Several years after my last trek, I resumed trekking with the Sunset Trail trek at Yelagiri. After feeling fantastic, having reached the top of the sunset trail, I decided to hit a harder trek – one that would throw my lungs into a state of despair. I heard of a sunrise point trek, but couldn’t really find it, so I decided to go with a commonly done route and trek Swamimalai instead.
Now don’t confuse Swamimalai in Yelagiri with the Swamimalai near Kumbakonam. This Swamimalai is a 3 km (each way), steep uphill trek, that is way more challenging than that elliptical machine at the gym.
We started at the famous Murugan temple in Yelagiri. From there, the drive was about 3 km down the road. You will reach a little village called Mangalam – easily identified by the temple in the picture.
This is the starting point of the Swamimalai trek. Badly drawn arrows on the floor of the village navigate you through the village to the fields behind it. Follow the mud path through the fields for about five minutes and you will see the Swamimalai mountain. The path to the top is well cut, so it’s hard to get lost as long as you follow the route. There are no directions once you leave the village, so just take the obvious path.
The climb uphill gives you a huge buffet of workout options. You start by climbing badly laid stone stairs, that pepper the whole 3 km unevenly and in patches. Cross one patch of stone stairs and you’re off leaping and navigating over rocks of different shapes and sizes. For a while, in between the path fools you by becoming even and muddy, but goes back to stone stairs, then a stretch of uneven stairs created by the roots of the trees on the side.The road get narrower as you go higher, and the flora gets dense. You can spot some lovely birds and hear their beautiful songs if you don’t make too much noise while walking.The final stretch is rather steep, and punctuated with boulders. Once you manage to cross it, the tiny temple docked in the rocks becomes visible. It stands out, in white, on top of the hill.
Surprisingly, this hilltop has a bit of fencing done along the edges, so one can safely hold on and look over the edge. The view is spectacular, and early in the morning the breeze is icy, cooling your hot, sweat stained skin. But the best part is yet to come.
Adjacent to the temple, is an enormous rock, that lies on the edge of the cliff. A long time back, a trishul, stood atop the rock. The local pujari, who also takes care of the temple, would climb up the rock, to offer prayers to the trishul. An iron ladder was built on the side of the rock, so that the pujari could access the Trishul easily. Unfortunately, the Trishul was stolen, and since then people use the ladder to climb up the rock, to get the most fantastic view of the hills. With no mobile network, no roads or civilization in sight, Swamimalai is a beautiful escape; a superb reward for a trek of it’s kind.
I suggest this trek be done early in the morning, so you can spend longer relaxing on the top of the hill. Going uphill takes 1 hr-1 hr 15 minutes. Descending is much faster and can be completed within 20-30 minutes.