THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: In all, 3,100 people will scale the lofty Agastyarkoodam peak during the 2018 Agastyamalai trek organised by the Forest Department. The bookings for the trek started at 11 am Friday and in one hour and 20 minutes the bookings closed, much to the dismay of trekking enthusiasts. For the department, it was a record of sorts.
“Last year the bookings closed in two hours. This year, the number of tickets was less and hence the bookings closed early,” said Thiruvananthapuram wildlife warden Shashi Kumar. Last year the trek period was for a total of 43 days but this year it is 31 days, thereby reducing the number of trekkers who can join for the expedition. The trek will be held from from January 14 to February 13.
The number of trekkers is restricted to 100 per day. As many as 30 guides, including tribals, have been entrusted with assisting them. Around five guides will accompany the trekkers who are grouped into five groups of 20 each.
Every year the Forest Department lets people climb the hill that towers at a height of 1,868 metres during the trek period between Makaravilakku day and Sivarathri. The Forest Department charges Rs 500 per person to scale the peak.Trekkers are required to reach the Bonacaud picket station in the morning. They are permitted entry only after a thorough check and a briefing on the dos and don’ts inside the forest.
“Trekkers must produce the original ID card they used when booking. No one will be allowed entry without the ID,” said Shashi Kumar. Canteen facilities are available at the Athirumala base camp as well as at the picket station. Trekkers can also buy lunch packets from the station. Each trekker would have to cough up Rs 100 to take along a water bottle. The money will be returned on producing the bottle after the trip.In spite of vociferous protests from various quarters, this year too, women have been banned from undertaking the trek.