It is celebration time at Nelliyampathy. Rains turn the hills a striking green - even the roadsides and rocks seem covered with green carpets - and the roar of the wild streams can be heard from afar.
A long line of vehicles negotiate the winding road up the hills. The cars wait at the check-post of the forest department near Pothundi Dam. Once the guard allows them inside, the vehicles start their trip along the hill track.
The first sounds that greet travellers are the cries of wild birds disturbed by the passing vehicles. There are several interesting spots towards the east as well as west of Nelliyampathy. They include Sitarkundu, Kesavanpara, Padagiri, Pothupara, Palakapandy, Mampara, Thookkupalam, Pullukadu, and Victoria-Lilly tea gardens, among others.
Though there are numerous scenic locales, most visitors are eager to capture wild beasts like deer, bison, wild squirrel and wild boar on their cameras. However, the star inhabitant of the Nelliyampathy hills is the great hornbill.
The great hornbill on some occasions utters a loud cry which echoes all through the hills and glides majestically in front of eager visitors. Karadipara and Kesavanpara are the places where frequent sightings are reported.
Monsoon is not the ideal time to enjoy a ride negotiating the hair-pin bends which start right after the check-post. At every curve, one may run into a land slip. But a careful drive gives an unmatched experience – it is best to keep the speed at 40-50 kmph to enjoy the scenery of the forest up to Ayyappanthitta. There is a temple at the spot where the residents of Nelliyampathy used to make offerings in the past. According to them, the area is part of an elephant path and is also frequented by leopards. Another attraction of Ayyappanthitta is an amazing view of the sunset.
From Ayyappanthitta, the topography of Nelliyampathy changes abruptly. On the right side of the path is a deep gorge, while on the left is a very thick forest. Elephant herds often stroll along the track. It is best to take the early morning KSRTC bus from Palakkad to Nelliyampathy to sight elephants at Ayyappanthitta.
The path ahead virtually presents different geographies after every curve. At one place, there are centuries-old trees. Some distance ahead is the first junction on the road to Nelliyampathy called Kaikatty. The road deviates from here to the right leading to Manalaro tea estate. To the left is the Nelliyampathy town. The road ahead is to the Poabson tea gardens and the Sitarkundu beyond it.
The main attraction of Nelliyampathy town is the farm of the agricultural department, popularly known as 'Orange farm.' Visitors can feel and soak in the sights of the orange trees, passion fruit trees, and other fruit-bearing trees. In addition are numerous flowering plants typical to cold climates. Saplings too are available for sale.
Nelliyampathy town is a small junction lined with a row of shops and tiled houses. Notices saying 'rooms for rent' hang from the entrances of most houses. There are three rather big lodges in the town as well.
The area is a popular location for film shooting. Malayalam film lovers first saw the hills and the hill-view point in 'Bhramaram' and 'Aparichitan.' The tourist season at Nelliyampathy is during the September-June period. During this time, at least 4-5 films are shot here.
Among the various attractions at Nelliyampathy, the 'star' is Sitarkundu. It is the best view point which offers a panoramic sight of Kollengode. There is a waterfall at the spot which gave its name to the view point. According to local legend, Sri Rama reached Nelliyampathy with Sita Devi during his travels in the forest. It is believed that Sita took a dip in the pool below.
The toponymy of Nelliyampathy is also interesting. 'Nalli' refers to a goddess in the ancient religion practised by local farmers and 'pathy' translates as 'place.' There are several other 'pathys' in the eastern region of Palakkad district – Vadakarapathy, Eruthempathy and Ozhalapathy, among others.
Sitarkundu is at the edge of the Poabsons' tea estate. Parking space for tourist vehicles is available near the tea sales outlet. Sitarkundu is barely 500 m from here. From the view point, a bird's eye view of the Kollengode panchayat spreads itself before visitors. Houses, grasslands, paddy fields, trees, rivers, and roads are visible as if on a map. Sitarkundu is similar to Ramakalmedu in Idukki which offers a panoramic view of Kambam and Theni in Tamil Nadu.
The road from Kaikatty to Manalaro tea estate goes straight to Karadipara. A path in front of the AVT tea factory leads to the forest. This is the route to Kesavanpara, another view point in Nelliyampathy. The attractions of the place are steep hills, valleys, and other picturesque spots. A cool breeze blows here always. This area gave Nelliyampathy the title 'Poor man's Ooty.' A unique feature of Kesavanpara is a waterhole which does not dry up even during severe summer. It provides drinking water to wild animals.
The next destination on the route is Karadipara. The path is through the Victoria and Lilly tea estates and the scenery resembles Munnar. There are small houses and big trees all along the road. Koonampara is a junction along the path. Beyond it is the Nooradipalam. The hanging bridge can be seen ahead, which is the main attraction of Karadipara.
Visitors to the place will be blessed with the sight of the star of Nelliyampathy, the great hornbill.
Karuppa Swami is the 'Kiratha' form of Lord Siva. He is worshipped at Chinganchira in Kollamkode panchayat, which lies on the eastern part of Palakkad. Hundreds of devotees offer prayers at the shrine every day. A huge banyan tree which spreads its roots all around and a pond provide an ethereal experience.