Palkulamedu Hill Trek in Western Ghats, Idukki: Weekend Trip


Palkulamedu is my favorite trekking spot in Idukki to a peak 1155 Meters in the Western Ghats; far away from the regular tourist tracks. A splendid view of shola and grassland forests and the backwaters of Idukki arch dam in a remote corner of Idukki District in Kerala.


PALKULAMEDU IS THE BEST TREK IN IDUKKI DISTRICT OF KERALA, NEAR THE IDUKKI ARCH DAM, EASILY REACHABLE FROM COCHIN AND ERANAKULAM, A WEEK END DESTINATION FROM COCHIN. TREKKING IN WESTERN GHATS, THE LOVELY HILL.

Palkulamedu is my favorite trekking spot in Idukki to a peak 1155 Meters in the Western Ghats; far away from the regular tourist tracks. A splendid view of shola and grassland forests and the backwaters of Idukki arch dam in a remote corner of Idukki District in Kerala.


Idukki is one of the two districts in Kerala which is mostly hilly and boasts about a very good forest cover. Though there are a lot of beautiful locations, a visit to many of them becomes trespassing either because of private property rules or because of forest laws. Due to the ever increasing number of tourists from the low land around, rest of the beautiful locations are developing and becoming more tourist friendly with concrete roads, new ticket counters and ice cream walas at every here and there.

Since the environmentalists of Kerala were more field workers than paper workers or popularity workers, Keralites still enjoys a greener and healthier version of Sahyadris when compared to adjacent states. Thanks to new generation youth tourists and their SUVs which helped  Keralites to spoil many of the grassland forest and shola patches of the western ghats of Kerala: like what happened in Vagamon, a popular tourist spot of Idukki. We the new generation Keralites are trying our best to make our western ghats more tourists friendly and less nature friendly.

59sLOOKING DOWN THE VALLEY Looking down the valley from half way up the hill.

I could see this happening rapidly while living in the Idukki district for a few years during my graduation. Popular Tourist destinations of Idukki: Munnar and Thekkady are not far away from many slums of Mumbai and Delhi with tons of buzy people, leaving no space for nature or a passage for the cool hill breeze. A few other places of attraction in Idukki : Vagamon and Ramakkalmedu has become a mosaic of broken beer bottles and cigarette wrappers.

The Setup

Is there a place in Idukki to view the mighty Sahyadris? A friend of mine, Jibil John from idukki  said “I will take you to Palkulamedu, a beautiful hill near my home” I accepted the proposal with very little hope.

We started to Jibils house on a Friday evening from Cochin: the road was mostly ours, except for a few trucks.  By late night we reached a small town called Pinav, with about a dozen of shops. Ironically this is the administrative capital of idukki district.

56sTHE FINAL ASCENT A look ahead at the final hill known as Palkulamedu

This part of Idukki, away from the tourist tracks was calm and peaceful. The fireflys inside the bedroom was more like grove. Though none of the towns in Idukki come anywhere close to city under any nomenclature: every junction with atleast one shop is addressed as a city in Idukki.

Our plan was to do a small trek to Palkulammedu the next day: But unfortunately Jibil’s plan was to find a route to Palkulammedu on the first day and trek the next day.

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We could see this hill from his house and farm but getting there was not that easy. We trekked in the direction of the hill and ended up inside a tropical rain forest, with no sense of direction and an empty water bottle. I could hear loud cry of some animal nearby : later came to know that it was a herd of elephant inside the Idukki wildlife sanctuary. It was almost getting dark and to our luck, we met a localities: who could hardly speak Malayalam. Thank lord he understood where we want to go and he explained the route to Jibil and helped us our way back to our base camp: Jibil’s home.

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The Ascent

Now we are clear about the route, we started early morning: our first destination was a small town called Churali about 10 Kilometers from Pinav. There were only few people on the road and it was thick green on both sides : looked like a real tropical rain forest, with an orchestra by crickets and colorful birds.

64s

I took a deep breath at Churuli: as I could see the big hill in front of me. There was a small road and we started walking along the road. The town of Churuli was bit busy: but nowhere when compared to a tourist destination. People were friendly and helpful.

57sCARPETS OF GREEN It was just green and Green all around.

After trekking up for a couple of hours we reached half the way uphill. It was our entry to Grasslands and Shola Forests : exactly resembling the ghats of Kuthiramukku and Eravikulam National Park. This was what I was looking for. All around us was just green grass and grass like green carpets spread over the hills. The cool breeze and the fragrance of wild flowers were mesmerizing. No other Homo sapiens around, it was our world.

58sALMOST REACHED Almost reached the top of the hill

We reached the peak after trekking for another couple of hours. There was a small pool which may have giving the Name Palkulamedu to this hill which means “Hill with a milky pool”. I just didn’t understand what made them call this pool milky though.

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The view of Periyar gorge from the peak was admirable. This was a real feel of the interior of Kerala’s Hill District a place completely different from the tourist centers and legendary towns, a place where one can feel quietness and enjoy the nature. We waited for the sunset and returned back by evening

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How to reach Palkulamedu

The  trek trail to Palkulamedu peak starts from Churali , a small town 8 Km away from Cheruthony, along the Adimali route. Once you reach Churali move along the tarred road heading towards the hill.  This steep hill can arise a little confusion as it twists to the other side at some places.

60sADJESCENT HILLS View of the adjacent hills, where people live. A church and few houses can be spotted out.

The only town on the way is Alparai : with a few tea shops and lots of good helping people. They see selfish people rarely and so they are yet to learn how to mask their face. After moving for 6 Kms from Churai, you will reach another junction from where you have to make a left turn along the road with a steep ascent (The other road goes down the hill). Move further along mud road :a few very hairpin bends and reach a plateau. The peak is in front of you and it takes roughly over a hour for the final ascent.

63sTHAT EVENING The clouds were rising higher and we had to leave by evening.  The only patch of trees in the grassland.

 

Notes

  • The best season is to trek is after the Monsoons
  • Highest Altitude : 1162 Meters above sea level, GPS : 9.9243, 76.9339  (Measured using Garmin Geko 201)
  • Surroundings : This is the major peak and all hills around is much lower when compared.
  • Watch out: The winds are strong at the peak, and never do the trekking rains due to risk of accident from lightning
  • Places near By : Idukki Arch Dam, Periyar Tiger Reserve, Ramakkalmedu, Peermade, Vagamon
  • Please understand that this is not a lace to dumb beer bottles or cigarette remains.

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