Trek up to the World’s Highest Organic Tea Estate in Kolukkumalai for an inexplicable experience!
I never thought I could ever get high on Tea. In fact for that matter, anyone who treks up to the World’s Highest Organic Tea Estate will surely get high. Shades of green, Tall Pine and Eucalyptus trees, acres of tea bushes, freshwater streams from Kurangini Range of mountains and misty clouds all over the place left me spellbound.
Located at a height of approximately 6800 ft, this tea estate was built in 1935 but the farming in the area is being done for 150 years. Kolukkumalai is a village in Tamil Nadu, which is also accessible from Munnar (Kerala). The place is primarily known for trekking but also has Jeep safari options and stay on top where the Tea Estate is situated. Once you reach the campsite, there is another trek of about 3 km to view the most enchanting and scintillating sunrise. The Sunrise is the highlight of Kolukkumalai. Amidst clouds and number of peaks, the sight is beyond words. If you are a nature lover, trust me you will never want to come down. About 15 km of a challenging trek is worthwhile. The Jeep safari on a bumpy dirt track also takes you through the same route covering misty estate and is also one of the most thrilling experiences. The trek and Jeep safari both start at a height of 3800 ft above sea level. Jeep ride takes you up through 40-45 hairpin bends so be ready for that adrenaline rush. The misty cloudy Kurangini mountains, Chirping birds, steep trails, lush green tea bushes, the whole atmosphere is like a dream painting.
How to reach
Kolukkumalai is at the hills of Kurangini Range of mountains. Suryanelli is the base location which can be reached only by jeep from Bodiyakanur. Theni, in Tamil Nadu, is the nearest town from where the local buses ply to Bodi. Theni can be reached from various locations. All major State Road Transport Corporation buses ply to and from Theni. It is about 450 km from Bangalore, 570 km from Chennai and just 100 km from Munnar in Kerala. Try to grab a window seat when travelling from Theni to Bodi to admire the mesmerizing landscapes en route. The U-pin bends, curvy roads, cloudy valleys, tall trees, the beautiful sky should not be missed.
The Wonder Trek
I read many blogs before heading for the trek. Most of the blogs /information said it is an easy trek and is about 10-14 km. Well, it depends on your fitness level; not only for me but for my fellow trekkers also the trek route level is moderate to difficult. My Garmin smart watch recorded 33000 plus steps which mean it was nearly a 20 km trek one way. It took about 5 hours to reach the campsite, though taking loads of photos and videos en route. Yes! Everyone becomes a photographer here; the natural beauty all around doesn’t need any special skills to capture those landscapes.
We left Bangalore on a Friday night by road transport bus for an overnight journey to Theni. By 7 am we were in Theni and checked in to a small hotel for wash and change. Whenever we trek, we look for a local place for food. Not only they serve authentic food but its usually clean as they normally are fast-moving.
After finishing our breakfast we headed to the old bus stop of Theni to board the bus for Bodi. It took nearly an hour to reach there. At Bodi, the Jeeps were waiting for us for that adventurous ride till Suryanelli which also took about an hour as it was drizzling all through. The curves and bends made the jeeps to go slow in misty rainy weather. But I was enjoying the ride thoroughly as the route has some scintillating views.
Once you reach Suryanelli, you have to buy tickets (pre-booked) to stay at the campsite. We refueled ourselves with oranges and energy bars which we had carried along with us. Please note there no restaurants at this place, you have to carry your lunch too if required.
The Trek Route
The trek starts at 3800 ft high above the sea level. Since it was raining and was really misty all through the route it became little slushy and a difficult trek. For the first time, I encountered leeches. Passing through beautiful tea gardens, foggy trails, some dense and dark forest route and water streams we reached our campsite by 5.30 pm and half of our group members who slowly reached by 6.30 pm. It was really dark by then with no lights.
An amazingly refreshing freshly brewed organic lemon tea with banana fritters was waiting for us. We attacked, as the hunger pangs were really killing us after the trek.
The dinner was also ready by then and we decided to finish dinner early so that we can retire for another long day the next day. Our accommodation was in comfortable tents with sleeping bags.We started at 5 am the next day to get a glimpse of the famous Kolukkumalai Sunrise but since it was cloudy we couldn’t witness it. However, the view from that height was unexpectedly beautiful. It was another trek of 3 km and it took nearly an hour. The wide range of Kurangini Mountains and lush green tea gardens, Oh! I missed a heartbeat. We spent some time there to take photos from all possible angles, time-lapse, videos and used all our creativity to capture some memorable moments.
The only campsite is well equipped with wash and bath facility and full-fledged running kitchen. The sumptuous meals are served all the time with of course the most delicious tea I have ever had. It was time to visit the Tea Factory. Built in 1935, the factory is still in working condition with old machines producing the finest organic tea.
Normally, the descend takes lesser time and weather was also clear the next day. We came down pretty fast. While coming down, not to miss, there is a ridge which divides Kurangini range between the two states Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The end of the ridge has a Tiger Face Rock and to pose yourself with that rock will give you adrenaline rush big time. You will literally have to stand at the edge to get a good photo, but it is worth it.
One should keep venturing out and try to escape to such beautiful locations. Trust me no one wanted to come back. The place can easily be called as heaven on earth. The spectacular view of clouds over the mountains with steep slopes of tea gardens at the bottom is a dream-like experience. The trek was very well organised by Treks Unlimited.
- Ensure your stay in advance.
- Though it says easy-moderate trek, it takes good 4-5 hours one way.
- Check weather conditions before going. When it rains it becomes cold.
- You need some light woolen clothing as nights are chilly.
- Always carry a raincoat.
- Beware of leeches during rains. Though they are harmless creatures but can give nightmares to the first-timers. Carry salt and Vaporub with you.
- Don’t expect luxury stay. They provide basic comfortable tents with sleeping bags and a decent wash and bath facilities.
- Carry some snacks and enough water as nothing is available during the trek. However, the stream water is drinkable.
- Wear good sturdy trekking shoes.
- Carry light baggage. You will have to trek with it.