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Meghamalai - The hidden gem of Western Ghats

9 min read • 20th July 2016
Beautiful roads that we hiked

Meghamalai, popularly called the Highwavy Mountains, is a mountain range situated in the Western Ghats in Theni district, Tamil Nadu near to Kumily, Kerala. It is dotted with cardamom plantations and tea estates. This post is about our road trip to this beautiful place and its surrounding.

Link to this sectionThe start to the trip

Over lunch on a Friday, someone started a conversation: "This weekend we must plan a road trip and take a break from the usual routine". The same day at 3 PM things started to fall in place. This was my first unplanned trip. And that was a long trip to Meghamalai - with no packed clothes, no DSLRs to talk through the lens, nothing! We hurriedly started our Rapid at 3:30 PM. Bhagi grabbed a few dresses from his room that was nearby. And our trip kick-started with Ganesh (captain of the trip), Kathir (seat fighter guy), Bhagirath (the nice guy), Shanmugam and myself.

The team of 5 who made this this road trip
The squad for this road trip

En route, we booked our resort, filled up fuel, took cash from ATM. A quick halt at a few shops, we bought our clothes, and some snacks to munch on the way.

It was 11 PM and the dinner bells rang down our stomach, and that resulted in our first halt at a small outlet (Ganesh Murugan Hotel, we halted since it was phonetically similar to Rajini Murugan Tea stall) on the bypass close to Dindigul toll. A couple of amazing omelettes and dosas fulfilled our long-standing hunger! We decided to retire driving for the night and halted at Theni.

Link to this sectionTheni — Meghamalai: The best part of our journey

The next day we decided to do our hunt to nearby areas as Kumbakarai falls, Sothuparai dam and Suruli falls if time permits. Our first destination was Kumbakarai for our morning bath, where we found that the roads were extremely nature covered, though our destination didn't have enough water for us?. But nature had other plans for us telling us — "Guysss! It is time to change your Facebook profile pics".

A picturesque road that has trees on both sides on the way to a small waterfalls
En route to a small waterfalls

With loads of memorable pictures, we moved on to the next halt — Sothuparai Dam. Though there wasn't much water there either, there was a stream that ensured we could lay ourselves into it for a good bath. There were a couple of young boys who kept jumping from small piers into the water and were enjoying themselves, reminding us about our nostalgic moments of olden days! The watch stuck 1 and told us to start for lunch. We moved on with those beautiful memories.

Link to this sectionLunch

Randomly we got into a hotel in Theni — a restaurant called Kootanchoru. Kootanchoru aka kadamba sadam, is a Tirunelveli famous dish. Apparently, folks from Tirunelveli prepare this dish, which is rice+vegetables, for picnic/trips and for guests and is one of the best foods for travel. One of the most memorable things that happened on the trip was "food". Especially Theni's famous dishes! The blend of spices, recipes and love made us fill our tummies with full delight! The Chicken biryani, Mutton Chukka and Chicken roast were the highlights at Kootanchoru. How did I forget the Veechu Parrota and the mouth-watering Chicken Gravy! By the time we finished we just had 2 hours to reach the next halt — Meghamalai's forest check-post.

Kootanchoru hotel where we had our lunch
Hotel Kootanchoru where we had our amazing lunch

Link to this sectionThe amazing drive uphill

At 5 PM we reached the destination's entry point. We were waiting for this to happen for a long time. After getting ourselves verified at the Forest check post and getting a go-ahead, we moved uphill. Trust me, this is something scary, thrilling, fantastic, sometimes worrying, but completely enjoyable stretch to drive. The roads meant we had to be very patient driving uphill. To our surprise, we got to know that the Tamilnadu government also operates SETC buses on this route. Big kudos to the drivers who are on duty there!

Halting at every viewpoint gave us a lot of memorable moments. A few Bikers from Cochi mounted on their Royal Enfield's too made the trip with us. The 20 km ride from the foot of the mountain until our resort was probably the best time of my life! For the best part of our travel, the resort also provided us with rooms with windows that oversee the valley beneath us.

A sunrise at 6 AM in the morning which is viewed from our stay.
Amazing morning sunrise view from our resort

Link to this sectionThe amazing stay

We learnt how to be patient, how to be controlled, not to depend on phones, trust each other, help each other and ensure we eat the famous food in town ?. The night we reached, there was a moderate downpour which restricted our journey further, so we decided to abandon the idea of Night Safari into the forest and think of dinner. Saran, a 9th standard kid had come back to the resort where his grandmother is a cook, helped us with the food. He aspires to be a Doctor. Hopefully one day he does.

The next day we were told that there would be a government bus in the morning between 6 AM — 7 AM that goes to the Meghamalai Village and far beyond and also that a Maruti Swift that took the roads was stuck in the middle of the muddy roads. We either had to rent a Jeep, for which we didn't have the cash to, or spend a meagre amount and take the bus.

The rains kept us indoors and we missed our first bus, and thus decided to stay indoors and start back to Chennai by 12 PM. What a mistake it would have been, had we left! By 10:30 AM, each one of us was bored to sit inside and keep staring at each other's faces and play cards.

Link to this sectionThe hike up to Meghamalai Village

By the time the rains stopped, we decided to go for a walk up to 4 km where there is the actual Meghamalai village. 4 became 6, 6 became 8 and yet we walked with the energy abstracted from the surrounding nature. We hiked actually - my first! Localities told us, moving 1 more kilometre we could refresh at a canteen. We went forward in search of the canteen. With a heavy thud, a government bus came to our rescue, and we decided to board the bus and travel another 15 km to "Highwavys Dam". A place where the clouds settle in for 20 minutes and immediately leave the place in 2 minutes as though nothing had happened. The clouds would touch your face, that feeling is enough to say you have had a good trip! That feel ensured that we have visited Meghamalai one hundred per cent!

Link to this sectionOur heart-breaking return

We then had to make our return back to the resort with the help of a Jeep and the man behind the wheels was so polite enough to take us offering with "Ungalaala evalo kuduka mudiyumo kudunga Sir" (Whatever you can offer me, I will take it, Sir). Reaching back to the resort, was probably the most heartbreaking thing that has ever happened to each one of us. We never wanted to get back to Chennai nor even move our asses out of the resort.

The pure water that drips from the hills, the clouds that touch our faces, signs of no telephone network, the silent valley and the hills which gave us sweet sunrise, the beautiful birds chirping in the morning and the rarest sounds of vehicles were probably being missed while I write this story.

Village road with farms on both sides and a single tree for shade during summer.
En route Meghamalai to Theni

The locals suggest the best time to visit Meghamalai is between Late Dec and till May or June as the rains would be lesser around this period. Be ready to face muddy roads at some places and sometimes, only stones to move your vehicles onward. Hiring a vehicle (Jeep) from Chinnamannur or Theni is a better choice. *

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