A wanderlust trek to Top Station and how we encountered the Kolukkumalai trail

by Durai on May 15, 2012

A trek to ‘Top Station’ has always been on my to-do list and it took a lot of planning for us to complete it successfully. A well-laid Ghat trail from Kurangani  to Top Station was quite apparent on google maps indicating that the help of GPS would be very minimal since, there would be a clear trail unless we choose to take a different trail and make an attempt to explore the virgin peaks and grasslands.

The hike to Top Station is a moderate 4 hour-long one. It starts at an altitude of 400 mts and reaches an altitude of 1950 mts traversing beautiful waterfalls, middle station, a nice, calm and serene village in the Kurangani hills, majestic shola forests, sky-piercing peaks, colourful birds and one can also have the rare delight of a rendez-vous  with few locals who regularly use this trail.

The agenda for this two days’ trek was not concrete since we planned only for a stay in Top Station, somewhere near the tea estate and in the morning after visiting few places, a hike back to Kurangani.  But the entire agenda under went a sea change when we saw a ‘zig-zag trail’ that lead to kolukkumalai.

Early morning visit to Kurangini village:

On reaching the Kurangani village at around 5.30 a.m, we were welcomed by the chill breeze that rushed through our nostrils and engulfed by misty clouds. Kurangani is a very serene and peaceful hamlet concealed by mountains, beautiful trees and river waters filled with the harmony of signing birds.

Our trek started along the Ghat trail leading to Top Station. As we started hiking along the trail we had a glimpse of the beautiful peaks that were intruding into the sky while the misty clouds rubbed the peaks gently. The friction between the white clouds and the brown peaks made us feel that we were on a foreign land that barely had  any throughfare for men. It was a mind-boggling view for city dwellers like me and was a brilliant start.

A dip in the ice-cold waterfalls:

The trail leading to Top Station hosts a beautiful waterfall, which brings in chill waters from the valley above. The waters were freezing cold and the dip in the pool in front of the waterfall is nothing but a ‘scintillating experience’. If you follow the stream to the top of this waterfall, there rests another beautiful waterfall that drops from a greater height, with much more beauty. Kurangani waterfall is a rejuvenating dose for any trekker who takes this trail to reach Top Station.

How we encountered the Kolukkumalai trail:

After dipping in the pool we started our hike on the Ghat trail and to our surprise we witnessed a beautiful ‘zig-zag’ trail to the opposite side of the mountain. The trail, covered with the misty clouds and green grasslands was appealing and my heart just could not stop from falling in love with it, which was one of the most beautiful trail I had ever seen. We enquired with the locals and found that the trail led to Kolukkumalai another gorgeous place. It was then that we decided to take that ‘zig-zag’ trail to reach Kurangani village again.

Middle station a beautiful hamlet on the Kurangani hills

On the trail leading to Top Station there lies a very silent hamlet called ‘middle station’ at 1, 300 mts altitude over looking the beautiful valley and just below few magical peaks. Standing on the cliff of middle station one can witness the brilliant panoramic views of the valley, Kurangani village below and Top Station above us.

Hiking the neighbouring peak:

Our adrenaline rush never stopped with walking along the trail and we wanted to climb some peaks to quench it. It was decided that we would climb the tallest peak, which we would spot. We started our climb on a trailless path to reach the top of the peak. It was an adventurous trek along the misty clouds and grasslands. It took us a solid 2 hours of non-stop climb to reach the peak. The peak was a completely wind blown area with the clouds rubbing our skin and making us feel the freezing chillness. Nevertheless, it was a pleasure to be on top of a nameless peak completely surrounded by misty clouds.

Reaching Top Station to appease our hunger:

We reached Top Station which is considered as a historic transhipment location for tea , delivered here from Munnar and Madupatty by rail and from here it was taken down by ropeway to Kottagudi. Top station is also very popular for the rare Neelakurinji flowers, which blooms once in 12 years. At present Top station hosts tourists who throng this hill lock for the panoramic views of the valley below and to enjoy the misty weather. Top station is also the exit or entry point for the famous ‘escape road’ trek.

Camping near the Tata tea estate bungalow, Munnar:

With the plan of trekking down to Kurangani firming up we decided to camp near the Tata tea estate bungalow. The night temperature dipped as low as 4 degrees making us feel the pain of cold throughout the night and the need for warmth of heat to complete this endless night. On top of the severe chillness what was more adventurous was the visit of the Indian Gaur’s in herds near our campsite. We could easily spot around 20+ Gaurs very close to our campsite and we very lucky not to be bothered by them at any point of time. Indeed, one the most adventurous nights of my trekking life.

Early Morning trek along the dam and finding a transport to reach Kolukkumalai:

I woke up at around 5.30 a.m with my fingers, arms and legs almost numb because of the severe cold and with the laziness that lingers around every morning, we somehow managed to start our trek at 6.30 a.m along a beautiful dam which was emitting out white magical mist. It was a lifetime delight to watch that spectacular early morning scene and I should confess that I was  simply blessed to witness its unfolds. My love for nature keeps growing and my admiration goes beyond my level of thinking solely because of my encounters with wonders like this.

After finding a jeep, which promised us to leave at Munnar, we had shivering moments sitting on the open jeep that had no seats. From Munnar we took a jeep to reach Kolukkumalai tea estate. The ghat road leading from Suryanalli to Kolukkumalai is certainly one of those most difficult and bumpy roads I have ever travelled.

Trekking back from Kolukkumalai estate to reach Kurangani:

Now we all were very excited about trekking on that ‘zig-zag trail’ leading to Kurangani. The entire area was completely covered with mist and the visibility  was very poor. The tea estate workers guided us towards a narrow trail and instructed us to follow it. The trail was completely over grown by dense bushes and grass however, we somehow managed to navigate throw those bushes and reached that dream ‘zig-zag trail’. The joy of reaching that place made us spell bound and I could see only happiness and smiling faces all around the group. After a 2 hour non-stop trek we finally reached Kurangani and soon disappeared to Bodi to catch our bus leaving to Chennai. Overall, a nice two day exploration as our heart went to few less-travelled locations something that is close only to a trekker’s heart.

An amateur poetry before I begin my next trek:

I love walking on that lonely trail but the pleasure on the trailless trail excites me;

I love those gentle drizzles but the joy of walking on a heavy down pour mesmerizes me;

I love standing on the cliff, camping on the banks of a beautiful lake, staring at the beautiful moon;

I love the melody of birds; I love the chill mountain breeze;

These are the pleasures which are close to my heart and very close to my heart…

Happy trekking,
Durai Murugan

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