Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Munnar yatra

We four, Binoj(Bichu) with me from Bangalore and Dave and Suthyev from Trivandrum, were so cheered up to meet again after a long time. It was a bright morning on Nov 9th when we two from Bangalore got down at Muvattupuzha, and Suthy (Suthyev) and Dave were ready to receive us. The warm homely breakfast from Suthy’s home made us ready for a 100 km drive to the greenery of Munnar. Yes, the fuel was in.

Suthy steered his black Maruti Alto through the calm NH-49. It was a pleasing experience to be on the co-driver seat and to watch the road. The laughter paused at the Neriamangalam Bridge.

The Periyar was worth a stop as the river turned yellow,announcing the strength of the rain in High-Range(Colloquial term for Western Ghats) on the previous days. The way up hill was so cool with the lush beauty of forest at the two sides and no one needs an A/C when the fresh Oxygen whooshes in.

Our lunch was planned at Adimaly, a town amid the hills on the way to Munnar. Before that we had to stop at the two water falls. The first one is called Cheeyappara Waterfalls.

It is located just left to the road and looks like the water coming from up the skies. The next was the awesome view of the Valara waterfalls.

We can see this at the right side of the road giving a not-so-close view of the fall. After the lunch we continued the go to the Kashmir of the south. As the odo clocked some 15 km from Adimaly the steep mountains came to view as well as the wild valleys gave an awesome view through the mild mist.

Slowly it began to appear the tea plantations closer and closer. On reaching Pallivasal (sometimes Pullivasal also) we could feel Munnar with our skin and eye particularly. Most of the lands in Munnar are occupied by tea plantations. Since the rule of the British, Munnar has been a fascinating hill station. The first hydro electric project in Kerala was in Munnar- Pallivasal Hydro Electric Project. You will be amazed when you hear that once there was a rope-way from Munnar to Tamil Nadu and there was a form of railway also!

We rushed to the Eravikulam National Park, about 14 km afar the town. The way to Eravikulam was so amazing with the fascinating view of the green carpet spread over the hills and vales.

To be more specific Rajamala is the area where the Nilgiri Thar can be found. These are a kind of wild goats facing extinction. We had a wonderful journey up-hill in the minibus of Kerala Wildlife Dept. at a fairly low cost. There was a video being played dictating about the wonders of that unmatched destination. But, none paid attention to the monitor as all the passengers were busy with the fantastic views outside. The Forest Guard inside the bus was explaining the importance of the park. We could see the highest peak in Kerala- Anamudi through the fine fog. It looked like a black beast of 8841 feet standing with a cap of white feathers. When we got down up the hill, there was road yet to cover, but on foot. It was simply great to be in such a place with an amazing view of land. It was not the right time, but a few of the major attraction of last year were also there for us- the Neelakkurinji flowers.

The guard recollected the rush of visitors during the last season when all the mountains were garlanded with the cute flowers. Some four or five of the Nilgiri Thar, locally called varayadu, were roaming on the road. One of them gave a lot of close up poses before my cam phone.

The sun was fading by 5.30pm, because of the fog too. The cold began to pierce our body. We had no option other than enjoying it with a masala tea, as none among us had cared to get the jackets and caps from the car.

On the way a black wild squirrel led the bus for some yards. The National Park is the home for almost all the wild animals including tiger, bear, leopard, elephant etc. But only lucky people come across them at Rajamala. It began shivering when we reached the main road. We got some fresh carrots and enjoyed it all the way back to the town.

The Tamil prayer songs from the very old CSI Church gave the eve a divinity. We roamed in the market where fresh vegetables and fruits were sold at reasonable price. We could see foreigners bargaining at the handicraft shops and the salesgirls at the shops caring the customers with fairly good English and Hindi. The living in Munnar is solely based on Tea estates and tourism.

We could spot a decent restaurant for the dinner amongst the posh five star resorts and hotels. Our dwelling was ready at the Kanan Devan Hills Club, owned by Tata Tea Ltd.

We had a joyous bed time under the blankets when the all the flowers outside our cottage were frozen all the night. No wonder we were late by 1 ½ hours just because of a belated wake up. Had a strong tea with the breakfast and we packed to our next destination- Top Station.

Top Station is another peak, around 30 km from Munnar. The drive was frequently interrupted by the scenic beauty formed by fog, forest and tea estates. It was a hard time to both our enthusiastic driver Suthy and the Sony Cybershot. Atop, we saw the ruins of the old ropeway to Tamil Nadu. There is a steep walkway down from the peak.

We got advice to take enough rest on the way up as we may get suffocated. The view of Tamil Nadu was almost hidden by the fog. But the walkway for trekking was so adventurous. As we proceeded a bit into the wild green we got some fresh oranges.

Dave got a stinct of a leech and he lost a little blood too. We started back after a short break and snacks. Two dams were aside the route- Kundala and Maduppetty (spelt Mattuppetty also).

Both were almost filled with water and there we had a thrilling boating time at Maduppetty. Pedal boating was also offered there.

We had a pure Keralite lunch at Munnar. Then the excellent view point in the town limits, Pothamedu, provided us a bird’s eye view of the green. We bought some spice and tea. High quality tea in different variety is sold in the retail outlet of Tata Tea. The afternoon swayed us not to leave Munnar. But we proceeded through the Kumily road. At Devicolam, it stood the sign of her pride, the FM transmitter tower of All India Radio. Suthy tuned it for some Malayalam film song. We came to see some evicted resorts at the wayside. Those were constructed illegally in the Govt. land. At Chinnakkanal we had a marvelous time watching the dark green forest, down the hill, called Bison Valley. A stream was flowing beside the road. It was the great day going to fade when we were passing by the calm lake of Anayirankal. This was formed by a dam built across the river Panniyar and appeared relaxing amid the tea plants and deep forest. Suthy drove with his expertise through the ghat road with hidden twists and turns in the heavy rain and darkness till we reached my home at Kattappana.

Next morning, we woke up rejuvenated for the final lap of the trip. A tight schedule on the Sunday forced us to skip the Periyar Tiger Reserve and the boating in Thekkady Lake but was targeted to Ramakkalmedu, a famous place 15 km off-route the Munar-Kumily road. Watching the farms and fields of Tamil Nadu from the heights of Kerala, that to standing on a steep rocky mountain is dangerous than amazing.

Again a tough time for the cameras! Four or five towns in Theni district TN are visible at the east.

If you look back plush green of Western Ghats is unwrapped. The very place holds a statue of the tribe family of Kuravan and Kurathy. The giant sculpture, done by Jinan, is said to be located at the highest in Kerala.

The continuous and cool wind blows throughout here. The place is mythically associated with Lord Sri Ramachandra, in connection with his search for Sita Devi and hence the name.

We were on the move to Ernakulam via Idukki, there is a place called Calvary Mount. The 1.5 km way up the hill is worth a climb to have a mesmerizing sight of the reservoir of the Idukki Hydro Electric Project. At the heights we can hear the forest with the chirps of the birds. The widespread water body with tiny islands here and there was an all new experience to the eyes.

Later, we admired the beauty and the pride of the unmatched Idukki Arch Dam from the road. The hands on the watch showed it was late in the afternoon. And we were yet to cover a 100 km to reach Ernakulam. There was Suthy behind the steering wheel and freshness with all of us packed back to Bangalore and Trivandrum!


dave said...

really great...fantastic travel tale...

Smera said...

great work. really enjoyed reading it.