These hills were once under the threat of being destroyed by the quarry lobby. The local people raised their voices against it and over time, their perseverance paid off. The quarry lobby had to step down and that perhaps is the reason why we are able to see Malamel as it is now. We take a trip through this hilly terrain to see what makes Malamel special.
There is a narrow cave-like divide that separates Nadappara and Nadukanippara. A trek between these rocks will make you hold your breath for a second. Apart from the stunning view, the cold breeze that flows in from the dense sandalwood trees brings with it the fragrance of sandalwood and lemon grass that grows in the meadows. Beyond it is Malamel, a tiny hamlet where the skies are kissing the land, eternally.
Malamel comes under Arakkal Village of Edamulakkal Grama Panchayat in Pathanapuram Taluk of Kollam district. The place is bordered by a series of hillocks – the Ayiravallippara, Pullakkampara, Ambalampara, Kombukuthipara, Kudappara, Golandarappara, Nadappara, Kochunadukanippara, Nadukanippara and Shankoothupara. When you visit the place, don't forget to visit the Arakkal Devi Temple and Sankaranarayana Temple, which are now managed by Travancore Devaswom Board. These temples, they believe, bring prosperity to the land.
The trekking starts from near the Arakkal Devi Temple. It is a steep road with sandalwood and other wild trees on either side. After a 200-meter walk, you reach Ayiravallippara. Climb on the rocks, look down and you see Anchal, Kulathupuzha, Chanappetta and Kudukkathupara at a distance. When you stand here, you will get to realise why the locals took up a stir. The crusher units, now abandoned, jar the beauty of the rocks.
Malamel Sankaranarayana Temple is the next destination. The temple is situated on a huge rock, which is also called the Ambalappara or a (Temple on a rock). The view from here; that of a nature wrapped in a green blanket blended with the beauty of the village, is a beautiful sight. Here too, you see signs of destruction. Long cracks are visible on the rocks as an impact caused by the activities of crusher units in the area.
You can walk over to the Nadappara, which is covered by sweet-smelling lemon grasses. The journey to Nadukanippara is a bit adventurous. Once you get there, you get a beautiful view of the Thankassery Light. While standing on the summit, you can see Chadayamangalam, Jadayuppara and Maruthimala - the rocky hills under the blanket of trees. No wonder Nadukanippara is also called as the 'oxygen hub' of Arakkal Village. The now deserted building of the Forest Wireless station, which was burned down in a lightening stands out.
The journey continues through the paths, which had seen the pythons and porcupines come and go. It ends with Kudappara, which has one rock over the other giving it the shape of an umbrella. Under the rock, there is ample space for visitors to protect themselves from rain and sun. After Kudappara, comes Golarantharappara, which is in the shape of a globe fixed on the edge of a needle.
It is disheartening to know that a place blessed with such beauty has never gained the attention of State Tourism Department. Even though the District Tourism Council had taken some decisions to promote the place, unfortunately, those advancements remained only in papers.
The village is filled with fragrance of sandalwood trees. Apart from the famous Marayoor in Idukki, which is also a tourist spot, this could be the only place where sandalwood trees are grown naturally. Furthermore, Malamel could also be the one and only place where sandalwood trees are grown naturally in the non-forest areas as well. The fertile soil and suitable climate must be the contributing factors for the profuse growth of sandalwood trees. Interestingly, the stories of Puranas and myths of this place are also intertwined with the heady scent of sandalwood.