God’s own land, created out of sandalwood, heavenly place of sweetness, cool-season vegetables and striking natural beauty, that is what Marayur is. The trip is to Mathappu, a part of Anamudi National Park, via Marayur, Kanthalloor, Perumala and Mannavan Shola in Idukki District.
The route from Kochi, via Muvattupuzha, Neriamangalam, Munnar, Marayur, Kanthalloor, Perumala, Mannavan Shola, to Mathappu is around 200 km. Marayur is surrounded by hills and the river Pambar resembles a waist string flowing around the place to the East.
Marayur is an interesting place for photographers and nature lovers and a place blessed with natural sandalwood forests where the world’s best-quality sandalwood trees grow. As the place is surrounded by hills, rains are less and mists are more, that is why it is the land of cool-season vegetables, chiefly carrot, beetroot, cabbage, potato and onion. Vast areas of sugarcane plantations and paddy fields are really a joy to see.
Marayur’s own jaggery is also very famous. What makes Marayur so beautiful is the step farming of vegetables, sugarcane plantations, light rains and mists. Marayur is also a historically famous place. The dolmens and rock paintings found here evidence the existence of civilization that dates back to stone age as old as 10,000 B.C. Marayur is comprised of 5 villages, namely, Marayur, Kanthalloor, Keezhanthur, Kotakombur and Karayur.
People belonging to different religions came from Tamil Nadu, divided the 5 places among themselves and made 5 settlements. Such people were chiefly Muthuvans. Each of the 5 settlement had its own customs, laws and modes of punishment. At Kovilkadavu stands Thenkashinatha Temple supposedly built by the Pandavas.
From there, I left for Kanthalloor, the only place in Kerala where apple trees grow. Fruits, such as, apple, orange, strawberry, blackberry, egg fruit, gooseberry etc., are predominantly grown here. There are local guides who take around people and show them the agriculture farms and tour points in Kanthalloor. Delicious wine made from fruits can be bought at reasonable prices from houses here.
I travelled from Perumala, Kanthalloor, via Mannavan Shola Forest area, to explore Mathappu. The journey through Mannavan Shola to Mathappu is an experience that can never be forgotten. Anamudi Shola is comprised of 3 sholas – Mannavan Shola, Pullaradi Shola and Idivara Shola. Idivara Shola is called so because in 1959, a Dakota flight hit this Shola and crash landed. [Idi is a Malayalam word which means ‘hit’].
Mannavan Shola is full of rainforests and has cool climate, dense forests and deep chasms. Besides Amazon Forest, Mannavan Shola is the only region where neer pana, an ancient plant, grows; here, it grows like coconut trees. Mannavan Shola is the largest shola in Kerala. Here, there are dense forests where man has never set his foot.
Mathappu can be reached by travelling 8 km from Perumala through thick forests. Mathappu comprises regions of Chenguvara and Kundala. The place is windy and cold. There are forest department cottages but they have to be booked beforehand. Either food should be brought from Kanthalloor itself or should be booked along with the cottage. It is possible to travel to Mathappu only by jeep which has forest permission or own vehicle with off-road drive. If going by own vehicle, forest permission should be obtained. Night stay at Mathappu is once-in-a-lifetime experience. The roar of wind, cold climate, the hue and cry of people shouting to keep away elephants from the farm valley, the sounds of nocturnal birds, all these make one feel like a night of celebration.
The views from the watchtower are gorgeous. The views of Kolukkumalai, a part of Anamudi, valleys, picturesque scenes of sunrise and sunset that blossom on sky canvas on hilltop, all make Mathappu a heaven-like place.
Meesapulimala is 20 km away from Mathappu. Meesapulimala is the second highest hill, the first being Anamudi. I got up early in the morning and went for trekking to Iddalimotta. One has to walk 8 km to Iddalimotta from Mathappu. The trip through dense forests early in the morning is an intoxicating experience. The dense forest as seen from the view point on the way is so beautiful that it makes one awestruck.
Travelling through turfs, creepers and Anachal paths give us an experience of extreme delight. Iddalimotta hill is a vast meadow. There is a forest watchtower here from where we can enjoy beautiful scenery. On one side of Iddalimotta lies Munnar and Gud mala and on the other side lie Mattupetti and Kundala. This place is very windy and foggy.I arrived back at Mathappu by noon and had food, then travelled to Perumala by jeep. From there, I started for my native place, keeping the sweet memories of sceneries and coolness of forest.