Nedumkayam in the Karimbuzha river tempts any visitor to take a dip with its crystal clear waters. However, local people warn travellers not to try that. "It is a spot which even the British could not conquer," they would say.
There is nothing misleading in this statement. From the bridge with steel girders, one can even spot the grains of sand at the bottom of the river Karimbuzha, a tributary of the Chaliyar.
'Kayam' in Malayalam translates as 'deep part' of a river and Nedumkayam is deep as well as dangerous. The place is on the borders of the Nilambur forest area, which lies adjacent to the Nilgiri hills. The Nedumkayam tourist spot can be reached via Karulayi and attracts a large number of visitors.
There are two girder bridges across the river which were built by the British to transport teak and other logs. Both are still strong and safe.
Tickets to enter the area can be purchased from a counter after crossing the first bridge, which is rather small. The entire area is surrounded by tall, stately trees that block sunlight giving the impression of night even during the day. Visitors are allowed only upto 4 pm.
From the ticket counter, travellers can take their vehicles through a teak plantation. Many visitors have sighted elephants on this route. The parking area is near the second bridge. From there, it is a walk to the resting place of E S Dawson, a British forest engineer who supervised several construction works in the area.
Dawson loved the place as well as the river, which finally took his life. The Nedumkayam – the deep area – is on the right side of the bridge. It does not seem deep at first sight, thanks to the clear and clean water flowing through the spot. The water reaches there from the lap of the Western Ghats and is undisturbed by human intervention.
The tomb of Dawson was built at his favourite spot among the teak trees. It is right beside the road.
On the left side of Dawson's grave is a road which is covered with thick greenery on both sides. It leads to an abandoned elephant training centre. Now all that exists is an old cage where elephants were kept. Earlier, wild elephants captured from the forests were tamed here.
Beyond the teak plantation is the deep evergreen forest where all kinds of trees grow. It is the home to Cholanaikkars, an ancient tribe. They live in an area called Mancheeri. Reluctant to stay in houses, the Cholanaikkar spend lives in the open or under rock shelters. Government officials always take care to arrange community kitchen and other facilities for these tribal folk.
Another path from the grave leads to the river. The Krimbuzha river takes on a golden hue during sunset. The beauty of the flowing waters invites travellers to venture into the river for a bath. But death looms large.
Beyond the deep area of the river is the bungalow where Dawson once lived. The attraction of Nedumkayam is the walk along paths where the dragonflies make merry. The stream narrows beyond the deep part and flows past an area with the forest on both banks.
Tourists are, at present, not allowed to stay at the bungalow considering the threat from Maoists. Two Maoists were recently killed in the forest beyond Nedumkayam.
Enjoying the beauty of the Karimbuza river is another major draw of Nedumkayam. Visitors need to take care to learn more about Karimbuzha before evening. Wild elephants have been reported in the area from dusk.
For more information, call 8547602263. Accommodation is available at Nilambur KTDC Tamarind Hotel. Phone number: 04931232000.
Nedumkayam is 14 km from Nilambur via Karulayi.