Having just finished an exhilarating trek with an all girls’ World Challenge team from Pretoria, I’m tired to my bones. World Challenge is an organization which believes that education lies beyond textbooks. They seek to add real value to students’ lives by broadening their world outlook through travel. WC teams travel abroad for 2 weeks of social work and 3 days of sports activities. Kalypso Adventures had facilitated the challenge for the school.
Day 1: Starting point – Kochi, Kerala
The trek started at 6:00 AM, when the bus came to pick us up from Kochi. The girls had just finished their social work the day before, so they were exhausted. Most of them were asleep during the 5 hour long bus ride to Munnar.
On the way, we stopped at the elephant training camp and saw a couple of playful pachyderms taking a bath. At around 2:00 PM, we finally arrived at the grassland, the starting point of the trek. The grassland, true to its name, is a vast carpet of tall grass. Our guides, Habib and Raghu, informed us that elephants graze there. I must admit my heart skipped a beat, but I was quickly reassured. The elephants don’t come there often.
We wore our leeches’ socks and set off after a quick warm up.
The grass was taller than me; I felt like Alice in Wonderland. Some of the leeches were quite pesky and they got to us in spite of the socks, but we barely noticed. After 3 hours of trek, we reached the camp at Suryanelli where we were welcomed with refreshing lemon juice.
Dinner at camp was out of this world – chicken masala, vegetable curry and rice. The girls pitched their own tents and we did a bit of team building games as well.
Day 2: Suryanelli to Shatanapara
The day after, we started a slow trek through the cardamom and pepper plantations. I tasted some raw peppercorns directly from the plant; I was surprised to find that they taste really mild, it is the drying that brings out the flavor. We took the road and got to meet a lot of friendly locals. Kids followed us, spoke with us, and wanted to shake our hands. They were also glad to pose for some pictures with us.
During the trek, we got to see some endemic butterflies and birds. Thankfully, there were no leeches.
At the end of the day, we got to the second campsite at Shatanpara where we were again welcomed with lemon juice. We had lovely dal and chicken curry dinner by the fireside, while listening to exotic music which came from a temple far away. Heaven!
Day 3: Shatanpara to Chaturangapara
The last day was the most challenging one. We climbed two small mountains and also walked through the Sholas. The cardamom plantation revealed many beauteous sights to us – a Hornbill, a giant Malabar squirrel, several beautiful butterflies and tropical flowers. Our trek took us to the border of Kerala and Tamilnadu, so we had an exceptional view of both these beautiful states.
After about an hour in the sholas, the birds started singing. Raghu and Habib reminded us that we may spot some wild animals, so we must tread cautiously. Apparently, if the birds stop singing, it is a sign that there is wildlife close by. We were a little apprehensive when we saw the trees moving, but when we saw the flying macaque monkeys leaping across the trees, we burst out laughing. What a relief!
Back at the Chaturangapara campsite, the girls had to take charge of cooking for the final day of the trek. We had yummy soy sauce chicken and vegetables with noodles.
The trek was an unforgettable experience. The sights that I saw, the people I met and the flavors that I tasted will remain fresh in my mind forever. This trek will always be one of my most cherished memories and I cannot wait to do it again.
Elsa Peter is a travel intern at Kalypso Adventures. She loves organizing and taking part in cycling, trekking, kayaking and other adventure activities at Kalypso.