Dhanya Sanal: Conquering one dream after another, and now Agasthyarkoodam

Dhanya Sanal: Conquering one dream after another, and now Agasthyarkoodam
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Some achievements, even when professional, leave an indelible mark of phenomenality on the person. The energy these people radiate lingers long after a fruitful engagement. A powwow with Defense Spokesperson Dhanya Sanal was such an encounter.

This conversation happened at a time when she walked into the history books, dwarfing even the success story of cracking the civil service exam. Powered by a recent verdict aiding gender equality, Dhanya scaled the Agasthyarkoodam peak. She shares her passion about trekking and the travels her profession takes her on.

Never say no to a trek

Trekking is something I have always relished; mostly with friends. As a child, whenever my parents took me on a trip, a chance to trek filled me with joy. Even when they were skeptic, I would go all out. They are no more. Sister Divya and family are in Singapore. She can’t have a say on my choice from that far, can she? She knows I can’t be stopped. But it’s a genuine concern. I call her up and tell her where I am headed. She will ask if I have all my supplies. I’m always open to anything adventurous. My friends know how I feel about it. So they too just wish me a safe trip.

First women on Agasthyarkoodam

The biggest one till date was the trek up Nilgiri in 2012 as part of civil service training. But this one was the most arduous. It’s after the court verdict removing restrictions on women that I registered online for it, just as any other trekking enthusiast. But the chance to be part of the first team was accidental. I was told by the locals that women had been there before, but I was the first to trek all the way up.

Huge task

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I have trekked in Wayanad, Idukki and Ponmudi before. No hill is spared! Nilgiri was a trek through dense forest for 10 days. But Agasthyarkoodam was the toughest of them all. You can’t just run up these hills. Even for someone like me who walks 10 kilometres a day, it was daunting. It’s not for couch potatoes, let me tell you that!

I spent two nights in Agasthyarkoodam forest. The journey starts from Bonacaud forest check post. A total of 40 kilometres, the first day’s task is 13.5 kilometres. We started from Bonacaud at 9:30pm and reached Athirumala base camp in three hours. Unlike usual treks where the beginning miles are comparatively easy, Agastyarkudam starts off with an arduousness first step.

Attayar and origin of Karamanayar are within the first two kilometers. This strip has thick foliage of shrubs. Then there is grassland for the next four. It will be high noon already and the sun will be beating down on a stretch that’s steep and devoid of shades. Four feels like forty kilometres here. Then comes places like Muttidichan Para and Muttidichan Theri. These parts are so steep that your knees virtually hits your face on every step; hence the names. Add to it the bag containing dress, dry fruits, water, chocolate and other food stuff, weighing at least 10 kilos.

The first night was spent at Athirumala Base Camp, which has some amazing gruel and black coffee. The next day begins at 7:30 am. Breakfast, packed from base, can be had at Ponkalappara, the next stop where water is available.

Then there are three hills. The fourth is our destination. Hills have ropes to help the climb. It was demanding, yet memorable. We reached the summit at 11.10am. Started trek back at 11:45 and reached Athirumala base camp at 3pm. We spent the night there. At night it is a chill hill. We started for Bonacaud at 7:30 the next day and reached at 3pm.

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Spare nothing

I dive into anything that interests me. Extracurricular activities were more fun than books. Learned classical dance for 20 years. Competed in many events in school and college arts festivals and won several prizes including kalathilakam titles. I’m still crazy about dance. Joined Rigata Dance Academy in Thiruvananthapuram but discontinued for lack of time.

But trekking is different. Do it once and you won’t stop. The woods are addictive. They have the serenity and peace found nowhere else. Some people love to revisit the same locations. But I crave for new destinations. They are invigorating. Try small hills first. The only supplies you need for small treks are a bottle of water and a meal – preferably packed in plantain leaf.

I wear what’s comfortable on a trek. It doesn’t really matter what you wear. I return from every trek with immense energy. It brings well-being in personal and professional life. Just do it!

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Dreams of MBBS landed me in nursing. Worked as a teacher after completing nursing from Calicut Medical College. Love for civil service landed me Indian Information Service. Every job has its own takeaways. The current job provides many travel opportunities. I love it and it has given me much to cherish. Filming for media during Okhi disaster with the armed forces gave a totally different perspective about life.

I meet all kinds of people; take classes for sixth grade students to civil service aspirants. I don’t like wasting even a minute, and that’s my request to all. Do something useful; tidy up the room when you have nothing else to do. Constantly engage with life, and the returns will be truly amazing. That’s how life works.

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