“Sometimes the most scenic roads in life are the detours you didn’t mean to take.” – Angela N. Blount
Whenever we head to the state capital, a trip to Ponmudi is something we always look forward to. When the news came out that Ponmudi was once again open to the public after a pandemic break, we had already started making plans. We didn’t have to think twice when we heard that Amir’s PG Entrance test was going to be held at Thiruvananthapuram. This was destined. We only had Ponmudi in mind when we started the journey. If you thought driving all the way from Kozhikode to Thiruvanthapuram just to visit Ponmudi sounds high handed, maybe you should try a drive on the Ponmudi road during the wee hours of the morning. The sheer beauty of the landscape can take your breath away. Ponmudi we would say is highly addictive.
The best way to travel to Ponmudi is to take a KSTRC bus. There is a special joy in sitting by the window of the bus with a light drizzle caressing your face. The bus service starts at 5 am. Morning and evening also bus services are available. And it's also recommended to take a ride back home the same way too.
Since we didn’t want to miss the morning sights, we took the first bus to Ponmudi. Thankfully we managed to get a window seat. And since our last trip got distracted by the rain, we remembered to carry an umbrella with us.
As the bus moved through the charming greenery, it was wonderful to spot a row of cyclists on the road. It’s always great to see the younger lot showing interest in such healthy activities. This cycle culture is also a great support for the environment. Raju Raphael had written that the rising fuel prices were the reason why people in Amsterdam resorted to cycles for commuting. In the current circumstances, one can’t rule out the possibility of our country taking that route.
The picturesque and pristine sights of village life was in full view during the ride—farmers plowing the fields, women sweeping the front yard, milkman readying with their daily quota of fresh milk, elderly people sipping tea from paper cups, people taking their cows for grazing, sleepy-eyed children peeping from the windows. Earlier during such travels, we used to come across many beautiful smiles on the way. It is often said that it’s a smile that helps to narrow the boundaries between two individuals. And with masks, it looks like we need to read the smiles through the eyes.
After two hours of beautiful scenery, the bus entered the Ponmudi hairpin bend. What followed was charming images of nature in its full glory. Fenced by mountainous terrain and greenery, it’s difficult to take your eyes off the scenery around us. But it wasn’t amusing to be interrupted by the hooting and howling of some of our co-passengers. Such a scenery requires peace and quiet. We took heart in the fact that maybe the etiquette of travel hadn’t reached these people.
As we started our way up, the scenery also started changing. We weren’t exactly alien to the changing climate of Ponmudi. You will be surrounded by mist and a cool breeze as the ride progresses. Even during the peak of summer in the capital, Ponmudi remained cool and breezy. So much so that one gets the feeling that maybe Ponmudi is on some other planet altogether. When we alighted from the bus it was so foggy that we couldn’t see each other. Since we hadn’t carried jackets or woolies with us, we could thoroughly enjoy the Ponmudi weather. Though we found the cold a bit unbearable soon we got used to it.
Mist covered Ponmudi
We took our own sweet time to enjoy the scenic beauty of Ponmudi. There were tiny dewdrops jiggling over the leaves. We could see several stunning varieties of flowers scattered around us. Birds were crooning away. What really stuck amidst all this was a charming little butterfly hovering around, lost in the charm of the foggy landscape. Just for a minute, we felt envious of it. So carefree and happy, blending into the beauty of nature with abandon.
By evening we bid adieu to Ponmudi and got into the bus. Though it was very chilly during the afternoon, we could see the sun peeping in between. By then the visitors had started pouring in. Just when the mist seems to have gone into hiding, the mountains stood up and showed their magnificence and it was a splendid sight. During this occasion, we thought of the effect of climate change. Praying fervently that Ponmudi remains unscathed of such disasters we started our way back home.
Some of the beautiful tourist spots in Ponmudi
Peppara Wildlife Sanctuary: A charming place on the outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram, this wildlife sanctuary is blessed with an abundance of evergreen forests, hills, valleys, and freshwater swamps. Spread over an area of around 75 sq Km, this sanctuary shelters a variety of animals including sambar deer, elephants, and lions. Several endemic bird species including White-bellied Treepie, Malabar Grey Hornbill, and Small Sunbird can also, be found here.
Koyikkal Palace: Situated in Nedumangad village, around 18 km away from Thiruvananthapuram, the Koyikkal Palace was built for Umayamma, the queen of Venad royal family. Currently, the palace is known for its folklore museum and Numismatics Museum which is set up by the State Archaeological Department. A visit to this museum will introduce you to the fascinating art of Kerala which is stored here in the form of folk arts, household utensils, and musical instruments. The museum also houses a rare article called “Chandravalayam” which has become a major attraction for tourists. Vacationers, in large number, visit this place to watch its coin collection which has coins from different periods.
Agasthyakoodam: Apart from being a popular pilgrimage site, Agasthyakoodam is also a trekker’s paradise. A forested peak perched at an altitude of 6128 feet, it is regarded as the second highest peak of Kerala. It is a 28 km long trek that can be completed in 2 days. The trekking expedition kickstarts from Bonacaud, a place situated around 30 Km away from Ponmudi. The forest area of this trek is rich in medicinal herbs with around 2000 medicinal plants on its land and is situated in close proximity to Kottoor. Agasthyakoodam forests are also widely known for their rich wildlife and sprawling grasslands.
Varayattumotta: Regarded as the tallest peak in Ponmudi mountain ranges, Varayattumotta is popular as home to Nilgiri Tahr (mountain goat). In Malayalam, Nilgiri Tahar is called as Varayaadu and this is how the mountain got its name. This mountain peak stands tall at an altitude of 1100 meters and can be easily reached from Ponmudi or Mankayam check post. This mountain ridge is quite steep and hence very few trekkers opt for trekking through this route. Even if you choose to trek this treacherous trail, you will be accompanied by a forest guide. Most of the trekkers climb the mountain hill and get on their way back to Ponmudi. For all the adventure seekers, this is one of the most sought-after places to visit in Ponmudi.
Agasthyamalai Biosphere Reserve: A unique site situated in the Western Ghats; Agasthyamalai Biosphere Reserve flaunts exorbitant peaks that rise up to an altitude of 1868 meters above sea level. The biosphere reserve mainly constitutes tropical forests which are home to around 2254 plant species. It also acts as a genetic reservoir for plants such as Jamun, Plantain, Pepper, and Cardamom. This place also comprises some popular wildlife sanctuaries including Neyyar Wildlife Sanctuary, Peppara Wildlife Sanctuary, and Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuary. The reserve is inhabited by about 79 mammal species, 88 reptile species, and 46 fish species, out of which 75 are endemic. On your visit to this scenic spot, you will also get to spot several tribal settlements around it.
Kallar: A charming and quaint village situated around 45 Km away from Thiruvananthapuram, Kallar is widely popular for its aesthetics and brightly coloured pebbles. Being a popular Ponmudi tourist place, it also boasts of several trekking routes. The hamlet is home to several species of birds which is the main reason why it is a favourite spot for nature buffs. Kallar village got its name from the pristine river Kellar that runs across this region. It shares close proximity to tourist places such as Meenmutty Falls and Agastyakoodam too.