A stay at forest lodge by Kerala Forest Development Corporation (KFDC) at Pakuthippalam, deep inside the Nelliyampathy reserve, offers an unforgettable experience. At night, a bear may scratch on your door. A wild tusker could launch an attack anytime. Or there might be the deadly king cobra crawling somewhere nearby.
However, a trip to Pakuthippalam to observe Lion-tailed macaques, Giant squirrels and Great hornbills is also thrilling. The journey can be started around noon from Thrissur. Take the Palakkad route and then deviate to the right from Vadakkumcherry to the Nenmara road. As travellers approach Nenmara, a pleasing sight awaits them – the wide expanse of the green paddy fields. Nenmara, a small town in Palakkad district, is well-known for the high yield of paddy.
According to historians, Palakkad was earlier called 'Palai Nilam' which translates as 'dry land' in Tamil. But the hard work of farmers has now transformed the barren area into productive agriculture land. The road cuts through the paddy fields and reaches the Pothundy dam.
One of the biggest earth dams in India, Pothundy Dam can be visited by purchasing tickets. The ticket counter leads to very steep flight of steps and at the top, one can witness the reservoir surrounded by forested hills.
Unseasonal rains often fill up the dam reservoir to the brim, and the dark woods in the backdrop inject a sense of fear deep inside visitors. However, the forest lodge can be reached only by taking this path to the hills. At higher altitudes, the entire scenery undergoes a change. After the white-coloured windmills set in the green paddy fields at Nenmara, one can experience the thick green forests and the gentle breeze beyond Pothundy. All the waterfalls in Nelliyampathy hills come alive during monsoon and a dip is tempting. However, during the summer, the waterfalls vanish.
Into the wild
The path goes uphill along the ghat roads to a small junction called Kaikatti and here, the driver Rajendran and guide Susan join visitors to the forest lodge. The road forks at Kaikatti. While one path heads to Sitarkundu in Nelliyampathy, the other is to Pakuthippalam. The path to Pakuthippalam is to the right and is narrower than the others.
A little ahead is a stream, the banks of which are the haunt of lion-tailed macaques. Whenever the macaques arrive on a jackfruit tree creating a big ruckus, the other monkeys relishing the succulent fruits would scatter. A troop of macaques would number around 15 animals and they easily dominate their wild cousins. Such scenes provide good photo opportunities too.
By evening, you can pass Nooradi Junction. Take the right turn and the deep forest beckons. By this time, the sun would have set, adding to the darkness. By 7 pm, a visitor can arrive at the Pakuthippalam forest lodge.
A lodge in deep woods
A few years ago, the area of the forest lodge was home to a lone tusker. Luckily, the animal is not noticed in the area now. Visitors to the lodge are welcomed by Sajeer, the officer and Manoharan, who manages the kitchen. During daytime, one can enjoy the scenes of light playing hide-and-seek among the greenery around the lodge. However, the night produces various shades of darkness; from light to deep black.
There are trees of various sizes around the lodge. The guide would point out one devoid of leaves and inform that a leopard is sitting on it. However, a leopard or a bear does not come calling every night; it is the wild bison that is the regular visitor.
After a trek in the forest, visitors can return to the lodge and Manoharan would have prepared tasty supper comprising traditional dishes as well as a campfire. Relishing hot food in the cool environment of the forest sitting around the campfire offers a celestial experience.
As the day breaks, the cries of hornbills rouse visitors from their sleep. Mist envelops the lodge in the morning and dew drips from every leaf, blade of grass, flower and even coffee bean. However, stepping out of the lodge at this time could prove dangerous as herds of bison would be roaming in the area and even without provocation, they could charge at you.
A tasty breakfast would be served by Manoharan and Rajendran, the department’s driver, would be ready to take visitors to other parts of the forest. The wooded area here is preserved with care by the authorities and not a single shred of plastic can be noticed even though travellers arrive regularly. Sajeer, Harikrishnan and Jayaraj, the officers in charge, carry out their duties well.
During a one-hour trip, animals like giant squirrel, sambar, wild boar and bison and birds of innumerable species come into view. Back in the forest lodge, one can enjoy a sumptuous lunch before starting the return journey. Along with an experience of the thick woods, visitors are moved by the warmth of the staff at the forest lodge.
Things to note
Entry to the forest is allowed only to people who carry out advance booking at KFDC's forest lodge. Attempting to venture into the woods without permission is a punishable offence.
It may also be remembered that one-day trips are not allowed.
The total fare is Rs 2,000, which covers accommodation, food and trekking.
Thrissur - Nenmara - Nelliyampathy - Kaikatti - Nooradi - Victoria - Pakuthippalam.
For bookings, contact Sajeer at 9497742196; Rajendran at 9446810020.