The Forest Department of Kerala has issued a warning against unauthorized trekking to the ecologically fragile hills of Meesappulimala in Idukki. The mention of the lesser known peak near Munnar in Dulquer Salman-starrer Charlie resulted in an exponential surge in the number of trekkers and backpackers landing on the verdant hills. Such has been the traffic that forest department has come up with a guided trekking package to avoid potential damage to the sensitive eco-system.
It all started when the enigmatic wagabound Charlie, played by Dulquer Salman in the eponymous movie, whips up a quick to-do list for the woman whose suicide attempt he foils. “Have you seen mist descending on Meesappulimala?” His conviction that it’s a sight worth living for is expressed with astounding economy, and yet it was not lost on the audience as on the lady he manages to pull off the precipice of dejection. Charlie’s dream run in the Christmas season of 2015 saw scores of youngsters go on a trekking-selfie clicking-picture posting spree at Meesappulimala.
According to forest department officials, there is an immediate need to put a cap on unauthorized and illegal trekking to the entry-restricted highlands. The second highest peak in Western Ghats is home to rich flora and fauna like the Rhododendron flowers and the Nilgiri Tahr. Human intrusion can cause irreversible damage to the ecosystem here. In view of the unchecked flow of tourists, the district administration has stressed the need to impose restrictions.
Visits to the highlands, leased out by the forest department to Kerala Forest Development Corporation (KFDC), will now be regulated using entry passes. Those who obtain passes issued by KFDC can head to Silent Valley from where guides will lead them to the forests of Meesappulimala through safe routes involving an 8-kilometer trek.
Over-zealous and misinformed trekkers often give entry passes a skip and take short cuts to reach the peak. Youngsters who try to hoodwink authorities are often unaware of the dangers prowling on the forest trail. Accidents during such misadventures are reported regularly, say forest department officials.
One of the regular routes taken by hoodwinkers is via the Tamil Nadu village of Munthal in Theni from where they can get to Kolukkumalai. Meesappulimala is a 2-hour trek from the Kolukkumalai plantation hills. But the trail often springs surprises on trekkers with its capricious weather. A few days ago, forest department officials had to scour the hills for hours before they could locate four youngsters who lost their way when the Kolukkumalai-Meesappulimala trail suddenly turned foggy. Tamil Nadu forest department officials finally led the exhausted group to Sooryanelli.
Scenic as the trail is, the forest route to Meesappulimala is strewn with deep gorges and venomous reptiles. Tigers and leopards are likely be to the prowl since the hills have an abundant population of Nilgiri Tahr. Unless led by experienced guides, tourists can easily stray into the territories of wild animals.
Meesappulimala falls under KFDC’s 2,000 ha of protected forests. The hills, which stay veiled in mist round the year, is at an elevation of 2,640 meter above sea level and is second only to Anaimudi, the highest peak in the Western Ghats. The sprawling grasslands of the hills, spread over 500 odd hectares, is a mesmerizing sight to behold.
With Shola forests, verdant waterfalls, indigenous plant and animal varieties, the highlands boast of rich biodiversity. Human manipulation can damage the eco-system which will endanger the many species of flora and fauna that depend on it. Retaining it as protected forests and restricting human intrusion alone will help conserve the biodiversity and the eco-system.
Charlie’s fans can trek by the book
A total of 40 to 60 visitors will be allowed access to the hills per day. All visitors are required to obtain entry passes issued by KFDC through the official website. An entry pass authorizes the holder to spend one day and one night at Meesappulimala.
The entry pass costs Rs 1,150 per head, inclusive of the night stay at the base camp and food. A stay at the sky cottage on the peak can be booked separately at Rs 3,000. The package includes the service of guides.
How to get to Meesappulimala
From Kochi, Thodupuzha - Neryamangalam-Adimali-Munnar-Silent Valley route to reach Meesappulimala.
From Kottayam – Pala-Thodupuzha-Adimali-Munnar-Silent Valley route or Kattappana-Nedumkandam-Poopara-Munnar