Ponmudi Hills- The Golden Peak -
A mere one and a half hour’s road journey separates the beaches of Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) from the invigorating climate of Ponmudi Hills. The name Ponmudi, a hill station so close to the sea, in Malayalam means golden crown.
Ponmudi is part of the Western Ghats mountain range that runs parallel to the Arabian Sea and is at an altitude of 1100 metres above sea level. On the way to Ponmudi, the thick tropical forest greets one at the foot of the Ponmudi hill range. The road passes under a canopy of thickly matted foliage. The forest recedes gradually giving way to neatly clipped tea bushes.
As one leaves the city behind, one enters the region of plantations – rubber, pepper, cardamom and tea. The change is abrupt. The tappers can be seen going about briskly gathering the milky fluid from rubber trees collected in coconut shells. Coconut thatch mats cover almost one half of the road, over which women spread black pepper for drying. One may come across a lone elephant ambling along carrying his mahout atop and his breakfast of coconut.
Tea estates at Ponmudi are not as big as those in the Munnar hills. Large water sprays shower the gardens. The ‘mate’, a septuagenarian shading himself with an umbrella, can be seen reading aloud the day’s news to the pickers. The pickers, in response, either grunt indicating disapproval of the news item or remain silent in agreement.
Trekking to the north of Ponmudi Crest, one passes along a mini zoo, primarily of barasinghas, on the edge of the forest. Entering the forest, the verdant shades of green numb the senses. As does the avian orchestra. The brilliant red southern trongon dot the trees like flowers. The air is full with the loud raucous chuckling of heavy billed Malabar hornbills. The shrill notes of the blue-black Malabar whistling thrush add to the cacophony. Even the rare long-tailed paradise flycatchers flit gracefully from tree to tree. It is like an open aviary.
Situated en route to the popular hill station of Ponmudi, Kallar gets its name from the River Kallar, which flows through the region. Kallu means ‘stone’ and Aru means ‘river’, hence the name Kallar. The river is well known for its abundance of attractive, round-shaped boulders and pebbles, especially in the upper reaches and middle portion of its course.
Kallar is about 50 km from the capital city of Thiruvananthapuram, and is an idyllic location. It is a favourite haunt for picnickers and attracts many with an interest in trekking, angling and bird watching.
At Kallar, the main attractions are the nearby Golden Valley, and the Meenmutti waterfall. Unlike the Meenmutti waterfall, the Golden Valley is easily accessible form the main road. Here one can take a dip in the crystal clear waters to cool off, and also watch the many rapids and small pools that dot a good part of the river in this area.
TOURIST ATTRACTIONS NEAR PONMUDI
Agasthyarkoodam : This 2000 feet high peak is famous for its wilderness, and can be accessed only with permission from the Forest Department. Meenmutti waterfall is an eminent attraction in the range.
Agasthyakoodam is the second highest peak in Kerala, at a height of 1890mts above sea level and is a part of the Sahyadri range of mountains.It is 60 Kms North East of Trivandrum.The mountain is revered by both Buddhists and Hindus, as it is believed to be the abode of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara as well as of the sage Agastya, a disciple of Shiva.
The forests of Agasthyakoodam are rich in rare medicinal herbs and plant, and hued orchids. In 1992, an area covering around 23 sq kms was established as Agasthya Vanam Biological Park. The intention was to restore the degraded forests and to use it for educational purpose. The season from December to April is advocated for trekking and is a distance of 28 kms to the top. It takes approximately two days and trekking is permitted only between December and April.
Golden Valley : – A small yet picturesque viewpoint, adorned by well-rounded pebbles and lush green trees, this is an access-point to the River Kallar.
How to reach
Ponmudi is 61 km from Thiruvananthapuram. It is within easy driving distance from Kovalam beach / poovar beach