An idle mind is a devil’s workshop goes an old saying. What if two of them meet up…:) Well, that’s what sparked off the idea of a wild trek, all the way from Braemore estate to Ponmudi.
Introducing Braemore Estate
Braemore Estate is a 900 acre tea, rubber, coffee and spices plantation which lies north east to Trivandrum. The place is about 60kms from Trivandrum and lies adjacent to Ponmudi. It was established by the British in 1880s and is one of the best trekking destinations in Trivandrum .It is situated at an altitude of 300m above sea level and adjacents the evergreen forest patches, popularly known as Sholas.There is a small trekkable route, connecting Braemore with Ponmudi, a beautiful hill station situated at an altitude of 1000m above sea level..This trail is enchanting as it is through forest and grasslands.
Getting there and around
KSRTC operates buses to Braemore, the first bus to the place starts from East Fort by 6:00am and reaches Braemore by 7:30am,I would advise you to double check the timings. People also flock in with bikes and cars. You need to pay Rs10 at the checkpost as part of the eco tourism project and an enty fee of Rs100/person at Braemore Estate. Cottages are available inside the estate and they also offer vegetarian food from the small “nadan” canteen. You need to notify them in advance if you are planning to have food from their canteen else you are likely to end up with an empty stomach.
Things to do
The main activities you could indulge in are trekking (you would get locals to guide you around), short strolls enjoying the property, visit to the stranded tea factory, bathing in the falls ( there are around 50 waterfalls within the estate though only few are easily accessible.), photography, barbeque and campfire (i guess you need to take the permission for that).
Things to carry
Do have the following in your backpack.
- Food /Snacks
- Salt (To fight your way through leaches)
- Towels and extra clothes (in case you have plans to enjoy the falls)
- GPS Devices
I started off by around 7AM on a saturday morning from Trivandrum on my Swift Dezire, with one of my colleagues and headed straight to Braemore, racing across Nedumangad,Palode and eventually reaching Braemore by 8AM. The road leading to Brimore was awesome, lit up in green and very much scenic. We drove up the estate and parked the car next to the Manager’s Banglow, We had our breakfast there (we carried it along ) and headed straight to find the trail that would take us through on one of the wildest treks I ever had in my life.
Our plan was to trek along the narrow trail (you can see that in the map) passing through the forest , meadows and reach Ponmudi by 12.00PM, have lunch, trek back via the same route and reach Braemore back by 5:00PM. We wanted to do this without out the help of any guides …(inspired from NatGeo… ) The weather seemed fine in the morning and we were all set to take on the adventure that lay ahead. Following the GPS cues (thanks to apple iphone that my friend carried), we easily located the starting point of the trail. It was almost near to the Manager’s banglow. The road for the first 2 km (marked in white in the map) was untarred and winding up with deserted plantations on either side……..
Almost after an hour we could sense that we were getting closer to the forest and got the first glimpses of the western ghats. We walked for another half an hour and reached a point where the road grew narrower and went right into the forest. We took a perpendicular cut into the forest and continued the trek through the eetaa thottam. This part of the journey was tiresome as the way ahead was steep and loosely packed, often we slipped as the top soil was loose. Then suddenly from no were something shot across us and to our luck, we escaped unhurt. Till date we haven’t been successful in figuring it out. Would it have been a rolling stone or a wild bore ? Through we saw a black mass flashing by, we couldn’t identify it. That was starting of the the adrenaline rush within us. We knew from our homework for the trek that this forest was the home for wild animals like wild bore, bears and poisonous snakes. Time was around 12:00PM and we had covered around 4 kilometers. Walking ahead we knew that we were falling short of time. The forest grew thicker and the sky cloudier……it grew dark and we were almost in the middle of the forest. The thought of getting lost in the forest started haunting us.
Many a times the trail disappeared into nowhere leaving us to guess the way ahead. Sometimes we had to part the thick bushes to see any further. There were also thorny bushes hanging down from the gigantic trees and they were strong enough to hold us down by our shirt unable to move or take the next step. Walking ahead for another one hour brought us no hope. The visibility was further deteriorating due to the cloudy sky and the thick trees. Panic started building within and we somehow wanted to be out of the forest. Finally at a distance we saw rays of light sneaking it though the thick canopy. We moved towards the direction and in half an hour reached the end of the thick forest. We could see the grasslands of Ponmudi ahead and that brough a smile on our faces. We managed to find a rocky terrain to rest and have our lunch. Though the dishes were few it was one of the tastiest lunch I have ever had in my life. It really reminded me of the saying “The food tastes better through hard work”. After finishing the lunch we rested for a while on the rocks. It was 2.00pm and taking the same way back was no more an option as it was sure that we would end up in the forest that night if we choose to trek back .We decided to take a taxi back to Braemore.
Time was almost 2.00pm and we started off, this time finding the way through the grasslands. The view from here was too good. Finally we could see the road to Ponmudi ahead of us. We slowly moved out of the grasslands and into the rocky terrain. I was happy to be out of the forest leaving behind the fear of getting lost in the forest. GPS was almost accurate and without it we would have never made it our of the forest. Thanks to “Google Maps” and iPhone. Technology does help us out in crazy situations.
We walked from there to the Ponmudi KTDC Resort hoping to get a taxi and to our luck got a KSRTC bus to Nedumangadu. The bus starts from Ponmudi by 3.00pm. We got down at Palode and caught the next bus to Braemore. We had to hire an auto for the last mile ride to Braemore and reached there by 5pm. We had a good bath in the stream, it was refreshning. My collegue was still bleading heavily from the leach bite.
We left Braemore by 5:30 pm, and on the way back, had a heavy meal from Palode. We reached back Trivandrum by 8:30pm.
This is infact an adventurous trek. Though the map states it as 4-5kms the actual trek is more than that. If you are planning to take up this trek make sure you go as a group, start off early, with proper gadgets, maps and get back to the other end by 3.00pm. Things could really go bad after that.