was late when I reached Wind Heaven Resort at Ramakkalmedu. Capt. Noble Pereira was there, waiting for me with his broad smile. He wished me good night after telling me the next day would take me on an interesting journey, I had to be ready early morning.
The loud alarm went off at six in the morning and I woke up to the hum of the crickets and the chatter of monkeys. Outside my window it looked cold and enticingly chilly. During breakfast served at 7:30 AM, my eyes strolled past the large windows of the restaurant and settled on the hill outside where the mist was slowly lifting making way for my eyes.
The sculptures of the 'Kuravan' and 'Kurathi' designed by artist C B Jinan in 2005 could be seen prominently on the Ramakkalmedu. The tourists who come here barely taste the beauty of the place as the routine traveler just takes a look at the sculptures, enjoys the view from the hill top and packs off after what could be an adventurous climb of the Ramakkalmedu.
Is this all? No, this place has a lot more, history sleeps on its forest tracks and culture and customs paint the picture bright. As I explored later in the day Ramakkalmedu has a lot more to offer.
The wind was blowing strong as ever. The most exciting parts of this border region is situated in our neighboring state of Tamil Nadu. The curious traveller will no doubt admire the logic behind the myth that surrounds the hill, story goes that Rama, having lost Seetha came here while searching for her. It is believed that the Lord climbed on the hill and took a view of the place looking for his missing wife. One can easily see the logic behind this myth, the view from the mountain covers innumerable Tamil Villages including Thevaram, Kombe, Theni, Uthamapalayam, Kambam, Bodinaikkannur and Vaiga. Pointing towards what seemed like a tiny spot in the landscape the Captain said, "that's where our journey will take us today".
It was a four-kilometre-long downward climb from the hill. The team comprising of me and a Chennai based family was lead by the able Captain. He must be finding this an easier journey, for he otherwise commands his gigantic oil ships across oceans for his Japanese Company.
The temple where we are headed to opens on Saturdays in the month of virgo. Along the path we squeezed past devotees and tourists, both Malayalees and Tamils. This route is also connected to the rice route of ancient Kerala. As head loads and animal loads, this track has been the backbone of the rice trade between Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Ramakkalmedu was the rice trading hub of yesteryears and the buses took the grain from its many granaries to the market at Changanassery. Angur Ravuthar also traversed this path for his wood and log business.
The enchanting trail took us downwards. With its thick undergrowth, the path led us past gigantic cobwebs and fluttering butterflies. Rocks along this path look like they have been there to help the head load carriers. One wonders how they may have found their way then, no sunlight reached past the foliage today. At the base of the hill and perfectly energetic, we soon joined the crowd of devotees. Tamil police, buses with Tamil boards and booming prayers received us at the Kombe Ranganatha Temple other wise known as the Thirumalairayar Perumal Thirukkovil. What looked like a spot from the hill now look as if it is shielded by an umbrella of the mount of wind. This temple has the sleeping pose Ananda as its deity. One look at the track we had covered- the temple and Ramakkalmedu were in a straight line.
Uphill would be arduous and the car for our return journey was already waiting for us at the temple. The road track is as long as 50 km instead of the four km we walked down through the forest. Guided by a local, Andavan, we passed Kombe and Uthamapalayam to reach Kambam in our bolero. Andavan did not take a moment to breathe, he was busy filling us up with stories of the land. The car turned left to take us to the Suruli waterfalls. The path was flanked by extensive farmland. This and four other adjacent districts are fully dependent on the Mullaperiyar dam. The story of the British engineer John Pennycuick who sold his own property to build the dam is known to each and every Tamil here. They have, as tradition goes, even built a temple for him.
Farms lush with grapes interspersed with a lone field of papayas could be seen on both sides of the road. Andavan also told us that most of these farms were owned by Malayalees. Suruli as such isn't an enthralling sight for the water blessed Malayalees. But to watch the Tamils come and soak themselves in this water that they consider their own is a sight in itself.
On the way back we stopped and squeezed ourselves into one of the vineyards doing very brisk business to handpick our five kilos of grapes for as less as Rs.150. Bidding adieu to Andavan at Uthamapalayam we headed off to Ramakkalmedu via Kambamettu. The gigantic windmills that dot the landscape feel like straight out of the Don Quixote book with their wingspan of 80 metres each. Ramakkalmedu being one of the country's most suitable sites for wind energy generation has a private company stepping up production with the support of ANERT.
It was three when we finally reached Wind Heaven. Rain came splashing down with lightning and thunder. I retired into watching the rain for the lightning can be dangerous in the higher altitudes. Soon the night descended and the valley below lit up like stars have broken and fallen down from the heavens.
The next day morning we set off for an unexplored destination. Top Station -- five kilometres from Ramakkalmedu. The sculptures of the 'kuravan’ and the 'kurathi' marks the end of the territory of Kerala. Our journey is ahead from here. The path ridden by thorns and covered with wild foliage takes one to the Photopoint. From here one can catch the view of the long extending Tamil Villages and the Ramkallu. A three stone oven and a carved star mark with its arms stretched to the heavens is a curious sight here.
On the journey ahead the thorns gave way to swaying grass the height of a man. Two small dams could be found on our way pointing to possible habitations in this region in the years past when this region was under the control of the Madurai Kings. Several of the traditional land documents in this region have vestiges of the King's grant in their documents.
None of the places beyond photopoint have a name. But who cares, 'Aattukallu para' and 'Mathrikakulam' were the next two, we decided and the when two in the group slipped and fell at the dam area, the place has to be the 'golden slip', we decided again.
After the final climb we reached what was the pinnacle of our trip- the panoramic view of Tamil Nadu! As if to the prayers of the photographers there was a fine tripod of a tree growing from between the rocks. The wind roared past making the step unstable and the deep dropping valleys instilled terror. From here the sculptures on Ramakkalmedu could be seen in a very different angle. This is Top Station -- the pristine spot where nature is at its wildest. I turned to the strong Captain who brought us here, "you shouldn’t bring anyone here. If anyone insists you must ask them a hundred questions on nature and if they answer at least 50 give them a chance", I said. Capt. Pereira looked at me for a second and then burst out into a roaring laughter.
Not many tourists go near the Ramakkalmedu rock. There is also lack of clarity regarding who will receive the guests beyond the Kerala border. The DTPC charges for access to the sculptures but beyond this not much clarity exists. We were back by afternoon and soon were packing for our next destination- 350 km away. As we stepped out from the resort bidding goodbye to our man of the seas and hills, the wind was still roaring past us.
(Translated by Jyothisha VJ)
Ramakkalmedu is a hill stationin Idukki districtnear Tamilnadu border. According to Hindu mythology the name Rama-Kal-Medu is related to Lord Sree Rama. The hilltop offers a panoramic view of Tamil Nadu towns of Thevaram, Kombe, Uthamapalayam, Cumbum, Theni and Bodinaykannor. The sight is wonderful at night when all these towns are lighted. If you are interested, try to trek down to the base with the guidance of locals.
How to get there:
Madurai (Tamil Nadu) is located about 140 km away while Cochin International Airport is about 190 km away.
Changanacherry is nearly 93 km away and KSRTC bused are available from Kochi, Kumili and Kottayam
Contact DTPC Information Centre in Munnar at 04865-231516
Accomodation facilities: Wind Haven Resort, Website: windhavenresort.com, 24/7 SUPPORT:&9747110319,04868-221319, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com Punarjani Resorts, Ramakkalmedu, Kallar, www.punarjaniresorts.com&9605767201, 9605767202, firstname.lastname@example.org