Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Agasthyarkoodam Trip - Part VI
On the second day of our trip we wake early from a well-earned sleep, all ready to take on the mighty Agasthya peak. We start early around 6:30 with minimum supplies, which includes lots of food anyway, as we don’t want to be burdened with too much weight through the steep climb that awaits us. We also take only empty bottles since we are told that water can be found in plenty on the way, in places such as Ponkalapara. As we keep going we realize the true beauty and varied specimen of nature that is endemic to this place. Most of us can’t identify any of the plants and flowers that catch our eye. We found trees that weren’t very tall, blooming with violet flowers, spread throughout the hillside.
The major resting point on the way up is called Ponkalapara. By the time we reached the entire area has been covered in mist with strong winds. If we sat down for two minutes we would start shivering and most of us weren’t adequately protected with sweaters. We had let our bigger sweaters behind at Athirumala not wanting to carry the additional burden. That turned out to be a mistake. It was colder that usual that day. At Ponkalapara pilgrims make ‘Pongala’ as offering and carry it to the top which is how the place got the name. After Pongalapara the climb gets unusually steep and dangerous. At a couple of places you have to use all four limbs to make your way up.
The next major point is one of the most amazing places of all - a forest near the top called (aptly) ‘AC Vanam’ as it very cold in there all throughout the day. It is said that the forest is always dripping wet and indeed there is no single dry rock to sit or a dry leaf to see. It is said that due to the numerous medicinal plants present there anyone who spends some time in the AC Vanam will not fall sick for one month. This is the final stop before the final climb to the top.
On days such as this day when there is constant mist the rocks will all be slippery and dripping wet making it even more hazardous. At two places big ropes have been placed for helping people to climb up. Here the strong wind blows upwards to the peak actually helping us to climb.
(To be continued..)