Exploration is an enchanting experience, it is a feel of getting connected with the unknown; it is a feeling to consciously explore the unexplored; it gives an excitement of conquering a new territory; it indicates the fear of being caught in the middle of nowhere. At the end when you undergo all these obstacles and come up victorious the feeling is marvellous and cannot be limited with words.
It was a long time desire to explore Sirumalai hills, except for the desire none in the group had any idea about the terrain, vegetation density, water availability, weather conditions and other details about Sirumalai all that we carried with us is the unshakable determination to make a trail and to explore a new territory never forgetting to fall in love with the nature and to quench our adrenaline rush to summit most of the peaks.
Sirumalai is the eastern-most outcrop or spur of the Western Ghats with Dindigul city or Kodai Road pass separating Sirumalai from the Palani hills. Sirumalai has very similar flora and fauna to that of the Palani’s but the climate is pretty much identical to that of Yercaud since the altitudes are similar. Sirumalai range stretches about 45 kms on the Dindigul-Madurai road with its width being about 15 to 25 kms. After careful study of the Google terrain maps, understanding contour lines our trail was plotted along the streams and ridges connecting the valleys and peaks.
Morning with the darling mountains:
As planned we headed along the stream which took us to the dry Kutladampatti waterfalls from where we negotiated the dense bushes and sprawled in between the grasses and climbed the rocks to reach the top of the waterfalls. The 30 mts hike to the top of the waterfalls indicated the tuff day ahead in terms of climbing and the trailless trail we were about to encounter nevertheless, forgetting the testing terrain ahead we sat for a while on top of the waterfalls to enjoy the imposing views of the neighbouring villages and the plateau below.
Our search for water in the dry streams:
Identifying our direction towards the destination we trekked across dry streams, thick forests, bushes, rocky trails just to discover that the streams are completely dry and we had to depend upon the little bit of water we had with us. Luck favoured us and after 3 hours of trek we found water trickling out of the stream to quench our thirst. While few managed to take a dip and cool their body others finished their sumptuous packed lunch at the water point. Just a peep into the GPS we realised that the terrain is getting steep and it’s going to be test to our body and mind – the kind of adventure that we were looking for. Yes, the heavy backpack, the waterless journey, the sweating body, the trembling thighs and the fearless heart are indicators of a wanderlust heart.
Reaching the Sirumalai Estates:
After the tiresome trek spanning through the rocky trails and ridges we reached the Sirumalai estate. The smell of jackfruits, pepper seeds, coffee plantations welcomed us into the peaceful and silent forest. From the estates we were able to see our next target the rocky southern peak and the chill weather, was a much-needed refreshment to our body and mind.
Summiting the Sirumalai Southern peak:
Understanding the rocky 1,350 mts peak that we are about to climb we geared up with the ropes and climbing accessories. The 14-member squad was prepared to climb the rocks, penetrate into the thorny bushes and to beat any obstacles that we may encounter.
We crawled inside the bushes to rub with the shrubs and to get cut in the thorns and finally reached the rocks and it was the final 100 mts more to climb to reach the peak. Most of the rocks were high and we had to depend upon the ropes to climb them. The best rock climbers went up to tie the ropes in the rock holes while the others holding to it climbed the rocks. One after the other we used ropes at 3 places to reach the 1,350 mts southern peak. The failure of the slippery rocks to stop us was apparent on its face; the thorny bushes bowed down witnessing our courage; the vertical climb became cakewalk with the assistance of ropes and clever climbers.
The pain of undergoing all these barriers was downright forgotten sitting on top of the rocky peak and appreciating the Sirumalai green carpet unleashed before us. We were able to enjoy the splendid views of the mighty Palani hills, the rain bearing dark monsoon clouds, the beautiful adjoining peaks a rare and priceless gift for all the nature loving souls.
A trek in the drizzling rains:
After enjoying the fruits and the hospitality shown in one of the estates we started walking along the Ghat roads to reach our campsite a small hill top village on the Sirumalai hills.
The pleasure of walking along the tree swamped Ghat road, the gentle drizzles dropping on us, the chillness in the rainy atmosphere; the happiness of summiting the southern peak all gave us an eternal feeling and sense of far-reaching ecstasy. The night went peaceful re-calling the day filled with fun, adventure and gazing at the starlight sky.
Summiting the Sirumalai Central peak:
The target of the second day was to summit the central peak that has a shrine on top called as vellimalai. Satisfying our morning hunger with the hot idli’s from the village we climbed yet another peak, which offered scenic views to all major peaks in Sirumalai hills.
Walking along the ghat road on a cloudy day we reached the base of the central peak welcomed by chill mountain breeze and energetic weather.
Unlike the difficulty faced in climbing the southern peak the central or Vellimalai peak had a clear trail leading to its top providing wonderful views of the entire Sirumalai valley.
On top of the dark monsoon clouds:
Once we reached the top of the Vellimalai peak the monsoon clouds engulfed us, making us sign and jump to the tunes of Mother Nature. Standing on top of the peak with our arms spread we invited the monsoon clouds and the chilling winds a unique experience as if we are almost standing on top of the world encircled by the misty clouds. The pain on my thighs; the cuts in my skin all flew away with the magical clouds and I became part and parcel of nature. I could not ask for a better feeling to wind up this two days trek.
At the end of the two days ‘Exploration’ my heart confesses:
“We find inner peace on lonely trails,
We find tranquillity in man-less territory,
We relish the melody in chirping of the birds,
We realise mountain water sweeter then the taste of honey,
We climb peaks to feel the breeze and perceive the mood of sun,
We ramble upon the ridges to appreciate its beauty,
We wander in the valley to appease our adrenaline rush,
We come back to concrete jungle with great respect to nature realising how miniscule we are before nature.
While we are busy with our daily chores we take pledge to explore.
One thing which I am very certain, while I trek on the ground I get the feeling of flying above the clouds”.
May be this is called as the feeling of an ‘explorer’