Chekkunnu is an unexplored spot of indescribable natural beauty near Nilambur in Malappuram district. It offers all-pervading mist, frequent rain and greenery wherever the eye can see. The place is suitable for adventurous travellers who seek a long and difficult trek through forested hill.
Visitors should take care to carry food and water, but the packet should not be heavy. The route from Kozhikode is via Areekode, Pathanapuram and Othayi. Vehicles soon reach Choolattippara Junction, from where well-informed local people like Jaffer Chaloli will join you as guides. The route heads to Vezhakkode alternative school, the starting point of the trek.
Jaffer would tell you the local lore: “It is the Chaliyar river that flows down the hills of Eranad that makes this place beautiful. Chaliyar is referred to as ‘Golden River’ in William Logan’s ‘Malabar Manual’. There has been a belief since time immemorial that the river carries traces of gold. Logan makes a mention of Chekkunnu also in the book. He calls it ‘The camel hump’.”
“Chekkunnu hill is on the border of Edavanna and Oorngattiri panchayats. It has mist, rain, greenery and tribal hamlets,” he elaborates.
The alternative school was built by the government for children in the Mayiladi tribal hamlet in the hill. There is a forest path starting near the school which leads into the deep wild. It is severely cold as travellers climb up the hill. A little further, the sound of Vezhakkode waterfalls can be heard. The fall is along a rock which has been smoothed out.
The trek begins
Jaffer knows more local legends. “An ancient tribal society exists here and they worship at a temple which has a treasure. However, we cannot go to that area, known as Devathappara,” he says.
He also explains how Chekkunnu got its name: “During the British rule, it is believed that a Sheik, the elder of a tribe, reached this hill to use it as a hiding place and the place was called ‘Sheik-kunnu’ (Sheik-hill), which gradually became Chekkunnu.”
The path soon passes by the first house in the tribal colony. The residents are in misery and also hungry, especially with no jobs around with the arrival of the monsoon. No different is the situation in all the other thatched huts. From there, the climb becomes more steep and tough. Rain makes things more difficult as the mud turns the path slippery.
Even shoots of grass offer a foothold and prevent you from falling. But fallen leaves are slippery, causing frequent falls. A traveller feels like giving up the trip and return. But the guide’s assurance that the destination is not much far takes him or her ahead. Mobile phone coverage is no longer available and the sounds of the forest have no challengers.
When tired, travellers can rest on rocks by the path. Mist surrounds the entire area. The steep path continues.
The final climb
The remaining path is a 600-m steep climb. Visitors can derive some energy before the attempt with chocolates, dates etc. But the guide warns them not to discard plastic items in the forest.
Right ahead are two huge rocks. The guide clambers up and drops a wild vine. One has to make the way up like mountaineers, with the help of the vine, which is stronger than ropes available in the market. Though a traveller feels exhausted, a glance at the surroundings is rejuvenating. While on one side of Chekkunnu valley lies Vettilappara, on the other is Chethallur. The Kollamkolly waterfall in the valley below is another stunning sight from the hilltop.
There is greenery all around from the top of Chekkunnu. The mist flows in and out. The grass is all tall as a man. One has to part the grass to move forward. The soaked ground is muddy and each step has to be taken with care. Thankfully, the spreading roots of the grass offer grip. But the edges of the grass leaves are sharp, causing cuts on your hands.
The peak of the hill is a rocky area, from where nature can be enjoyed at its best. There is a welcome breeze bringing rain clouds near you and the Chaliyar river can be seen winding its way deep down in the plains. A visitor truly feels that a hidden treasure has been discovered.
How to reach
From Kozhikode, take the Areekode road to Pathanapuram. From there, travel to Therattammal, Othayi and Choolattippara. The distance from Kozhikode to Choolattippara is around 40 km. Head to the alternative school along Vezhakkode road. Trekking starts from the school. Ensure that adequate water and food are carried.
Avoid littering in the forest.