This is a dense and dark forest where deep silence prevails. The mist and the cool air are a bonus. The 40-km drive through the woods from near Pathanapuram in Kollam district to Achenkovil is an ideal outing with family too.
However, it is no cozy ride. In reality, the drive is a bumpy affair. Even though KSRTC buses and jeeps regularly traverse the route, cars need skilful hands at the wheel to negotiate the rocks, stones and gaping potholes along the rough stretch so that the travellers can enjoy the scenes of the wild.
This path, in fact, is a parallel road that connects Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Passing through the Achenkovil forest, the road covers areas that are rich in wildlife, including elephants. The Kerala government has plans to make the road smooth soon; however, it would then be crowded with tourists.
The drive starts from near Alimukku, near Pathanapuram, and the stretch up to Karavoor is under the public works department. The road from Karavoor to Kottakkayam is controlled by the Forest Department. The subsequent stretch, Kottakkayam till Cherippittakavu, is owned by the Kerala State Farming Corporation. From there, the road is administered by the Piravanthoor grama panchayat till Chembanaruvi. The subsequent stretch is again under the Forest Department till the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border.
The rough ride ends at Achenkovil, from where well-laid roads await travellers heading to Shencottah and Thenkasi. This road runs parallel to the Kollam-Tirumangalam national highway between Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Along the way lie villages like Karavoor, Perunthoyil, Channaykkamon, Micamine (Micamon), Kumaramkudi, Mullumala, Ambanar, Cherippittakavu, Sahyaseema, Chembanaruvi, Thura and Achenkovil.
Various scenes of nature - thick forests, plantations and human settlements - appear during the journey. With rains showering their blessings, the greenery of the area has come alive. As travellers negotiate the densest parts of the forest, they can enjoy the deep silence prevailing all around.
Elephants often pass the track taken by vehicles. Even a leopard would cross the road. A sambar or barking deer wouldn't hesitate to jump across the solar fence and rush before vehicles. Having an adventurous spirit adds to the excitement of the trip.
Beyond the check-post of the Forest Department at Mullumala, a stunning sight awaits travellers - mist rising in the hills and a pleasing cold, resembling Munnar. One feels that the area could draw numerous tourists if the roads were good. Big development is possible on the Gavi-Munnar model as barren hilltops, massive trees and other unique sights are aplenty. All these can create a magical world for visitors. Farm tourism too has much potential, but the authorities it seems are yet to consider this aspect.
The other attractions of the area are Chembanaruvi-Meenmutti waterfall, abundance of wildlife and the mist, among others. There are several spots along the way where travellers can rest in the forest. The Achenkovil Temple is a major highlight of the trip.
In case travellers venture beyond Achenkovil to Shencottah, they can reach Kuttalam, where the renowned waterfalls are located. The Pathanapuram-Achenkovil-Shencottah trip involves a risky drive, but it is well worth it.