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Last Updated Wednesday January 18 2017 07:28 PM IST

Panchalimedu: Beyond a pit-stop

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Panchalimedu: Beyond a pit-stop The sunlight plays hide and seek at Panchalimedu. Photo: Sajesh Mohan

It was a pit-stop on the way to our weekend getaway destination Kuttikkanam, but the green meadows laced with still greener waves of soft rolling hills left us enchanted so much that now whenever we refer to the trip, we call it the visit to Panchalimedu.

My colleague Amin, who had suggested we take a trip to Panchalimedu, had warned us against taking umbrellas though it was a monsoon season — 'Even though it will be of not much use to you, better take raincoats rather than umbrellas. Take umbrella only if you are trying to pull off a Mary Poppins.'

After reaching atop Panchalimedu, I realised that he was not exaggerating, not one bit. Almost 2,500ft above sea level, I felt like I am standing at a beach, counting the waves — the undulation of hills and valleys seemed never-ending, like green waves crafted by the constant torrents of wind.

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    The long trek back to civilisation. Photo: Sajesh Mohan

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    The windswept lush green mountain side. Photo: Sajesh Mohan

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    The way of the cross at Panchalimedu. Photo: Sajesh Mohan

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    The rolling hill side plays hide and seek with the suns rays. Photo: Sajesh Mohan

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    Windswept valley Photo: Sajesh Mohan

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    The sun plays hide and seek here with the rain clouds. Photo: Sajesh Mohan

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    Beyond the grey hills is Sabarimala. Photo: Sajesh Mohan

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    On a weekend, there are people who come to explore the wild. Photo: Sajesh Mohan

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    A sculpture of Nagaraj on the hills. Photo: Sajesh Mohan.

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    Worship, in the most ancient form on top of the hill. Photo: Sajesh Mohan

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    The devout tie cloth before the deity which dance with the winds. Photo: Sajesh Mohan

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    The frolicking greens at Panchalimedu. Photo: Sajesh Mohan

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    For as long as eyes could see, there was lush greenery and a temple, so far away. Photo: Sajesh Mohan

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    The road was long, but we were ready to explore every bit of it. Photo: Sajesh Mohan

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    It was a rainy day, and the winds buffeted the hills; painting a pretty picture. Photo: Sajesh Mohan

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    Panchalimedu, was to have been our pit stop on the way to Kuttikanam. But the trek uphill and the sights and sounds we saw made it an unforgettable experience. Photo: Sajesh Mohan

    Panchalimedu

Panchalimedu has a maze of small hills and I am not sure if each of it has a different name. The one on the western side has some small temples - the main one is dedicated to goddess Bhuvaneshwari - and the eastern one, which is the steeper one, bears a 'way of the cross'. There is an unpaved road, created by constant abuse of four-wheel drives, separating these two hills. March ahead and it will take you to a man-built well and tank.

Panchalimedu: Beyond a pit-stop The way of the cross at Panchalimedu

The sky was heavy with ashen clouds and it looked like the heaven's gates could open at any moment. We even heard the grey head of a family, who were on their hurried descent, telling a whining kid in the group to better rush to the comfort of their car parked below than getting soaked on a hill in between nowhere - that last bit of information was intriguing, yet beguiling, for all four of us.

Panchalimedu: Beyond a pit-stop A temple. Photo: Sajesh Mohan

It had drizzled when we were at the foothill. Now, standing at the western side of the hills beyond the temples, I could see the clouds on their sprint to the east - just like gardeners rushing to water their plants before the sunset.

Panchalimedu: Beyond a pit-stop The broken down walls. Photo: Sajesh Mohan

The sun rays spilled on the valley whenever any lazy cloud broke the marching formation- sometimes on the valleys, sometimes on the hills. The wet, cold and slippery grass grumbled about the sluggish glimpses of sunlight that trickled off the horizon. We ran down the south side slope till the remains of a knee-high of stone wall that once marked the boundary. Beyond here tread cautiously as the rocks, that overlook the valley, ends as it begins - giving way to a free fall.

Panchalimedu: Beyond a pit-stop The sun plays hide and seek between the clouds. Photo: Sajesh Mohan

On our way back, we decided not to scale the eastern portion of the hill as it looked a bit daunting for the kids. We walked towards the ponds at the northern plateau on the hill. After passing a worn-out pump-house, we reached the well where a big rusty pipe streams down the water to some location in the valley, all of which looked as though it were enjoying a retirement (there was no one to confirm this, though). Travellers could use this as a warning sign: venture out in groups as the place is isolated.

We wandered around there till we spotted red patches of sky beyond the cover of rain clouds - it was well past 5pm. Slowly it dawned on us that lost in the beauty of Panchalimedu, we missed our lunch, but no one (including the kids) was in a mood to complain, account it to the tea and snacks we had from one teashop at the foothill of Panchalimedu.

Panchalimedu: Beyond a pit-stop Beyond the farthest mountain in the backdrop is the Ponnambalamedu Hill. Photo: Sajesh Mohan

Note: If you are planing to visit this place during the second week of January 14 or 15 (to be precise on the Makar Sankranti), forget all that we spoke about isolation or hinted about peace and calm, the place will be buzzing with Ayyappa devotees, who flock the hills to get a glimpse of Makara Vilakku, the sacred flame that is lit thrice in the Ponnambalamedu hill near Sabarimala.

Panchalimedu: Beyond a pit-stop There was no one to ask if this was the pond that Draupadi had her bath. Photo: Sajesh Mohan

Legend: The Pandavas, along with their wife Panchali, stayed in these hills and the caves nearby during their time of exile. And after they left, the local people noticed footsteps, deeply impressed on the rock. The story spread that these footprints were those of the mighty Bheema, the strongest of the Pandavas. There is also a pond, in which Panchali is supposed to have had a bath. They built a temple to commemorate this belief. There is a small cave too here.

Reaching Panchalimedu

The standard route:
From NH220 €“ Kottayam -Kumily route: Take right turn from Chuzhuppu (After Peruvanthanam). Travel 7 Kms through Amalagiri, Nallathanni.

Amin's Pick: 
If you are game to put the vehicle and your driving skills to some test, then take this route.

Exit NH220 after Peruvanthanam Police Station (stay sharp after Mundakayam), by entering Paloorkavu Road on the right. After about 4.7km on Paloorkavu road, continue straight to reach the Amalagiri-Palackuzhy-Thekemala road. This stretch, with its steep climbs and sharp turns, will test how good is your wingover skills . After about 6km on the Amalagiri-Palackuzhy-Thekemala road, take the right once you hit a sort-of 'Y' intersection. From here, 5km away is Panchalimedu. 

Nearby places

Kuttikkanam
Peeru Hills
Summer Palace
St. George€™s CSI church, Pallikkunnu 
Eagle Rock or Parunthumpara
Amritha Medu
Pattumala
Thrisangu Hills 
Madammakulam

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