Kerala is an extremely popular destination, especially in winter. But last June, I decided to do a solo trip around the western ghats, to experience the monsoon in its glory.
Vagamon, locally known as Wagamon, was one of the places I decided to visit. Unlike Munnar, this was relatively unknown, and a place that gave me the opportunity to explore off-beat trails and make new friends at the hostel I stayed.
How to reach?
It takes just an overnight bus from Bangalore to reach the Vazhikadavu Bus Stop (Kurishumala Ashram Junction) in Vagamon, and 3-4 hours from Munnar or Kochi.
Where to stay?
I reached the Zostel property by road from Munnar. It was a smooth drive, and the sight of the cute hostel amidst the mountains, was a perfect welcome. With accommodation available between Rs 500-200 on sharing or private basis, it was an easy choice.
Solo trip that turned out to be with friends
As I was on a solo trip around many places in the western ghat, I was quite prepared to go on a solo trail, do my photography, and read a book after coming back to the hostel. But the folks at the hostel were a young lot, and the vibe was very friendly. They had everything chalked out for me - sunset, morning trek, windy trek, off-roading. For the next two days, I was in for an amazing exploratory time with people, I never knew, but made friends with, at Vagamon.
The short hike was for only 10 minutes, preceded by a jeep ride through the town, greenery and rains.
Right after freshening up, I, along with the hostel folks, headed for a short hike (that cost us Rs 120 per head including the jeep charges). The hike led us to a nameless peak. The folks at hostel called the peak Ginamala : mala means peak, and Gina was the name of a Dutch girl who discovered this peak.
As a photographer, I am always fascinated by sunsets. The sunset at Ginamala was pure and serene. I spent a beautiful time with my new friends there. On the way back, we had local fritters at roadside shops, while listening to the rains.
At night, the clouds moved away a bit. I took my tripod to freeze a beautiful moment, while the hostel friends continued to sing and play music.
Moonmala Morning Trek
In the morning, we woke up to a cool weather. A bunch of us went out for a trek on a slightly steep trail to Moonmala.
Relaxing with a view at Vagamon
It was fantastic to share the moments of joy, beauty of nature and the steep trek experience with my newly made friends. This is something I miss on most of solo trips.
After a trek and an auto trip, that cost us Rs 100 per head on both sides, we were hungry. The 'chechi' (sister in Malayalam) at the community kitchen prepared tasty food like home, and we relished it completely.
Afternoon was for relaxing in the balcony of the hostel. I quite enjoyed sitting there by myself and reading a favourite book of mine.
Shrines - Thangal Para, Kurushimala and Muruganmala
Late afternoon, the rain stopped. We hired an auto again, and left for visiting a place, 7 km away (per head Rs 125). This place had religious significance and represented three religions. Thangal Para, Kurushimala and Muruganmala were short hills with shrines, worshipped by the local Muslims, Christians and Hindus. Each of the places had amazing views.
On the way back, we got off at an unknown place, and enjoyed sunset until the evening.
The Windy Trek of Kuvalettam
Next morning, I was excited to go for the windy trek. As the name suggests, this trek through the forest and hills, took us to a peak, where we could hear the wind howling. When the cloud was away, we could see the Idduki dam from the top. This was a long trek for 3.5 hours, but very enjoyable, especially in the company of the hostel friends. The trek should be done with a guide, available outside the Kuvalettam Forest, as one can get lost or meet elephants on the way.
After this trek (cost us Rs 250 per head), we deserved to be famished. We stopped at a local hotel, called Paris hotel in the town, and gorged on local biriyani and other delicacies.
Off-roading to a waterfall
Early evening, we had the jeeps coming for an off-roading experience (Rs 350 per head). It was raining, and the off-roading took us to a waterfall. It was the last evening in Vagamon, and I had an amazing fun time with the people I met there.
Vagamon will remain in my heart for a long time. It was different in monsoon, not crowded and a place I became so fond of. But the experience was enriched a lot by the friends I made at Zostel, Vagamon. The atmosphere was of exchanging genuine vibes - of travel, nature and positivity.
I strongly recommend a visit to Vagamon, when the lockdown is over, and things get back to normalcy.
Keep going places,