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My first Epic Trekking trip! Dolphin's nose to Kumbakarai Via Vellagavi!

Kodaikanal -----> Vellagavi -----> Kumbakarai ----> Periakulam

In January 2018, we decided to embark a strenuous task of hiking from Kodaikanal to Periakulam, Why? one might ask, let's say we were looking for some risk, danger and challenge in our otherwise dull routine life, yep before Baby R came into our life.

Both our life was never-ending work-home-work-home even though we were living in the exciting, touristy Pondicherry. There was no work-life balance, Mr.R's job was more challenging and it was mentally straining him. To put an end to the mundane things we decided to take a break from all this and wanted to be with nature. Mr.R and I are jungle/mountain person, yes we like beaches but given a chance we would definitely pick a hilly or a jungle-e place to live, we even decided to settle down in Kodaikanal near future. (Fingers crossed!)

We planned our itinerary and invited our family members(Sis-in-law & Bro-in-law) to be a part of it. We planned for the Republic day weekend for our venture. Mr.R and I started from Pondicherry and reached Dindigul where we met my Sis-in-law Ms.K, who came all the way from Chennai and we took a cab to Kodaikanal after having our breakfast. We met my Bro-in-law Mr.M in Kodaikanal and went to check-in in our hotel which due to an error in booking site the room was not booked, so we booked another B&B in Kodaikanal and settled in.

It was a 2-day trip, the first day was dedicated to sightseeing where we visited all the touristy place to see in Kodaikanal nothing off-beat as we were saving our energy for our hike tomorrow, as we had no idea what to expect.

We visited Moir's point situated at the entrance of the forest which leads up all the way to Berijam Lake. Moir's point is one of the significant viewpoints of Kodaikanal we had tasty lunch from a street vendor and journeyed to the next stop - Pine Forest. I've been to Kodaikanal many times at least twice in a year with Mr.R but never been to pine forest as it was not enticing enough why would I visit a place with only pine trees to look around but how wrong I was! The place was surreal with tall pine trees, sun rays managing to seep through giving the whole place a golden hue. It was breathtaking. The breeze was chilly, the sun was out and we were basking in it. Here are a few pictures.

Basking in Pine Forest

Crown Shyness of Pine trees

A fallen Pine Cone

Moir's Point

We continued our journey towards the Devil's Kitchen aka The Guna Caves. The place was crowded with tourists as the actual cave is off-limits, we hung out near it took some pictures and went to see Pillar Rocks the towering rocks of Kodaikanal which almost looks otherworldly to me. Around 5 pm we reached the Kodai lake hired cycles and pedalled around the lake a few times and ate hot crunchy bajjis, bought chocolate and dinner on the go. We reached our B&B had our food and went to bed around 10 pm very excited for the next day - The day of the big HIKE!

Pillar Rocks

I was expecting and anticipating this day for a long time. I knew the hike was around 8 hrs and was mentally prepared for it for a few weeks. I woke up early got ready for the trek had breakfast at B&B and we got to the cab at 9 am which took us to Vattakanal where a popular site Dolphin's nose is situated. We reached Dolphin's nose in no time and thus officially began our trek. I was excited and thrilled to be doing this. Oh yes! I forgot to mention one important thing about trekking to Kumbakarai, you ought to take permission from the forest department to trek in the forest. We searched online but there was no mention of permission tickets and the forest is off-limit to the tourists. We enquired in our B&B and the cab person no one had a clue. So we assumed there were no permissions to be sought and went on with the journey.

Dolphin's Nose - Starting place of the Trek!

The trail was rocky and as we were walking downhill it was not hard though we had to balance ourselves as the path was steep. To prevent from falling over I walked with a slight back slouch and put a lot of pressure on my toes and knees to balance myself. The trail was treacherous as some bends had deep falls. We met a ranger who asked for our permission slips when we told him that we didn't have one he asked us to tag along with him but he was literally running and we couldn't keep up with him. We walked for almost an hour stopped to drink water and take pics and there I saw our 1st stop a quaint village nestled among the mountains. Vellagavi - The only human settlement in the mountains. We walked for another hour and reached the village.

Can you spot the Village on BG?

A villager gathering firewoods

Human Settlement in the mountains

Inside the Village

The village was tiny with few rows of houses, the people in the village had to buy provisions/groceries in Kodaikanal so they climb up the hill buy things and come back or they have to climb down to Kumbakarai. We went to a tiny shack where the hosts welcomed us and gave hot drinks and made lunch. We had lunch and rested for a while as we had to cover another half to reach Kumbakarai. Many kids were playing around when I inquired about their studies the host told they had a school up to standard 5 after which they have to move out to study.

It was time to start our journey as we had a 3-4 hrs trek to reach the bottom of the mountain. The villagers warned us about getting dark midway and asked to spend the night there as around 5 pm bison are spotted roaming freely but as per our calculation we would reach the foot of the hill at 6 so we set out for our journey. The path was rustic and I found it harder than Kodai-Vellagavi route.

We walked for an hour and stopped for water and refreshment and walked for 15 mins and came to a halt as in the middle of the forest we found a locked-chained gate. There was no other way as the trail continued past the gate and it was locked.

We were stumped as we didn't know if that led to the trail-less jungle and was locked in order to stop people from entering into it by mistake or we had lost the trail mid-way. I switched my phone on, neither the GPS was working nor the data, but luckily Mr.R's phone was on and he called our host in Vellagavi who informed us that we were on the right path and how to open the gate, thankfully we continued our trek down. The trees along the trail were huge and tall when peered into, it looked like we had to walk a great deal before we reached the floor of the mountains.

The trail

Mr. R and I

We kept walking, it was way past 6 pm, it started to get dark and we were no way near the flat land still walking downhill. As dusk fell upon us, we were still walking, I was so tired and my legs hurt so much, I was at the verge of breaking down as we were nowhere near the flat land, it got dark and no lights except for our phones but refrained as it made no sense all we had to do was keep walking until we reached flat land.

The forest grew darker it was past 7 pm thankfully the GPS was on again and we walked with our torches on. Mr.R was leading the trek all this while whenever he was unsure the path, we turned off our torch and the moonlight lit the trail and we walked. After half an hour we reached the flatlands no more downhill walking. My knees and feet thanked me as I had to walk on a flat surface. I prayed to God to bring us all safe out of the forest. We crossed a big field it was like an open ground with grass I thought to myself it would've looked beautiful in daylight and kept walking vigil. I strained my eyes to check if there were any animals on the field but thankfully none.

We kept walking until I heard something ruffling through the bushes behind us. We all stopped where we were and turned off the flashlight and waited for whatever that was to pass. I was terrified and the only thing I heard was my breathing and the ruffle. We made sure to walk very slowly and came out of the bushy area. Mr.R claims he saw a silhouette of a bison and its ears flapping, thankfully it let us pass. We continued to walk with our mobile flashlight and moonlight. We reached a place where there was no trail but over the land, I could see a light bulb and heard water gushing. I thanked God, we reached near a human settlement which meant that we were on the edge of the forest as at the entrance of the forest there is a waterfall.

We reached a gate, apparently, the entry point to the forest. We walked past it and reached a big rock where Ms.K and I rested while Mr.R & Mr.M went around in search of a way out. We drank water, ate snacks and I was still shaken with the encounter of some beast behind the bush. The sound of water flowing calmed me down as I was sure that we were going to get out soon but I still couldn't locate the source of water as it was pitch dark except for the moonlight in which I could make out things only if my squint my eyes hard.

We called our host from Vellagavi who asked us not to move anywhere as he was getting help. I forgot our host's name who came along with another man and took us to the other side by crossing a bridge over water and we had to explain to the authorities why we didn't have the pass and what took us time to descend. Mr.R was talking to the forest department officers and one of the rangers came to us and told that we were lucky to come out alive of the forest after dark as even the officials and Vellagavi locals never wander as the forest had all animals except bear, elephant and lion. I thanked my stars that we were safe and took an auto from there got down at Perikulam had our dinner and set off back home.

We trekked for almost 10 hours only to stop for food and water. I was so proud of my self that I had completed what I thought would be a draconian task. I was unable to walk for a week, my toenail turned green and eventually fell off but it was all worth it. The next time I embark this trek I decided to stay the night at Vellagavi to reduce the dramas and just enjoy the beautiful view that nature had to provide.

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