A night on top of Urumbikkara hill
A day to wander aimlessly, to take bath in the streams, make a tent on the hill tops, to feel the rain and the snow, to sleep watching the stars… A dream destination and a wish to go for a long journey to do all the aforesaid things finally came to a halt at Urumbikkara. The beautiful place gifted by nature that is located at the border of Kottayam and Idukki.
We four started early in the morning. We have taken the route via Kottayam, Pala, Punnar though Urumbikkara’s valley town Yanthayar. British planter J.J.Murphy started rubber plantations in Yanthayar on a commercial basis. This is the main peculiarity of Yanthayar. The palace of Murphy as well as his tomb remains in this small town in Kottayam district.
From Yanthayar, there is approximately 15 kms to Urubikkara Mountains. We left our car in a home at Yandayar and took the jeep for our journey ahead. Mr Biju was our driver. We had our lunch, parcelled our dinner in hot cases, and started our journey. We also took our tents for our night stay from Yendayar town.
After driving through the small bridge, Kokayyar panchayat starts. A little more ahead, after the journey though tarred roads, we stopped before a big waterfall named Pappanji waterfalls. Many people come to see these huge waterfalls. We drove down, stopped before a small stream, and enjoyed ourselves in the water for some time.
Making way via no way
The tar road disappeared; the road ahead was very bad with potholes. The rubber estates ended. Now you can see the forests with some houses in between. We stopped our jeep before the one and only tea stall located in Urumbikkara. That tea stall will serve food till 11 in the morning and then in the evening. We warmed up ourselves and started our journey again.
Before you travel long you can see the deserted tea factory. The factory was built with rocks and iron sheets. You can see the inside of the factory through the window bars. We saw the remains of machinery and other stuff inside.
As we drove ahead, we saw the century old water storage system and a deserted temple. Our jeep passed through the tea estate and the resort and entered the cardamom plantations.
The climate has started to change. The light faded and the snow started falling.
Some bikers over took us and went ahead through the round rolling stones. We saw a new bike and its tensed passenger on the way. The bike got overheated and stopped. Our driver consoled him by saying that it will be all right when the vehicle gets cooled.
The jeep climbed the plateau after making some noises. The road ahead was going in front of a small temple, huge rocks on both sides and had a small river and green meadows on the way. The small temple was Iru Mulachiamman temple. The temple opens only once in a month. The locals climb this hill and come to the temple to have the ‘darsan’ of the deity during the festival time, which is conducted once in a year.
The big rocks on the hill give an enchanting view. As there was no time left today, we planned that for tomorrow.
After travelling for some more metres, the jeep stopped at the place where we had planned to make tents for night stay. Though we had heard that that some private parties used to conduct camps at this place, there were none that day. We were lucky, we thought. Four of us had the whole mountain for ourselves without any disturbance.
Our driver Biju told us that it is the one end of Urumbikkara hills. Though it was only 5 p.m in the evening, it was already dark and had started snowing.
Our next agenda was to make a camping tent. Though none of us was familiar in making the tent, we opened the kit and took all the things outside. We looked at the picture and followed the instructions to make the tent. Though many things from the kit were left aside, finally we succeeded in making a tent like structure to sleep.
Our driver Biju left for the day promising us to be back tomorrow. Before leaving, he gave us a big knife. He explained that there are no wild animals in that place, but told us to keep that as a precautionary measure.
A tent, a whole mountain for just four of us
The mist had already covered the hills. It became very dark by six in the evening. The small LED light and the mobile torch were the only light inside the tent and around.
We walked to the edge of the hills. From there we could hear the sound of waterfalls. The mist started moving and it started raining. Therefore, we all had our bath in the rain.
As the night deepened, the mist completely moved and the sky became clear. After having the food, we rested lying down outside the tent looking at the stars. Once the chill started penetrating our bones, we got into our tents.
We woke up seeing the mesmerising beauty of the mother earth. Vast hills, meadows and solid rocks surrounded us. The Vagamon Hills were also not far from our sight.
Now our journey was in search of the waterfalls that mesmerised us. That place was known as Madamakkulam. We had enquired and gathered enough information to go to that place in advance.
The barren hills and Madamakkulam
We walked through the way full of rolling stones and a small stream. Though the forest is same like Shola forest, it is revenue land and not forest land.
After walking so long through the meadows and streams, we reached a higher point. From there we could partially view Madamakkulam waterfalls. As we had carried bread and fruits for breakfast, we took some rest there and had our breakfast. Now to Madamakkulam.
We walked towards the waterfalls as we had some idea of the way ahead. Finally, we stopped at a place where the stream flowed horizontally and entered into a steep muddy way filled with bushes and meadows.
This stretch is a bit tough. People who do not have prior experience in trekking should have a compulsory guide. If you plan to drink alcohol and have a leisurely trek, then please avoid this place.
After the trek, you will be landing before beautiful waterfalls. You have to be very careful while getting down, as the rocks on the sides are slippery. During rains, better keep away as it is very deep down the waterfalls.
Though it is named Madamakkulam, it is not a good place to have bath. Here, the water falls to a small-congested place and from there to a great fall downwards. Therefore, we sat on the rock, enjoyed the beauty, and then trekked up again.
How will we go without having a bath in the waterfalls? Therefore, we finally stepped in to the stream that flows to the waterfalls. The clean, cool water tempted us very much. Therefore, we walked through the stream. Though the sharp stones pricked us hard, we walked until the top of the waterfall.
We lied down for quite some time. The cool water and the mild sun gave us a heavenly feel. Unless you experience it, you won’t realise what you miss.
As planned earlier, it was time for our pick up by our driver Mr Biju. His mobile phone was not reachable; therefore, we could not contact him. So, we all got up and came back to the place where we halted yesterday night.
No jeep was seen near our sight. A bit worried we tried to call him from the place where there was some mobile coverage the day before. Again, his phone was not reachable. Therefore, we hoped that he would be on his way to the hills.
We washed our clothes and dried them on the rocks. Then we dismantled the tent and packed our bags. Then we waited for Mr Biju for our return journey.
Though the Sun was up it was very cold. We could see the Vagamon valley clearly. The place where paragliding was conducted too could be seen from this place.
Finally, the jeep arrived and we started our return journey.
The mesmerising peaks
Our driver stopped the jeep before the Iru Mulachiamman temple. We climbed each and every rock. To reach Iru Mulachi rocks, we have to use not only our legs to climb but also our hands too. However, people try to climb the high rocks and take photos to post on Facebook. You may get thousands of likes. However, it is good to have a second thought whether the likes that you get on Facebook for your pictures is worth risking your life.
We enjoyed the place for more than an hour and then got into our vehicle. The mist and the chill in the atmosphere disappeared slowly. We drove ahead the tea estates and the teashop. A big dream has come true for us. We said goodbye to Mr Biju at Yendayar town; also to our dream destination Urumbikkara Hills.
For Tent: 9895444473
For Jeep: Mr Biju - 9895686113.
Translated by Deepa Menon