A mere one and a half hour’s road journey separates the beaches of Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) from the invigorating climate of Ponmudi Hills. The name Ponmudi, a hill station so close to the sea, in Malayalam means golden crown.
On the way to Ponmudi, the thick tropical forest greets one at the foot of the Ponmudi hill range. The road passes under a canopy of thickly matted foliage. The forest recedes gradually giving way to neatly clipped tea bushes.
As one leaves the city behind, one enters the region of plantations – rubber, pepper, cardamom and tea. The change is abrupt. The tappers can be seen going about briskly gathering the milky fluid from rubber trees collected in coconut shells. Coconut thatch mats cover almost one half of the road, over which women spread black pepper for drying. One may come across a lone elephant ambling along carrying his mahout atop and his breakfast of coconut thatch in his trunk.
Tea estates at Ponmudi are not as big as those in the Munnar hills. Large water sprays shower the gardens. The ‘mate’, a septuagenarian shading himself with an umbrella, can be seen reading aloud the day’s news to the pickers. The pickers, in response, either grunt indicating disapproval of the news item or remain silent in agreement.
Trekking to the north of Ponmudi Crest, one passes along a mini zoo, primarily of barasinghas, on the edge of the forest. Entering the forest, the verdant shades of green numb the senses, as does the avian orchestra. The brilliant red southern trongon dot the trees like flowers. The air is full with the loud raucous chuckling of heavy billed Malabar hornbills. The shrill notes of the blue-black Malabar whistling thrush add to the cacophony. Even the rare long-tailed paradise flycatchers flit gracefully from tree to tree. It is like an open aviary.
How to reach
Ponmudi is 61 km from Thiruvananthapuram. It is within easy driving distance from Kovalam.
Where to stay
There is a small tourist complex of guesthouses with 24 rooms and 10 stone cottages perched on the hillside which make for very comfortable lodging at Ponmudi.