Friday, January 21, 2011

The Chimmony Tale

           I was busy with my office schedule while Sinesh called. It was 14th of December 2010 and until the call, I wasn't aware, that 16th was a holiday. I was informed that he was planning a trip to Chimminy wild life sanctuary, which was the lone one of Thrissur district. Discussed with Sunil and Renchi and , as usual, there weren't any hesitations. Decided to leave Trivandrum, by 9 AM, the very next day, to join Sinesh and Family at Angamaly, by evening, and reach Chimmoni before dusk. Sinesh took over the duty of arranging night stay at the Forest Inspection Bungalow.

        Chimoni wild life sanctuary got its name from the Chimony River flowing through it, which originates at the western slope of Nelliyampathi Hills. The river was dammed, forming the Chimmini reservoir, catering to the agricultural lands in the planes of Thrissur district. Flora and fauna are vivid, as the sanctuary is contiguous with the Parambikulam Tiger Reserve.

             Started a bit late from the planned schedule, opted MC road, had lunch from Kottayam and reached Angamali, thereby joining NH 47, by around 5 PM. Sinesh was waiting there for long, in his Paleo, and drove north together. Left NH 47 at Amballoor, near Thrissur, and deviated to the right. Drove past Varantharapalli, towards the Western Ghats and light faded as we reached Veluppadam.

                As we reached Palappilly, it started raining all of a sudden. The track went through rubber plantations, not at all inhabited, and we were the lone travelers, along the stretch. It was raining cats and dogs by then and we struggled to cut through the darkness. After about an hour along the frightening stretch, the lantern light at the distant check post, came as a soothing sight.

             As the check post people had information on our visit, they had a watcher ready, to lead us to the Forest Inspection Bungalow, by the side of Chimmony reservoir. Thus, after all these hassles, we occupied the spacious three bedded IB, by around 8 PM.

              Though power failed, owing to the heavy down pour, we weren't in trouble, as the IB had generator back up. The care taker of the IB provided us a decent dinner, with non veg delicacies.

        After the dinner, drove to the Range Officer's residence, with Suni, driver with Forest dept. The RO Mr. Jayendran was a young energetic chap, recently married, and he had his wife with him, who came for a weekend visit.  Had a brief chat and left, as we were not to disturb the young couple, who met once in a week. Before leaving, he directed Suni, to take us for a night trek, if we were interested. He also offered to visit us early next morning, to plan our day.

            Sunil opted to stay back and Sinesh and I got ready for the walk, accompanied by Suni, another watcher - I forgot his name- and Sharmila, a graduate in forestry, who was working on a project, on the fauna of the sanctuary. Walked along the reservoir side up to "Virakuthodu' sector, in the silent darkness. Spotted a Sambar deer in the adjoining woods. We were behind it and Suni would have stamped directly on a 'hump nosed viper', if Sharmila was not to scream and push him off.

         The creature was right on the mid track and didn't even bother to lift its head. Spent a while clicking and continued further.

                 A slender loris on a tree top jumped off  our torch beam and couldn't trace him, though we spent a while, in search. It was midnight by then and we decided to return.

        Sinesh and I went for a short walk early morning, and black tea was ready, as we returned.

Early morning view from the IB

               Our caretaker had Upma and vegetable curry for our break fast, and the RO visited us, just we finished it. As we had engagements at Trivandrum, the very next day, we were to leave the place at least by noon. Thus we had just half a day left and he advised us to opt for a trek to a small falls in the woods, by name 'Choorathala', which can be covered in three to four hours. Owing to time constrains, we agreed, and were off soon, guided by Sujith, a watcher with the dept.

        The initial stretch was a mild hike along cleared path.

         Just after half a kilometer, the woods thickened and the track went uneven. We had occasional brooks crossing the track, thus rendering it slippery.

           As usual, our kids lead the trail, and Sujith found it hard in taming these wild gooses.My young boy was to be carried occasionally and Sinesh and I took turns in loading.

          He loved walking across brooks and we had to wait patiently, for him to be through.

         Woods thickened further and the going went tough, as there wasn't even a track at many places.

            We had to penetrate the foliage to keep going.

        Thorny bushes disturbed us all the while. Prop roots crossing the track, too were enjoyed.

     Thus proceeding we approached a gigantic rocky structure and continued along its side.

        At places Sujith had to hang on prop roots to make way for us.

          The rock slowly appeared carved in, forming a cave like appearance, through which we were to slide in. It would have been a shelter to many from shower and wind.

        Now we could hear the mild hiss of the descent and it was just a turning ahead.

           Choorathala wasn't that huge plunge, but still it had a beauty of its own. It appeared as if a heavy shower, shattered by the rocky base.

              To experience the shower one has climb along the slippery rocks. Atop, you will find aside a white curtain, separating you from the woods.

               If you stick to the rocky side, not even a single drop will wet you. Step forward and you are beneath a painful shower. We  played the shower - no shower game, for long, until Sujith reminded us, lifting his wrist watch.

        Got out, dried ourselves, and opted the return trek through a different track. Had few more brooks on the way which put us to test.

        The down trek soon ended by the reservoir side, and the remaining part was through level jeep track, laid by the forest dept.

          Back at the IB, by 1'o clock, had a hurried lunch, and packed out soon, as Sujith was to take us to the dam site, before we left.

       Reservoir was some what full and the shutters were open. Watched the milky descent for a while and the return journey commenced.


          Dropped Sujith at the check post and we drove together up to Ernakulam. Sinesh and family parted there.

              Previous day's tedious drive, less slept night, and the trek along the woods, had drained all my energy and I was tired like anything.  I was a bit anxious whether I would be able to drive all the way back. But the pot holes of NH 47 and the occasional heavy showers, was sufficient to keep me awake till we reached our shelter by around 10 PM.

    Here ends the Tale,folks.....just the Chimmony Tale.

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Sunday, January 9, 2011

More on the Anakulam Expedition

   This post is in continuation to my earlier one, on the Aanakulam experience. Those who had gone through the earlier post may kindly recall the morning session at Anakkulam and premises, to have an idea on where the paradise on earth , we are, and others click here

          What I found was that the tiny village of Aanakkulam was very much blessed with water sources and all along the experience we had that mild roar of flow, in our ears. Though we were keen on raiding on the delicacies which awaited us at our dwelling, the description by Unni, our 4WD chauffeur, on 'Valiya Para Kutti', was capable to impose a rethought. Thus we cruised along another bumpy track, along the bank of Eetacholayar, for this dream destination.

        As I had mentioned earlier, rivulets are aplenty in this region. The confluence of these rivulets results in three major flows namely Eetacholayar - which may be familiar to you by now - Karinthiriyaar, originating from the hillocks of Eravikulam National Park and Mankulam river of local origin. Mankulam flow suffers a heavy plunge, close to Mankulam, by name 'Peruman Kuthu' - intended for a late evening visit - and soon joins Karinthiriyaar. And 'Valiya Para Kutti' is the beautiful location where this flux meet Eetacholayaar. The togetherness is here after named Pooyamkutti River. Those who love wikimapia, can have a satellite description on the geography, by clicking this link.  Markings by none other than me.

         At places we got out of the vehicle, as it would be cruel to ask it, to carry all of us, along such a terrain. Thus, we gents, opted to walk along with the vehicle.

Few minutes' walk took us to our destination - the confluence. We found the 'Big Rock' - 'Valiya Para' in Malayalam - centrally placed in the flow. Just dreamed, how nice it would be, sitting on that island rock, enjoying the flow all around, for the flow itself was an island in the thick jungle, surrounding it.

             Folks, dreams occasionally come true, and I saw Unni crossing the flow, aiming the rock, inviting us to follow his track. What more; we were on it. Its just another rock, but the sight not to be missed.

             Eetacholayaar approached us from North east

         The confluence of Mankulam River and Karinthiriyaar approached us from South east
Mankulam + Karinthiri
                      Pooyamkutti River left us to the west

Pooyamkutti River

                           We had the woods of Kuttampuzha Range to our north and the thickets of Adimali Range to the south.

              None thought of food until Unni reminded us of the same. Left the place reluctantly and reached back Aanakkulam by around 2 PM.

A crude equipment to fear away elephants from dwelling premises
            Our good old friends at Aanakulam, were by then ready with meals, with many dishes that included the catch of the late night fishing, we had the previous day. We had to hurry with the lunch session, as Babuvettan, our native friend, had announced another fishing session, in which his newly invented electrical gadget, will be put to use. Not being just to our taste buds, we were out again into the waters.

                                  The gadget was two conducting rods, fixed at the ends of a fork shaped PVC pipe, sourced by an inverter battery. The first sight of the gadget wasn't that appealing and we were doubtful on the out come. But it went amazing once it commenced performing. 

              Just in a quarter hour, we had enough for another meals. 

         Then, it was time to leave the place. This tiny jungle hamlet and its humble folk had mesmerized us, in just two days, and we found it difficult to convince us, that we were to leave. Thanked Dinesh, the forest official in charge of the place, for all the support and total involvement, and boarded Unni's 4WD.

  Reached Mankulam by around 4 in the evening and proceeded along the abandoned Old Aluva - Munnar road, for Peruman Kuthu falls, on Mankulam River.

               The Old Aluva - Munnar road was the loan means of conveyance between Munnar and the Cochin sector, till 1924, which went along the woods of Thattekkad, Pooyamkutti and Mankulam. This road was built by British, in the very beginning of 20th century, following the ruins of a historic track. Floods and consequent landslide, during 1924, rendered the track unfavorable and it was abandoned and partly left to nature.

            Drive ended at a narrow bridge on the Old Aluva - Munnar road, and Unni parked the vehicle by the way side. 

Old Alwaye - Munnar Road
                A small trek along the slippery track, by the side of Mankulam river took us to our next destination. 

          Slipped out of the foliage to be presented with a small descent, just about 5 meters high.

             Unni read the disappointment, but was still smiling. He walked along the rocky surface beside the flow, jumped off a ridge and disappeared. Carefully followed, slide down the small ridge, and found Unni at the farther edge of a sloped surface. Forced by Unni, decided to have an extra careful walk on bear foot, up to the edge. 

          Once you are there, the sight is unforgettable. The depth to which the flow plunges is sure to send a chill up your spine. 

Cameras weren't capable of capturing the depth
        No fencing, no security measures, the place is absolutely dangerous, if you aren't that cautious.

            By then Sinesh joined us and we discussed whether to bring the ladies and kids there. And finally we agreed to Unni's view, that it was just another sight, not to be missed. Observing utmost caution, moving inch by inch, we took them there. Many of them urged an immediate return, not withstanding fear. 

                 Took some quick snaps and crawled back to safety. Only on the return trek, Unni revealed the news of a recent incident there, claiming three lives.

            It was 5 PM by then and our night stay was arranged at Bison valley, near Munnar, which was more than 35 kms drive from Mankulam, but Unni was not ready to leave us that easy. Though a bit anxious on time ticking on, we conceded to him and had another neck breaking drive, in the opposite direction to reach the narrow hanging bridge across Karinthiriyaar.

      Reaching there we couldn't help appreciating Unni for his enthusiasm. The bridge was that long, across the entire width of the river and that narrow to pass a single person.

           It swung and cried, as we walked along and we seldom dared to have a look at the flow beneath. 

                           Unni took our kids, along the entire stretch, to the wooded bank of Karinthiriyaar, opposite to the jeep track.

View from the hanging bridge

          Back at Mankulam, transferred the baggage from Unni's jeep to own vehicles and inquired on the Jeep fare. We were stunned at his demand of Rs.1500, for two days along this terrain, without a good sleep even. Forced Rs.2000 into his pockets and drove off from the tiny pocket of wonders - natural and humane.

          Reached our night stay 'Oak Fields', near Bison Valley, by around 8 PM. 

         Went for a morning walk along the cardamom plantations and packed up after break fast. Our friend, an Engineer with KSEB, who was presently engaged with the Pallivasal Extension Scheme (PES), joined us at Pallivasal. On his aid, we explored the tunnels being drilled through the gigantic rocky structure, to carry water from the Head Works Dam, near Munnar, to the newly constructed power house, in the valley.

                 Exited the tunnel and drove along its side, up to the surge well, from where we could catch a glimpse of the pen stocks, being laid to the power plant.

Discussion on the technical details

           Paid a visit to the power plant and drove to Adimali for lunch. 

                       Sinesh and family left for Ernakulam and we had a peaceful drive to reach our world, by around 10 PM

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Pappilai Amman - The Deity Distinct

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