It was yet another hectic week. Having drained myself of all the zeal and interest in doing my chores, I began yearning to visit a place that could redefine life.
Thus, I decided to sign up for a trek up to Illickal Kallu. What was more exciting was that the journey involved a rather long but not tasking hike to the Kattakayam waterfalls. Both these places are situated in Kottayam district, Kerala, India.
My friends and I had set out from Kochi at 6 am. At approximately 8 am, we halted at Thodupuzha, a town situated in Kerala’s Idukki district for breakfast. The base of the trek was situated approximately twenty minutes away from the town. As we drove towards the starting point, we noticed a rather drastic change in the landscape. No, we weren’t in the Nilgiris. Instead, it was the hills of God’s Own Country, giving us a warm welcome.
Our trek began at 9.45 am. The path, unlike some trekking paths, was less steep and challenging. Again, we were instructed to watch out for leeches. One could consider the climb downhill to be a ‘walk in the park.’ However, we couldn’t say the same about the trip uphill.
At the streams, we decided to relax as we got to interact with the group, enjoying nature at its best. Soon, we continued uphill towards the base of the main Kattakayam waterfalls. The water flows down three levels. As we reached the base of the main waterfall, all of us were tempted to enjoy the cool yet pure water. It was indeed an experience to swim on a hill top!
After about 30 minutes of fun, the ‘gang’ began heading towards the starting point. Lunch was served at a tiny shack set up along one of the main roads. An hour later, we headed towards Illickal Kallu, a spot that is truly breath taking.
We began ascending at a higher altitude and were mesmerized by the massive yet mind-blowing imagery that stood before us. Lush green hills hid behind the mist. It was as if they were shy to reveal their majestic selves. This rock is situated approximately 3400 feet about sea level.
The climb up the hill was not as long as many would consider it to be, but was definitely tricky. Not to mention the repetitive narration of mishaps in the area. But, as we reached our destination, it was obvious that none of us wanted to head back. Such peace and contentment was unique to find. We savoured the cool breeze and grew closer to nature each time we inhaled the fresh air.
This area consists of three hills. Each hill appears to have a unique shape. The names of these hills are- Kuda Kallu(which means the umbrella-shaped rock), Illickal Kallu (after the hill named Illickal Mala)and Konnu Kallu (which means the hunch back rock). The plants that grow on these hills are said to have several medicinal benefits.
However, there are several restrictions with regards to exploring the summit of the hills.
After descending the hill, we decided to treat ourselves at a shop situated close by to tea and snack and soon we began our journey back home.
No sooner had we thought the trip had come to an end, than we chose to do more exploring. We parked the van on a hill top. As the sun began to set, we walked briskly towards three ancient boulders on a hill top situated in Thodupuzha, Kerala, India.
Known as Uruvappara, this hill has been linked to the Mahabharata. It also houses a pool which, according to legend, was constructed many centuries ago by the second Pandava brother Bhima. Interestingly, one of the boulders on the hill was claimed to be Bhima’s kitchen.
Moreover, the view was unique. One could witness the whole of Thodupuzha town and watch the skies change shades as the sun bid adieu. The surroundings were quiet and clean; ensuring that we crave for time and opportunities to be at one with the area.
All in all, this is a trek that was truly meant for all. Moreover, it helped me realise that the world is a small place and we are smaller pawns in the game of life.
Here are few facts about Kattakayam and Ilickal Kallu:
Location: Kottayam district, Kerala, India
Means of transport: You could hire a cab or use the bus services up to Thodupuzha and resort to another vehicle up to the base of the trek.
Closest railways stations: Kottayam, Ernakulam, Thripunithra
Closest airports: Cochin International Airport, Nedumbassery
Other places to see around the area: Vagamon, Kuttikanam,Thangalpara, Kumarakom, Keezharkuthu Waterfalls
Cuisine: Traditional Kerala cuisine (watch out for the extra –spicy chilies, also known as Kaanthari Molagu)
Ideal trekking season: September to January
Tips to remember while trekking in Kerala:
1. The climate in Kerala is quite humid. Rainfall is expected 6 months in a year. It is thus, wise for one to carry an umbrella each time to they choose to do some exploring in the state.
2. Listen to the local residents.
3. Carry a bottle of salt while walking through the forests or marsh lands. Salt can help keep leeches away.
4. Avoid carrying materials made of plastic. It is difficult to discard such items in most of these spots.
5. Carry an extra set of clothes. You wouldn’t want to wear clothes that have been soaked in the rain for too long. Moreover, your clothes would not dry as fast as you might want it to due to the humidity levels of the state.
6. In case you wish to showcase your swimming expertise during the excursion, always consult the local residents before you venture out to do so. Waterfalls, while exciting, are the most unpredictable spots. Its force can put you in a fix when least expected.