With attractive streaks of black and crimson hues, the hard and beautiful wood of the 'chenkurinji' trees (gluta travancorica) truly emanate a royal aura. The profound shade of the wood captured the eyes of the British who named it the red wood tree. The chenkurinji trees can only grow at least 1000 feet above the sea level. The sturdy tree grows straight without exerting too much weight onto the branches or foliage. However, the endemic chenkurinji species has now come close to extinction and the government has declared a part of the Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuary as protected forest area.
Though there are restrictions, the forest department does not stop the visitors who throng the area to enjoy the mesmerizing beauty of the chenkurinji. There is a watch tower on top of the Rosemala in Kollam. Trekking through the twelve kilometers forest path, enjoying the majestic beauty of the red wood, is what draws the visitors in huge numbers. There is a leisure centre here where the visitors can relax and unwind. With the number of tourists going significantly up, Rosemala has now become one of the major tourist centres in the state.
The beautiful Rosemala is often hailed as the crown of Kollam. Earlier there weren't roads to where the three rivers, which fill the Thenmala dam, originate. With the construction of the concrete road from Aryankavu to the watch tower, travelling to these places became easier. Now, the Rosemala has become a favourite tourist destination of both nature and adventure lovers.
Some tourists, who visit the Thenmalal eco tourism centre, do not take a trip to the Rosemala as they may be a bit reluctant to trek through the rocky forest path. However, now a new path, too, has been opened into the pristine forests which is easier to access and is expected to draw in more tourists.
The meter gauge train which ran between Punalur and Chenkotta was part of the unique heritage of Kerala. However, when the meter gauge lines were converted to the broad gauge, the railway bridges became more beautiful. Amritha Express and the Punalur-Thenkassi train offer a charming ride through these paths. The bridge near the railway lines that run through a rock tunnel is truly spectacular. This majestic bridge with 13 arches is an architectural marvel and hundreds of tourists throng to enjoy the beauty of it. People travelling to Tamil Nadu via Thenmala could often be seen resting under the arches of this bridge. Kazhuthurutty, with its incredibly charming nature, offers beautiful frames to click some amazing snaps. One should take a left from the Arayankavu junction and head straight through the road in front of the UP school to reach Rosemala.
A small area filled with teak wood has to be crossed to reach the entrance of the forest area. From here up to the first check post in Shendurney, there aren't any houses on the wayside. The sound of the flowing brook and the cries of troops of monkeys would lead you into the woods. "Though many have found the foot prints of tigers, visitors haven't so far been attacked by tiger or elephant in Rosemala," says forest watcher Ajayakumar.
Chapathu is the first destination on the trip to Rosemala. During the heavy monsoon, the forest river would flow rapidly across the road here in Chapathu. This is usually the place where visitors stop to relax and eat their packed food. One has to climb a hill from Chapathu to reach the forest check post in Rosemala. Beyond this check post begins the Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuary where the endemic species of the chenkurinji or redwood trees grow in abundance. Adjacent to the check post station, there is small shrine of the forest God where lamp is lighted. This shrine, draped in crimson, is where the early tribes used to pray to the forest God to save them from accidents.
Shendurney Wildlife Sanctuary
More than one hundred families reside in the Rosemala village. Before constructing the forest pathway, the residents of this village used to walk for kilometers to reach Aryankavu. The service jeeps run regular trips, quite adventurously through these forest paths. After the concrete road was built till Aryankavu, commutation became easier. Though many infrastructure facilities were developed for the residents of Rosemala and also the visitors, the pristine one and half kilometers stretch of the forest that run through the wildlife sanctuary is preserved as it is without paving concrete.
Huge trees that are centuries old, line the forest path and offer shade to the tourists. If one is lucky enough, a giant Indian squirrel or wild bison or a bear too could be spotted here. The jeep drivers would run trips through this route only in emergency situations. There aren’t any boards here which mark the history of these trees.
However, there is a board in front of the majestic redwood tree or gluta travancorica, with black coloured bark, which is more than 50 feet high. The natives call it the Thodappa. The redwood tree is found only in the Shendurney forests in India. This area of the Shendurney forest range has been declared as a protected area to conserve the chenkurinji species which would only grow at least 600 – 1200 feet above the sea level. The Rosemala village lies beyond the border of the forest. Here the families grow tapioca and turmeric and also sell fresh honey from their courtyards. Rosemala evolved into a small town with shops and other institutions when tourists began to throng here to enjoy the mesmerizing beauty of nature.
The watch tower is about half kilometre away from the concrete road. The road, where only the jeeps run, ends in front of the forest division's ticket centre. One has to climb the hard rocks in the bamboo forest to reach the watch tower. The watch tower is located above the wireless centre of the forest division. The beautiful view of the Parappar Lake could be enjoyed from the watch tower which is secured with hand railings. It is the Parappar Lake which nourishes the Thenmala dam. Rivers like Umayar, Unakkathodu, Shenthuruniyar and Kulathoopuzhayar fill the Parappar Lake. The view of the small islets in the middle of the lake is amazing. Hundreds of tourists throng the beautiful Rosemala which is blessed abundantly by the Mother Nature.