Water, water,water everywhere!!! That was the feeling after spending a weekend at the land of waterfalls near Munnar. Yes! I’m talking about the lovely time I had enjoying the numerous waterfalls ranging from zero size to XXXL and more. This place is located just 130 km from Cochin making it a perfect weekend getaway. The place is none other than Mankulam, a tiny village located close to Munnar in Idukki district.
Since it is a remote village with little access to public transport, it is safer and more economical to travel in a group. And hence I and my son joined a group tour organised by Athira Murali (#Tripstomorrow). We were a group of 15 people and started our Journey from Vytilla around 8Am in a mini traveller.
We stopped for a short while at two places- one for breakfast and other to enjoy Cheeppara waterfall on our way. The journey was least tiresome because of the visual treat we had enroute to Mankulam.
As the monsoon season was on going there was greenery all around. Green carpet was broken at places by white waterfalls. About 15km before Munnar, we deviated towards left at a place called Kallar. Mankulam is situated 10kms from Kallar. We reached our eco-friendly homestay by 1.15pm.
Whispering glade is a unique homestay as it is built entirely on the concept of ‘space and waste’ utilisation and belongs to award winning sculpterist Adv. Jaison. It is made with steel tubes , waste granites, tiles, broken glasses, spare parts, bottles and many other things. The home stay also has a small kids pool where natural water collects and which is ideal for a quick swim. The garden around the home stay boasts of variety of flowering plants endemic to the hills of Munnar. Home stay also has a meditation area, a playground for throw ball and a fish pond. There is no electricity supply in this home stay. At night, a generator is run for few hours to provide lighting in the rooms. There is no range for phone and hence you are completely cut off from the world for two days. It was a unique experience to spend time at this place.
After having lunch, we started off in two jeeps to explore Mankulam. By then it had started drizzling. Even though the road was a tarred one, it was very narrow, steep and winding. Jeep could be driven only at a speed of 15-20km/hr. After half hour, we reached our destination Perimbankuth waterfall. It is 200 mts down the road and well hidden by thick foliage. Braving the rain showers we reached the waterfall and were awe stricken by the sight. Water fell from a height of two meters on to a vast rock expanse. The rock was very slippery because of the moss that grew during monsoon. We were warned not to go any farther as the falling water could easily carry one away due to strong current. Nevertheless we stepped close to waterfall and could feel a strong air current that was pulling us close to the waterfall.
We climbed back to the road and few meters ahead was ‘Surkki palam’ or the Surkki bridge. According Baby, our grand old guide, the bridge was build decades back without using cement. Rocks were joined using a mixture of lime and jaggery.
From there we entered narrow kacha road which winded around a thick forest. Some 100 years back this was the road that connected Munnar to Alwaye (Old Alwaye Munnar road). The road passes through the woods of Thattekad, Pooyamkutti and Mankulam. The road was built by British in the beginning of 20th century and was called Valentine road. On one side there was thick forest and on other side we could see mountains covered in mist. We could see ‘aana thaara’ or paths made by elephants to cross the forest.
From one view point along the way, we could witness the Perimbankuth waterfall and that was when we really appreciated the mightiness. Because earlier we could see only a very small part of the waterfall that fell on rock and flowed down. Due to the rock we couldn’t see the entire waterfall. Even from a long distance, the waterfall appeared huge and tall. We travelled through the route for some more time in the hope of spotting wild animals or birds. Unfortunately due to rains we couldn’t see any other living being and so we took a U turn and returned back.
We were taken to a low land , Perimbankuth chapath, where we could cross the river on foot or jeep. It was a great experience to walk through the river as the water flowed hurriedly over our feet. Crossing the river in a jeep was an adventure activity as the speeding jeep send water high up on either side.
On the way to our next destination we stopped by the side of a flowing river. The view was stunning. I just couldn’t believe it was a place in Kerala.
Our next destination was ‘waterfall 33’. Baby explained that 33 acres of land surrounding the waterfall was given as ‘pattayam’ to the locals by the government and hence the waterfall came to be known as waterfall 33. Waterfall was situated nearly half a km from the road. We had to go uphill and then go downhill to reach the base. There were two waterfalls separated by a rock wall. even though both fell from same height, their destiny was different. The first waterfall had more quantity of water coming and it crashed on a rock and flowed downward. Second was wider than the first one but had very little water coming and the water flowed into a small pool from where it flowed out very slowly. The water was crystal clear but ice cold.
Next we moved on to Aanakulam or elephant pond which was one of the major tourist attraction of Mankulam. Elephant herds come from the forest to drink water in this pond. According to locals there is a particular spot in the pond where water tastes different probably due to some mineral content and the elephants drink water only from that spot. Each elephant takes turn to drink water from this spot and then they leave together. Elephants come down daily during the summer season. We reached Aanakulam by around 5.30Pm. There were few tea stalls in and around the place and many tourists were waiting to watch the elephant herd. But our guide told us that, since it is monsoon there is less chance of herd coming out.
We were disappointed that we missed the opportunity of seeing the elephants but decided to return without waiting further as we were tired. We reached back by 7pm. It was getting very cold outside. After having dinner, we had a great time singing and dancing around the campfire set up by the home stay people. By 11pm we called it a day and went off to sleep.
Second day, after having morning coffee, we set off to explore the cardamom estates nearby. There was a narrow track through the estate and we walked for nearly 1 km. We could see many mountains at a distance which were covered with thick evergreen forest. We were bitten by tiny leeches during our walk. We managed to brush them away with salt that we had brought with us. A sumptuous breakfast waited for us when we returned to our stay.
After breakfast we went to Tiger’s cave. Believe it or not, Mankulam and forests around are home to numerous caves formed by natural rock formations. Of which, tiger’s cave is the most famous and easily accessible. To reach tiger’s cave we have to walk through dense foliage of bamboo trees and `huge creepers. The thick creepers were fun to climb upon and we could even jump holding on it. After a while the going became tough as we had to pass through narrow passages formed between huge rocks. There is deafening silence and darkness. Tigers cave or pulimada is set right at the end of this rock passage. Natural light enters through a hole on the top. A tiny cascade of water nearby filled the cave with water that almost reached half our knee level. The water is ice cold and we had to wade through the water to reach the cave. After spending some time there we returned.
Next we went to Kainagary waterfalls. The road to Kainagary passes through the midst of tea estates and the travel was a pleasant experience. Kainagary is a beautiful waterfall where people can safely bath. Water is collected in a large man made pool where people can swim. The excess water drains out of the pool and flows down the mountains. Forest guards are there to overlook the activities and help you to find safe place to use. The access to the waterfall is through tickets that can be purchased at the entrance. There is also facility for changing dress. We had a lovely time swimming and bathing in the natural water which was freezing cold. By the time we stepped out , it was time for lunch. We returned back to our stay. After lunch we packed up and left our beautiful home stay.
On our way back to Cochin, we visited Kurishupara near Mankulam, which is a rock situated high up. We have to walk nearly half a kilometre through a narrow path on rocky terrains covered by grass on either side. On reaching the top we experienced a jaw dropping vista of the surrounding mist laden mountains. The cool breeze was very calming and we sat on the rock to enjoy the mountain view. It was a heavenly experience. We left the place around 3.45pm and reached Cochin by 7.30pm.
Mankulam trip was a wonderful experience. I still couldn’t believe that I missed this place all the years. I have been to Munnar several times but I have never heard of this beautiful place. It is less of a touristy place and hence one can really enjoy the peace and beauty of nature. Best part of Mankulam is that it is just a 31/2 hrs drive from Cochin and so a perfect weekend getaway for the people in the city.
- Four wheelers will go upto Mankulam. At Mankulam , it is safe to hire a local jeep as the places I have mentioned are at remote places and not easily discoverable. Roads are very narrow and steep.
- One can reach Mankulam by bus too. There is one Ksrtc bus that starts at 6.30 Am from Mankulam to Cochin and then returns back to Mankulam by evening. On the way back it first goes to Munnar and then comes to Mankulam.
- Ksrtc buses are more frequently available to Adimaly. From Adimaly , private buses ply to Mankulam every hour.
- You can also get down at Kallar if you catch a Munnar bus and then from Kallar hire an auto to reach Mankulam (600 – 750 RS)
- Jeeps charge 2500 Rs for an entire day of sightseeing. But some charge you upto 4000 Rs. 9 people can easily travel in a jeep. Our driver Cijo charges 2500 Rs (Mob: 80782 98598)
- Various homestays are available in and around Mankulam as well as Anakulam. Mankulam is more cooler at night. Advantage of staying at Anakulam is that if you are lucky enough you will be able to witness the elephants out to drink water if you stay close to it.
- Whispering glade room charges are 2500-4000 for two people. For groups it is 1600 per head including breakfast ,lunch and dinner. Upto 10-12 peopla can stay confortably. More than that will be create overcrowding. (Mob: 8330038117). At Aanakulam, home stays are more cheaper (4000 for 10 persons without food).