A drive to semi-hilly Pathanamthitta will be a good idea if your aim is an off-beat destination. Murmuring brooks and near-dark thickets are constants as you travel by road, covering stretches inhabited by deer, elephants and also the tiger. That would only tempt you to further explore the interior belts of this south-eastern Kerala district, which has several spots that keep wooing the average visitor. Adavi, Avluvamkudi and Gavi are just a few among them. Let us aim at reaching the last one in that list, and go a trip down to Gavi while taking in the awesome scenes along the undulating terrain.
There’s no denying that it took a 2012 Malayalam movie to unveil the charm of Gavi before even the people of Kerala at large. 'Ordinary', the comedy thriller, caught the fancy of the viewers not just because of its gripping plot, but owing to the surreally beautiful place the film showed during much of the 146 minutes in theatres.
Much like the case with the story’s rustic characters who take the state-run bus to ply around, one has to penetrate lush-green forests to eventually reach Gavi on National Highway 220 that connects the coastal town of Kollam to Tamil Nadu’s temple city of Madurai on the other side of the Western Ghats.
Not only would one find the sights as good as, if not still better than, it was portrayed in 'Ordinary', there will definitely be exhilarating real-life experiences awaiting you in the place. After all, the equally scenic Thekkady is only 28 km from here, while the less-discovered Vandiperiyar can be reached covering half that distance.
Of late (or, to be precise, since mid-2012), there has been a surge in tourists to Gavi. That has naturally prompted governmental and private organisations to bolster the hospitality industry around the place. Day-time trekking and stays under freshly-pitched tents after sundown are facilities being arranged by the forest department of the Kerala government.
It’s raining now in Gavi, but the place is equally sylvan even if it’s in peak summer you visit it. For, the tropical area, 3,000 feet above the sea level, is known for its evergreen forests that lend its air perpetual coolness. Added to that is Gavi’s amazing variety of flora and fauna capable of exciting even those who are not botanists, bird-watchers or animal-curious. The generally-elusive 'malamuzhaki vezhambal' (great Indian pied hornbill), known for its wings-flapping sound heard from a distance, is, for one, a major attraction — also for its bearing four colours: black, white, yellow and a streak of red.
As for the vegetation, even regular goers to the hill shrine of Sabarimala in the district would find quite a few trees, plants, flowers and their fruits in Gavi unfamiliar. The region houses no less than 60 varieties of animals, and that is besides some 45 kinds of snakes. Centrally, Gavi has a placid lake where one can do boating to the sights and sound of the forests around.
At one stage, soon after 'Ordinary' became a hit flick, Gavi saw a sudden surge in tourists, portending disturbance to its tranquil mood and ecological balance. That led the authorities to regulate the number of visitors to the place, where it now requires prior permission from the forest officials to enter the spot.
If it’s a one-day trip you are planning, Adavi could be the best choice. It’s a mere seven km off wooded Konni, a taluk headquarters also known for its rubber plantations and tusker-training centres. That way, one can start the day by viewing the famed elephant cages of Konni. It’s, again, a trip through the middle of forests, with monkeys virtually giving you company even as familiar and strange birds fly past in varied speeds.
A chief attraction is 'kutta savari' — that is, moving afloat on a large and rounded coracle boat woven into the shape of a bowl using reeds that are light. The typical charge these days is Rs 800 an hour, during which the travellers can wander somewhat carefree, getting a feel of the cool winds as well as water into which one can dip hands.
A tryst with a vintage temple can only add to the variety of the Gavi-Adavi experience if one makes it to Aluvamkudi as well. It’s, predictably, another leafy locale. The cynosure, though, is a vintage temple. The once-obscure Shiva shrine is a cluster of half-a-dozen sanctorum with gable roofs that are typical of Hindu architecture in Kerala. The complex has, evidently, undergone renovation, but without upsetting the traditional aesthetics. The ambience is devotional for the believer, but the closeness to nature can make the visit enjoyable for an atheist as well.
Aluvamkudi was known in the medieval era for this famed temple in central Travancore. Today, its surroundings have acquired added charm amid the 250-MW Irattakallar hyderpower project initiative: the hills of Randattumuzhi, Kottappara, Nanattupara and Annanthampi Medu are particularly beautiful amidst the mist and greenery bordering on darkness.
Elephants are not a rare sight in Kerala, but the average Malayali is never tired of its stance or gait. That is the USP of Konni, where large cages in which the gargantuan mammal is tamed and housed continues to be a rage among visitors. It’s a complex on a nine-acre plot. The reality quotient in its sight also has near-mythical traces from the past: the fabled 'Aithihyamala' by Malayalam author Kottarathil Sankunni (1855-1937) on Kerala’s legend has a mention on this spot in Konni.
Vechoochira panchayat of Ranni taluk has the Perunthenaruvi waterfalls against the backdrop of thick forests. More wide than being vertical, this stretch of cascade subsequently joins the Pamba, which is Kerala’s third-longest river. The narrow stream, which is ferocious upstream after its emergence from the Western Ghats, gains fair degree of mellowness when it reaches Perunthenaruvi. No wonder, its name translates into ‘honey rivulet’ in Malayalam.