Western Ghats National Parks Road trip-Trip Report

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#1 Dec 14th, 2015, 19:02
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Our daughter moved to Ahmedabad from Chennai recently, and since her car (Nissan Sunny) was at Chennai, we decided to bring it back and at the same time visit some of the National Parks along the Western Ghats. Our plan was to cover the following:
  1. Silent Valley National Park
  2. Bandipur National Park
  3. Nagarhole National Park
  4. Dandeli National Park
  5. Koyna wildlife Sanctuary
The idea was to travel through the meandering roads of the western ghats and take in the sights on the way. While we had to make reservations at the National parks, we kept a day or two to spare in between some of them so that we were not rushed and had some leeway. Secondly, we wanted to have a leisurely trip and not the usual "beating the normal time" hectic drive.
Accordingly, we had earmarked 15 days for the trip starting from 29th November at Chennai.
The route planned was as follows:
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#2 Dec 14th, 2015, 19:05
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That's great, Earthian!

Looking forward to see a grand report along with splendid wildlife photographs!!
#3 Dec 14th, 2015, 19:12
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We found that Mr Murphy was alive and well and up to his old tricks. We had just finished the plan when disaster struck! There was a storm warning at Chennai for 28th and 29th of November. We had planned to reach Chennai on the 27th November by air from Ahmedabad, take a day to pack essentials and check the car, and leave on the 29th morning. Chennai had some extensive rains the week before and we did not want to take the forecast lightly ( though meteorological forecasts in India are quite dependable....in their inaccuracy, that is!)
After rescheduling every thing, the revised plan was to now start on the 1st December from Chennai and hence we planned to reach Chennai on the 29th November.
Little did we know that Murphybhai was quite upset with us, having spoken so badly of him and had reserved some special snafus for us.
#4 Dec 14th, 2015, 19:42
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Our daughter suddenly remembered that the Nissan agent had mentioned that the brakes need to be checked. We got in touch with the service centre and he agreed to check the car and if necessary replace the liners. the car was taken on the 28th and the agent promised to deliver it by the evening.
We reached Chennai as per our revised schedule on the 29th before noon. There had been no rains (why am i not surprised?) on the 28th despite (due to?) the storm warning! When we landed the sky was quite clear and we looked forward to make our preparations. When we reached the house, we had the first shock. The car had not yet been delivered!!!
#5 Dec 14th, 2015, 22:25
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When we telephoned the dealer he maintained that he had sent the car last evening itself. Now that was a puzzle. Well, it transpired that the driver who delivered the car figured that we would not need it last night and had decided to deliver it in the morning of the 29th and by a happy coincidence delivered the car to our friends place ( from where he had picked it up) when we were telephoning the dealer.
By 29th evening the rain started and the intensity increased. Worse, the TV channels reported extensive flooding in parts of Tamil Nadu. We were informed that the road to Vellore was in a bad condition.
Fingers crossed and hoping the rain would slacken.
Last edited by Earthian; Dec 15th, 2015 at 10:16..
#6 Dec 15th, 2015, 06:49
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The rain continued through the night. No way we are going to postpone again. We loaded the car amidst the drizzle and set off. The early morning drizzle within no time turned into a steady down pour. Surprisingly, the traffic was quite heavy at 0600 hrs. Mostly trucks and buses. It was quite trying negotiating the potholes in low visibility and heavy traffic. I had thought that the practice of two wheelers and three wheelers and at times, cars using the wrong side of the road was only prevalent in the Northern States, but i was wrong.
With all the excitement we got into the wrong road- the chennai bypass road- instead of continuing on NH 4. My daughter commented that the Porur lake seemed full but we thought nothing of it at that time. In fact we could see water bodies every where and some of them overflowing on the road, but slightly- we didn't think much of it. We managed to take the Wahajabad road-quite a bad road- and reached kanchipuram where the first business of the day was to have breakfast with a relative and check out the temples. The second agenda had to be dropped due to the incessant rain. However we braved the rain and had a look at the Vaikuntha Perumal Temple.
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#7 Dec 15th, 2015, 10:26
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excellent , hooked :-D
#8 Dec 15th, 2015, 10:40
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We left Kanchipuram at 1030 hrs or so. By that time Chennai had started flooding and some roads were closed. We had just beaten the deluge by a few hours! The plan was to go to Vellore and check out the golden temple. Being ignorant of temples, i had assumed that it would be a heritage one affording one with a glimpse to the past. Little did i know that it was a new temple built on vast grounds, with a covered walkway some 2 kms long!
My enthusiasm quickly cooled off since neither was the temple old nor was photography allowed. Still having come all the way, we took a chakker inside. The temple is run like a corporate with customers, sorry pilgrims, forced to enter shops peddling various goods ( the pathway is diverted through shops) and boards advertising the principles and qualities of the management and founder. The temple had few visitors, no doubt due to the rain, and we could go through it quickly. On the return, we were asked to take "prasad" comprising of a hot lunch in the dining area. The dining area was quite clean and the service efficient. The food was hot. Quite impressive. However, the good impression was slightly dented by the gentle persuasion for donations after one came out from the dining hall. I am sure that money is required to do good to the needy but i can't help but feel that commercialisation of religious establishments should be taken only thus far.

We came out and got into the car. While driving out of the parking, a couple of gents were gesturing wildly and saying something (which we could not hear since the glass was rolled up). This happened again and we realised that Mr Murphy was at it again.....disaster had struck.
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#9 Dec 15th, 2015, 10:47
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#9
Really a thrilling experience!

Continue, please...
#10 Dec 15th, 2015, 15:25
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We rolled down the window and asked them "What's up?" or to that effect in Tamil. They again gestured to the front of the car and when we looked we had a flat tyre, flatter than a plank of wood, freshly cut from the saw mill! And of course it was raining. And you guessed it. The nearest puncher repair shop was 5 kms away.
Taking out the luggage, and my 15kgs of photographic equipment in the rain was not an option and there was no shelter to speak of.
Well, thank god for small mercies- there was a mechanic with a compressor near by- i drove with the flat tyre sans the passengers, filled up air and scooted to the tyre shop, which luckily had an awning in front. These tubeless tyres makes life simpler -at least for mending punctures- till Murphy throws a curve ball!-more on that later.
We were on our way to the night halt at Salem and we booked at the Park Plaza.
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#11 Dec 15th, 2015, 15:34
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The next morning , i tried my hand at panning, without a tripod:
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After a hearty breakfast, we were off to Mukkali, where we were to be met by the jeep that would take us to Boomiyampadi where we would stay in the SVNP's cottage.
http://silentvalley.gov.in/SilentHome.php
#12 Dec 15th, 2015, 16:19
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Lovely panning...
#13 Dec 15th, 2015, 21:39
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Our route to Mukkali was as follows:
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We had to reach Mukkali at 1500 hrs at the SVNP customer service center from where they would transfer us to their jeep and take us to our cottages some 23 kms away.
It was a beautiful road and we enjoyed our journey. It had stopped raining and the air was crisp and clean. The drive up the mountain was scenic and beautiful and we stopped at every opportunity to sample the local offerings of fruits, narial pani and such.
We just reached a few minutes after 3 pm and presented ourselves at the customer desk where we were directed to go to the field offices, a stones throw away- here we were met by a bored forest employee and a surly driver, both who refused to help with the luggage. No big deal-we asked him if he could consider parking his jeep near our car so that we could transfer easily and he considered our request for a moment, debated the pros and cons, and grudgingly acquiesced.
The ride to the cottages followed the same route we had come for some 15 kms and we reached the cottages at around 1600 hrs to be met by Gopalakrishnan - the receptionist cum caretaker cum chef cum general factotum cum chief information officer cum a knight in shining armour. ie he was all smiles.
No we could not have a late lunch regretfully, and no tiffin either. We made do with tea and biscuits and he rewarded our patience with a splendid malayalee vegetarian dinner- simple and nourishing.
There are quite a few cottages but no other visitors except for us. Some of the cottages had forest guards staying- some eight of them- seems that the area has some issues with some of the tribals - commonly termed as Maoists, though they have not been known to target tourists as such. The cottages are reasonably clean, over sized and built with a total lack of aesthetics or functional jurisprudence. The colour scheme inside the room is atrocious, to say the least.
I went for a walk and saw some scenic sights:
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Still we had an uneventful night, peaceful and quiet.
#14 Dec 16th, 2015, 08:58
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Wake up call was at 5 am and off to Silent Valley with an energetic and charming young man.
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It is a five hour trip: 2 hours to go through the Park, 30 minutes to climb a watch tower, use the facilities and have some refreshments and an hour and half back. The Valley itself is captivating- the bio diversity is amazing- however, you would be lucky if you saw any mammals or birds, There are two reasons for this. One, the NP is in the mountains and there is only one road which leads to a particular point and back-hence the sighting chances are quite remote. Two, the forest is very dense ( it is an ever green forest).
We saw some Lion Tailed Macaques, Common macaque
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We had to reach Bandipur National Forest before the forest road closed and hence we were anxious to leave as early as possible since the roads were unknown. We were warned that under no circumstances would we be allowed to use the forest road once it was closed. It was a 4.5 hour drive and the road closed at 9 pm and we figured we would be okay if we left at 2.30 pm. Of course Mr Murphy was wringing his hands with glee and waiting!!
We hastened back, had a sumptuous lunch- Gopalakrishnan had really done us proud- it was a full Malayalee spread, comprising of some 12 dishes. My only grouse was that there was no dessert or a sweet dish. I had to make do with bananas.
We tucked in, loaded our stuff into the jeep, bade goodbye to GK and off we went to Mukkali where we had left our car. Some 30 minutes later, my wife suddenly said: "oh no" Stop!!
What now?
#15 Dec 19th, 2015, 15:42
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All of us including the driver turned to her." i have left my medicine in the fridge at the cottage" Not retriving the medicine was not an option and hence the options were either GK could bring it by motorcycle or we would have to go back and fetch it. The latter meant a delay of atleast 1 hour. GK's motorcycle had been borrowed by someone and hence we had no option but to go back. On the way, about 10 minutes later we saw someone on a motorcycle frantically waving to us. GK had asked some good samaritan to deliver the medicine. We reached our car, paid the dues and set out for Bandipur. We reached Bandipur at 2030 hrs just beating the forest road closure by 30 minutes. The road from Gudalur to BNP is very bad. Out of the total 32 odd kms, about 13 kms are very bad.
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