Solo travel is the height of self-indulgence as it provides ample me time to pamper yourself. Travelling alone with no strings attached and without setting any deadline for the return journey may be inconceivable for many, but it is exhilarating. It is said that celebrated writer and globe trotter S K Pottekkatt used to go to Palayam bus station in Kozhikode in the morning, board the first bus that catches the litterateur’s eye and travel to its final destination. It is indeed worth noting that anyone will be bowled over by a traveller’s escapades through an unknown land. This trip is also a journey in search of unexplored places.
While travelling on the Kozhikode-Bengaluru highway, one should take the Mukkom road, which is on the right side of the motorway, from Kunnamangalam. First you will cross the Chethukadavu Bridge and later you will find the National Institute of Technology’s (NIT) lush green campus on the left side of the Mukkom road. During the Emergency days, the campus, then Regional Engineering College, was a mute witness to the disappearance of engineering student P Rajan, who was never found. After reaching Mukkom, which is beyond Mampatta, one has to cross the Iruvanjipuzha River to reach Poovaranthode via Karamoola.
When you reach Koodanrinji, the terrain and the weather change drastically and you will have Chalipuzha River, which is a tributary of Iruvanjipuzha River and which flows parallel to the roads ahead, for company. The Kuliramutty market is not far away from Koodarinji and now you have to drive on the winding mountain roads. The nature’s beauty is at its best on one side of the road with small milky waterfalls flowing through rock formations.
A road sign board indicates that one of the waterfalls is called ‘urumi’ and you may wonder whether a village could be named after ‘urumi’, which is a long flexible sword used in combat. The Urumi hydroelectric project is also beside the waterfalls. There is a nip in the air, even at noon, as you are far away from the plains.
After passing the Poovaranthode post office, take the road on the right side near the church and the winding road has the stamp of a ghat road. A small sign board of the forest department could also be seen in the vicinity. After a while you will reach the Nayadampoyil market and now the mystique surroundings of a mountain hamlet will slowly unravel before you.
As you drive on, the charming Medappara village, which is an epitome of beauty and quietness, is right ahead. The hamlet wrapped in mist is a rather unknown destination for travellers and for that simple reason you won’t find any ‘plastic mounts’ in the region. Park the vehicle where the road ends and get geared up to trek to the top.
Misty Medappara village
A majestic gigantic rock literally stands tall, that’s Medappara for you. Even the summer sun must not have seen the rock in full glory as it is always enveloped in thick cold haze. You can find many rock formations and small gurgling waterfalls in the area. The sight of wild ‘kurunji’ flowers in full bloom with a touch of violet is purely magical. The path is ideal for off-road adventure and one could also find backpackers riding bikes to the top.
The struggle of peasant migrants
Brothers Mathew and Sunny migrated from Muvattupuzha in Ernakulam district to Medappara in search of greener pastures in 1964. The brothers' will vouch for the fact that there wasn’t a proper road then and even now. Sunny would sarcastically say that they have to go off-roading every day to buy groceries from the local ration shop.
Mathew got electricity connection to his house only 10 years ago and there was a 'dark age' before that. He had to survive on kerosene lamps to lighten up the cold misty nights of Medappara and had a sense of remorse while seeing the bright spots down in the valley where people had power supply, TVs and other amenities. And Mathew hoped that he would be able to bring home a TV one day. That intense urge to have electricity at home, prompted Mathew to buy the dynamo, which converts mechanical energy into electrical energy, of a Royal Enfield motorbike. The dynamo, which was charged in the waterfall, helped him to power a bulb and a portable TV.
During that period, Sunny went to Kozhikode to open a bank account. When the bank official asked Sunny to produce either electricity bill or telephone bill as address proof, he replied that he didn’t had both. This brought a wry smile on the face of the official with a question, “from where are you?”
Mathew got electricity connection in 2011 and didn’t own a phone at that time. Later, he bought a small mobile phone but couldn’t use it properly because of connectivity issues. Now a mobile phone tower had been fixed on the top of a nearby hill.
Wonder of nutmegs and aroma of lemongrass oil
As one treks uphill, nutmeg tree gardens would catch your eye. The air would also be thick with the soothing aroma of lemongrass oil as you walk with the aim to conquer Medappara, which is up ahead, and the forest is also not far away. A stiff cold wind would rustle your hair as the mist has a firm grip over the region.
The ascent is pretty steep as Medappara is 3,760ft above sea level. The expansive meadows above the rocks are a treat for the eyes and wilderness is a mystery for travellers.
Breathtaking panoramic view
You could see the Arabian Sea, which is miles away, and the Kozhikode district that extends to the shoreline, while standing atop Medappara. The panoramic view of the Chaliyar River flowing through Mavoor is simply surreal. You could have a bird’s eye view of Nilambur, which is in the neighbouring Malappuaram district. Sitting atop Medappara at night is equally alluring as you could see the blinking runway lights of the Karipur airport, the aircraft taking off and the airplanes circling around to land.
The sight of the forest canopy of Lakkidi, which is in Wayanad district, from the top can take your breath away. If your eyesight is sharp, the beeline of vehicles passing through the famous Thamarassery ghat road via the Lakkidi view point can also be seen from Medappara. Mathew and Sunny would assert that one can have an aerial view of three districts from Medappara, but the thick fog can play spoilsport. The trek downhill can be strenuous and every step should be taken with utmost care.
As you finally reach the plains, your mind would be loaded with the thoughts of returning to the mountains and meditating there for a while.