Ever imagined trekking within one of India's first plantation estates? Well, I never did. Until a few days ago.
I was all 'pumped' up with excitement the moment I heard that the HAI (Hiking Association of India) was organising its next trek to the hill of Enthayar situated at the Kottayam-Idukki border. The excitement was primarily due to a couple of reasons. I was all set to go trekking after a gap of nearly six months. And then, this trip was an opportunity for me to see if those few hours at the gym had truly paid off. But more than all, my elder brother and I could spend some quality time with each other.
After reaching home from work, I packed and slept off early. As the clock struck 5, we were up and decided to skim through our check-list. Water bottles and a first-aid kit – that was all that we intended on carrying to the hills of Enthayar. We were set.
We boarded the bus at 6.45 am along with various others from across Kerala and nearby places. We drove up to the base of the hill. Surrounded by lush green vegetation, tea gardens and rubber plantations, Enthayar was turning out to be more than paradise. The drive uphill also witnessed a rather cheerful warm-up session with a unique 'push-up' the hill!
A few minutes later we had set foot on the path and was escorted through a forest called, Thoniyam Kadu, by Manoj, a school teacher and a native of the Enthayar. It was then that I realised that there is more to the forest than what meets the eye. Thoniyam Kadu was, as a matter of fact, one of the first plantation estates in India. Owned by an Englishman named J.J Murphy several years ago, the area is ideal for the growth of cardamom, rubber, coffee, bamboo and many more plants. It is also the habitat of the Malabar Viper.
Upon receiving the brief, we were instructed to stay close, help each other and enjoy the trip all the way upto the top of the hill. Thus, the journey had begun. Although the trek was estimated to be only seven kilometres, it was no child's play. The terrain was rocky, not to mention covered with dried moss and thorny vegetation. Most interestingly, it was surrounded by tiny streams of spring water which seemed like a gift from heaven's abode. The cool yet pure water not only quenched our thirst but had rejuvenated our souls each time we had halted.
The guide was kind to have explained various flora of the place, telling us what for and how certain plants are used. Coffee plants, with their flowers all bloomed, adorned the pathway all the way upto the hill. The estate also saw the plantation of a unique 'green' bamboo as well.
The trek lasted for about six hours with an exciting rock-climbing task on a waterfall that appeared to have dried up. Sure, there were screeches, scratches and bruises along the way, but it was worth it. The view uphill was beyond imaginable. The tints and shades of the hills in the distant oblivion were breathe-taking. All of a sudden, the fatigue that had begun to take-over the adventurers on the trip, had vanished.
So what was the verdict? To begin with I realised that I was fit and that I should consider planning my next trek. But, more importantly, it was an experience that had showcased nature's glory at its best and I did develop a certain respect for the environment around me. Also, it led to building a bigger contact circle and as well as few more friends for life.