A drive through the rain-drenched forests of Nilambur to Moideen’s Mukkam is an experience for keeps, mixing memory with desire. There lurks some vestige of the past in every turn. Words are superfluous in the face of Nature’s indescribable beauty unleashed here.
History is in a slumber in Nilambur. Its kovilakom and sprawling teak gardens are again signs of the past, redolent of a culture that once thrived there. Hence, in every way, it’s one soulful trip along a route which Kanchanamala’s Moideen must also have taken several times.
Leave the main road for the sinewy lanes that take you across dense forests, acres of farm land, lonely vegetation, lofty mountains, gurgling brooks and thunderous waterfalls. The road stretch is a shutterbug’s frame, an artist’s canvas and a poet’s muse. No exaggeration, this.
Now what’s so special about the drive, one would wonder. There’s everything special to it. The road taken is not the oft-travelled main road from Nilambur to Mukkam. Instead, it’s a drive along a byroad which cuts through dense vegetation, uncluttered by traffic, with the clouds, the rain, and Kakkadampoyil’s mists for company.
Right from Akampadam
From Nilambur town, the road leads to Chanthakunnu Angadi. Time for a recharge, something small to pep you up till the next pit stop in the woods, a suleimani chai, perhaps. Recharge done, it’s onward to Akampadam. This is the same road that leads to the Adyanpara waterfalls in the midst of the wild rain forest. The first landmark is a bridge over the Chaliyar which flows muddy and moody in the monsoon. The heavy rains have obviously brought down mud and silt from the mountains from where the river begins. Time again for a few photo frames and then, on to more sights from Mayiladippalam.
By the mountain slopes lie vast stretches of farm land, all readied for the next season’s crop, laced by areca nut trees and flat fields. It’s a vintage village scene unfolding, where folks walk along the ridges between the fields, where those not-too-frequent buses switch off the engine and patiently wait for people to come up. The road is pretty wide here, flanked by dense mahogany forests. The only signs of human habitation are the groups of kids ambling along to school and an occasional vehicle which passes by.
The drive now is to Kurishupara from where one can see Nilambur in all its beauty. Beyond this landmark and vast stretches of grassland where cattle stand grazing, lies the Mooleppadam bridge over the beauteous Kuruvan river which flows down the mountains.
Tread down carefully and you can wash your face in the pristine, cool river water. Here’s another photo op for the shutterbug. The crystal clear waters hold a million little fish thrashing about in its waters. With trees on the banks almost falling down into the river, it’s a canvas of monsoon magic. The bridge has brought a lot of relief to folks on either bank. Before the bridge came, a trip to Kakkadampoyil from Nilambur was an arduous task. The only solution was to either walk for miles on end or take vehicles on roundabout routes to reach one’s destination. There were of course people who would wade across the shallow waters of the Kuruvan. But that too would be impossible with the monsoon swell in the river. With the bridge coming up, vehicles started plying the forest roads. The drive is now through the famed 'Pantheerayiram' forests of Nilambur on the banks of Kuruvan Puzha which also happens to be a wildlife zone.
As you drive on, the nature of the road changes to narrow down to a small strip. There are steep drops and the forest becomes denser. Even at bright noon, the place is broodingly dark with green canopies blocking the sun out. The drive has touched the borders of Nilambur. Over to the mist-clad Kakkadampoyil, the less-known, little-explored hill station.
The drive here needs utmost care and concentration. In full view ahead are the steep “S” curve climbs and narrow strips. The perpetual thick fog blankets visibility and it’s impossible to spot vehicles from the opposite direction. The only physical sensations around are the sounds of the forest and rain which pours down. And of course, the swirls of mist, terrifying at times. Drive further up and you reach a vantage point from where you can look down to Kakkadampoyil, famously known as the Gavi of Malabar. The stillness of the forest is broken only by the sound of a roaring waterfall from somewhere near.
Drive further up and the sight that unfolds is majestic. Looming large is a mighty mountain, bald and barren, dotted with shrubs and covered with moss. Here’s another frame for a shutterbug. The waterfall thundering down the bald mountain defies description. It’s incredibly beautiful.
The roadside thattukada
Drive along and to arrive at a junction. They call it their city. These thattukadas are the lifeblood of Vendekkumpoyil locals. It’s their club, their home, their lifeline, where they share their thoughts, their hopes, and fears. These tiny shops are the only signs of life along miles and miles of land, forests and mountains.
The road here splits out. Take the turn left for Mukkam via Lower Kakkad and Kallippara. Turn right to enjoy the wild and unbridled beauty of the Kozippara waterfalls.
The ups and downs and steep drops disappear once you cross Vendekkumpoyil and go along Lower Kakkad. Small settlements come into view. Further on, stands a thattukada beside a running brook. Time for another recharge, perhaps. The aroma of vegetables, peas, and egg omelet is inviting. Recharge done, it’s onward to Mukkam.
The drive crosses Kallippara and Anayamkunnu. Ahead lies the Iruvazhinji Puzha, the river that swallowed Moideen. The drive has reached its destination, Mukkam, replete with tales of an immortal love… of star-crossed lovers Kanchanamala and Moideen. The monsoon drive is not without its romance as the rain comes pounding down from an angry sky.
Kuruvan Puzha is a tributary of the Chaliyar. Flowing down from Vellarimala, the river enjoys the feel of the innumerable waterfalls that come cascading down. Cutting across lush green rain forests, it’s the Mooleppadam bridge that straddles the river.
This is one of the major attractions of Nilambur. The fall, skimming down from a height of 300 ft is 15 km away from the town. Beautiful as it is, it’s not quite safe to go for a shower. The currents are too strong during monsoon.
The Canoli Plot in Nilambur is the world’s first man-made teak plantation. Listed among the World Heritage sites, it also goes by the name of Nilambur Teak Garden. Teak saplings were first planted on this 5.675 acre plot in 1846. A must-see spot, a trip to the garden is worth all the trouble.
For the best drive go along Nilambur (starting), to Akampadam, Mooleppadam, Vendekkumpoyil, Kakkadampoyil and Koodarinji to Mukkam, a distance of 45 km.
There are only small junctions all through the drive. There are no petrol stations on the way, which means, you must get full on fuel.
As for the weather, a fast drive is not recommended. The mists, the dark clouds and heavy rains may compel you to pull up for a while. And last, but not the least, watch out because the roads are too narrow in some strips, clearly signalling danger.