Asian Traveller

View of AgasthyaMala peak from Athirumala

On A Divine Trail to Agasthya Mala

Agasthya Mala Peak, also called the Agastyarkoodam is 1868 metres tall. Many rivers including Kararnana, Neyyar and Thamixabharani originate from the peak. Agasthya Mala Peak is also famous for its abundant medicinal plants. R Viswanath takes you to the peak for a trekking experience...

AIthough the yatra season had begun and the train was packed to the core, I somehow managed to reach Thvandxum in the wee hours of that chilly morning. After munching a few appame for breakfast I headed straight away to a pLace caUcd Kottur and aftct a bumpy jeep ride reached a small sleepy hamlet of Kanni tribe settlement called Podium in the afternoon. It is cozily tucked away inside the Peppara wildlife sanctuary about 70 kn from the capital city.

Rofreshing under a perennial waterfall nearby. I reclined over a rock overlooking the hill. The monolithic giant rock face of Agasthya Mala rising above 6300ft was looming in the distance dominating the landscape. I was on an adventurous trek to that sacred hill situated in the heart of the sanctuary. My friend and guide Surendran, for the next few days, narrated a few of the mythological storics reLated to the sacred hiD and the sage Agasthya Spread over 23 sq km Agasthyamabi Biosphere Reserve straddles the borders of Kollam and Thiruvananthapuram districts in Kerala, and Tirunelveli and Kanyakuman Districts In Tamil Nadu, at the southern end of the Western Chats.

The Agasthyamalai Hi11s also called the Ashambu Hills or Agasthyagooduni,. lie at the extreme southern end of the Western Chats mountain range along the western aide of South India. The hills are notable as the habitat for over Z000 species of medicinal plants among which 50 plants arc very rare and declared endangered, The hills are home to a variety of flora and fauna. Rarespecies of orchids are found in the dense forests here. The Agasthya mountain region Is known to show exceptionally high levels of abundance among p4ants many of which are restricted In their distribution. The mountain region receives intense rains for more than
six months.

Over 170 species of plants In undisturbed forests, which Includes over 75 species of canopy trees, 50 species of shrubs and nearly
25 species of lianas and herbs. Clinging on the branches of Cullcnia and Ebecarpus tuberculatus one may see exotic orchids of which there are 25 and more species.
We spotted a few butterflies such as Red Mrnirai, Blue Tiger and Great EFly. Agasthyamala has aLso the orIgins of many rivers like Kallada, Achankoll, Varnanapuram, Karaman.a and Neyyar River in the Kerala side and the Thamirabaranl. Ramanadhi, and Manimuthar In Tamil Nadu side.

Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve Is under consideration by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee for selection as a World Heritage Site.
These hills contain areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance. The hills contain outstanding examples of ecosystems and communities of plants and animals representing significant ecological and biological processes. The bill is blessed with rare species of herbs and medicinal plants.

A very rare and spcaal herbal plant named Are paths (rrlchopus 7eylanlcus) famously known as Plant of Eternal Health. Is a specialty of Agasthyamala, and It attracts many researchers to this area. The sides and slopes of Agasthyakoodam is natuarally gardened with a special type of green herbs. Neelakurinii (Strubbilanthus Kundiyanthus) which usually blooms once in 12 years I, also found here. When It blooms, the entire area will be carpeted with the violet-coloured flower and it is an eye catching sight for the nature lovers.

This place is also home to many endangered species of wild animals, like Lion-Tailed Macaques, Bengal Tiger, Nilgui Marten. Nilgin Tahr, Malabar Spiny Dormouse, Great Pled Hornbills,Gaur, and Sloth Bear. Reptiles found here iridude the Green Calottes, Sklnlts (The Common Blue-tailed skink is found only In thy Wcstem Gbatsi. and snakes like the Bamboo Pit Viper, Shield- Tailed Ocellate, Vine Snake, Rat Snake and the Cobra.
Agastyamala Is home to the Kanikicaran people, one of the oldest sun viighunter-gatherer tribes in the world Agasthyar was a Dravidian sage, and Is considered to be one of the seven Rishis (Saptarishi) of Hindu mythology.

TheTamil language Is considered to be a boon from Agasthyar.
Europeans, particularly those from England, are said to be the first to establish tea garden around the base stations of Agasthyarkoodam at Brimore, Bonacaud and Ponmudi


Kerala Tourlsm-GoAir Deal to Bring More TourIsts

agasthya3

A apart of its aggressive .Ckmarketing strategy, Kerala Tourism signed a Memorandum of Understanding (M0U) with leading Indian carrier Go Air to offer exclusive discounted fares to visitors to Gods Own Country. The MoU, sIgned by P1 Sheik Pareeth, Kerala Tourism Director and Mana Dharmani, GoAir Vice-President under a new Destination Promotion’capitalise on the increasing propensity for travel in the domestic market, will make travelling to the state easier and cheaper.

The offer, applicable only asa bundled packagealong with a Kerala holiday, will be available on GoAir flIghts to Kerala from as many as eight cities, including Delhi, Mumbal, Ahmedabsd, Lucknow, Jaipur and Nagpur. The airline will offer a fixed allocation of seats under the MoU, which has been signed for two years, with the fares reviewed every 3-4 months.

Special fares under the promotional schema will be available for bookings made from September 1 through tour operators accredited by Kerala Tourism. The initial scheme will continue until January 2015. The packages can be booked exclusively from the official Kerala Tourism site wwwJcralatowism.org where a Link will take the user to the list of accredited tour operators, a release stated.
Kerala Tourism Minister A P Anilkurnar, said, 9’he MoU opens a new chapter in domestic tourism. It shows our cotnrnitnient to support the tour operators fraternity in Kerala and other industry stakeholders, as well as our efforts to offer the best services to visitors’.

The timing of the scheme will also ensure that tourists visiting KeraLa are protected from the high cost of air travel during the festival season, he added. Kerala Tourism Secretary Suman Bills said the exclusive discounted fare package to travellers during the peakseason has taken domestic tourism to a new level by eliminating the pressures of the market

Kerala Tourism Director Sheik Pareeth said the MoU is cxpccted to help cvmcnt Kerala’s reputation as a top tourist destination among both international visitors and the Increasingly travel-savvy Indians.

GoAl, Vice-President, Mano Dtiarmanl, said, ‘Our aim Is to positively participate in the growth of tourism in Gods Own Country. We are hoping to bring more tourists, especially from North India to Kerala, which Is he described ass ‘much-sought after dream destination’.

Asian Traveller - September 2014 Edition of the magazine - http://issuu.com/mediastepsindia/docs/asian_traveller_september_2014

Vishwanath Radhakrishna

Summiters was founded  by Vishwanath in the year 2005.  Being an avid nature enthusiast he started this concern as a freelancer and also helped a lot of fellow enthusiasts.  He is a certified Mountaineer  from Nehru institute of mountaineering and trained Wilderness First Responder  from NOLS ; USA.  He conducts wilderness camps in Western ghats , Himalayas and also locally.  He has custom designed  and executed various outdoor based learning activities at school, colleges and corporate levels.  In addition to these, he is a trained passionate PADI scuba diver, a  freelance writer and photographer. His  articles and photographs have been published  in several mainstream news papers and magazines.  He participates at National, International level photo salons and has won several certificate's of merit.

Vishwanath maintains his blogs at: http://.vishwanath.summiters.net/

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