Agasthyakoodam Trek is a detailed travelogue based on my trekking experience to Agasthyakoodam. Agasthyakoodam is one of the highest peaks in Kerala and is famous for it’s rare medicinal plans and herbs. This peak is part of the Western Ghats and towers to a height of 1868 meters above sea level. Agasthyakoodam (commonly known as Agastya Mala / Agasthyamalai / Agathiyar Malai and Agastyarkoodam) is also a famous pilgrimage center know after the sage Agasthya. The pilgrimage involves a trek of 56km (28km one side) from Bonacaud/Bonaccord making it a trekker’s paradise.
The main attractions of Agasthyakoodam are it’s evergreen forests, grasslands,rare herbs, biodiversity, mind blowing scenic beauty and the chance of seeing wild animals. Other places of tourist importance include Bonacaud Estate, Meenmutty Falls and Ponmudi .
Getting there and around
Agasthyakoodam is located 50kms north east of Trivandrum and in-between Trivandrum and Ponmudi. It is accessible via road. KSRTC operates regular bus services from Trivandrum and Neyyatinkara to Bonacaud, from where the trek starts.The minimum duration for Agasthyakoodam Trek is two days, which needs to be completed in two phases.The first phase of Agasthyakoodam Trek is the trek to the base camp which is around 20 kilometres from the Forest checkpoint at Bonacaud, there is a small shelter (dormitory like arrangement which stands dreaming and gasping for some maintenance) where you can stay overnight, and a canteen where you would be served dinner and breakfast.Bathroom facilities exist and are well maintained. The second phase involves a steep and tiring trek of 10km to the peak of Agasthyakoodam and if time permits, the trek back to the Forest checkpoint.
Agasthyakoodam is open to public only from January to April.You need to take prior permissions from the wild life warden’s office in PTP Nagar, Trivandrum for the trek to Agasthyakoodam, by submitting an application form along with photostat copies of two valid ID cards and an amount of INR350/person. They have a limit to the number of passes they issue an year for Agasthyakoodam Trek, so make sure that you contact the wildlife warden’s office in advance.Females are not allowed for this trek /pilgrimage. For more information call up assistant wildlife warden’s office at +91-471-2360762.
Agasthyakoodam Trek – Distance Chart
Trivandrum-78km | Bonacaud-28km | Vithura-198km | Quilon-123km | Palode-56km | Nedumangad-33.6km | (This includes the trek distance of 28kms).
Things to do
The main activities you can indulge in are adventure, photography and trekking. You can also spend time in the small streams at the base camp.
Things to carry
- Food /Snacks / Chocolates (Take care not to litter the place with food stuffs and plastics. Alcohol is banned and you can get into trouble if you are carrying it)
- Salt (To fight leaches, though I dint have any issues)
- Thick socks and shoes
- Bed sheets and towels for your stay in the base camp
- Cap/Sunscreen lotion
Agasthyakoodam Trek - My Experience
Though I had heard and read about Agasthyakoodam and the trekking options to this place, I never got a chance to be part of this lifetime journey until when, one of my friends pitched in the idea of trekking to Agasthyakoodam as a gang of six. We had to get the passes (permission letter) from the wild life warden’s office in PTP Nagar, Trivandrum which we secured well in advance. I was the last one to enroll for the trek. The rush out there at the office was beyond my imagination. (You won’t believe, people had flocked in and taken their positions in the queue from as early as 5:00AM, so guys plan in advance!!!).We got the passes/permissions for the second weekend of January and were all set for the trip.
On the day of the trek, we started our journey from Trivandrum by 5:00AM in my car and reached Bonacaud by 6:00AM. Bonakkad is a small village situated right below the Agasthya mountain ranges and consists of forest, tea estates, water falls and ruins of old buildings that the British left behind. These old buildings and the messed up tea estates stand as silent monuments to the past glory of the place and the senseless policies of the government.
From there we moved on to the forest check point. We parked our car at the check point and headed towards a small counter where the forest personnel stamped our passes, made entries in the logbook,checked our luggage (for alcohol I guess) and briefed us on the importance of the place and the code of conduct that needs to be followed during the trek. We bought lunch from the canteen at the check post after which we were grouped into teams of 10 and assigned under a guide who lead us to entrance of the trek path.
The initial tract of the trek was green, with large trees and shrubs, and as we moved on, it changed to semi-green, with trees looking bare without leaves, followed by grasslands, dense forests, waterfalls, fallen trees, streams and steep climbs. By noon we halted by a stream to have lunch and to take some rest. We moved on and reached the base camp by around 4:30PM . Though the trek was arduous we never felt tired which I believe is due to the freshness of the air. From the base camp we could see the peak of Agasthya malai at a distance.
We went straight to the shelter at the base camp to take some rest.Finding a comfortable spot out there was the hardest part, as the building was almost in ruins with it’s roof seeming to fall down any time. ( the building is good enough to spend a night ). By 5:00PM we headed to explore the places around. The base camp was surrounded by thick forest, we din’t dare to go too deep into the forest as it was almost dark, after taking bath in one of the streams we returned back to the shelter. We had our dinner (rice porridge, payaru thoran and pickle) from the canteen and it was one of the tastiest food I has ever had in my life, possibly due to the intense urge to quench the hunger, after a tiring day’s trek. We slept early that day. Though I had a good sleep, I was woken up in between by the howling wind and the banging of windows. The hall really had a haunted look, but what more can be expected in the middle of the forest.
I woke up early the next day, hurriedly finished off the morning ablutions, had breakfast from the canteen and got ready for the second phase of the trek to the peak of Agathyakoodam. We started off early in the morning by 6:30AM, but this time, the narrow path, low light, dense forest and steep climbs made the trek even more harder. Very often we ran out of breath and had to halt at regular intervals. On the way to the peak we were lucky to witness the most beautiful views of the forest, sunrise and the sky forming a backdrop to the crest of the mountains. The breathtaking beauty of the place that we witnessed there is beyond any description, you need to see it for yourself.
Puffing and gasping we moved on. Many a times we had to crawl through the bushes and slide past the rocks to make our way ahead. After two and a half hours of walk we reached a point where the trek path was no more visible, there were arrow marks drawn on rocks indicating the way ahead. That was the beginning of an adventurous rock climb. We had to climb the rocks at an inclination of 80 degrees with the help of ropes that dropped down from the peak.
We reached the peak of Agasthyakoodam by 9:30AM. There stood a statue of sage Agasthya besides which the devotees offered prayers and performed rituals.We could get a bird’s eye view of the valley from the peak. It was breathtaking. We rested there for sometime and by 10:30AM started the trek back to the Forest Checkpost.
The trek back to the Forest Checkpoint was a bit more easier, but the previous day’s trek and the one in the moring had left our legs aching.We were totally exhausted. We reached back at the Forest Checkpost by 6:00PM. We drove back home,tired but with sweet memories of the lifetime trek. We stopped at Palode, had dinner, (infact we ate like pigs) and reached our homes by 8:00PM.
Agasthyakoodam though a pilgrimage center, is famous for it’s trekking possibilities and as a place where nature is at its best.If you are a person who is looking at getting back to nature, testing your body’s endurance, experiencing the wilderness and calmness of the forest……. pack your bags and be there for the next trek. Agasthyakoodam Trek is a lifetime trek and you would really enjoy every bit of it. Happy trekking!!!!!