It's tough (and cloudy) at the top
Ramakalmedu (Kerala, India)
Member Name: koshkha
Ramakalmedu (Kerala, India)
Advantages: Beautiful views and near total peace and quiet
Disadvantages: It's a hill - you look at the view, you wander around and then that's it! All done.
~In the Footsteps of Ram~
Ramakkalmedu is a tiny village in the Idukki district of Kerala close to the border with the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu. I incorrectly assumed that it was the name of the hill which I wanted to review, but then discovered on further investigation that it's actually the area that includes the hill rather than the hill itself. Since you can see the entire area from the hill, I'm not going to fret too much over my geographical inaccuracy.
We found ourselves in the area because the tour company who arranged a few days for us in Kerala chose a hotel located at the foot of the hill, between the hill and the nearby 'footprints of Ram' which we didn't have time to see. The footprints are the origin of the name Ramakkalmedu which means literally Ram's foot prints, Ram being the Hindu god who is the hero of the epic tale called the Ramayana.
~Blowing away the cobwebs~
Indian visitors apparently love to visit Ramakkalmedu because of the winds that cool the area. I would imagine large parts of the UK ought to be thronging with Indian tourists because we have no shortage of the blowy stuff over here. The local wind speed is clocked at an average of 25 kmph and I can only assume it's because the hills of Kerala hit the plane of Tamil Nadu in a sharp ridge which probably confuses the heck out of the local air patterns. It's supposed to be a good place for paragliding too but I think I'd want to be sure someone was around to drive me back up those hills again after I landed. I also prefer to avoid so-called 'adventure sports' in countries where the locals believe in reincarnation. Evidence of how windy it is can be seen in the proliferation of wind farms in both states which can be seen from the hill. In the village where I live you'd think the world was coming to an end when someone proposed building a couple of windmills, but clearly the locals are a bit more progressive over there.
We arrived after a long day of driving and sightseeing having left the hill town of Munnar and driven to Thekkady where we rode elephants and had a swish lunch. The distance from Thekkady is about 45 km and will take over an hour. The nearest railway station is twice as far away in Changanacherry and the nearest airport in Madurai 140 km away or Kochi 190 km away. This is not a place you'd just stumble across if you weren't determined to get there.
When we arrived in Ramakkalmedu our driver pointed to the hotel and then headed straight up the hill to the viewpoint. As it turned out this was a very wise decision on his part because we soon learned that the amazing winds were really good at blowing clouds in at high speed. If we'd dropped our bags and checked in at the hotel, perhaps thinking to head up the hill later to catch the sunset from the hilltop, all we'd have seen would have been the inside of a large, damp cloud.
~Lazy hill climbing~
It's possible to drive most of the way up the hill without needing to get out. Your car will inevitably come out looking like it's been in a fight with a henna monster because the soil is deep, rich red in colour and almost all Indian taxis are white. Suffice to say ours was far from white by the time it had been up and down the hill. We were dropped at the parking spot and waved towards the statue that marks the highest point of the hill, a giant rock sculpture of a man and woman. A lot of post visit 'googling' identified these characters as Kuruvan and Kuruthy though I failed totally to find out WHO they were supposed to be or have been.
Leaving the car we were slightly concerned by a gang of dogs hanging around on the path to the top of the hill. I'm not one who dwells on thoughts of rabies and the like but I was a little wary and tried to keep away from them. Dogs were not the only wildlife wandering around; there were some white hairy goats who were getting less white in the red mud, a few cows and even a couple of lads on a horse who wanted to sell us a ride though we weren't sure where to and were not tempted by the lack of a saddle or the sad look the horse greeted us with though we did laugh when the boys fell off which may have been unkind.
~Views from the Top~
The area around the hill is lush and green and evidence of the wind power could be seen in the rows of windmills turning gracefully on the hillsides and on the distant plane below. There is another ridge of hills in the distance which were peeping through the wispier clouds but the space between our ridge and that distant one was occupied by a low, broad valley with fields.
We moved towards the giant statue of the couple and found a plaque which may well have been explaining who they were and why they were there but only in a local language. We took photos quickly, looking over our shoulders towards the cloud which was rolling towards us at great speed. We watched the goats eating the bushes, the boys falling off the horse and the cattle quietly ignoring everyone and everything around them.
As a viewpoint, the hill is spectacular. We'd attempted a view point on the border between the two states the day before and found ourselves inside a cloud barely able to see our hands in front of our faces. This beautiful and peaceful spot is well worth a visit if you are in the area, but I couldn't really say it's worth a long drive out of your way if you're not. Luckily we made it back to the car before the entire hill was enfolded in the clouds and were happy to head down to the hotel and warm up again after a damp and cool time taking photos.
Summary: If you find yourself in the area - which isn't very likely - it's well worth a visit