Sunday, April 15, 2012

Aanamada - Varayaattumala ; The Hidden Nelliampathi

              Nelliyampathi is a popular destination falling under the district of Palakkad and is about 30 km to the east of the town of Nenmara.  The woods of Nelliampathi, contiguous with Parambikulam Tiger Reserve, had many pockets of century old plantations, most of which are under ruin, owing to varied reasons and Anamada estate is one among them. About 14 kms of hard core 4 wheel drive cruise, through thick woods, will get you to this 1000 acre sprawl of coffee, cardamom and orange plantations, surrounded by the abode of adorable flora and fauna, typical to the Western Ghats. As other attractions near by had been detailed in my earlier post on Nelliampathi, this time the focus is on Anamada & Varayattumala.

             This was the premiere for my new Mahindra Verito and while we drove into Pulayanpara junction of Nelliyampathi, Suresh was waiting for us with his 4 wheel drive Jeep, for the ride to paradise. 

           Parked our vehicles in a hotel premise and boarded the jeep, while it was around 11.30 AM. The next two hours posed a test for the integrity of our joints, as we had to cling on the vehicle, not to be thrown out. Crossed the popular view point of Karachoori and thereafter the track was all ours.

         Anamada is an ill maintained plantation and a minority of its old labourers still hang on, depending on the income from oranges and cardamom, naturally growing. Apart from these, the old buildings that housed its managers, are leased out, to tourists as another bread winner.  ‘The Misty Valley’ – so is it known – was thus our destination for the weekend and the earlier mentioned cruise ended on its porch by 2 PM.

      Being expected guests we had the privilege of a meal so delicious that many of us preferred the left over, for dinner.  And it was time for the event – trek to Varayatumala. It’s a stretch of high land meadows frequented by the endangered Nigiri Tahr ( Varayaadu) and we boarded an open jeep, which would take us to the base.  

             It was yet another neck break for half an hour and we were unloaded in the midst of woods. An employee of the estate accompanied us and we started the hike through the woods guided by him.

                 Woods soon opened up to grasslands and in another 20 minutes, the climb ended up with plane meadows. The tender beams of evening sun played magic with the rolling hillocks, painting a golden tint.  


Peruvaripallam and Thunakkadau reservoirs of Parambikkulam
              Peruvaripallam and Thunakkadau reservoirs of Parambikkulam , were clearly visible from the hillock, just beneath and it was a wonder info that Parambikkulam is just 8 kms downhill.  And what else, the Jeep track, from which we deviated to Varayaatumala, heads to Parambikkulam.  Our friend was not enthusiastic in staying atop long and he urged a down climb before sunset, for fear of a tusker there, a bear here and a leopard somewhere else.  Conceded to his plea and dropped to the base, where our open jeep awaited us.


               Back at the shelter, people went into sweaters, and a campfire was rendered a necessity.  Mr.Madhu who manages the resort was kind enough to serve dinner by the fireside and went more generous in offering a night safari, in their open jeep. 

            Thrilled folk finished up the dinner soon and boarded the vehicle.  Though the Safari lasted nearly an hour just a bison or two showed up. Retired to the warmth of cotton bed and knew nothing till dawn.

     Woke up to the calls of flying beauties and a birding session followed. Could frame more than 20 species, within the premises, in just an hour. 

Coppersmith Barbet

Golden Oriole

Nectaring Red Whiskered Bulbul 
         Breakfast was followed by an orange farm tour which the kids enjoyed the most.  We went felling and the kids, gathering.

               Lonely Bison by the wayside, presented the parting shot and oranges of Anamada sweetened the experience further…    

 This article was published in March 2012 edition of 'Destination Kerala'

Friday, April 13, 2012

PaithalMala - The Meadow Serene

           Paithal Mala aka Vaithal Mala, the abode of rolling meadows, is an upcoming destination, lying 60 kms north-east of Kannur town and can be reached through Thaliparamba, Kudiyanmala and Pottanplavu. It’s roughly a three hour drive from Kannur town, at moderate speed, and the hill station is sure not to let you down.

     It was almost dusk, as we drove into the parking zone of ‘Mist Valley’, the lone functioning resort, in the valley of Paithal hills. Occupied our rooms and were presented with the premier show of the meadows ahead, from our Balcony. Stood there a while, not even bothering a fresh up after the long drive, as the light was to fade soon.

Arrow points the Watch tower
                              The cold night couldn’t disturb a sound sleep – such was the comfort – and trekkers were ready for the go, by 8 in the morning. 

         Drove up, shifting between first and second gears, till the track ends by the side of the building proposed for Pythal Mala resort by DTPC, which awaits an opening for long. Parked the vehicle and geared for the trek. 

                            The trek path soon entered woods, mildly leach infested and had occasional glimpse of the grass hill ahead through the clearance between the hills. 

           The hike was moderate and the woods cleared to meadows in one hour.The vastness of greenery stretching ahead, fold by fold, bordered by woods, was a soothing sight and we sat for snacks to build ourselves, for the next part through the meadow.

          Forgot to mention – aim is the watch tower, at the peak of the meadow and a view point further ahead, if energy level permit. In fact the watch tower is visible at a distance, once you clear the woods, and the stroll through the meadow is with the aim in your sight.Left the kids free of bounds, and they ran ahead, on the green ground of no limits. 

           Half way to the watch tower, mist spread, enhancing the beauty. Within half an hour of leisurely walk, which shall be enjoyed the most, hit the first goal – The watch tower.


         The tower is not something that high but a small structure, which is almost in ruins. Top of the tower presents a better view of the greenery and by then the mist curtain grew thicker.

            Got down and headed for the view point, further down. Walked up to the fenced edge, and could spot the resort in the valley, often veiled by mist. The building of DTPC, where we had started the trek from, is also visible, if mist permits.

Resort in the valley
DTPC Building from where the trek commences

       Got back to the tower and sat chatting, while the kids played around. You will never feel like leaving the place, secluded and left for you alone, unless the time concerns wake you up.

                   Off the meadows, penetrated the woods and hit the vehicle by 12.30 PM. Back at the resort, the kids enjoyed a dip in the pool, while the elders were busy with the pack up.

       Before leaving, got out to the balcony with my camera, intending a parting shot; but aborted the attempt, as the meadow serene stood inviting.

    This article was published in February edition of 'Destination Kerala'

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Kukkal Chinnar Episode - 4

Manjampatti to Chinnar                       Day 1     Day 2    Day 3

   Disturbed sleep came to an end by 5 in the morning. Crystal clear flow along the canal, by the side of our night stay, was a boon in all sense and we were ready for the last lap of the expedition, by around 8 AM.

        Thanked Alex, for all his support, and left the village, commencing the 13 km walk to Chinnar, through the dry scrubby jungle.

             Had news on a tusker frequenting this sector and the walk was a bit cautious. There weren't much events, as the track was clear, apart from occasional stops for Biju to capture a bird or two - especially those found in dry regions.

Blue bearded leaf bird - Photo : Biju PB

Collared dove - Photo : Biju PB
              As summer was in its peak, wayside water sources were all dry and we fearfully noticed the rapid drain of our storage. But Gireesh was found confident on the proximity of a tribal settlement at 'Talanji', where we shall have a refill. It was just as we sucked off the last drop, Gireesh spotted the hamlet at a distance.

Thalanji in red envelope
                 Though the walk went brisker,  it took half an hour for us to reach the spot and by then I had a badly dried throat.

              The water the inhabitants use, is from river Amaravathi, which flows near by and the previous day's untimely rain in the hills had rendered it a muddy reddish tone. Necessity forced me to gulp it down and I had to pay for it, later in the day. 

                     Spotted a few coconut trees in the premises by then and a tribal boy agreed to fell a few tender ones for us. That was a heavenly gesture, which i believe, had enabled us to live up to the aim. Left 'Thalanji' under the torching sun and we had 5+ kms more, to our destination. The next water source, as Gireesh and the Thalanji people assured us, was 'Athiyoda', a stream about 3 kms from Thalanji.

         Proceeded with occasional breaks under the shadow of not-that-frequent big trees, as we feared sun stroke. Just after one such break, noticed a herd of spotted dear, running frantic. Reason for the panic was a pack of Dhole (wild dog), at close quarters. We fell in between and the pack aborted the hunt and dispersed. We had saved a life but deprived others their food- equally good as bad.

                     Sun was squeezing our moisture out and the lone hope was on 'Athiyoda', assumed to be very close by then. Two more turnings and we were there. Desperate is a word too mean for such an occasion, for we had just the trace of a stream, burnt sand surfacing.


          Sat on the bank, wordless for a while, and some one started walking, with others following. None spoke for the next two kms or so, for fear of dehydration, until the Pambar flow was audible. 

         I had never longed for water like that, in my life, and I drank up to my nose, aware that the flow  had just left the town of Marayur. Had a thorough wash up, crossed the flow and walked up to Marayur - Chinnar road, where a car waited, to take us to Marayur. Had lunch from Marayur at 4 PM and left for Munnar to catch the night bus to Trivandrum, leaving Girish at Marayur for his journey back - of course along tarmac. 

      Got beneath my good old bed roll, by 5 in the next morning, and could doze only for three hours, as my mobile went ringing ……….

                                It was Raj on the other side

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...