Kerala is one of the prime tourist destinations in India. Known as God’s own country and surrounded by the Western Ghats and Arabian sea, Kerala is blessed with different land terrains that make it a place to visit and relax in nature.
Thrissur district of Kerala is famous as the cultural capital of Kerala and not much explored as a tourist destination. The festivals like Thrissur pooram and art forms like Pulikali, as I mentioned in the blogs before, are the major events that attract many people to Thrissur.
Thrissur, which also has mountainous terrain and coastal lands, has a great forest cover and are connected at different locations in the district. the famous tourist spots including these forest areas are listed in the official site of Kerala Forest and Wildlife Department. Most of such places are wildlife sanctuaries and has a dam close to it to collect and distribute water throughout the year.
Asurakundu dam is one such destination, surrounded by forest and a dam in the center. Asurankundu got famous through social media for its canals with steps built as a waterway creating a beautiful waterfall scene in and after monsoon.
The entire area comes under the Kerala Department of Forest and Wildlife. It is this forest that attracted me the most with its shadow-monster [do watch The Stranger Things, its good!] like trees.
What makes this forest special? That’s what this blog is about, a half-day spent in Asurankundu.
Starting from Thrissur, my plan was to visit the place alone and come back by evening. But then, someone decided to join me at the last minute, none other than my mother. I did ask her if she would like to but didn’t insist much since I had the plan of walking around the forest and she is not very well to walk much with her legs that pain [age problems].
Anyhow, when I reached back home from the store, she was ready in her colourful Saree, something which I specifically told her not to wear [a saree, not the colour] when she confirmed on the phone she is coming.
So, we started our trip from Thrissur around 2 in the noon and made a stop at Cheruthuruthi to meet a friend, whom I met through Steemit, Devanad (@dexterdev), who was nice enough to make time to come and meet us, have an overload of conversation about way too many things in a hurry, on the roadside. I promise I will make enough time to meet you, unlike that day. But, I must say, it feels good to meet someone in real life whom we know online. So, that’s the first Steemian meeting for me (Y)
Asurankundu Dos and Don’ts
Okay, back to the road to Asurankundu, we were going by bus, and we reached Attur, the main bus stop close to Asurankundu dam. I will write another post about how to reach there since this one is going to be very long.
We took an autorickshaw, the red one that s in the picture, which left us near the dam. There is no entry fee to go to the dam since it is not yet taken over by Kerala tourism. What you do have is a forest department’s checkpoint, which is the last building before it gets completely filled with trees and animals.
There is a well-built-but- filled-with-potholes road that goes till the entry of the dam, which looks like this, and the boards give all about the Dos and Don’ts inside the dam area [in Malayalam].
In almost every few meters, you can see a board on the trees saying, this area is a plastic-free zone. The place is also given on lease for fish farming through a government auction. So, it is illegal to catch fish from there.
Also, there are many message boards to prevent forest fire and the ones that say it is everyone’s responsibility to save these forests. Forest fire is a huge problem and because of that, entry to this area is restricted during the summer season.
Alcohol and other narcotic products are also banned inside this area and specifically going into the water after consuming it since there were such accidents that happened before.
That’s what all the boards say before going inside.
The Fame Part
The water from Asurankundu dam flows to different directions through small canals. The main and huge channel is made of these steps, built in the British era [as said by a local]. The water trailing through these steps makes the beautiful part about Asurakundu dam visit, and is the highlight of social media posts.
Later on, we were told by a local that the best time to visit Asurankundu dam is after the monsoon and when the shutters are closed. That is mostly in October. This time, there will be a green cover over these moist steps that makes a great backdrop, especially for photographers.
This won’t last long since the weather is succeeded by the summer and hot climate.
I went into this water and immediately felt something on the feet. It was these small fish school that came and started cleaning up the fingers. It was a great experience, more like therapy.
The Best Part
Asurankundu is built to collect water that comes from the nearby hills. There is another big dam at Vazhani, which can be reached through the forest range from Asurankundu. It is well connected to other mountain ranges from Akamala and nearby places.
There are trees all around the place. Not just any tree, but the trees that have long hanging branches. Twisted with each other like a rope and very strong. If left alone, it’ll cover the entire place and will choke anything that gets trapped inside of it. But, that is for the human imagination or my own weird imagination.
For others, like the wild squirrels and monkeys, we say inside this forest, its home, and a well-connected transportation system. They hang from one to another and hide well within the green cover.
The Wildlife Part
Have you ever seen a wild squirrel? I hadn’t, and it was the OMG moment when we heard some movement in the treetop. I was climbing those tree hangings, and there it was, the most beautiful creature I have ever seen till then.
The moment we noticed it and was looking up, it made a quick move to another branch and disappeared. It had a bright orange tail and it was huge compared to the normal squirrel we see around us.
After that, it spent some time around those trees and I really wished I had a better camera to capture it forever, it was pretty, really pretty! And I don’t think I will ever get to see one of them again. Nor did I found a picture on Google to show it to anyone. I think it is one of the Malabar giant squirrels.
Later on, when we were walking around, we heard the trees moving and were eager to see it if it was the squirrel again But, it was a monkey instead and the best part is, it didn’t even care we were there. It just walked away into the more dense part of the trees.
Normally, monkeys follow you or come to you expecting to get some food or snatch things from you. Not the ones in Asurankundu, they had an attitude. Something I really was happy to see because in some way, I hope, that meant they have a sustainable eco-system that feeds them well inside this forest.
We were told there are no animals like tiger or lion but wild bison, wolves, and deers roam around. So, from the beautiful waterfall part, we continued our walk through the paved path.
Both sides of this path were filled with trees and it was a steep ascend. The sound of the crickets and insects were the only sound there was and nothing else. It felt like I was disturbing that perfect silence even with the rise and fall of my own breath.
There were these holes made on the small heaps of mud, which seems like the work of snakes. It was a whole another world within the world of animals here.
The scary bit
We had the plan of walking back to the Attur town, from where we can catch the bus. It was a 3Km walk we were pretty sure my mother won’t be able to do it. So, when I saw the steep ascend of the path, I asked her to sit there and let me go and check where it leads to and walk around a bit, and return.
But, no, she walked slowly behind me, took a rest in between and continued walking. It is not a long route, but it can be if you have problems with the knee and ankle. Once when she reached, I did make the casual comment of, this is why I was planning to go alone.
It led to the main road, well paved and maintained. Trees on both sides and no one else on the road since it was a weekday. Just us and the silence. Others who came to visit the dam had started to go and we were not sure where this road was leading.
All the bikes went through this road, so it was pretty clear that it was the exit road. My mother sat there to take some time after the steep climb and while I was looking everywhere to find that squirrel once again.
Two guys on a bike came stopped to ask something and I confirmed from them that this is the road that led to the checkpoint. So, I asked my mother to join me and we decided on calling that rickshaw driver in case it becomes difficult for her to walk.
A few minutes later, one guy from the ones I met before came back to give me the phone number of someone who has more knowledge of this place and conducts classes and help clean the place. So, I tried to make a call only to know there is no network.
It was around five in the evening and we were a bit worried if it’ll get dark before we reach the town. So, just to confirm, I asked him if there are animals in this area. He said “Normally, there are deers and peacocks that come to these roads. This is where we leave the snakes that are caught from these neighboring places too, so there may be a few cobras. But, today, when we were coming, the officers warned us of wolves. They may not come here but just fyi”.
Well, it was just 3 km walk, we can make it faster and reach before it gets dark. Plus, there is no mobile network on any of the phones. So, there is no other option either. But, wolves! Wolves!! WOLVES!!!
They only lived in the stories for me, stories where they hunted down their prey, stories where they used to come to the backyard of my grandfather’s place at night to find their food, and few cartoons where they were just the pack of furry ones who howled.
We kept walking and the place got quiet, completely. We saw the last visitors leave on their bikes. The thoughts started to get me slowly, but then we saw this place with trees that are planted in a row, tall ones, teak I guess.
We continued to walk, I was just wishing someone to pass by who can drop my mother to the end of the road and then I can walk till there alone. Not because I loved that at this point but I knew how helpless I will be if something happens.
And that is when it happened. We heard something moving in the forest and my mother saw the head of this animal, which she says that looed like a wolf. And we could hear it walk, away or close, I have no idea but definitely something was inside those dense plants.
I had already started to shake inside and had no idea what to do. Going back is not an option because we are halfway through and in the middle of nowhere. The road continued with more twists and turns that we enjoyed while coming to the dam.
Both sides of the road are filled with trees and grass. Especially after the rain, it was all dense with leaves and tall grass. One side of the road was uphill and the other side seemed like a valley.
Now, I started walking fast and every possibility of the wolf pack having a nice meal with my limbs kept playing in my mind. I started to look up on to the upper part of the road and then lower to see where they might come from for us.
I asked her if she would like to have a stick or rock in case if something comes to attack. I couldn’t find anything else and to be honest I was just walking in the front hoping I would be enough a meal. There was no one else and no way to contact anyone.
There were all these thoughts where Simba was no more just a cute little king but a hungry mighty beast and the upper part of the road his watch deck. I thought of carrying a rock in hand but what happens I throw away that one?!
And there my mother, poor soul who walked a meter behind me still trying to keep up. I looked back every few seconds and before every new turn. The perfect silence I mentioned earlier, yeah, its not perfect. It was scary now. A leaf falling from those tall trees made such a huge noise.
3 km might sound less but it wasn’t. For sure this road, which is the normal hiking route is a beautiful both for walking and for a ride. But today, it felt an unending journey through a scary land. It went from one turn to another and a few clearings. But it never seemed to end. No sign of nearing the end either.
Until, this stone. Whoever laid it there has no idea the number of blessings they’ve out of gratitude. The amount of relief it gave to my trembling soul that awaited the last moments on this earth. Yup, it was that dramatic in real. It was a survey mark that said Attur 1 km and on the other side, it said, Aurankundu 2km.
1 km is nothing, I used to walk 900meters every day. It should not be a big deal. But, it was. the road continued and that short term relief quickly faded.
Do you know what is the best sound you can hear when you feel lost and alone in the middle of nowhere?! It is the same annoying sound of those motor vehicles, that tak-tak sound. Hearing that felt in the distance was bliss that day.
We finally reached the forest checkpoint and from there it was still a few meters walk. By this time it was around 6 or 6.30 pm and it was not all dark. Luckily, there was an autorickshaw coming to drop someone and after some time it came back.
I quickly stopped it and asked my dear mother to get in. It was hardly 100 meters after that but I really didn’t want to go through what was happening. And she had a good scary and painful walk.
The moment I got in I asked the driver about the animals coming to this place. They said, there are wolves and wild dogs but they don’t attack humans. They usually come for goats and other animals. And they never stop but keeps moving.
But, I was thinking about the pack finding us in the middle of that road unarmed and they wanted to try out something new. Like how we go to a new restaurant open in our area! Maybe give a review to their friends and family!
The human Part
Out in the civilization, it was time when everyone was returning home from their workplaces and Attur is a typical residential area. There were a few people who stood there having a usual evening talk.
The autorickshaw that took us didn’t say a fixed price and asked us to give something that we felt fair. We found a restaurant nearby and went in to have some food.
There also I enquired about the place, animals and what else I should know about the place. The response was more or less the same. There are animals but they don’t come to the road: The main road.
The people who live there are happy about the Kerala tourism overtaking Asurankundu with an eco-tourism plan, which might happen soon. They hope it will bring more business to the area which otherwise is a normal place with basic facilities.
Then I asked the question I always was interested in knowing. Is it safe to travel here alone?
Is It Safe To Travel to Asurankundu Alone?
He said “It is always better to come as a group or at least with someone. There are many different routes through other hills to reach the dam. You never know who comes with what intention. On weekends there’s strict checking at the checkpoint. And those who denied permission for carrying substances that are not allowed may take these routes.
There have been accidents of guys falling into some rocks or water in the past. So, if tourism is expanded here, there will be more safety measures and more regulations. But, no, not go there alone.”
Well, that was the day spent at Asurankundu and I didn’t sleep that night playing those images in mind, not intentionally. But, no matter what, the trees and the squirrels here, with the background music of crickets, this place is special. You have to be there to feel it.
PS: Oh and I almost forgot “And you wanted to come here alone to trek,” said my mom once I saw the checkpoint and left sighed! If I ever have to replace the emoji ” 😏 “, it would be her expression after that dialogue!