Idukki has perhaps some of the major trekking points in the state. It will always be a memorable trek amidst the mountains and hills for any travel junkie who loves adventure. But it is equally dangerous to make that trip without enough training or professional help. Last month, a young man died after falling from Munnar’s Karadipara viewpoint.
Trekking to mountains and hills remain a favourite adventure sport for every travel junkie. Idukki, with its exquisite landscape and mountain ranges, is a much-preferred destination for trekking lovers. Some of the favourite trekking points include Meesapulimala, Kolukkumala, Chokramudi, Wagamon mottakkunnu, Ulupuni, Kurinjimala sanctuary, Kulamavu Kunnu, Palkulamedu, Ecopoint, Nadulaani, Meenuli, Chathurangaparamettu, Senapathi Swargammedu, Mathikettanchola, Adimali Pettimudi, Kalvari Mount mala.
There are many places that offer professional trekking training in the State. Devikulam Adventure Academy under the State Youth Welfare board was already offering training in trekking and mountaineering. Unfortunately, post Covid this institute has more or less shut shop.
Wild elephants to wildfire
There are still incidents of trekkers being chased by wild animals and getting stranded in mountains. That’s why taking safety precautions is very important before you embark on trekking.
Your first task is to take the permission of the concerned authorities before you start your journey. For forest trekking, you need permission from the forest officials. They will be there to rescue you if you happen to be in a crisis. It is also dangerous to aggravate wild animals, create noise and take photographs.
At the forest department’s trekking, they usually send a guide along with the trekking group. The Kerala Forest Development Corporation’s guide will be there if you are planning a trek to Meesapulimala. You can also expect the service of a forest department guide if you want to trek to Mathikettanchola National Park. But this won't be the case at other destinations that don’t offer any trekking packages. If so, make use of a guide from the forest department.
Places and climate
Climate change will be sudden and unexpected at various places in Idukki. So it is better to take the necessary precautions before you start your trekking expedition. At most trekking points, there are chances of landslides during monsoons and forest fires during summer. A sensible traveller is someone who will always postpone his/her trip if the climate is not feasible for trekking. Avoid travelling at night.
Today most of us are ready to travel anywhere as long as we have a GPS tracking facility in our phones. But that would be too ambitious as at times even mobile phones will forsake you in the mountains and hills. There are infinite chances of getting isolated if you lose your mobile phone signal.
What is in my bag?
Apart from water and food, makes sure to carry medicines, a jacket, trekking pants, hiking shoes, a torch and a power bank in your bag before you start.
What to do if you are isolated?
One of the first things to do if you think you have lost your way is to remain calm. Find a place where you will be safe from animals first and take rest. But make enough noise to draw attention so that someone will be there to rescue you.
Don’t forget the Kurungini tragedy
On 2018, March 11th a 39-member team who were trekking to Kolukkumala from Tamil Nadu’s Kurungini were trapped in a forest fire. 23 of them couldn’t survive the burns. The rest of them are still recovering. Tamil Nadu Revenue and Disaster Management Principle secretary Atulya Mishra reported to the Tamil Nadu Government that the calamity occurred as the group were travelling without official permission. But in the Joint commission report appointed by the Tamil Nadu government, they have blamed the forest officials laxity for the incident.
Look out for those unsuspecting traps
Kumali: As you embark on a trip to the mountains you might encounter several unsuspecting treacherous traps on the way. One has to remember that not even the most experienced and trained forest officials attempt to travel alone in the forests.
The presence of wildlife is what you should look out for. There will be snakes and tigers on mountains and grasslands. You might find wild elephants and wild buffaloes grazing near grasslands. And venomous crawling creatures usually creep out at night. If you spend a lot of time in the forests without water there are chances of getting dehydration, which will, in turn, numb your legs. You can perhaps survive in forests without food but not water.
It is said that along with their uniforms, a blunt knife is also an important accessory for the forest officials who travel towards the interiors of the forests. This is to extract water from the Rangoon creepers that retain water during the journey. Also if you make proper markers on your way to Chenkuthaya forests and rivulets, you might be able to find your way back.
If you don’t travel according to the direction of the winds, you might be caught by wild animals. It is said that you travel in the direction of the winds to put these wild animals off your scent. You can find the direction of the wind by burning paper or by spreading dirt sand in the air. Travelling during monsoons will be extremely difficult. Since the atmosphere will be cloudy, it will be tricky to even find the way. Never make the mistake of travelling without taking safety precautions or if you are advised against it by the concerned authorities. One should only make that trip with enough safety measures as well as the permission of the forest officials.
(The details are prepared by Muhammed Anwar, Deputy Director, Forest Training Institute, Thiruvananthapuram.)