Kochi city is a busy place where residents lead a fast-paced life. But when things get too hectic, the urban folk seek an escape. And they do not have to travel far to be with nature. Pristine locations blessed with scenic spots exist right in Ernakulam district, towards the eastern parts.
Arriving at Kottappara early morning after a day of rain would present you with an unforgettable sight – rolling mists enveloping everything on the hilltop. You feel wave after wave of mist gently rubbing past you.
By 7 am, when the sun rises, the mist gradually melts away and scenic sights of Vannapuram and Kaliyar towns, far below in the valley, come into view. Along with them, the hills in Idukki district also appear and stretch as far as the eyes can see.
Kottappara is a favourite location for film shooting and travellers arrive from as far as Kannur, Kasaragod and Thiruvananthapuram to enjoy the scenery. They pitch tents on the hilltop at night and wait for the mist to form early in the morning.
Six hairpin bends have to be covered from Vannapuram town along the road to Mullaringad to reach Kottappara. Denny, a local man, says that it was after the recent floods that the place started witnessing a steady stream of visitors. "Now, at least 300 people are there on the hill every morning. During holidays, the number would be much more," he added.
From Njarakkad on Ernakulam district border, Kottappara is eight km away. It is 28 km from Kothamangalam town and 30 km from Muvattupuzha.
For the best experience of the mist, be there before 5.30 am. However, exercise extreme caution on the rock as no arrangements have been made to ensure the safety of visitors.
Six shacks selling tea and light snacks are the only shops on the rock. For food, travellers have to travel to Vannapuram town.
Mary Pathrose, who lives near the path that leads to the Ayyappanmudi hill, has composed a poem describing its features.
"A hill that holds its head high, it resembles
a black panther and is as graceful.
From its top one can view Neriyamangalam,
Nadukani, Kuttambuzha and Thattekkad.
Also, Edamalayar, Karimbani and Kottappara.
And, of course, the top of the Malayattoor hill."
A dropout from school after class five, Mary's poem runs into over 50 lines that she has learnt by heart. She willingly sings the poem in the perfect tune to anyone willing to listen.
Though Mary's poem is sweet, the two-km steep climb to the top of Ayyappanmudi hill is hard. Still, a large number of visitors make a beeline to the peak, where a temple dedicated to Lord Ayyappa and a water tank exist.
All around, stunning greenery awaits travellers. The sunrise and sunset offer a heavenly experience. It is an ideal place to meditate, especially when the mist has descended. But when the sun has melted the mist, Nadukani, Malayattoor and other sights reveal themselves before visitors.
Ayyappanmudi can be reached by taking the Chelad route from Kothamangalam. Travel two km along this road up to Elavumparamba bus stop. From there, take a right turn and after another two km lies the foothill of Ayyappanmudi.
Myladumpara is near Muvattupuzha, but there is no proper road to the place. Travellers have to traverse a rocky terrain and clear the wild creepers to make their way up the hill, where peacocks once roamed. The place is an ideal destination for seekers of adventure.
From Myladumpara, along with the villages in the valley below, the sight of the Muvattupuzha river flowing majestically can also be enjoyed.
The Soolam waterfall is nearby. It cascades down from a height of 150 feet on the Soolam hill. A shower under the Soolam waterfall is refreshing after an exhausting climb up the hill.
To reach the place, take the Muvattupuzha-Piravam Road. From Soolam, where the road goes into a steep incline, turn right and travel 500 m more to arrive at the hill and waterfall.
To learn more about life in the forest and tribal people, plan a trip to Kothamangalam forest. A 10-km walk from Urulanthanni to Araam Mile would offer sights like trapping of crabs in Chattupara stream. Residents of Adivasi colonies inside the forest are often stationed at many spots along the stream to catch fish and crabs.
Sometimes, a lone tusker or an elephant herd may wander along the path. There are rocks along the banks of the shallow stream which are a good place to enjoy the scenery as well as the sounds of the forest.
Travellers can head to Thattekkad bird sanctuary from Kothamangalam. During the return, they can reach Kuttambuzha town, where Edamalayar and Pooyamkutti rivers merge at a spot known as Kuttikkal. A trek through the forest from here takes them to Urulanthanni, Panthapra, Mamalakandam and Aaram Mile on the Kochi-Munnar national highway. It is a 3-metre-wide concreted forest path and from Araam Mile, travellers can head back to Kothamangalam via Neriyamangalam or visit Munnar along Adimali.
Things to remember in the forest
Do not shout or even raise your voice
Avoid dumping plastic or other garbage
Do not consume liquor, use drugs or smoke
Hilltops are dangerous spots. Avoid going to the edge of cliffs
Children should always be accompanied by adults
Each traveller to the wild prefers the silence of the forest