by Sudha Chandrasekaran
(Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India)
Conquering Kollimalai – A pleasant car drive on The Mountain of Death!
Wanting to break the monotony of our daily chores we planned on a trip to some nearby place for two nights. After brainstorming a couple of genres we decided on mountains and finalized Kolli Hills as ‘the’ destination. The two night stay was a memorable one. The main advantage of our staying in Coimbatore is its vicinity to several tourist destinations including Kollimalai which is at a distance of just 235 kilometers from here.
Kolli Hills, as known in English is one of the lesser known hill stations located at 1400M above sea level, in Tamil Nadu’s Namakkal district. It still upholds its natural charm devoid of the commercial incursion. Known informally as The Mountain of Death owing to 70 consecutive hairpin bends on its way, Kollimalai Ghat Road is one of the most adventurous mountain roads, 46.7 kilometers in length.
Finally, the day arrived, and we started by road from Coimbatore around 7.30 am after breakfast. Crossing the town of Nammakal, we proceeded towards Kolli’s foothill which is at a distance of 55 kilometers from Nammakal. This idyllic passage passes through the highway that cleaves through rocky hill ranges... To complement the roads, there are paddy fields on both sides. The rural backdrop and pleasant weather makes it an enjoyable drive. Soon we started our climb on the most eagerly awaited Ghat section. The ride on the Ghat section was absolutely thrilling as we crossed the hairpin bends one after another, with each one of them being unique. Midway through the uphill ride, we encountered few viewpoints and we spent 15 minutes at the viewpoints clicking pictures and absorbing the view of surroundings.
On nearing the Kolli Hills Range, we do notice a change in humidity, with breeze emanating the medicinal smell of rare herbs, found in Kollimalai alone. It took us around 90 minutes to reach the town. Sumptuous lunch at the resort and off we were to Semmedu view point.
Seeku Parai View Point or Semmedu view point: Seeku parai view point is 2 kilometers from Semmedu. The access road to the view point is very narrow. On reaching there you find it to be a very scenic view point wherein we can view the continuous range of mountains all around and see the plains of Namakkal. But we have to be extremely cautious when climbing the watch tower there, which gives us a breath taking view of 360 degrees of Kolli hills. This peaceful place, connects you to the nature. We see that most of the hills are covered with pepper plants and a rich collection of edible fruits including jackfruit. The locals however do not seem to be swayed by its beauty and call it the 'suicide point'!! Watching the sun set behind the hills was just awesome! The view of the hills change with each angle of the rays of sunlight and it is captivating…..
We drove to Botanical Garden, but they were closed and hence returned to our resort and had a peaceful evening. Its main highlights are a beautiful Rose Garden, a majestic view point, eco-friendly cottages, boat house and a fun-filled Children’s Park. Thanks to Pandemic... It had still not re-opened.
We could not make it to Tampcol Medicinal Farm and Siddha Caves as the previous one had not yet reopened and we could not see the later one owing to paucity of time. Felt rather disappointed on this
Day 2: Admiring the beauty of the hills from a couple of view points and clicking away the mesmerizing view, finally we found ourselves at a peak where a board directed us to Arapaleeswarar Koil & Aagaya Gangai.
The Arapaleeswarar Temple: Located at Periakoviloor, in the vicinity of Agaya Gangai waterfall, is Arapaleeswarar Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and is opened only during the prayer times. The temple, built in the 1st or 2nd century AD by the then ruler Valvil Ori has a secret path to a Shiva Temple in Rasipuram.
Aagaya Gangai, meaning “Ganges from the skies’ is a 300- feet tall waterfall and hence rightly signifies its name. Located near the Arapaleeswarar temple, the silvery cascade is not easily reachable as it takes around 1000 steps to reach the bottom of the falls. The path leading to the waterfalls from Arapaleeswarar Temple is around one kilometer. Water cascading from a height of around 300 feet gets mixed up with rare herbs through its path of flow. Taking a bath here is supposed to rejuvenate us. Naturally it means a steep ascent and descent. Descent is definitely better than the ascent... Pretty tough!! After our return from the temple we proceeded towards the Agaya Gangai Falls. Climbing down was not tough. There were some impressive viewpoints as the path went swirling down!!! After descending the entire path... Voila, I stood mesmerized on seeing the waterfall from a distance! Just a few more steps to go... and the final lap was a walk through the pebbles and rocks and there it was the magnificent Agaya Gangai in all its glory!!!
Masila Falls is popular with the families as a safe and fun waterfall and is set amidst the dense green forests of the Eastern Ghats in Kolli Hills...Though water cascades from less than 200 feet here, tourists, especially women, enjoy taking bath in the natural herbal falls. Better not to forget to have the herbal soup and paniyaram - cheap and delicious-which is freshly prepared and sold by the tribal ladies on the way to the falls. It was no doubt yummy!!! We went there early morning and drenched ourselves for long time... The rocks in the Falls are not slippery. Instead of disappointing elderly and kids with Agaya Gangai falls owing to the steep descent and ascent, better take them here to have fun. A concrete pathway leads right up to the waterfall and a nominal parking fee is charged for the vehicles.
Ettukai Amman Temple, near Masila falls, is an excellent ancient temple hidden inside the forest area in Kolli hills. Also known as Kollipaavai (Maiden of Death), Ettukai Amman, meaning Goddess with eight hands’ is the protector of Kolli hills and is considered to be powerful among the locals. The temple is located on a small mountain and is surrounded by beautiful farms and forest. Never miss this temple when you happen to visit Kolli hills. The temple attracts numerous pilgrims on Amavasya (No moon) days. The temple is a hut with a palm leaf roof and the Goddess is supposed to have been guarding the hills since time immemorial and Her protection continues till this day.
There are several viewpoints and Namma Aruvi (Our falls) is one which can be seen from a distance from one of the view points. The glorious beauty of Namma Aruvi Waterfalls amid the flourishing green landscapes is a visual treat! Reaching close to the falls is a tad difficult as there are numerous diversions with no proper sign boards. A distance of 100 meters is to be covered to reach the falls. A great place for trekking and hiking no doubt.....
The strange folklores surrounding the Hills; its flora and fauna; the mesmerizing landscapes along with the pleasant weather make Kolli Hills a unique and special place to be visited in South India. Completely devoid of commercial tourism, the serenity and beauty of the hills still remain untouched. There are not many schools here and you can find a small market place and a few convenient stores selling basic items. With not much of activities after sunset the town is off to sleep quite early. Tourists can shop for coffee, pepper, rice and honey here.
Head to Kolli hills, a place shrouded in mists, long jungle trails, bells of temples and ashrams and breathe the fresh mountain air. Kolli Hills needs no reason to travel to. That is reason enough. The best time to visit these Hills is between February and December, even though it can be visited throughout the year as well... We returned to Coimbatore fully rejuvenated!*****