The Nilgiris - Snapshots from our visit in December 2010

#1 Jan 21st, 2011, 19:13
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#1
Please read my comprehensive travelogue posted on my Travelpod page:
http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog/indianature/39/tpod.html


Posting a few snippets and logistics here:

On this trip, apart from our old haunt Avalanche, we also visited Emerald, Porthimund, Parsons Valley, Upper Bhavani, Korakundah, Kinnakorai and Kodanad.



As everyone knows by now, Avalanche is a reserve forest with an incredibly blue lake, high mountains and extraordinary views, situated approx. 30km from Ooty. Pretty hill birds and flowers are in abundance. Wildlife too, if you are lucky .









It is also the site of the Kundah Power House – V, a power generation unit of the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board [TNEB]. Read this to know more about hydel power projects in the Nilgiris.
http://www.greenosai.org/environment/diversity/28-hydel-power-projects-in-nilgiris.html

Much of the Avalanche Lake is restricted as it lies beyond the Forest Check Post. To get past this check post officially, or to book accommodation at the Forest Rest House, you require a permit from the DFO Office in Ooty. Contact details here:
http://www.forests.tn.nic.in/ContactUs_dist/cu_ngs.html


A few more accommodation units will be available sometime in 2011, through the Wildlife or Fisheries Department. No, I do not have the details!


Unofficially
, people are known to be let through for a small consideration. There is no need to go to such lengths for there is much to savour of Avalanche in the unrestricted area before the Check Post. Ludicrously, it is mostly the dense wattle forest that is “protected” after the post – as though ubiquitous wattle needs any protection!





The best of the shola forest lies between Mullimunth Toda village and the Forest Rest House which are in the unrestricted zone
.







Small pathways lead off the main Avalanche road into the shola forest for those who are interested. Be sure to mark your way in so that you can easily find your way out. It is not difficult to get lost inside the shola. Carry large squares of newspaper to stick on tree branches along the way, this is easy and eco friendly.

A fairly broad path going into the shola can be found inside the FRH on the right, next to the Trekking Shed. This is a particularly nice forest to explore, dripping with orchids, ferns, lichens, crystal clear mountain springs and great views when you reach the grassy plateau half way up that mountain.











Another lovely pathway is the short cut through the shola forest leading to a grassy hill over which lies Mullimunth. However, you will have to ask someone local to point out the way as it is not clearly discernible otherwise. The Toda mund can also be reached by a 2km dirt road leading off from the bus stop at Mullimunth junction on the main Avalanche road. Mullimunth is really worth the visit. It has everything one could ask for: friendly Todas – the original inhabitants of the Nilgiris, traditional Toda barrel shaped houses, rolling meadows, dense shola jungle, tea bushes, fields and a vast, expansive view.






On the other side of the unrestricted Avalanche road lies Bedmund – another wonderful place to walk to. This is the original Toda site in Avalanche. After the area was declared forest land, the Todas were relocated to Mullimunth but allowed to continue cultivation of the existing tea estate at Bedmund.

To get to Bedmund, go up the broad grassy hill below the electricity lines until you see a broad dirt track on the right going through a pine forest. Follow this track – it comes out on top of the mountain at the tea estate. A fantastic view of the lake can be seen from Bedmund.




The best and biggest of the meadows along the lakeshore is accessible just past the Check Post from a little path behind the Forest quarters. The guard would almost certainly let you walk there without the permit that is more strictly insisted upon for vehicular entry.




Getting to Avalanche by public transport:

Two buses ply daily from Ooty. Timings are variable: 1] dep. Ooty 1100-11.30hrs dep. Avalanche PH 1300-1330hrs 2] dep. Ooty 1800-1830hrs dep Avalanche PH next day 0545hrs.

Buses ply with more frequency to Emerald and Manjur, you can get off at Emerald and hire a jeep taxi Rs.300-400.

Emerald Lake

Easily accessible by bus from Ooty, this is not a restricted zone. It is a beautiful blue lake, in fact it is the same waterbody as Avalanche Lake with just a small bridge dividing the two waters at Surukipalayam. You can go wherever you like here, there are several places where the lakeshore is easily accessible.




Accommodation: Destiny Farm, Red Hills, Inspection Bungalow of TNEB, basic lodgings.

It is a good base to visit Avalanche, Porthimund and Parsons Valley, apart from Emerald itself with its own pretty tea estates and vegetable fields.










Porthimund Lake


This is beyond Power House VI, reached by the road from Emerald to Red Hills Hotel. The lake has very low water at present due to a failed monsoon, but there are great views of the Nilgiri Peak.





Water from Porthimund flows through a tunnel in the mountain, into the penstock of Power House VI.




A diversion near here goes to the Mukurthi National Park and the Western Catchments. Permits required for official entry - naturally from the DFO Office in Ooty!





Another road from Porthimund goes to the Mukurthi Lake, however a permit is required to officially proceed beyond a certain point. Assuming you can get past that point, then it is a 2 hour gradual walk upto the Mukurthi Peak from the end of that road.

Parsons Valley and Lake
Just before Porthimund is another road leading to the Parsons Valley and to Ooty. This is a lovely scenic drive through pine forests and gently sloping picnic areas with picture postcard brooks.





The road goes on to the Parsons Valley Dam and lake, the main source of water supply for Ooty. The super hit Tamil movie Roja was shot here.






A Forest Rest House is located here. No prizes for guessing where it can be booked from!




A tea stall and basic meals are available at the little village at Parsons Valley. Public buses ply from Ooty to Parsons Valley.



The road from Emerald to Parsons Valley is horrendous, much worse than the Avalanche road which is atrocious by any standards. A jeep is the only way to comfortably get around here. No idea what the road from Parsons Valley to Ooty is like. It joins the Pykara Ooty road which is a National Highway so perhaps from there onward, it is good.



Another day trip we did, again by jeep, was to the Upper Bhavani lake at Lakkidi, the Korakundah estate and to Kinnakorai.


The rhododendron studded landscape, and the lake at Lakkidi are always stunning even though like Porthimund, this lake too was bereft of water.












To get here i.e. to the Upper Bhavani at Lakkidi, you do really need to get through that check post at Avalanche!


The alternative is to go via Manjur, take the Manjur – Upper Bhavani Dam road and then past Korakundah, to take the road on the right hand side going to Avalanche. There is a Prohibited signboard but no one ever around to check.

The lake at Lakkidi is via a bifurcation from this “no entry” road. The small Bhavani Amman temple is also nearby, majestically situated at the head of a waterfall.



Korakundah – a magical sounding name, synonymous with premium organic green tea. The estate is simply breathtaking with waterfalls, shola, lake and resident wildlife in abundance.









For some peculiar reason, they have a signboard illegally proclaiming “Photography Prohibited”



Which statute vests the estate with the right to ban photography from the public road? Not that anyone was trying to stop people from taking pictures.

This is another perfect place for those who enjoy walking.



A small Toda hamlet can be reached through a short path off the main road.







Kinnakorai


A diversion on the left hand side before Korakundah on the Manjur – Upper Bhavani Dam road, goes through several hair pin bends to the Carrington Estate [Thai shola] and on to Kinnakorai.

Kinnakorai is the last village, after which the Nilgiri plateau drops into Kerala.





Steep slopes at Carrington





The road to Kinnakorai traverses the densest, longest stretch of shola forest. No check posts, no “Prohibited” signs, no restrictions of any sorts. Explore to your hearts content! This is a good place to see wildlife in the evenings.







On a clear day, Kinnakorai affords excellent views of the Silent Valley in Kerala and of the Geddai penstock. On the day we went, the sun and clouds played hide and seek.





No complaints as the scenery and the forest more than compensated for the absence of a "view".




Manjur is the most convenient base for exploring Kinnakorai, Korakundah and Upper Bhavani.

Basic lodging is available near the bus stand.

A few budget priced home stays have also started recently. I don’t have the details but if anyone is interested, our driver friend Jagadeesan [+91 95004 70007 / 94423 70007] can make the arrangements as it is his native town.

Rooms are also available at the Annamalai Ashram and the TNEB Inspection Bungalow at Kundah, but bookings are not guaranteed.

Public buses ply directly between Coimbatore and Manjur via Mulli. Ooty – Manjur buses are at regular intervals throughout the day. Buses are also available from Ooty to Kinnakorai.

Incidentally, Manjur is justly well known for its excellent bakeries. Truly the flakiest puffs and the lightest cakes in the Nilgiris, all made of pure Jersey cow butter …….




Kotagiri and Kodanad

Everyone raves about Kotagiri and Kodanadu so we too had to go there, at least this once.

Kotagiri is tea country, quite different to the landscape of Avalanche.





The pale green bicycle is one of those that the politicians have distributed free to students in Tamil Nadu. Smart strategy ........

Here is yet another obligatory Todamund, on the way to Kodanadu. The houses here were modern, only the temple was the traditional construction.







Here is the Rangaswamy Pinnacle or Rangaswamy Betta as it is better known. Seen from the Kodanadu View Point.






We found out that a diversion from the Kotagiri Kodanad road leads to the base of the pinnacle, from where you can hike to the falls or to the peak. Left that for another trip.

The Kodanadu Tea Estate is vast and superbly maintained, it is reportedly owned by Tamil Nadu’s former and perhaps to be Chief Minister Ms. J. Jayalalitha. According to Saga our driver, it spans 400 acres. Rumour also has it according to him, that the present CM’s daughter Kanimozhi owns a few hundred acres out in Gudalur and the CM’s son Stalin has bought out the Good Shepherd school and township in Mel Palada. Uh Oh. If these big time politicians have bought up all of the Nilgiris, will there be any meager portions of land left here for us lesser mortals?

Here are some pictures of the Kodanad Estate:







Note the chain link fencing which most tea estates in the Nilgiris do not have. A really huge palace like building is in the background of that picture, but is not clear due to the light and poor camera skills. Let the bad carpenter not blame his tools!



Some normal brown monkeys in Kotagiri. Elsewhere we had only seen the black Nilgiri langurs.




A strange sight was of parcels tied to the branches of several trees. We saw this first in Emerald and again in Kotagiri. Saga said it was the afterbirth of cows that their owners tied to trees so that animals could not eat it. It is the first time we had come across such a practice, perhaps it is common in rural areas? Does anyone know?






Public buses ply between Kotagiri and Kodanadu View Point, and between Ooty and Kotagiri.


Some photos of the wildlife we saw on this trip, apart from the stag at Korakundah.


A snake crossing the road near Geddai



Nilgiri Langur seen everywhere!



Saw plenty of striped mongoose and muntjacs but they would not pose for pics.

Nilgiri Tahr high up on the Avalanche mountain above the penstock;



The variety of pretty birdies more than made up for the absence of larger mammals. Thank you RWHFY for identifying the birds .




I can not end this report without mentioning those delicious farm fresh “Ooty” carrots which we bought straight off the field near Ithalar. They were being washed off mud in a contraption by the roadside before loading on a truck to get them to the Mettupalayam wholesale market.







This cow want his fair share of carrots too!








Oh, and how could I forget the
Kurinji Pooh, the blue flowers [they are actually violet] that give the Blue Mountains their name. They were in bloom high up on the mountain in Avalanche.





We used our old faithful driver Jagdeesan for the way up, and Saga’s jeep for the trips within the Nilgiris and back to Coimbatore.

A Jeep is the best vehicle for those roads. Saga’s contact details: Sagadevan Mobile: +91 94438 60913 He is quite resourceful in obtaining permission to enter restricted areas.

It goes without saying that we cant wait for the next visit!
Travelpod / Flickr


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#2 Jan 21st, 2011, 19:23
It's all Greek to me, but Benglish will do
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Beautiful photos! I will read the report properly later. Congratulations for photographing the "Photography Strictly Prohibited" sign and for ignoring it!

Your flower pics are wonderful. The Kurinji flower you snapped above, is it related to the Neelakurunji which only flowers once every twelve years? Is it the same one?
#3 Jan 21st, 2011, 19:30
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Wonderful pictures and write-up, thank you! I spent a few weeks exploring Porthimund, Parsons Valley etc last year. I stayed with a villager (Selvaraj) in Parsons Valley once and other times I tried to do day trips taking the first morning bus from Ooty.

A couple of questions: I was 'discouraged' from going to hike in several places because of the possibility of encountering wild boar and other animals. The fact that I was travelling alone might have been a reason. Did you have such issues?

Thanks for Sagadevan's contact details as well. They will go into my contacts list.
#4 Jan 21st, 2011, 19:34
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Thanks Theyyam.

Yes Kurinji and Neela kurinji are the same flower. Neela means blue, though why they call it blue when they are actually violet beats me!

There are several species of kurinji, the one in my photo is Strobilanthes kunthiana. Once every ten to twelve years is the usual flowering habit for the high altitude species. That is for mass blooming. There will always be some in bloom every year somewhere or the other!

Better pictures of kurinji from previous trips:
#5 Jan 21st, 2011, 19:35
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Great! Thanks for the information, snonymous.
#6 Jan 21st, 2011, 19:38
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Great writeup and pics!
.
This is computer generated drivel. No signature is required.
#7 Jan 21st, 2011, 19:38
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Quote:
Originally Posted by greenears View Post Wonderful pictures and write-up, thank you! I spent a few weeks exploring Porthimund, Parsons Valley etc last year. I stayed with a villager (Selvaraj) in Parsons Valley once and other times I tried to do day trips taking the first morning bus from Ooty.

A couple of questions: I was 'discouraged' from going to hike in several places because of the possibility of encountering wild boar and other animals. The fact that I was travelling alone might have been a reason. Did you have such issues?

Thanks for Sagadevan's contact details as well. They will go into my contacts list.
Thanks Greenears.

You should be so lucky to encounter wild animals that dont scoot immediately when they see you!

Except in elephant territory, I dont see any problem with day time hikes. We have roamed the forests of Avalanche intensively during the day time. No one told us not to. It is common sense not to go too close to bisons and other large mammals that do not scoot away.

The Forest officers cautioned us not to walk alone in the twilight.

Do post details of that villager in Parsons Valley. Thanks
#8 Jan 21st, 2011, 19:40
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Thanks Capt. M.
#9 Jan 21st, 2011, 20:29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by snonymous View Post Thanks Greenears.

You should be so lucky to encounter wild animals that dont scoot immediately when they see you!

Except in elephant territory, I dont see any problem with day time hikes. We have roamed the forests of Avalanche intensively during the day time. No one told us not to. It is common sense not to go too close to bisons and other large mammals that do not scoot away.

The Forest officers cautioned us not to walk alone in the twilight.

Do post details of that villager in Parsons Valley. Thanks
Thanks for replying... I was told the wild boar are the dangerous ones, supposed to have an instinct to charge.

Regarding the man at Parsons Valley his name is Selvaraj. He was recommended to me by James who works at the NWEA - Nilgiris Wildlife and Environment Association in Ooty. Selvaraj knows quite a few of the forest officials in that area and can get you into some of the restricted areas. Takes you trout fishing, and claims to be a good cook too. Interesting anecdotalist, and honeycomber par excellence!

Unfortunately I've lost his direct phone number now (mobile reception in Parsons Valley as of mid 2009 was patchy) - but you can get that from James at the NWEA office in Ooty.

NWEA: +91 423 2447167
http://nwea.in/contact.html
#10 Jan 21st, 2011, 21:40
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Thanks Greenears.

Is Selvaraj a Kurumba? They are known for their ability to get the best honey. Well, I guess all tribals who live around forests do.

Ive seen wild boar up close in Periyar and recently in Valparai, they just ignored us, didnt even bother to run away. Im sure the people who told you, being locals, would know better. Always better to be cautious.
#11 Jan 21st, 2011, 21:49
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Synonymous,

Selvaraj is ethnic tamizh - his family migrated a couple of generations ago from the plains.
#12 Jan 21st, 2011, 21:52
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Great photos - was there two years ago and this is a good reminder why I want to go back there.
#13 Jan 21st, 2011, 21:55
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Thanks Clive G.

Greenears, the adivasi people in Matheran near Mumbai, are also very good with honey. Whenever I go there, I buy a bottle of their special honey. It helped my hubby a lot when he was convalescing from dengue.
#14 Jan 21st, 2011, 22:16
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Sorry to hear that your husband had dengue.

Thanks for another great thread
#15 Jan 22nd, 2011, 02:34
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Brilliant write-up snonymous! I'm not familiar with this area at all but after seeing your wonderful pictures and reading your report I'm very tempted to try to visit.

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