THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: With the start of a new tourist season, Ponmudi continues to be the favourite weekend getaway destination in the district for tourists from both within and outside the country despite the intermittent downpour atop the peak.
Though the spot does not have anything new to offer visitors this season, a drive or a ride to the peak on a weekend to enjoy the brooks, lush green tropical vegetation and misty rain is rejuvenating enough to get back to work or school with a fresh mind.
According to the staff at Ponmudi, after the season started, more than 500 vehicles have been climbing up the peak on weekends. “Visitors have increased considerably here ever since the tourist season took off; the rain does not stop the visitors from coming here as most them arrive here to enjoy the rain and fog,” said Sivakumar, a security guard at Ponmudi.
The better maintenance of the restrooms and cafeteria at Ponmudi under the Ponmudi Vana Samrakshana Samithi has undoubtedly made the destination more attractive as, earlier, visitors used to remain starved and often ventured into the shady woods to relieve themselves.
However, the completion of the watchtower with sightseeing facilities atop the peak remains pending since last August.
When contacted, Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) T Uma said that the landscaping of the peak and construction of watchtower would be completed by the end of the current financial year.
The Wildlife Department has set up three trekking destinations at Ponmudi as the part of adventure activities. Early birds to the spot can avail the tickets from the counter at Ponmudi. A guide will be provided for 10 trekkers by the Ponmudi Vana Samrakshana Samithi (VSS). A trek from Braemore Estate to Ponmudi supervised by VSS has been known for the exceptional experience.
Commuters who decide to visit Ponmudi at short notice might end up with a dry fuel tank, if they are not prescient enough to fill fuel before leaving Nedumangad as there not many petrol bunks en route after that. Though there is one bunk each at Chullimanoor and Vithura, it is learnt that they often run out of fuel. Nevertheless, one can prod a local roadside vendor to provide some fuel at black market rates. But the police confirmed that petrol will not be available once a vehicle enters the forest area of the Ponmudi division.
Fortunately, tyre punctures inside the forest area can be fixed as helpline numbers have been displayed on the sides of the ghat road to the peak.
The Forest Department is also mulling over the installation of a biogas plant and a waste compost at the tourist destination. “The department will facilitate the VSS to set up up a waste compost plant and a biogas gas plant near the Amenities Centre,” said Uma. The Forest Department also aims to make Ponmudi a plastic-free zone.
Security remains a concern as the police have, apparently, done little to check the anti-social activities at Ponmudi, though they have declared a ban on inebriated visitors and use of alcohol, along with other anti-social activities, at the spot during the visiting time - from 8.30 am to 5.30 pm.
Meanwhile, Ponmudi, which serves a safe haven for lover couples, also at times witnesses public display of affection, making the spot vulnerable to the infamous moral policing and its ramifications.
“We do not allow people under the influence of alcohol to enter this spot. Our squads stop such people at the first hairpin bend at the foothills. Similarly, couples can come here without any worry about moral policing as personnel are on shadow duty throughout the visiting time to provide security to people,” said an official at Ponmudi police station.