The main route towards Sabarimala from the eastern side is the Punalur-Pathanapuram-Pathanamthitta road. All the vehicles coming from Aryankavu take this route to Sabarimala. Despite being a major route, authorities have conveniently turned a blind eye towards the condition of the roads.
With the pilgrimage season nearing, they have started adopting piecemeal measures like filling potholes with stones.
The Punalur-Muvattupuzha road has been adopted by the Kerala State Transport Project (KSTP). No major repair works have been carried out on the road for years. Just because it is under KSTP, only minor repair works were being done on the road for the past 10-12 years. Once KSTP begins work, motorists hope that the road will also be widened.
On the road near Punalur side, minor repairs are being done near Kallada bridge. At Nellipilli junction, huge craters are waiting to swallow motorists caught off guard.
The road on Mukkadavu bridge has lost its asphalt cover and is lying unmotorable for a long time. The pipe leak that creates water logging from Punalur TB Junction to Kallada bridge not only wastes drinking water but also results in producing craters on the road. The namesake repair work ended with authorities filling the craters with stones.
Sabarimala pilgrims who pass through Pathanapuram usually stop over to offer prayers at Pattazhy temple. But both the roads to the temple are in a sorry state. Those coming from Thiruvananthapuram side come via Sabari bypass towards Kunnikode and then proceed towards the temple. Otherwise, they take a turn from Mailath and reach Pattazhy. After visiting the temple, they take the Pathanapuram route to Sabarimala.
The Pattazhy-Pidavur-Pathanapuram road and the Pattazhy-Kaduvathod-Pathanapuram road towards Pattazhy temple are also in a bad condition. The first route is 8km long. There is a huge crater on this road near Kocheekadavu. It is common for motorists to fall into this crater and suffer serious injuries, say locals. In fact, they say the potholes resemble a chain on the road.
Though broken stones have already been stored on roadsides for repair works, a decision on road resurfacing is yet to be taken. Authorities had promised that this stretch would be fixed along with all the main roads towards Sabarimala.
But it didn't materialize. Moreover, a pipe leak near Thandakara Oliyathu church in Pattazhy is flooding the road. The 9km-long Pattazhy-Kaduvathodu-Pathanapuram route also sees traffic during Sabarimala season. The Kunnikode-Methukummel road is a short cut to the Pattazhy temple for pilgrims coming from the Thiruvananthapuram side.
At the market junction on this road too there are huge potholes. Though materials needed for the repair work have been brought over, no one knows when the work will start. On the Kunnikode-Methukummel road at Arattupuzha the road is in a terrible condition. Even two-wheelers find it tough to negotiate this stretch. Each pothole on the road is a testament to the depth of corruption and fraud plaguing the system.
If you have traveled once through the 70km stretch of Chenkotta-Achankovil-Mullumala-Pathanapuram road, you will have to seek treatment for back pain. Sabarimala pilgrims planning to visit Achankovil rely on this road to reach the temple. The road is riddled with huge potholes and craters which will test one's patience as well as driving skills. Elephants are also spotted on this stretch frequently. Some parts of the road under the state farming corporation and the remaining with the forest department. Both the parties haven't done much to fix the roads.
The state of the Koni-Kaleli-Chembanaruvi-Achankovil road that links Sabarimala and Achankovil falls in the same category. One must cross Chembanaruvi and Kadambupara to reach Achankovil. On this stretch, at Aruthalakayam, there is nothing that resembles a road. Nearby Thurappalam is also in a dangerous condition -- a part of the bridge is propped up by wooden stumps.
Once the Chenkotta-Achankovil-Mullumala-Pathanapuram road is motorable, the journey towards Thenkasi via Pambli will be easier. Though the road is not in a great condition, two KSRTC buses ply till Achankovil and four buses till Chembanaruvi. Due to the bad roads, buses breaking down and getting stranded on these roads are common. The road turns at Moozhi towards Koni and Achankovil. Here, the stretch has no roads at all. At Uppukuzhi in Kadambupara, wild elephant problems are also reported.
A few days ago, people reported the presence of wild elephants here. Locals also saw a group of youths who were speeding away towards Achankovil after elephants blocked their way on Koni road. At places where the potholes are huge, authorities are washing their hands off by using stones from unused quarries to fill the craters. It seems the road works have given quarry owners a good chance to sell off their unusable stones.
The Pathanapuram MLA has been repeatedly announcing that funds have been allotted for repairing the Koottumukku-Kadambupara road. But it seems the MLA has no idea how bad is the condition of the road right now.
Bypass has no road
Though the road is known as Sabari bypass, the stretch here is in a pathetic condition. Authorities have failed to repair the road that is most used by pilgrims from Kanyakumari and Thiruvananthapuram. With only a few days left for Sabarimala pilgrimage season to commence, there is no clarity on when the road will be fixed. The pilgrims who used to rely on Kottarakkara-Adoor-Pathanamthitta route now mostly prefer the Sabari bypass because they can save about 30km.
The roads constructed with the bitumen macadam and bitumen concrete (BMBC) method for tarring usually need maintenance only once in 12 years. But halfway through, roads are broken all over. However, there are technical reasons not to approve funds for maintenance before 12 years. So, PWD authorities resort to filling the craters with stones from quarries.
Same fate for Kottarakkara
The two routes from Kottarakkara to Sabarimala are the Kottarakkara-Sasthamkotta road and the Mailam-Pattazhy road. Authorities claim that they have allotted Rs 25 lakh and Rs 20 lakh respectively for their repairs. But no sign of repair works carried out is seen on the roads. The Kottarakkara-Sasthamkotta road is riddled with potholes.
Authorities say that repair works will be done only after rains stop. But there were enough dry spells when the works could have been carried out without any hindrance. After waiting till the Sabarimala season to start, the authorities are now blaming rains! With the season starting within a few days, the pilgrims can look forward to a bone-jarring drive to Sabarimala temple.