A regular traveller to Wayanad would wonder what happened to the cold, rain, and greenery that existed in the place 20 years ago. Wayanad is famous for attractions like Meenmutty, Soochippara, Edakkal caves, and the Banasurasagar dam. When an adventurer seeks more interesting spots, Brahmagiri comes into focus.
A trek through the forest
Brahmagiri is a group of hills situated adjacent to Thirunelly. It covers the Wayanad district of Kerala and Kodagu district in Karnataka. At 5,276 ft, it is among Kerala's highest ranges.
During the late 1990s, the Thirunelly forests were mysterious and inspired awe among visitors, but by 2014, commercialisation had set in like at any other pilgrim centre. However, the presence of the mysterious Brahmagiri nearby attracted the travellers to the spot.
The group trek was finalised and the travellers mainly comprised members of a team that travelled to the Himalayas a year ago. Many of them were prepared to invite debts to take part in the programme.
By rotation, Iyer from Palakkad was given the responsibility of organising the trek. Detailed discussions were held in the group regarding each aspect of the adventure. The plans were made during the monsoon and everybody dreamed of undertaking the trek in the rain.
The trekking was booked on August 13 and the charge was Rs 275 per person. Guide fee of Rs 200 also was to be paid. Moreover, the permission of the Forest Range Officer was to be obtained. All the 24 members of the trekking team reached the base camp by 4 pm on August 12. They hailed from all districts of Kerala, were of different ages, and held a variety of jobs.
Booking was made at the dormitory of the Forest Department at Thirunelly. The Forest Guest House is about a km from Thirunelly temple. In addition, KTDC's resort, other hotels and some homestays are located in the area.
The next day, instructions were given to all team members by leaders, Ali, Iyer, and Sajan. Food for two days was arranged. Ali's jeep was turned into goods carrier. Food was served by guest house staff.
Brahmagiri is a trekkers' paradise and draws them year after year. The peak of Brahmagiri is six km from Thirunelly. The first three km are along thick forest which is home to elephant herds. The fresh dung would attest to this factor.
Leeches are the other problem. They can be tackled using leech socks. Salt and tobacco will also help. Apart from elephants, Brahmagiri has rich populations of wild bison and sambar deer.
If travellers are lucky, they can sight a tiger too.
Beyond three km, the evergreen forest turns into grasslands. An anti-poaching camp is also organised by the department here. Visitors can also climb the watch tower from where the beauty of Tamil Nadu will present itself before them.
At the top there are three hills constituting Brahmagiri, climbing each of which is a tough task. Many travellers give up midway. The trek is tougher than the one to the heart-shaped pond at Chembra peak in Wayanad and it is only by sheer will-power that travellers can find their way up the hills.
Everywhere, the lush green grasslands on the hills offer a soothing sight. Rain, sunshine, and mist play hide and seek all along the way. Covering two of the three hills is itself exhausting, but determined climbers can still make it to the top of the third peak.
Suddenly the steep incline gives way to a wide flat area gently sloping upwards, inviting travellers with its amazing scenery. This stretch extends all the way to the top of the third hill. From this peak, you can soak in the stunning landscape on the Karnataka as well as Kerala sides of the border and feel closest to heaven.
But the descent proves a bigger challenge than the ascent. Thoughts emerge about the worth of all such efforts. One feels you could relax at home on a holiday, doing some odd jobs, watching TV, movies or shopping at the mall, instead of undertaking the strenuous task of climbing Brahmagiri. Even then, after every adventure outdoors, you plan the next trip. Travels are inspiring and each journey, howsoever exhausting, fills you with energy to set out for the next destination.
It would be around 4 pm when you arrive back at the base camp.