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Old 3rd December 2019, 16:56   #1
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Default Here are some tips if you plan to drive to Sabarimala

I thought of this thread since it is the Sabarimala pilgrimage season and the number of people driving to Sabarimala is increasing every year.

It is a collation of my experience and not in any particular order, hope this comes handy for fellow BHPians who plan to drive down.

Please feel free to add your tips to the list

Parking in Sabarimala - I started visiting Sabarimala from school days, and I remember the challenge those days (and till last few years) was to find a safe parking while you are away for a day or more. Parking used to be at the parking place near pampa and road side unless you have connects in Govt Departments who got an office/guesthouse in Pampa and availability was very limited. We used to be worried about getting a parking and safety of the vehicles. Things are better and streamlined now, parking is allowed only in Nilakkal parking ground and there is enough place to accommodate even the peak rush and is supposedly safe since there are numerous vehicles and drivers around.

Kerala Transport Corporation runs buses (both AC and non AC) from Nilakkal to Pumpa every few minutes. This is the best and the only option to cover the last leg of 17 kms to Pampa.

Drop/Pickup in Pampa is permitted if you have a driver to get the vehicle to Nilakkal from Pampa, and again parking has to be strictly in Nilakkal parking lot. This gives the flexibility to contact your driver over mobile and have the vehicle waiting at Pampa while you return (yes - there is no restriction on mobiles in Sabarimala except for photography in Sannidhanam )

Roads – Kerala roads are narrow and got only single lane once you leave the NH, and traffic is very heavy during the Sabarimala season. Roads surface will be generally excellent, and you will find directions to Sabarimala written in multiple languages. It is very unlikely that you may ask for directions even without Google maps. You will encounter ghat section near Sabarimala, but nothing to be concerned about due to the good quality roads and prominent signboard and road markings.

Night Driving – Avoid if you have an option since there will be heavy traffic during the pilgrimage season even during the night . Most of the roads are single lane and the glaring headlights are always a challenge to tackle. On the other side, it is safe to travel during the night since streets are active with lot of shops and police presence.

Help on-route – There are police aid posts running round the clock. Sabarimala pilgrims are treated with respect by the Cops and local folks, and it is easy to get support even at the middle of the night.

Rains – Expect rains in Kerala during Dec, Kerala rains can be light to very heavy and go on endless. Ensure your vehicle is rain ready withgood wiper blades, tyres, brakes etc. Get your windshields thoroughly cleaned before the tips if you plan to drive during night.

Food – There are lot of vegetarian hotels and makeshift places that opens during the Sabarimala season, and most of them stay open 24 hours. Stick to basic food and you won’t have an issue with quality and hygiene. Rice porridge or Kanji with Tapioca (Kappa) is popular in the hotels around Sabarimala and is very refreshing and filling dish (can feel sleepy if you overindulge in this heavy meal). Prices are moderate in most of the places, price for all items are approved by the authorities and displayed promptly in and around Sabarimala.

Toll Roads – There aren’t many in Kerala, having a Fastag makes it faster on NH tolls if you are coming down from Palakkad direction. There is no entry and parking fees to Sabarimala area

Wildlife - Though it is not common to encounter elephants and even a tiger on the roads near Sabarimala during the pilgrim season, there have been instances of wildlife encounters in the past. Look around while driving the forest stretch, don't stop in isolated spots and drive slow in areas where there are elephant crossing boards.

Others

Wearing Seat belts, driving within speed limits, having necessary documents etc goes without saying.

Below list is general any may not be linked to driving

It is not a bad idea to prominently display that you are on Sabarimala pilgrimage (Ayappa photo, garlands, black dress), this will ensure you get the right treatment for a pilgrim.

Use the online option to book the virtual queue https://sabarimalaonline.org/#/login . This will help to quicken your approach to the sannidhanam on a crowded day. Make sure every member carries the ID mentioned while booking the virtual queue. You have to produce the booking printout and ID at Pampa Ganapathi and get the entry token printed.

Guesthouses in Sabarimala can be booked through http://travancoredevaswomboard.org/s...-accommodation, you can try your luck directly walking in if you need only for few hours to take rest . Rooms are in range of INR 1500 per day.

Please don't carry plastic to Sabarimala, this includes mineral water bottles, RO water is available everywhere through vending machines free of cost. This is in addition to the hot medicinal water supply points run by Ayappa Seva Sangham.

Toilets at Pampa were found neat with plenty of water available. Bio toilets and urinals are placed in every possible places and are well maintained

Hotels around Sabarimala has an approved and published price list and are not expensive. Quality of food was good and tasty.

Don't litter the place, don't discard your clothes and mala in Pampa, obey the does and donts and maintain the serenity of the place

Wish you all a good trip and Darshanam. Swami Saranam
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Old 5th December 2019, 09:57   #2
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Default Re: Here are some tips if you plan to drive to Sabarimala

Update from today's (5th Dec,19) news is

1. Sabarimala prasadam (Aravana and Appam) will be available for purchase in Pampa. This will save the trouble of carrying the Prasadam boxes by foot from Sabarimala to Pampa

2. Mobile phone usage is banned in Sannidhanam. You can carry your mobile, but don't use it at top of the temple shrine
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Old 12th December 2019, 12:18   #3
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Default Re: Here are some tips if you plan to drive to Sabarimala

Have been going to Sabarimala for 20 years now.
I think the current arrangement works good.
Park at Nilackal and use public transport to reach Pamba from there. Its surprisingly well managed and a credit to the government machinery
remember my younger days driving all the way to pamba from cherthala. Chaotic, reckless drivers, accidents, fights for parking and really crowded and noisy surroundings in Pamba.
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Old 12th December 2019, 14:07   #4
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Default Re: Here are some tips if you plan to drive to Sabarimala

Quote:
Originally Posted by nairanupg View Post
Have been going to Sabarimala for 20 years now.
I think the current arrangement works good.
Park at Nilackal and use public transport to reach Pamba from there.
Vehicle with seating capacity of 12 or below are allowed to drop the pilgrims in Pampa and then comeback and park at Nilackal. This will be helpful for people who has difficulties in standing (getting a seat may not be that easy on crowded days) for 1 hour in a KSRTC bus through the winding ghat road balancing the irumudi and bags.
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Old 12th December 2019, 15:20   #5
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Default Re: Here are some tips if you plan to drive to Sabarimala

Just returned from sabarimala.

1. The drive is fantastic all the way. Roads are butter smooth.
2. No rains at the moment.
3. Parking is a bit chaotic. I don't think i would risk my car there in the open parking.
4. Crowds were big in numbers but i was told that this was not the full extent of it
5. This was my first time so I fulfilled the kanni ayappan prophecy he gets to keep his bachelorhood.
6. The path up and down is not maintained. Loose stones everywhere, unpaved concrete. You have to be watchful where you put your feet. Saw a few instances of bloodied feet and one guy had to be carried back down in a stretcher.
7. The crowds at sannidhanam were insane. People waiting overnight in the queues for darshan was not easy to digest
8. The pamba River is being mercilessly massacred by the pilgrims. Really felt sad. Touching the river should be banned.
9. Staying options there are non existent.
10. There are wild pigs the size of hippos running amok at the sannidhanam


Swami sharanam!

Last edited by Red Liner : 12th December 2019 at 15:21.
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Old 12th December 2019, 18:00   #6
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Default Re: Here are some tips if you plan to drive to Sabarimala

I had the opportunity to visit Sabarimala in Oct 2019 after a gap of 5-6 years. This was my first self drive trip to Sabarimala, took my 7 year old Son & 9 year old daughter with me. As pointed by other members in this thread, parked my car at Nilackal & took KSRTC bus to Pampa.

Though there are continuous bus services between Nilackal - Pampa, at times it can get tricky, say if 3-4 (55 seater) tourist buses arrive in short span, then there could be some rush to board the bus, as in Oct there was no proper queue system. Not sure how its handled in Nov-Jan season though.

We had a bit of ordeal while coming back from Pampa to Nilackal to board the bus again due to lack of queue system.

Other thing I noticed was cars were allowed to park between Pampa & Nilackal on the road side(wherever space was available) - again this was in Oct 2019 not sure if its being allowed now.

Roads were generally good between Coimbatore & Nilackal with occasional bad roads in small patches. Tricky part was to maintain 50KM/H in "NH544" between Coimbatore & Angamaly.
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Old 12th December 2019, 20:23   #7
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Default Re: Here are some tips if you plan to drive to Sabarimala

Nice Thread!

I visited Sabarimala last Friday, after a gap of 7 years. Took my daughter and we were in a group of 9 including my in-laws and relatives. Took a Tempo Traveller from Paravur and visited 5 temples on the way (Chottanikkara, Vaikom, Kaduthuruthi, Ettumanur, Erumely).

We were dropped at Pampa and the vehicle was let go to Nilakkal for parking. Mobile network is good at Pampa and Sannidhanam, though patchy en route, so communicating with driver/groups are easy.

Trek routes from Pampa
There are two routes to Sannidhanam. Neelimala and Swami Ayyappan road. Neelimala being the shortest and steepest. And this is preferred route since it is well maintained and paved with flat stones/cemented and have steps at the steep stretches. Elders tend to choose the other route (Swamy ayyappan) due to the flatter climb (my in-laws made this mistake) but the surface (rubble and loose stones) make it harder to climb. This route is mainly the supply route used by tractors, so it is dusty and chaotic.


https://goo.gl/maps/1z12XxphGP7N6K5F7

Here are some tips if you plan to drive to Sabarimala-sabarimala.jpg

Here are some tips if you plan to drive to Sabarimala-sabarimala2.png

This is the steepest stretch at Neelimala. ~25deg gradient.
Here are some tips if you plan to drive to Sabarimala-sabarimala3.jpg

The steep sections are paved in a similar surface.
Name:  sabarimala4.jpg
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Size:  84.1 KB

While coming back we struggled to get the bus from Pampa to Nilakkal. There is no queue system and it was utter chaos. Luckily, seeing our plight, a cop managed to stop an empty bus slightly before the stop and we got on to it. This can be managed better with a simple queue system.
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Old 14th December 2019, 17:36   #8
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Default Re: Here are some tips if you plan to drive to Sabarimala

Though the old charm of Sabarimala isn't so prominent these days, I prefer going during the off season time(i.e. during the first 3-5 days of a malayalam month). At this time period,there are far lesser vehicles and crowd and one can have a peaceful darshan.
During season, the vandiperiyar route is better in terms of crowd but tricky terrain, more walking distance and not much food availability in vandiperiyar route.
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Old 16th December 2019, 10:13   #9
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Default Re: Here are some tips if you plan to drive to Sabarimala

Thanks for sharing the information update. I am sure a lot of out-of-staters will find it useful to plan their pilgrimage.
I had been for a darshan twice, but that was over 20 yrs ago. At that time, things were a bit chaotic at Pampa, with no clean toilet facilities, slush everywhere etc. The climb itself and the sannidanam were good, then.
Now, from various accounts, things seemed to have changed for the better. As with anything, with a huge population attending, it is important to have a certain system in place, like the queue system for buses. Otherwise chaos reigns and people end up with unpleasant experiences. Hope the authorities make this change as well.

Cheerio!
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Old 18th December 2019, 15:00   #10
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Default Re: Here are some tips if you plan to drive to Sabarimala

My trip is scheduled on 20th December. Taking the special train from Hyderabad.
The return trip is on 23 and via flight (which was very costly). This will be my first flight trip journey from cochin hence need guidance on couple of points :

1. Do we have direct buses to Airport or Cochin from Pamba ? How much time should i factor in for this commute time.
2. Flight departure time is 7:35 am (23 Dec), which means I will have to be in the airport late night or the previous evening. Will the airport authorities allow me that early ?

Swamy Sharanam
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Old 19th December 2019, 16:56   #11
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Default Re: Here are some tips if you plan to drive to Sabarimala

Quote:
Originally Posted by Abhi_abarth View Post
My trip is scheduled on 20th December. Taking the special train from Hyderabad.
The return trip is on 23 and via flight (which was very costly). This will be my first flight trip journey from cochin hence need guidance on couple of points :

1. Do we have direct buses to Airport or Cochin from Pamba ? How much time should i factor in for this commute time.
2. Flight departure time is 7:35 am (23 Dec), which means I will have to be in the airport late night or the previous evening. Will the airport authorities allow me that early ?

Swamy Sharanam
I haven't heard of direct buses from the Sabarimala to Airport. Cochin City bus stand is close to 40 km from the airport and is not on Sabarimala airport route. You can take a Bus from to Angamali, and check with the conductor on the best place to get down to catch the bus to airport. There are multiple options and he should be able to suggest the best. It should take around 6 hours for you from Nilakkal to airport.

I don't think they will allow you inside the airport if you reach on the previous day. There are many options near the airport if you plan to stay for the night

Last edited by gadadhar : 19th December 2019 at 16:58.
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Old 23rd December 2019, 15:19   #12
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Default Re: Here are some tips if you plan to drive to Sabarimala

Sacred Thanks Anki procession has started from Aranmula today (23rd Dec) and will reach Sabarimal on Thursday (26th Dec), temple will close for 2 days after the Mandalapooja on Friday (28th Dec). The temple will be reopened on December 30 afternoon for the ‘Makarvilakku’ festival that begins the next day.
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