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Photo Courtesy : Vijay S

Pakshipathalam Trek

A scenic trek to bird paradise

  • The name translates to “abode of birds” in Malayalam, and true to its name, it’s the home to several rare species of birds, most prominently, bats.
  • A great one-day excursion.
  • Takes you through moist deciduous forests, rolling hillocks, open grasslands, slippery trails, and narrow rocky caves.
DIFFICULTY:

Easy- Moderate

TRAIL TYPE:

Jungle trail

DURATION:

1 days

ROAD HEAD:

Thirunelli

Pakshipathalam trek is a trek through the hills in Wayanad, Kerala, that is accessible only through trekking trails. The name translates to “abode of birds” in Malayalam, and true to its name, it’s the home to several rare species of birds, most prominently, bats. This makes for a great one-day excursion in Wayanad. A bonus is that this trek can also be done from Karnataka, starting at Irpu Falls.

At a height of 1,740 m, Pakshipathalam lies in the Brahmagiri hill range and is located close to Thirunelli temple, Wayanad in Kerala. A trek to Pakshipathalam takes you through moist deciduous forests, rolling hillocks, open grasslands, slippery trails, and narrow rocky caves.

Also known as Munikal caves, this den of birds lies deep inside the forest. With no proper roads, the eight kilometre hike on the jungle trail is quite challenging.

Camping is not allowed here. So, you will have to trek back before the forest gets dark. The fact that the forest is home to several animals and reptiles adds to the excitement of the trek.

Throughout the trek, you’re constantly flitting across the border between Karnataka and Kerala. You require permission from the DFO of North Wayanad to trek to this place. You’ll have to pay a permit fee. We suggest that you take a guide with you.

Author: Usha Hariprasad

Trek to Pakshipathalam:

  • Trek duration: 4 hours, 8 km
  • Difficulty: Moderate

The trail starts behind the Thirunelli temple. A narrow path takes you toward Papanashini River. Once you ford the stream, enter the forest. The gradient is steep here. Bamboos, small shrubs and tall grass blades dominate this path. The sharp grass can cause cuts, so tread carefully. Small rivulets on the trail that almost always have water are a welcome source of water. As you hike further, you can see the Brahmagiri Peak on one side. The chirping of birds and cric cric of insects will keep you constant company on this trail.

pakshipathalam trek
Pakshipathalam caves (Photo Credit: Muscicapa)

After an hour’s trek, look out for a forest watch tower. This huge structure was constructed in 1995 and it gives a fantastic view of the surrounding mountains. Take a right from here, cross over to the other side of the hill. The trail takes you deeper into the forest, and crosses several streams. From the forest, it suddenly emerges into a grassland. After trekking for 2 km or so from the watch tower, you reach the Kerala-Karnataka border. The trail descends to a Shola forest from here, ascends once again and reaches the foot of Pakshipathalam. The total distance from the watch tower to this point is around 4-5 km. Further ahead, spot a huge rock, approximately 30 ft tall. Ascend the granite rock to reach the peak. A little further from the peak, you reach Munekal Caves. These are several rocks tightly coupled to form caves. Bats abound in plenty here in the crevices. You can also find several bird nests in these caves. Be careful as you climb down these gorges. They can be slippery. Descending rocks, you reach the rear side of the hill.

pakshipathalam trek
Bats inside the Pakshipathalam caves (Photo credit: Vijay S)

Descent:

Get to the base of Pakshipathalam and then follow the same route back back to Thirunelly temple.

From Karnataka:

A trek to Pakshipathalam can also be done from Karnataka side. The starting point of this trail is from Irpu falls. A deviation at the right of the falls takes you towards Pakshipathalam. The first two kilometres of the trail are through thick forests, after which you come across a river. Cross the river and walk on flat terrain for another kilometre. Another 500 m in thick forest leads you to Narimale guest house. You can cook your lunch here. Another 3 km from this point lie the Munekal caves. To trek this route, you will have to take permission from Srimangala village, around 9 km from Irpu falls.

Food and Accommodation:

As the trek takes a day to complete and camping is not allowed, it is best to start the trek early in the day. If you are trekking during the months between February to May, then it is best to check out with the Forest Department of Wayand if trekking is allowed. There is the fear of forest fires during summer. Water is not a problem on this trail as there are plenty of streams in the forest trail. Accommodation is available in Mananthavady.

Cardiovascular endurance

The secret to ascending any trail lies in building your cardiovascular endurance. You can begin by jogging everyday. Ideally, you should be able to jog 4 km in 20 minutes before the start of the trek. It takes time to be able to cover this distance in the given time. Start slow and increase your pace everyday. Swimming, cycling and stair climbing without too many breaks in between can help too. Strength This is another area you should work on. You will need to build strength in your muscles and in your core body. You can do some squats to strengthen your leg muscles. Do around 3 sets of squats, with 8 squats in each set. Apart from this, you can add planks and crunches to your work out.

Flexibility

Another aspect that will help you trek comfortably is flexibility. For this, you can do some stretching exercises – stretch your hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors, lower back muscles and shoulders regularly. Carrying a backpack, however light, can become a strain after a while. These exercises will help you to be in good shape before the trek. Working out indoors


If you can’t go out and jog because of time and space constraints,
here’s a video you can use to work out indoors.

backpack

No, stuffing it all in isn’t the right way to do it Packing a backpack correctly saves precious time that you might waste trying to find your things later. It is wise to spend some time on learning what really goes into packing a backpack.

What should I pack? On a trek, you only get what you take. Something as simple as a forgotten matchbox can cripple your cooking plans throughout the trek. So, it’s essential to prepare early and prepare well. To begin with, make a checklist. While shopping, remember this thumb rule – keep it light. “Every item needs to be light. This ensures that your backpack, on the whole, stays light,” says Sandhya UC, co-founder of Indiahikes. Balancing out heavy items with light ones isn’t going to have the same effect as having all light items. “Always opt for good quality, light items,” says Sandhya.

How much should my bag weigh?

“Your backpack for a weekend trek should weigh between 8 and 10 kg,” explains Arjun Majumdar, co-founder of Indiahikes, “To break it down, your tent should weigh around 2.5 kg, your sleeping bag, around 1.5 kg, and the ration, stove and clothes should constitute the other 5 kg.” The best way to plan is by concentrating on the basic necessities – food, shelter and clothes. Gather only those things that you’ll need to survive. Do not pack for ‘if’ situations. “That’s one of the common mistakes that people make – packing for ‘if situations’. It only adds to the baggage that you can do without on a trek,” says Sandhya.

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Trekking hack

One good way to go about it is to prepare a list of absolute essentials. Start with the most essential and end with the least essential. That way, when you feel you are overshooting the limit, you can start eliminating from the bottom. Another tip is to be smart while packing clothes. Invest in light. wash and wear fabrics. “Replace a sweater with two t-shirts,” adds Sandhya. Layering is the mantra when it comes to trekking. Refer to Sandhya’s clothes list to pack smart.

How to pack The thumb rule for this one is to eliminate air spaces. Make sure that everything is packed tightly, especially clothes and jackets, as they tend to take up maximum air space. Put in all the large items first. Then squeeze in the smaller ones in the gaps. This ensures minimum air space. A good way to pack clothes is by using the Ranger Roll method.

 

Where to pack Bottom Sleeping bag: Make this your base layer. Sleeping bags tend to be voluminous, but do not weigh much. They’re perfect for the bottom of the bag. Tent: Just like the sleeping bag, even tents are voluminous and light. Keep the tent poles separately and place the fabric at the bottom of the backpack. Middle Heavy jacket: Roll up the jacket in a tight ball and place it in the middle of the backpack, close to your back. The middle region of the backpack should always have the heaviest items. You can store other things like ration or mini stoves in the middle. Other clothes: Roll other clothes and place them in the remaining space, to fill air gaps.

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Backpack essentials

Top Water: Water, although heavy, needs to be easily accessible. So put it in the top most region of your backpack. Medicine box: This is another component that you wouldn’t want to be scavenging for when in need. Poncho: It could rain at any time in the mountains. So, ponchos should be accessible easily. Also, having a waterproof poncho at the top of the backpack provides additional waterproofing to items in the bag.

Pakshipathalam is around 7 km from Thirunelli. Thirunelli is 32 km from Mananthavady in Wayanad district. Buses ply toward Mananthavady from major cities. From Mananthavady, you can catch a local bus to Thirunelli. Jeeps can also be hired from Mananthavady to Thirunelli.

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Usha Hariprasad

Usha Hariprasad

Usha Hariprasad is a freelance writer and has worked with Citizen Matters, Alternative and Indus Ladies writing about travel and green living. She worked in the IT field for 5 years before deciding to follow her passion for writing. She is now part of the content and tech team at Indihahikes.