Let me start with an incident a year ago, fortunately, that incident didn’t turn into an accident. In the biggest district as well as a popular tourist heaven, Idukki in Kerala saw an incident at an offbeat travel destination, where almost 14 tourists got stuck inside a huge tunnel. You may feel astonished on hearing and will be curious how? There was nothing like anything ghostly inside it but still, when the trekkers got inside it, the darkness haunted them and made them go into hallucination. In a fear of getting lost inside the giant tunnel, and not able to find the entry point, they sought the helped of fire force and were rescued. Even locals were involved in evacuation to rescue the tourists. They traveled about one and a half Kilometres and suddenly the fear of darkness blanketed them. The giant mouth that swallowed these 14 tourists was the Anchuruli tunnel in Idukki. This incident exhibits the power of darkness inside this tunnel. Anchuruli reservoir, is actually the catchment area of Idukki reservoir and the nearby Kalvari mount is a scenic feast to eyes, usually known by tourists treading for offbeat locations like travelers from Surat seeking hidden places for travel in Kerala. Actually, the passion for adventure by these Surat tourists was the reason why they got stuck inside the tunnel. Pleased by the Surat to Kerala tour package, they dared to face the fear but ended up by giving up to the fear itself. This awesome package included offbeat destinations of Kerala, like nearby Vagamon, Calvary mount, Panchalimedu, Idukki dam and Grampi. Kerala is pleased to welcome tourists from other states.
We, the team from a private Travel magazine, ‘Travel Kerala, Embrace Kerala’ dared to watch this tunnel in close after watching a report in Asianet news claiming the safety of tourists reaching the tunnel spot. Our journey progressed from Muvattupuzha-Vannappuram to reach Kattapana. The destination is just a few Kilometres from Kattapana and what we wanted was the guidance of a local to dig much deeper into the details of the stunning Anchuruli tunnel For making the introduction quite familiar for you, let me take you to the climax scene of Malayalam movie, Fahad Fazil screened, ‘Iyyobinte Pusthakam’. Those who saw this movie will not forget the climax scene because it is this beautiful place chosen for it. We, the team of four, I myself Aishwarya is on a very interesting hunt on exploring the beauty and history of this giant tunnel. We are here to present you an interesting talk with a local named, Rajan who will guide our trip. Rajan is a farmer and residing near to the scenic location and he explains the story of the place. Check out questions.
Me: “Where is this place actually?”
Rajan: “This place is actually along the Kottayam- Kattapana route in Idukki district and our village is named as Kanjiyar village. These locations you see are the catchment area of Idukki dam and the nearby reservoir is the real Anchuruli reservoir. We can see this place as the backside of Idukki dam”
Me: “What an interesting name, Anchuruli! How this place got this name?”
Rajan: ” Look at the reservoir(he pointed to the large reservoir side and asked us to see the five knolls) Can you see those five knolls over there? The tribals here named it so because these hills have the shape of an inverted bronze vessel, used in household, Uruli hence the name. Now it is visible clearly but during heavy rainfall, the water level would cover it up”
Me: “What is the reason to construct such tunnel?”
Rajan: ” Actually, it was built to transport water from Erattayar to Idukki dam. The Erattayar dam is the feeder dam to Idukki reservoir and during heavy rainfall, you must see the water flow through this tunnel. It would take a violent turn”
One thing was clear for me, the other side is the Erattayar dam and it is very dangerous to cross the tunnel during the rainy season even difficult for a good swimmer. The reason they spot this scenic place is that the nearby Calvary mount viewpoint is attracting many travelers on the way. Some travelers used to pick a combined honeymoon tour lasting 2 days to Vagamon, Thekkady, and Idukki. The green grasslands and greenery at this place have earned a place in the itinerary of Best honeymoon packages in Kerala. Couples can enjoy the beauty of the view from calvary mount or Kalyanathandu of Idukki dam and its reservoir.
Let us dwell deep into its history.
Me: ” what is the story behind this tunnel?”
Rajan:” The plan of constructing this tunnel was actually a part of Idukki dam project. hope you must know, a tribal leader named Chemban Kolumban showed the site for the dam where Periyar river was flowing amidst two mountains named Kuravan and Kurathi mala. Idukki dam, India’s first arch dam was decided to be constructed at this site. The reservoir of this dam was planned at Anchuruli and thus to collect the water from Erattayar, a tunnel was necessary. The construction of dam started on 1969 and so did that of Reservoir. Reservoir received the water from 1974 onwards. One interesting thing is that the construction of the tunnel started simultaneously from each side and joined at their meeting point. It took six years for the completion of tunnel and unfortunately, while construction, the tunnel took the life of 22 people”
Me:” Actually what is the length of this tunnel?”
Rajan:” It is almost 5 kilometers and 740 meters above sea level. Never try to enter the tunnel, even during the summer season as after progressing a little distance, oxygen level will fall and depending upon the power of the body of people, the tolerance can change.”
Me:” what is the favorite activity of tourists arriving here?”
Rajan:” Tourists arriving here are few but they are surprised of the greenery and grasslands here. Fishing is one of the favorite activity and most of them dare to walks through the tunnel up to some small distances. There is a waterfall formed by the flow from the tunnel(he took us to that spot).”
Me: ” There is no tourist development yet here, have Government took any steps”?
Rajan: ” I remember the news channel once took a feature from here saying that no development and no safety ensured here. Yes, it is true that there are no handrails to hold and the ways are very narrow and unsafe. Even Government has announced plans to initiate facilities for tourists and it includes the parking facility, high mast lights. Later more bus services will be made possible here.”
People here are waiting for tourism facilities and about 20 lakhs is kept aside for the project especially boat service to Cheruthoni from Anchuruli as a travel assistance for tribals living there.Anchuruli is the best destination for family holidays and nearby calvary mount is so special. The upcoming tourism facilities will definitely allow more Family Kerala tour packages to this place and at that point, special care must be given to the children. Nearby Idukki dam is also a scenic spot.
Me: ” I have heard about an ancient temple nearby and a bridge.What is it all about?
Rajan: ” The temple you are referring to is the Ayyapancoil, very near to this place and there is a hanging bridge. This suspension bridge is the longest bridge in Kerala and a few know about this and visits the bridge. The temple is submerged under the Periyar river for four to six months and is almost 3000 years old. when the tourist development at Anchuruli progresses, Government has plan to include Ayyapancoil and the bridge as a major tourist spot. We are waiting for that day.”
Like Rajan we are also waiting for the developments here and frankly, speaking the place is really a haven of greenery and I thoroughly enjoyed the trip. After reading this chat, everyone must try out trip to this awesome place but never try to walk inside the tunnel and it is very dangerous even at summer an untimely rain at the other side can cause a flood at this side. Once you enter you can see a small white light which is the end of the other part. This circular giant tunnel and the walking inside is like stepping into the vacuum.