Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Kukkal - Chinnar Episode - 1

It was Raj on the other side.....

        ......of a mail I received on a pleasant day of early March 2011. It was an invitation from an NRI, a valued follower of my blog, a nature enthu, a serious planter and all the more a person of passion in conservation. It was about a neatly planned, 4 day long trek, from Kukkal village, some 35 km from Kodaikanal, to Chinnar, near Marayur of Kerala. Didn't have a second thought on acceptance, and thus Girish, one among the Managers of Raj's properties, found the threesome - Pramod, Biju and the blogger- near Kodaikanal bus stand, waiting for him.

Trek path imposed on satellite picture - Spots indicate halts.   (Click on the pic to enlarge)
Click here for a wikimapia view
                   He had arranged a vehicle up to Kukkal village and the drive across potholes ended at the village, at about 3.30 PM on 14th April 2011. Day one was to end at the Guest house of Raj's estate in the Kukkal valley, to which, fortunately, there is no road.

Geared for the down hill soon, as we had to reach the shelter before its too dark. Girish, being very familiar with the terrain, lead the trail, promptly notifying the geographic details.

          While Biju went following a pair of Pied Bush Chat, the rest focused on a distant silver line of a falls, in the Kuthirayaar river, which we were to cross soon.

Biju & the Bushchat

Pied Bushchat - Male & Female       Photo : Biju PB
         The trek went smooth and cool as there were no ups but all downs.

     Little further, the entire valley appeared beneath us and a part of the 400 plus acres property, went visible, bordered by woods and we assured ourselves of yet another memorable experience ahead.

             As the aim was at sight, though distant, pace dropped, and more time was served on photography and related affairs.


Kuthirayaar river threading through the woods

The lone means of transport in the terrain
                  Just as we crossed the Kuthirayaar flow, there was a dramatic climate change and the sun disappeared behind clouds. Gireesh announced an imminent down pour and the walk went brisker. Just about 100 metres from the first building in the estate, cloud broke, and we could just ram into the shelter before it went cats and dogs. It happened to be the dwelling of Mr. Ravi who manages this particular property and we enjoyed his hospitality till the rain subsided.

     By then it was dark and we had half a kilometer ahead, for the Guest house. Ravi arranged two three helpers for us, and the delegation moved on, equipped with  torches. Crossing occasional flows, watching and listening for wild friends - though none came visiting - the trail ended at the building, in half an hour.

      And folk, we didn't expect in our wildest dreams, an amenity of that luxury, amidst least explored woods, accessible only on foot or horseback. Brilliantly located on a hill top, the view from the corridor extended up to the town of Udumalpet, which appeared as big as my palm, decorated with yellow spots.

       Couldn't resist the chill for long, and luckily dinner was ready by then. Though filled bellies encouraged hanging eyelids, sat for a while, discussing on the preparations for the day to follow, as it is the toughest of all, for its just ups and no downs, and no Guest house awaits us at the end, but a cave, some where in the depths of the jungle......                Day 2     Day 3   Day 4

Pappilai Amman - The Deity Distinct

         Raj Vridhachalam, the man behind many of my trails, was the one to brief me on Pappilai Amman, the deity of a jungle shrine, deep i...