Pristine Pathanamthitta is blessed with abundant green forests. This green canopy does not just offer a visual treat but helped Pathanamthitta win the status of the second-least polluted town in India. That's what Pathanamthitta has to offer - unadulterated love for nature.
Though Pathanamthitta has several beautiful locales, Gavi deserves a special mention. A trip through the forest path, saying hello to the wild, is an experience worth the journey.
The journey begins…
The best vehicle, which offers a 'sky-view' of the forest as you climb the mountains, would be the local bus. Head to the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) bus stand, and you can catch the early morning bus to Kumily that goes via Gavi. If 6.30 am is too early for you, opt for the 12.30 pm bus.
Those who want to explore the forest in their own vehicles, they would have to book online in advance and reach the Angamoozhi forest check post before 8.30 am to take the pass.
The 90 km journey through the rainforest starts from Angamoozhi.
You can take the route via Seetathode from Pathanamthitta to reach Angamoozhi. It is a small village by the Kakkattar River and here you will get to eat some of the really traditional food. The forest check post is some distance away from the village. Only 30 vehicles would be given pass in a single day. So, make sure, you are in early.
If the rush is high, you might not be given permission to enter. From 5 pm till 8 pm, vehicles are banned in the forest.
The wild land
Once you enter the forest, abandon the road habits of honking or switching on your music system. Instead focus your mind and eyes to stay alert for the sudden appearance of a wild tusker or a bison. You might even spot a leopard in the forests. The dangling tree branches might be playing host to a mountain squirrel or if you are lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the lion-tailed macaque. The call of a passing hornbill would also resonate through the forest.
After Angamoozhi, there would be vehicle inspections at Kochandi, Vallakkadavu, Gavi and Vandiperiyar check posts. The forest personnel will even take a count of the number of plastic bottles. They would not let any abusive substance to be taken inside the woods.
As you go deeper into the forest, be wary of the odd vehicles that might come your way. This is mostly a one-way but for the KSRTC bus or the lone forest department or KSEB jeeps. Those private vehicles heading to Gavi from Angamoozhi are not allowed to return via the same route. They have to take the Kumaly route to exit the forest.
Dams on the way
You would also pass by the dams of Moozhiyar, Kakki, Anathode, Gavi and Kochu Pamba along the route. These five dams are part the Sabarigiri hydro-electric project.
Some kilometres after the first check post, you would see the Moozhiyar dam. It was filled to the brim during last year’s monsoon. However, this year, one part of the dam paints a sorry picture of a nearly dried-up reservoir.
As you move on from Upper Moozhiyar, you would see three huge penstock pipes. Even though mobile network would be negligible, your phones would be kept busy at this view point.
Next up is the canteen of the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) office in Moozhiyar. You might come across Kashi, a contract worker of the KSEB. A native of Tenkasi, Kashi has to record the water level at Kakki dam and report it at the Moozhiyar power house control room. He has been at this job for 40 years. Earlier he used to cycle the 15km stretch to the dam and back through the forest path frequented by elephants, bears and leopards. He has come across different wild creatures but they don't bother him. Their respect for each other's space would be one example of living in harmony with the wild. Now, with better transport services, Kashi takes the bus.
After Moozhiyar dam comes the Kakki dam, one of the longest dams in Kerala. Though last year, water from the dam had flooded Ranni town in Pathanamthitta, the dam now looks a mere dried-up shadow of its former self.
After Vallakkadavu check post, you might come across herds of elephants.
The forest path and the mist that descends from the hills offer a mesmerising experience. You would struggle to come with words to express the beauty of Gavi eco-tourism point, complete with a beautiful garden and pond. A ride through the forest that can fill up your photo album with Instagram-worthy pictures.
Those of you who did not have enough of the forest, can stay at the inspection bungalows of KSEB at Angamoozhi and Kochu Pamba. But you have to book in advance. You can also book online for the KFDC cottages at Gavi. However, it would be a bit more expensive. The day travellers can have food from the small canteens at Moozhiyar, Kochu Pamba and Gavi.