The hike wasn’t something we expected, it was very easy. There were roads till the Murugan temple, and from there we followed a small trail behind the temple. This trail led us to a clearing from where we would see the whole Aralvaimozhi pass and the plains ahead of us. The highway cut the plains like a snake which has left a mark on the ground. The Vaigai lake and the Devasahayam mount were visible too.
The rising sun was clearing the mist and it felt like we would see the sea from here. We weren’t sure if it was the sea because of the mist. The clear blue skies, the green shrubs and the yellow sun added a lot of colours to a generally dull weekend morning. The landscape was dotted with windmills. It is said that this is the largest wind farm in the world and definitely windmills are not something we would miss in this landscape.
The first rays of the Sun are always magical. When the sun rises in the plain, the first rays are calm and soothing before the hot rays come in. These few minutes when the switch happens is pure magic to watch. The sun’s rays first fall on taller objects and slowly spread to low lying earth. These few minutes of transition when the hills and windmills are yellow because of the sun rays directly hitting them and the land being bit dark, since there is no direct sunlight yet. That is the moment, you will have to watch for. Wait in the plains and wait for the sun’s rays to directly fall on you. Those few minutes, Sun makes the whole landscape glow as if covered in gold.
For a change today, we were able to enjoy this moment watching from a higher altitude. After spending some time there we started walking down. The sun’s rays had started becoming hotter. On our way back, we found another trail disappearing into the hills. We had brought water and energy bars for the trek and since we were not tired after this small hike, our minds wanted some more adventure. And so we decided to enter this trail.
These mountains are the last of the western ghats and we were in the rain shadow region. It didn’t have a thick forest in it. These were just thorny shrubs, and we had never heard of any wild animals here. So we ventured into this trail. The trail disappeared so soon. It felt like the trail was not in use for a long time and it was covered by these shrubs.
Our curiosity led us deeper into the trail. Within a few minutes we thought we were smarter than the trail and left it and thought we would be able to reach the place wherever the trail was taking us. We would have walked around a few hundred metres and we were completely lost. In the middle of nowhere, we were just between some thorny shrubs. The road we were supposed to reach was completely in sight just a few hundred metres away, but reaching it was difficult because of the shrubs.
We got ourself into a very weird kind of situation. We still didn’t realise the seriousness of the situation. To get out of the shrubs, we made another bad decision of not going in the same path we reached here and went forward in a new path. It felt like a shortcut to reach the road. We didn’t realise what we got into at this point in time. Once we started making our own trail, walking back even though physically possible our mind stops to take a foot back. We somehow wanted to reach the road in the new path we decided however stupid the decision was. We had to jump over small rocks and land directly on thorns. We used sticks to keep the thorny branches from hitting us back and landing on thorns knowingly hoping our footwear would not allow them inside.
What should have taken just 10 minutes to reach back, we crossed in 30 minutes of struggle. Both of us were wearing shorts and we had to take all the scratches from these thorns on our skins. By the time we reached the road, the sun was well up in the sky and we were bruised in multiple places. Luckily none of us were hurt seriously but we had pain in our legs for the next three days because of the bruises left by this adventure.
During all this adventure, I spotted a row of stones arranged similar to a wall. At first I thought it was some random wall, but then I was able to identify pieces of this wall going on for sometime. It looked like a fort wall. But I was not aware of any such fortifications on this side of the hills. The currently existing Vattakottai fort and Udayagiri fort were all at least 30 kilometres away from this hill.
Then I had to ask the almighty Google about what I discovered here. Apparently what we saw was the remaining pieces of history of a fort built by the Dutch naval commander Eustachius De Lannoy in 1774 AD commissioned by the then King of Travancore. The fort extended from Kanyakumari to Aralvaimozhi for about 26 kilmosters guarding the Travancore kingdom from the plains. Currently the remains of the forts are found in Murugan Kundram, and Aralvaimozhi and we had accidentally walked into this piece of history.
Aralvaimozhi is the last mountain pass in mainland India which allows people to cross the Western ghats. And historically like any other pass, this also had strategic significance for the defence of the country. So it makes sense why this place was fortified. And also due to its geographical features, it receives a lot of wind, which is now materialised with the wind farms here.
Its all believed that the Madurai Meenakshi Amman was kept in a temple in this town when the temple was raided by a foreign army.