Actress Priyanka is on cloud nine after she realized her long-cherished dream of scaling the Agasthyarkoodam peak in Thiruvananthapuram district in Kerala. Since her childhood days, the actress, who had essayed many stellar roles in Malayalam and Tamil movies, had a longing to summit the peak and made the dream come true in 2021. In a free-wheeling chat, Priyanka shared her trekking experience with Onmanorama.
The strenuous trek
Agasthyarkoodam is indeed a mountain to climb as the trek to the top is not tough but really tough. Body and mind should be in sync to conquer this tough terrain, says Priyanka.
“Though I had many physical discomforts, the strength and vigour provided by mind helped me to complete this daunting task. You should be physically fit as trekking involves climbing steep rocks. And one shouldn’t forget wild animals in the forests. You have to be fit as a fiddle to run away from wild elephants that may cross your paths while climbing the hills,” she notes.
The long-standing desire to scale the mountain gave the requisite impetus to the actress who had been physically down days before the expedition.
The trek to the mountain top is arduous as one has to cautiously tread through grasslands, rocks, brooks and waterfalls. The 27km hike also takes you through Athirumala and Pongalapara, and the verdant forests with wild animals, adds Priyanka.
“This is Kerala’s toughest trekking expedition as danger lurks in every corner. The forest is home to 80 species of poisonous snakes and wild animals including elephants, tigers, leopards, bear and bison. Besides, the jungle is also infested with blood-sucking leeches. But my strong will to climb the mountain and be on the lap of Mother Nature swept away all these impediments,” the actress notes.
The state forest department lifted the ban preventing women from climbing Agasthyarkoodam following a high court order and after that many women had summited the peak, including Priyanka.
When Priyanka first took the pass to trek to Agasthyarkoodam, she couldn’t make the trip as her grandmother was not well. Later also the expedition didn’t materialize due to grandmother’s death and the spread of coronavirus.
“But finally it happened early this year. Groups consisting of five and 10 people started trekking by availing special passes along with two guides. The support and encouragement from the team members helped me to complete the trek though I had certain health problems. Dhanya Sanal, Aneesh, Hemanth and Mahupala, who are my close friends, were part of my group,” adds the actress.
The trekking expedition is spread across three days. A distance of 18km should be covered between Bonacaud and Athirumala, which is the base camp, on the first day.
“After an overnight stay at the base camp, we started climbing the mountain early in the morning. A steep climb of 8km can sap you of energy. The three-day hiking, which involves different types of trekking, is completed after covering 40km,” says Priyanka.
Though the actress has enough monsoon trekking experience, the January rains made trekking difficult for the team. Mist and strong winds only compounded the situation, she adds.
“The mist was so heavy that it was not easy to see the person walking in front of you. We were a bit crestfallen as many people in other groups were returning without completing the expedition. We also weighed the option of calling it quits but decided to move forward with grit and determination. It was a heavenly feeling to reach the mountain top and I was happy to realize a long-standing dream. What did I achieve from this expedition -- no doubt, self-satisfaction. This journey helped me to discern my weaknesses and revitalize myself,” Priyanka avers with a sense of achievement.
“The trek downhill was a tricky one. The rivers and streams that were earlier flowing thin were overflowing with water fed by the rains while we were trekking downhill. It took close to 30 minutes to cross certain rivers that had strong undercurrents and it was risky too. We could see small snakes swimming in the gushing waters and it was scary to say the least. But a trip becomes thrilling only when there is a certain degree of adventure in it. And this expedition was unforgettable,” she notes.
Love for travelling
Priyanka is into solo travelling and believes that touring helps to usher in a positive change to one’s outlook and perspective on life. “I have experienced this positive shift and many changes in my life were engineered by travelling,” the actress concludes.