Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Munnar

The weekend of October 23-24, gave me the oppertunity to visit Munnar.

Scott and Rohan from Canada were here on business trip and we decided to have a trip to some nice location. Many options were there, Jog Falls, Hampi, KodaiKanal, Goa as well as Munnar. Finally we zeroed in to Munnar.

Rohan had to visit his parents so he did not accompanied us. Scott, Satya, Pawas, Saroj and me left for Munnar on Friday evening.


Because we decided quite late and hence getting a reservation in railways was ruled out. KSRTC bus was also full. Finally as per suggestion from Saroj, we got return ticket through KPN Travels. We tried getting an AC bus but could not find any. Perhaps AC buses are not there on this route.

We thought of travelling by some taxi also like Innova etc. But finally decided a bus as it is supposed to be more comfortable as well as safer.

If someone wants to travel by train then book the ticket either to Coimbatore (160 KMs) or to Cochin (145KMs). Then from there take a bus or taxi.

From Bangalore, Munnar is about 500 KMs.

The route we took was Bangalore - Hosur - Salem - Tirupur - Udumalpet - Munnar.


From Bangalore the bus started from near the ShantiNagar Bus stand. We took our friday dinner there itself.

The Bus started from Bangalore at around 9:30 PM and reached Munnar at around 10:00 AM Saturday morning. From Udumalpet till Munnar, a stretch of about 90 KMs is through dense forests and Ghat (hill slope) roads. This includes Anaimalai Tiger Reserve and Eravikulam National Park.

Scott noticed a few wild boars on the way.

This stretch was very fascinating and I forgot the stress of overnight journey as the fresh breeze and greenery overwhelmed me. I remembered my college days at Dwarahat in Uttarakhand.


The bus stopped at Marayoor, about 40 KMs before Munnar, and we had breakfast of "Idli-Vada".

As this was off season with respect to tourists, so many options were available. We bargained and got comfortable stay at "David's Regency".

There was an issue here. As Scott was not carrying his Passport so the hotel manger was reluctant because he told that without Passport, he is not supposed to provide rooms to any foreign guest.

Scott called his Bangalore hotel and thankfully they mailed the Passport copy and hence issue was resolved.

Now-a-days it is mandatory for all to carry a photo id proof with them.

Set at an average altitude of 5500-6000 ft in Idukki district of Kerala, Munnar is a famous hill resort. It was also a favourite summer resort of the erstwhile British rulers in the colonial days. Vast expanse of tea plantations, pristine valleys, mountains and forests makes Munnar a wonderful place to be.


 The name Munnar is believed to be derived from the Malayalam/Tamil words Munu (three) and aaru (river), referring to the town's location at the confluence of the Muthirappuzha, Nallathanni and Kundaly rivers. The area around Munnar is surrounded by vast jungles and remains wet and cold during most of the year.

Munnar is essentially a tea producing town.

Most of the local population here is either associated with either tea plantation or with tourism industry.

The Neelakurinji, a Blue/Violet/Purple flower which blooms only every twelve years, is found in this region. It bloomed full last in December 2006.

Munnar also has "Anai-Mudi" peak, at 2695 m, said to be one of the highest in South India.

We booked a Chevrolet Tavera with KPN travels and after lunch at Silverspoon restaurant started for sight-seeing.

Silverspoon restaurant is quite costly and also I did not liked the taste. Nearby Surya Soma Restaurant, where we took our dinner and next day breakfast, I found better.

Here at the latter restaurant, I met a few workers from Nepal and was a little surprised that how far they are for livlihood. One was from a place called "Bhairahawa" close to Indo-Nepal border, quite close to my ancestaral home.


The water they gave us to drink was a little pink, so we better used our mineral water bottle. Later we came to know that they put some herb in the water, which makes it pink. But we did not used that.

The first place was Photo Point about 2 Kms from Munnar. It is a small place filled with woods and a small stream. Situated amidst of Tea plantations, this place is worth its name. We spend some good quality time here shooting ourselves with the surrounding beauty of the nature.

Then we proceeded towards Mattupetti Dam about 10 KMs from Munnar, this is a beautiful place with activities like boating, horse riding etc. and is a great place to spend the day.

A little further was "Echo Point", on the way to "Top Station". It is a small lake set amidst beautiful hills. Every loud call made from a spot on the lake embankment is returned manifold by the echo from the surrounding hills. We enjoied this place with a lot of shouts.

Futher we saw Elephant Arrival Spot,where one can board an elephant for a ride. Here Scott spotted pug marks of a big cat. I feel it was of a Leopard. Though there are tigers as well in the surrounding areas, but they seldom comes close to humans. Leopards are a bit more comfortable to come close to humans and so become dangerous to both humans and themselves.

Next was Kundala Lake. This lake is very beautiful amidst lush jungles. Though we did not stopped here for much time, but as we proceeded towards "Top Station", we keep on stopping the Vehicle to enjoy the beauty of the mother Nature.

Final destination for the first day was "Top Station". This wonderful place on Kerala and Tamil Nadu border, has great views of the Western Ghats. This place gives a real 'above the clouds' experience. The area is also known for the Neelakurunji plant, which flowers only once every twelve years. The flower is violet or purple coloured.

One family is maintaining the last stretch at the "Top Station". They charged Rs 15/- per person. But if somebody misses going there, means misses one of the most wonderful place that Munnar offers.
The view of Western Ghats are just superb...no words can describe that beauty. Clouds and mild winds playing with vast masses of Western Ghats made me nostalgic about my days that I spend in lap of Majestic Himalayas.

Badly tired but happy with the nice time spend, we returned back to our Hotel. Took some rest and then proceeded for Dinner at Surya Soma Restaurant.

It was quite cold at night.

Our next day started at around 6:30 AM. I had called the taxi at 8 AM, it was on time, but we delayed and as we finished the breakfast, it was alrady around 9:45 AM.

We proceeded towards Eravikulam (in Kerala and Rajamalai in Tamilnadu) National Park. This place has wide variety of Flora and Fauna. But most famous for Nilgiri Tahr (Hemitragas Hylocres), an endangered species of mountain goats. About half of the total population of these are said to be here in these hills.

There was a long queue there and so we decided to let go to other places first and then return back, if time permits so.


We proceeded towards Lakkom Water Falls. In between, we stopped to have the breath taking view of "Anai-mudi" Hills at a small stream.

Lakkom falls is very beautiful place to spend some time playing with water. But one has to be a little careful as the rocks and stones are slippery and injury is possible. I slipped here once and some part of my trouser and shirt got wet. It also injured the small finger of my right feet.

This water here is said to have medicinal properties, as it passes through Eravikulam Park's herbs. This small fall has a larger cascading falls up hills. But that place is quite inaccessible to humans, though the view that we saw from road as well as when we went to Eravikulam Park was just superb. This stream is a major tributary to river Pambar, which finally joins river Kaveri.

Spending some good time here, we proceeded towards Marayoor. This place is famous for natural forest of Sandalwood trees.

In between we stopped at one spot and enjoied the scenic beauty around. Here one road goes upwards towards one village. The taxi driver informed us that the place is quite frequented by elephants, bisons and even big cats during night. A Jeep Safari is avialable here at night. Scott found the pug marks of a Big Cat, not sure if it belonged to Tiger or Leopard. But seeing the pugmark was enough to give thrill. We also saw the pugmarks of perhaps Bison and proofs of elephants.

This place also proved to be a very good echo point. We enjoied shouting.

Then we proceeded towards Marayoor. Besides sandalwood forest, this place is said to have natural caves with murals, and relics from Later Stone Age civilisation. Though because of lack of time, we could not explore much on that front.

This was the first time, I saw a sandalwood tree at Marayoor. Saroj and Scott were busy in some further exploration of Coffee and Pepper plantations nearby.

Then we proceeded towards Marayoor town and took lunch.

Then we started back towards Munnar. We had Bus at 4.00 PM. We reached Eravikulam National Park at around 2:30 PM. The driver suggested us to have a visit to the Park. I was a litle hesitating, but he assured us that if we get late, he will stop the bus for us.

We took the tickets and boarded the mini bus for Park.

This travel by mini bus was quite exciting. The road was very narrow and at quite good slope upwards. Whenever any other vehicle used to come from other side, it used to throw a chill in spine as on that narrow road, we used to be very close to the valley downhills!!! But it provided wonderful view of the nature with falls and tea plantations as we moved ahead amidst clouds.

We reached the point till where the bus goes, then further about 1-1/2 KMs, we had to travel on foot. A small museum is there telling about these mountains and flora/fauna around.

Proper road is there, but at good slope upwards. This walk was wonderful in between rolling grasslands and flowers and with Nilgiri Tahrs. We went till where toursits are allowed. "This is the Limit" board is there to warn the tourists about the allowed length.

This national park is spread over 97 sq KMs, and nurtures rare flora and fauna.

The view of "Anai-Mudi" Peak is magnificent. This 2695 meter peak towers over the sanctuary in majestic pride. The slopes of the hills are abound in all kinds of rare flora and fauna. The Atlas moth, the largest of its kind in the world, is a unique inhabitant of the park. Other rare species of fauna found here are the Nilgiri Langur, the lion-tailed macaque, leopards, tigers, etc. This is an ideal place for trekking, and forest department provides the facilities for trekking. Though we were lucky enough to encounter only the Tahr and a Leech.

One has to be a little careful about Leeches. They are found near water bodies and in muds.

We returned back to our vehicle and waited for the bus to Bangalore, which we got at around 4:45 PM from that place. Our taxi driver had informed the bus driver about our plans to board the bus from Eravikulam National Park entrance. We are thankful to him.

There were a few more attractions that we could not visit because of lack of time. I felt a minimum of three full days are needed to visit all the places in and around Munnar.

It became dark as we proceeded towards Marayoor and Udumalpet. I saw some Bisons on the way back. One I saw when it was not that dark, scratching its neck against a tree, then other three a little time later, with there eyes glowing in night.

We reached Udumalpet at around 7:40 PM and were transferred to another bigger bus, which started for Bangalore around 8:00 PM. We did not get time to have dinner.

Reached Bangalore at around 5:15 AM Monday.

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