Sunday, August 12, 2012

Ramakkalmedu, Unwinding the windiest paradise

Quick Facts given at the end of this post

"Blistering Bernacles!! What am I doing? The vehicle is just going sideways when I am pressing the accelerator". It was a spurt of the moment decision and it seemed to be turning bad. I am struck". 

The journey had started early in the morning for attending a friend's wedding, which was happening at a beautiful hamlet in the Western Ghats, lying between the popular tourist destinations Thekkady and Munnar. Beautifully maintained roads made the journey to Nedumkandam from Thiruvananthapuram, the capital city of Kerala, a breeze. It was surprising to note that how neat roads can make the travel less tiresome and one feels like the roadside scenaries just got a touch up to enhance the beauty.

The travel upto Changanacherry was through the Main central road, from where an eastward deviation was taken to take the Kumily road. From Mundakkayam, the real upward climb with lots of twisties happen. In between Mundakkayam and kuttikkanam as we were unwinding the twisties, we had a quick stop when we saw a sea of white animals standing amidst the picturesque mountains. It was a cattle market.

At Kuttikanam we have to deviate from the Kumily route, in northwards direction towards Elappara. The road side scenes just get better and to see it in pictures just visit my blog on Vagamon (click here to see the beautiful Vagamon, truly christened Swiss of Kerala).

The landscape was just getting better and better, each of the views seems to be competing with each other and setting higher benchmarks for the next better frame as we progress further. The township of Kattapana came and went but no one noticed amidst the superb settings and within no time we were in the Thekkady - Munnar route and got a taste of why Munnar (click here to see a trip story to Munnar) is regarded as one of the best hillstations in India. The gem of a driving experience was halted midway when the town, Nedumkandam appeared.

My lucky friend was getting married to a girl from Nedumkandam and he would be able to visit this hill station every now and then. All the functions came to an end by afternoon and the presence of a large contingent from my office made it an even more memorable one. Since there were lots of beautiful picnic spots nearby, people seems to be confused on where to go. Some were planning to go to Munnar, some to Vagamon and those who came along with me were open to go anywhere with the condition that we have to return back to our homes atleast by midnight. Just nearby we saw a board pointing to a place called Ramakkalmedu. The sign board had the Kerala Tourism logo inscribed in it, so it must be a tourist location. Enquired about this place with a local autorickshawvallah who told that there is nothing much to see and the hot humid sun could make matters more worse. Still we decided against our urge to have a drive around Munnar and started our journey to "Ramakkalmedu" meaning the land of legendary king Rama's stone. Rama is the king in the Hindu epic - Ramayana.

The route from Nedumkandam is Eastward towards Thekkady. Roads were not so big, but ok. A good 10km passed from Nedumkandam and a sign board pointed towards a narrow byelane. Eventhough the distance to destination was only 1km nothing promising was visible anywhere near except the untarred village road.

A little ahead there was another road towards an elevated region. A security check post was nearby. We have to take tickets before proceeding ahead. The guy there gave an idea about the place. There were two hills. One behind the security check post which is accessible either by taking the road upwards or climb up the steps behind the security checkpost. The other hill is little bit more high, which is having the historic significance associated with Rama. To reach the top of this hill we have to climb up. We decided to first go up the hill which is accessible by the road. The condition of that road was pathetic, but the hot scorching sun made us decide to take the vehicle as much close to the destination as possible.

The road slowly opened up into a hill, a vast hill. Suddenly we felt as if we are in a different stage. The little offroading kind of journey through the small road made me confident to take the vehicle up towards the hill where there was no specific route. One of my friends got out with the camera and a kind of adrenalin rush made me take this back wheel drive vehicle up towards the vast hill.

The hill was mostly filled with small round pebbles and within no time I found that the going is getting tougher and here I am stuck in the middle of nowhere. I am pressing the accelerator and the vehicle's back wheel is rolling on top of pebbles. Thought of an idea to get out of this stalemate. A press of the clutch and applying brakes, the vehicle is slowly rolling back. Another try to start moving up, again failed, once more reversed, this time got a grip on the surface and it slowly moved up. Steered it sideways and slowly the upward climb is happening.

Woah what a fantastic feeling

The altitude is rising rapidly and now we could see the beautiful landscape much better, lots of flora and fauna are added to our field of vision along with the wide wide skyline. Now we are near a fence beyond which we cannot take the vehicle. The cruiser was brought to a standstill in one of the most picturesque backdrops ever. Naturally, there was a momentary open-close routine of the shutter resulting in this "freeze of the moment".

Still we have to trek up around 300metres to reach the top. Two giant figures are sitting right on top of the hill with their back facing to us.

Let us walk up towards them and take a closer look. The sun is working up to build a lot of heat, but we are unpertrubed. The cool winds are hitting us so hard, neutralizing the sun's effect and we are feeling like, we could be blown of any time.

As we move up further, down the hill towards the eastern side we can see lot of plain lands. Those area belong to Kerala's neighbouring state Tamil Nadu. Yes we are now standing in a hill which separates two states. The climate and culture on both sides of this hill differ a lot. Geographically speaking, if Kerala has a hilly landscape and is blessed with lots of rainfall, Tamilnadu has a relatively plain landscape and scant rainy season. But the irony is that the a major chunk of vegetables that the Keralites consume is coming from Tamilnadu, thanks to their strong farming sector and innovative cultivation methods.

Atleast 2 or 3 townships are in our visible frame and the panoramic view this sight is offering is beyond description. One has to feel it to experience it. It will be a sight to watch at night too, when all these little townships lits up.

Zoom in to have a better view of a small township and a farm which is visible in the above frame.

Salute the technology which is making us see more than what our naked eyes can see. I am finding it real harder to keep my camera still, coz of the winds. This kind of wind is making this place so unique. First time in my life I am confronting with so powerful winds. Suddenly we all started to feel like we could fly, if we simply jump up. One among us started the flying trial and it soon spread more faster than a viral worm. Now I could see lot of flying jacks around.

Jumping up, flying around, enjoying the winds, howling high and doing everything to show our excitement irrespective of our age, we are now near the giant statue.

The hugeness of the structure is felt only when we are near. The famous "Kuaravan and Kurathi" of idukki are portrayed here magnificiently in concrete. the statue's sure had life in it, the amount of detailing was perfect and is fenced around to protect from the tourists whose main agenda will be to pose near this structure. We are also no different.

The couples are gazing at the Ramakkalmedu hill and Tamilnadu. We can also see the hill and the rock on top of it which is christened "Ramakkalmedu". Now that we got a liking to the place where we are in, we were in no mood to set our foot on the other hill, rather spend as much time as possible here. For the time being, let Ramakkalmedu remain in the captured frames and it is better to have some motive left for planning another trip to this beautiful place.

Nearby the giant statue, there is another man made structure, a "mandapam" or a small stage, with pillars crafted out of granite.

The place is proving to be much better than what we expected. The experience is akin to the "Panchalimedu" experience, when a relatively unknown hill station was the highlight of our visit to Kuttikanam, photos of which earned me some reputation as well in some online contests. (Watch the Panchalimedu experience here).

The beautiful 360 degree panoramic view around is superb, but the strong winds is surely the unique selling point of this not vastly explored destination. The wide angle view and the feeling of that gushing winds cannot be captured in camera. Neverthless I am trying to get a panoramic shot.

It is almost 2 hours since we touched down this highland and it is time for a retreat. Walking down towards our chariot, I could see some big windmills on top of another hill. Wonder how I missed this earlier when I was taking snaps of the vehicle. It is their in the previous snap of the vehicle too.

One of my friends opinioned that it might be the windfarm enroute Thekkady. Another idea is beginning to take birth !! We are going to get a glimpse of the farm on our way back. The GPS inside my vehicle was of no use as it showed only barren lands in this stretch. The "road side GPS" is coming handy to find directions and we are now travelling on the Cumbum (a place in Tamil Nadu) route. On this way we have to take a deviation near to the Kerala TN border towards Thekkady. Another road side advice helped us locate a small village road which leads to the windfarm. This road too was untarred and today the suspension of the vehicle had to really stretch to its limits to keep our backs in good shape. Our eyes were prowling around in search of the huge fans and soon it appeared. This thingy is huge, and it was contrasting to the huge trees and the green landscape around. The first one itself is making us stop to have detailed introspection.

After the real windy experience at Ramakkalmedu, we were still feeling as if wind is still blowing around. Our plan is to walk to the next wind mills. Around 1 Km of walk ensued and next one was in sight still a few hundred metres away. What appeared to be placed closer to each other from Ramakkalmedu, is really many hundred metres apart.

The giant spinning wheels suddenly made me a little crazy and I tried out some unique antics with one of my friends as an object

Some sort of wisdom prevailed, as we decided to walk back. The lack of winds here is draining our energy (or is it the other way around? Did the winds drain all our energy earlier?) Towards one side we could see the "Ramakkalmedu" at a distance. The statues helped us identifying the hill.

The walk through these hilly roads yields many different sights. There is a small hole nearby and something is protruding out.

The beautiful fruits and flowers around is a feast to the eye.

The return trip started and we are now in the route to the famous tourist destination - Thekkady. The road side scenary is nothing when compared with those in the Kuttikkanam - Nedumkandam route. The spices park at Puttady is the only exemption. Wonder whether it is a resort or some industry.

As we are getting nearby Thekkady, we are getting a feeling as if travelling through a crowded town. Nothing here was inspiring. Even the climate is hot and humid. The commercialisation has extended so much that once we are inside Thekkady town, what we see is only concrete structures. It was after a long gap of 10 years that I am visiting Thekkady and I was surprised to see this sight. There should be some sort of restrictions from Government to protect such sights. Restricting the construction of resorts will help to a certain extent. But when money bells are ringing in the pockets of all concerned all such protection guidelines are blown of in the wind.

The gatekeeper at the entrace to the periyar reservoir opinioned against a visit to the lake, since the boating time was already over. Sans boating or a visit to the periyar lake, Thekkady feels just like another busy town. We are now heading away from the hustles and bustles of much illhyped Thekkady towards Kuttikanam. To prove how the commercialisation has destroyed Thekkady, the road side scenaries were just getting better and better as we move away from Thekkady.

The beautiful landscape is tempting me to stop once more in this beautiful hill side before sun sets. A giant set of rocks appeared on the road side and my instincts made me swerve towards it, bringing the vehicle to a halt near the giant natural specimen.

If it is the giant rock on one side, there is a valley on the other side of the road.

So this pitstop again proved worthy. Much worthy when we consider the Thekkady experience. One of friends is pointing to something of interest, which he found in the gigantic rocks. A zoomed up snap brought out the really huge bee hive.

A tea joint, some distance away, gave a chance for another beautiful shot.

As we sipped in really hot tea, all of us were unwinding on how the journey unfolded. We had started our journey only today morning and we were feeling as we were away for days, visiting different destinations. The most interesting place was surely Ramakkalmedu, with the breathtaking scenary on offer and the strong cool winds. The excitement was writ largely on all the faces and to make matters more colorful, the setting sun was creating a wonderful ambience and the sky was soon joinging our colourful discussion with a beautiful painting which only nature can do.

It was pure bliss and the experience can simply be summed by this still taken from RAMAKKALMEDU

Quick Facts

Name of Place:

How to get there:
Kottayam - Kuttikkanam - Elappara - Nedumkandam - Ramakkalmedu

What to do?
Trek up the hill to get a panaromic view of Tamil Nadu.
Heavy winds blow across irrespective of the season

Where to stay?
There are no good resorts around Ramakkalmedu
Resorts are aplenty in Vagamon, Munnar and Thekkady. Ramakkalmedu is just 1 hour drive from these destinations

Nearby places to visit
Windfarm at Thekkady, Thekkady wildlife sanctuary, Vagamon, Munnar, Kuttikkanam


R Niranjan Das said...

Beautiful place. Nice captures.

Roshmi Sinha said...

Thanks for sharing the lovely pics and describing your trip. Felt like I was taking the trip :)

Ram is not a king, he is a ‘Chakravarti’, meaning King of the world – think this means he was a samrat (emperor) - with a huge empire.

And he lived in the Treta Yug (the 2nd era) when no other ‘ism’ existed. In fact, the word ‘Hindu’ – traces its origins to the holy and mighty river ‘Sindhu’ – thanks to the ancient Persians. Shri Ram’s time was very much the Vedic period, when neither the word ‘Hindu’ nor what now passes for ‘Hinduism’ existed or was even heard of. It was ‘Sanaatan Dharm’ – or the ‘way of life’ rooted in the Vedic wisdom. ‘Veda’ comes from the root ‘Vid’ - meaning ‘to know’.

‘Sanaatan Dharm’ or ‘Sanaatan Path’ was the principles or the ‘way of life’ that helped society and civilization to flourish well. There was no ‘ism’ and it was never envisaged as ‘ism’ or ‘religion’.

Frankly, the ‘Ramayan’ is the comprehensive itihaas (history) of the Treata Yug, while the Mahabharat is the comprehensive itihaas of the Dwapar yug (the 3rd era).

PS: But thanks to sundry vested interests, the Western Ghats are under threat :(

PPS: What is the famous "Kuaravan and Kurathi" of idukki??

Olive said...

thank you for sharing your beautiful pictures.

kerala flowerplaza said...

Liked the post

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SSIS said...

Amazing pictures.... Munnar is such a great place to visit...

SSIS said...

Amazing pictures.... Munnar is such a great place to visit...

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