I spend a lot of time on travel groups online, and I have worked in the tourism industry for long. Yet, it took one line from one movie to get me interested in Meesapulimala. The movie was in Malayalam, and reading the subtitles almost made me miss the high ranges that Dulquer Salman motorcycles through. But it was that one dialogue, “Have you seen the misty Meesapulimala?” that had me looking it up.
Starting at 8660 ft in Kerala’s magnificent Idukki district (yes, the one that has Munnar and Periyar and Thekkady), Meesapulimala literally translates to Whiskered Tiger Hill. It is also the third highest peak in the Western Ghats (right after Anamudi and Mannamala) and the highest trekkable one, because the other two you can’t trek up. Don’t dismiss it though – because you are still on top of the clouds at Meesapulimala:
Those in the know, have heard about Meesapulimala. I hadn’t. I only knew about Munnar, and the things you could see around there. But at about 24 km from Munnar town, this one was quite the revelation! You drive up to the Rhodo valley, already mesmerised by the gathering mist and not quite prepared for what lies ahead of the tall pine trees on either side of you.
And then you begin your walk, and have your breath taken away by the beauty. The climb can be tricky, yes, but it becomes worth it when you walk over the lush green fields, by little bubbly streams and past tea plantations, and see the sunrise above the sea of clouds. If you are lucky and in season, you will get to see the Neelakurinji – the purplish blue flower that blooms all over the hills here once every 12 years. In fact, 2018 is the next year of blooming, and you can see the purple-blue carpet of flowers as far as your eyes can see between August and December here. And it isn’t the only thing that will assail your senses. Cool winds bring the musky smell of deer and Nilgiri tahr even as the mist snakes around your feet. Every time the wind clears the mist you get to see a stunning vista ahead of you right up to Anamudi peak, but only for a few minutes as the mist descends again.
However, Meesapulimala had its share of spotlight a little before Dulquer Salman as ‘Charlie’ talked about it. Remember the song Titli from Chennai Express (don’t tell me you haven’t seen the movie! It stars god!)? Yup, shot here! YouTube the song if you need more convincing about the place.
However, if you are travelling to Meesapulimala, book your resort/campsite early because next year the demand will be higher, because, you know, Neelakurinji. Also, you will need a permit from the Kerala Forest Department for the trek, but don’t worry, it’s very easy to get one. The number for the KFDC in Munnar is 04865 230332. They will also give you a professional guide who will be with you every step of the trek. That, you can’t work around! But you will be grateful for the guide, trust me. Especially in the evening because descent is tricky as visibility can get restricted to only about fifteen meters ahead of you.
Oh and that name? Meesapulimala? Locals say that a tribal leader once controlled access to the peak. This guy also hunted tigers here for sport, and hence, it became his ‘mala’ (hill) where he hunted many a whiskered tiger. Some say that the hill gets its name because it looks like a tiger’s face from the villages below. But what’s in the name when the place offers such relentless beauty all around?