Shilpa Nair Anand goes on a bone-jarring jeep ride to Ilaveezhapoonchira and discovers a hillock that mirrors the morning sun and silent valleys that lie veiled in mist

At 3,200 ft above sea level Ilaveezhapoonchira, comprising the gigantic peaks of Mankunnu, Kudayathoor Vindhyan, and Thonippara hills, is a thousand and more acres of green velvet.

Kannadipara is Ilaveezhapoonchira's ‘topstation' and is located on Kudayathoor Vindhyan. It is called Kannadipara (kannadi means mirror in Malayalam) because the hillock reflects the morning sun.

Old timers say there used to be a lake in the valley below Ilaveezhapoonchira. Today there is what looks like a swamp in place of the lake. There is a tiny stream from the lake that flows out.

The water from the lake is warm in comparison to the water in other water bodies in the area.

Legend has it that this is where the Pandavas hid as part of their vanavaas. They used the flowers of the ‘ilavu' tree to enclose the lake for Draupadi to bathe.

‘Ilaveezhapoonchira' in derived from ‘Ilavin poovin chira' (poovu is flower in Malayalam and chira is lake).

The lake was surrounded by trees and the breeze that blew across it prevented the trees from shedding their leaves (ila).

Ilaveezhapoonchira is located in Melkavu Panchayat on the Kottayam-Idukki border, in Kottayam District. The spot is a favoured route for trekking enthusiasts. Poonchira used to be a hidden getaway known to only a few, committed travel buffs.

As we drive past clusters of houses, curious children run down to the road to snatch a peek. The nearest school is around six kilometres away and the colleges are almost 12 km away.

Agriculture is the main source of income; rubber, pepper and cardamom plantations are aplenty and have replaced the tea gardens here.

There are stretches of road where there is no habitation, and even the ubiquitous tea stall is missing. The road to Poonchira ends, literally, half way up the hill. From here you have to climb on foot or hire a jeep for Rs. 600.

The two-and-a-quarter kilometre almost-vertical climb to the top is not for the fainthearted.

Bamboo groves, shrubs and wild flowers line the track which is riddled with boulders. Once you reach the top it is surprisingly flat.

Kudayathoor Vindhayan offers a bird's-eye view of parts of Idukki, Kottayam, Ernakulam, Alappuzha, Pathanamthitta and Thrissur Districts. The view from the top is breathtaking.

The Periyar flows so far below that it looks like a blue-grey, haphazardly drawn line.

From that height, the Malankara Dam looks slightly bigger than a speck.

Upstream lie the Mullaperiyar and Idukki Dams and the Moolamattam Power House.

Kudayathoor Vindhayan is said to be the third highest mountain peak in Kerala.

On a clear day, this is a perfect place to take in the sunrise and the sunset. In December, it is a place to walk in the clouds.

One minute the whole view is yours and, in the next, the mist comes rolling in.

To the left of Kannadipara, Elickalmala looms large. This place offers trekkers and biking enthusiasts plenty of choices.

Camping is permitted only on the grounds of the District Tourism Promotion Council (DTPC) guest house.

Campers are unlikely to encounter wild animals here but rabbits, porcupines and snakes abound.

29Ilaveezhapoonchira

GETTING THERE:

The nearest railway station is Kottayam, 60 km away.

The nearest airport is Nedumbassery, 100 km away.

The jeep drive to Top Station will cost you Rs.600.

WHERE TO STAY:

Take your camping gear along and pitch tents on the clearing outside the DTPC resort.

The resort also offers rooms. Call 094953 73464 for details.