Saturday, March 21, 2009

Manjolai - Kodayar



8 - 03 - 09

                        Mr.Robert Manjolai, a man I got acquainted through the web, made this trip happen. As I have stated in my previous post, I was determined to drive past Manimuthar dam for Upper Kodayar. While I was busy searching for details regarding Manjolai and Upper Kodayar ,which falls within Kalakkad – Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve (KMTR) , hit upon this man, who had made avail his contact no., on the net, offering all details regarding Manjolai. He was born and brought up at Manjolai and now a legal practitioner at Madurai. Rang him up and he offered every help that he could extent. Would you believe that, it even included a free stay at his relative’s residence, inside Manimuthar tea estate.

              For the required permission from the Forest dept., I directly contacted the Range Officer, Ambasamudram, and he turned down my request, stating possibility of forest fire, as a reason. Using other contacts, I had a forest dept. official from Trivandrum, ring him up again, and now he conceded. However, the request for a night’s stay in the guest house, within the reserve, was declined as it wasn’t available on the day of our travel. Contacted Robert again and he connected me with Mr. Moses, a social worker at Ambasamudram, who had roots at Nalumukku, within the Tiger reserve. Moses offered night stay in a line house close to that of his brother’s, who worked in Nalumukku Tea Estate. All these were done on the previous day, of our planned date of travel.

        I and Manu started off, in his Paleo 1.3 multijet, by 7 in the morning, 8-03-09. Took the same route, I have explained in detail in my earlier post, and reached Kallidakurichi, near Ambasamudram, by 12 noon. Had to wait a little for Moses to arrive. Moses confirmed the place of stay and asked us to meet one Mr.Nehru, who runs an STD booth at Nalumukku. This booth, using a WLL phone, is the loan means of electronic communication for the workers within KMTR. We packed our lunch, bought some broiler for night, and went ahead for KMTR. We didn’t have much problem at the forest check post at Manimuthar dam, as the R.O. had informed them earlier, of our visit. Had a refreshing bath at Manimuthar falls and went on slowly, negotiating the pot holes and keeping a close watch on the wild beauty of KMTR.

               Had a small stop on the way, to have our packed lunch, taking utmost care not to leave a single piece of plastic around. After an hours climb, the dense woods slowly transformed to beautiful tea plantations.

               We were approaching Manjolai. There is a check post here and a copy of the permission letter is to be handed over. Manjolai is a small junction with a post office. We proceeded further and now the reverse transform – we were again in the midst of thick forest. Passed another pocket of plantation named Kakkachi.



       There was a nature made Golf course at Kakkachi.

                 Finally, after nearly 4 hours of drive through splendid patches of greenery, we were at Nalumukku – earlier known as Manimuthar – by around 6 PM. Spotted Nehru’s telephone booth to find Mr. Jakkayya , Moses’s elder brother, waiting for us, for long. We knew from Jakkayya, that view of sunset from Kuthiravetti is splendid, and now we had to hurry, for Kuthiravetti is about 8 kms of pot holes from Nalumukku. Some how managed to reach the view point before light faded, but the sun didn’t wait for us. View from this point is mind blowing, with Manimuthar dam and Karayar dam lying beneath well separated by woods.

                    Jakkayya pointed to folds of mountains in the backdrop naming them Kakkachi, Manjolai…., the route we had taken. There is a watch tower here, on top of which we spent a while, listening to Jakkayya, on how he used to climb down these cliffs up to the dams beneath, in his good old times. Jakkayya turned out to be a great narrator as he recalled his child hood at this wonderful place. They freely hunted Sambars, mouse deers and rabbits in those days, for their daily ‘Sambaar’. But now, he continues – “Sambars come near and we are to smile at them, for they are reserved for leopards & tigers”. When asked about rabbits this was the response – “No rabbits Sir, nothing remains. We (leopards & ourselves) competed in eating them up”. Left the place after dusk and reached back Nalumukku. 

                We were to stay in an abandoned line house very next to that of Jakkayya. We parked our vehicle, took our baggage, and visited Jakkayya’s dwelling. Jakkayya lived there with his wife, a worker in Nalumukku tea estate, and his elder daughter Gayatri. And here, we were to discover a new dimension in hospitality, never experienced before. These people opted to stay at the abandoned house, leaving their furnished house for us. We found it very difficult to convince them that we were happy with the other. They themselves cleaned up the house, brought in the blankets and rugs, that they were to use, so as to keep us comfortable. 

                    One thing that is not to be left out is a word about the climate there. Though days are pretty hot – remember, its March – as light fades, temperature falls dramatically. I went into sweater by 8 at night. One Mr. Rajendran, a man from Chadayamangalm, runs a tea shop in one such line house, allotted to his wife, who is a worker in the tea estate. We had earlier handed over the broiler, we brought from the plains, to this man and he had prepared a delicious curry and chappathy for us. Had food with Jakkayya, and went to bed by around 11. If not for the blankets the Jakkayyas had offered us, the night wouldn’t have been smooth.

9-03-09

            A siren woke me up by 6 in the morning. Stepped out to find how beautiful the line house premises were. Had a small walk around till the Jakkayyas called us back for tea.


             Mrs.Jakkayya had to leave for her work, at the tea estate by 7, in the morning. Still, she found time to make us coffee, heat up water for us and so on. She left by 7, reminding us several times to come again with our families. Didn’t have words in my vocabulary to thank her ; simply waved her off. We had breakfast from Rajendran’s and set out for Upper Kodayar, by 7.30, along with Jakkayya. Winding track through charming woods took us to the Forest check post at Kodayar. The officials here are very much insistent, that the word ‘Kodayar’ should be mentioned in the permission letter, to let one in. I knew this earlier from Robert and had it in the letter. Another half a kilometer and we are at the reservoir.

               Penstock pipe from this reservoir, tunnels through huge rocky mountains, emerges out at the valve house point and then drops down to the Lower Kodayar Power station, which I have mentioned in my earlier post. Interestingly, not all forest streams in this region, directly cater to the Kodayar reservoir. Water from these odd sources are collected at a lower dam and then pumped up to the Kodayar reservoir. Much more… there is another small dam within the forest, named Kuttiyar dam, which caters to the above said lower dam, through an underground tunnel. Got these details from Mr.Socretes, Jakkayya’s relative, who is an employee at the EB Guest house. As Jakkayya insisted, Socretes reluctantly agreed to come along with us to the valve house point. We had to pass through the lower dam, where there is a police check post and presence of an EB man with us made things easy. We were not even questioned. Socretes first lead us to Kuttiyar dam, for which we had to deviate a little through a forest track. It was surprising to know that even Jakkayya is visiting this place for the first time. Took some snaps and again back on track.

            At a point, Socretes asked us to park the vehicle and to follow him. A few steps up a hill and then…… woooow what a view…There lie beneath us, directly in front, a series of reservoirs. Socretes names them – Pechippara, Perumchanni, Chittar….And we have on our sides Agasthya Mountains in its full glory.

             Slowly mist covered the region and view blurred.

                 Back to the vehicle and started the the descend to valve house point. Again Socretes calls for another stop. This man of suspense leads us along a narrow forest track, on foot. About 5 minutes walk and we are in front of a cave.

          Socretes explains this as a man made one which runs parallel to the penstock pipe that tunnels the mountain. He continues.. its about a quarter km in length and it ends at a valve door which opens to the penstock pipe tunneling through the mountains. For inspecting those pipes, the valve at the reservoir is closed, pipe is cleared of water, and he himself enters it through this valve door, in the presence of a higher official. A photograph will be taken while he enters and the official will lock the valve door from outside. Socretes would walk along the huge penstock up to the reservoir, where there is another valve door for his exit. Exit will also be photographed. Excited, we compelled Socretes to take us up to the valve door. Socretes declined our request, for its pitch dark inside the cave. Suddenly I recalled that I have a Britelite in my baggage. Manu ran back and collected it within minutes. And thus we started our walk through the cave towards the valve door.

          A few steps inside and we found that it’s a bat house. Agitated, they started flying against us. We crossed our hands at the face and moved on.

            Here and there water drips from the cave ceiling and that’s the lone sound we here. Now we hear a faint roar of water through the penstock and we are at the valve door.

         The thought, of water gushing with immense pressure along the other side of the door, was itself frightening, and we got out soon. Back to the vehicle and the descent continued. The track soon changed to be astonishingly scenic. We were driving along, almost the centre of a huge peak, with half the mountain on one side, and depth of same order on the other side.

                The road ends at the valve house which itself is another view point. The employees there told us that the meadow that lies below is frequented by Tahr and Bison, and the very recent forest fire in this region has kept them away. The penstock pipe emerges out of the mountains at this point and steeply runs down to the lower power plant. The power station is not visible from this point. The winch track, used to transport inspection staff, too runs along. 

                  Surprisingly, my mobile rings. We were out of coverage since yesterday afternoon. Attended the call and quickly searched for tower information. Yooo… I wasn’t roaming and found to be served by ‘Mundela’ tower. The ‘Mundela’ I know, is a place near Vellanad, pretty close to our city of Trivandrum. And I’m aware that the place were I’m now, is some where above the Tamil Nadu town of Kulasekharam. And how could signals from Mundela reach me; god knows. Spent a while over there ringing up home & friends. Returned along the same path, not to mention, for there is no other path. Dropped Socretes at Kodayar. He asked us to revisit the place after booking suits at the EB guest house, and he promised that he would then take us to ‘Muthukuli’, an earlier tribal settlement, evacuated and left to tigers. 

                Drove back to Nalumukku by around 11.45 AM. There’s still time for lunch, and we planned to visit Varakkattai, another view point. The track to Varakkattaai is through ‘Oothu’ organic tea estate. A word about Oothu organic tea – It’s not sold in India, but entirely exported. Famous for its medicinal value, it seems. Cost is approximately around Rs.3500 per kilogram. An officer belonging to the estate stopped our vehicle and denied permission to travel through the estate. Two reasons – Wild elephants are roaming in the region from morning itself and estate workers are busy plucking leaves in the Varakkattai region. Jakkayya steps out, the field officer who stopped us happens to be his old classmate, and there we go.

         Had a keen lookout for elephants, but none came across. Bumpy drive, for another 20 minutes, through beautifully maintained organic tea plantations and we were at Varakkatai. Another view point like Kuthiravetti, but from here, the Karayar dam is more clear and close. There is a wooden fencing at the edge and two benches built on logs.

             A supervisor of the estate was resting on one of these benches after lunch. Had a small chat with him and returned to Nalumukku by 1’O clock. The idea of having a wash up before the lunch came up and Jakkayya took us for a walk. After a short walk of about 20 minutes we reached a forest stream. The water was clear and too cold for this hour of the day.

            Returned to Rajendran’s for our pre ordered lunch and ate to our content. And it’s time to leave. Jakkayya and Gayathri , his daughter, insisted that we come back again by April, with family, for their festival in the nearby temple. We promised that we would return, and waved bye. Unlike all other trips, this time we didn’t feel like leaving these people and of course this beautiful place. On the way back, it rained and thick mist covered the area forcing us to descent at snail’s pace.

         
                       Met Moses at Ambasamudram, had tea with him and back to Trivandrum along the same route. Back at home by 10.30 PM. The Jakkayyas, Socretes, Moses and, above all, Robert Manjolai will be thankfully remembered, when ever the memories of this beautiful place wake.


Click Here for a Report on the visit to KMTR through the west

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47 comments:

  1. Hi Shinu,

    This is Vishwa from Chennai working at a software firm at Chennai. I happened to see ur blog when I was browsing thro details about Manjolai.I have been to this place few years back but that time Climate not that good hence couldnt witness much of the scenic beauties...

    Have gone thro ur blog and found it was very interesting and adventurous especially This Manjolai Trip...The Pics looks great...

    Myself and four of my Colleagues are actually planning for a short vacation during July owing to one of my colleagues Marriage. Hence along with the marriage trip we are planning to visit Manjolai. We need your help in providing us the contact numbers which will be required to arrange for a stay overnite @ Manjolai.

    Could you please help us ..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. vinishkumar92@gmail.com contact me bro

      Delete
  2. Hi Viswa
    I lost my mobile recently and I'm in a terrible state of data loss. Any how I have the email id of Robert manjolai, who made my journey possible.
    1.iirckumar@yahoo.com 2.robertckumar@gmail.com
    try your luck

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  3. very happy to read about maanjolai...

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  4. Shinu,

    I want to reach Trivandrum via Manimuthar dam from ambasamudram. I just want to take this route and not planning to visit other places.
    I like to know..

    1) Whether I still need forest permission to this route to reach TVM?
    2) Are the roads good?

    Please reply..

    -Sanal

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  5. Oh dear, there is no such road from Ambai to TVM, via Manimuthar. The track we took ends at the valve house, and u can just see the planes below. For TVM from Ambai, u should either take Shenkottai - Thenmala route or the Nagercoil route

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  6. Dear Shinu,
    Nice photos and views about Kodayar Dams. I am born and brought up in Kodayar(Lower Camp) and lived there for 23 years, now settled in Bangalore. I had been to this place so many times, and feel that the Tunnel valve door, cave entrance photos are not safe to put in the internet. Some gentlemen helped you to go inside, but it's not allowed normally. Other people should not think that it's easily accessible; it's a punishable offence to go there and take photo graphs.
    It’s just my view as a freelance conservator. Anyways, very good photos.
    -Rajesh Subbiah Pillai

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  7. DEAR SHINU
    MARVELOUS TRIP AND PHOTOS
    SINCE LONGTIME MANJOLAI IS A PLACE OF DESTINY TO ME
    I WILL SOON VISIT THERE
    THAKS A LOT
    TAKE CARE
    -VIGNESHWARAN.L.V

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  8. Plan it just after the monsoon, Vignesh

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  9. Shinu,

    Google Map shows a road from kulasekharam to Ambasamudhram through Manjolai and Manimuthar... R u sure

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  10. Binu,

    This is a question I have been answering for long. Some people, believing google, even had ventured out to end up their journey at Lower kodayar camp, where the road ends.From lower kodayar a winch line follows the penstock pipes upto the Upper kodayar valve houe, from where the track starts, which is motorable up to Ambasanudram. I have marked these roads in wikimapia.

    Recently I had traversed a forest track, that can be done on a 4WD vehicle, which connects Thadikarankonam in SH 45 to upper Kodayar dam, via Keeripara, Balamore , Muthukuli.

    Travelogue at http://sshinu.blogspot.com/2010/10/kmtr-approach-from-west.html

    This track is through the core of Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger reserve and public access is denied.

    Thank u for ur blog visit, and feel free to comment

    ReplyDelete
  11. Nice trip and a decent writeup. When ever i visit marthandam, i wanted to do this trip. Infact i planned to do a bike trip this week end. Like binu i was also trusting the google maps. Now i need to do more research before i do the trip.

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  12. In my childhood days before 20 years we spent a lot of time in Kakkashi and Manjolai because my father worked as forest manager and having forest contract for some years. So many employees and workers from near by Manjolai worked with us and we have one guest house in that Kakkashi that time it look like heaven without any pollution or climatic difference. That time only one tea shop in Manjolai. In front of our guest house the golf court is there. Many foreigners playing golf there. As for our concern there is no super place like kakkashi and Manjolai at that time. Even the law and order is also good that time we can go with family in midnight without any fear. This time I decided to go there if time permits.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Please let me know if you have any contact points to visit those places and stay there for a day.

      Delete
  13. Samson : Great to have another chap born and brought up at this DLC. Spare a day or two somehow, and go for your roots. Wishes

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  14. Hi Shinu,

    Amazing photos!!!!!!!

    Really delighted to see all the pics. In fact I have been to this place thrice and it’s been like heaven there.....
    Couldn’t explore the place as you have, but way back in 2004 we friends trek through the forest (About 32 Kms) with a local help. Though we enjoyed every second there, it was bit risky……
    Nikhil G, Bangalore

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  15. I heard about this place and have been searching in google as "kothayar". Then checked the forest department Kanyakumari and found the right spelling. This is quite amazing...

    I have done the other side of western ghats (Kerala) - upto Ponmudi, also visiting kallaar stream... Eager to take this trip.

    Thanks for all the info in the blog

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  16. Somasundaram : You are welcome. Go for it before summer hits the woods.

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  17. Hi Shibu...nice snaps..Can u pls explain the route hw to travel from Nagercoil to Kodayar if we are coming by bike.

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  18. Sabareesh

    Take the route u prefer up to Kallidakurichi near Ambasamudram. I took Valliyoor, Kothasseri, Kalakkad route (Refer http://sshinu.blogspot.com/2009/03/along-agasthya-mountain-base-holidays.html)
    From Kallidakurichi take left for Manimuthar dam and the same track goes up to Upper Kodayar

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  19. do anybody guide us to get permission to visit manjolai estate

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  20. Viji

    If you are going by bus no permission is required. Or else permission shall be obtained from DFO office at Ambasamudram

    ReplyDelete
  21. Dear Shinu,


    This is Satheesh from Chennai.

    Firt of all, Kudos to you!
    Your post here have actually ignited a thrive in me to explore this scenic beauty. I would request you to provide me some information which i feel will be helpful for me.
    For the past few days i ve been googling to get some info about this place,but not sure how reliable they are. As you ve been there, kindly provide me answers for the queries below :

    1. What is the procedure to get persmission from Forest Department? Is it easy to get one or Do they make me run from pillar to post ? Do I need to pay any toll for that?

    2. Wikimapia says that there is a route from Manimutharu falls to Azhagia Pandiapuram (Via Manjolai,Kakachi,Naalu mukku,Upper Kodayar, Muthukuli vayal,Kaduva pori, Kalikesam,Keeriparai Rubber factory, Perunchani Dam, Thadikaran konam ) . Is this info genuine ? Is this route traversable ?

    3. What is the travelling distance / time between Kallidaikurichi & Upper kodayar ?

    Expecting your reply.
    Thanks in Advance..

    ReplyDelete
  22. Satheesh

    I had obtained permission through forest dept officials in Kerala and I'm not sure about the procedures for obtaining permission directly. I came to know from the locals that its not that hard to get.

    The Upper Kodayar - Thadikarankonam route you found in Wikimapia, was marked by me. I had done this route in a four wheel drive jeep, through the core of KMTR, and its highly restricted. Travelogue at http://sshinu.blogspot.com/2010/10/kmtr-approach-from-west.html

    Upper Kodayar - Kallidakurichi is around 60 km

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  23. will u pls tell how much kms from tvm to amba totaly takes?

    ReplyDelete
  24. Dear Shinu,

    This is Francis from Trivandrum. The pictures and descriptions are so exciting. In fact I had spent my childhood days in Kodayar upper as my father was working there as an employee of TNEB. I left that place in 1975 and I have only faint memories of the place. Your blog has triggered a lot of enthusiasm and now I wish to go there again. Thanks for the good narration.

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  25. Francis Sir ; Thank you very much

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  26. Sir, i download more images of papanasam tiger reserve and manjolai which is taken by you... Thank you for you posted that images on web, because we comes to see those areas which is restricted to all... Myself Mathiyalagan an MBA student..

    ReplyDelete
  27. hi shinu.,
    This is Loknath from Bangalore...
    read your blog regarding manjolai, it was very interesting.. we're planning for a trip to manjolai in the next weekend.,i would like to know whether there's bus convenient from ambai to manjolai and wat's the frequency of buses... shud we get any permisions if we're going by govt bus... 'll be waiting to hear from u ASAP... thanks in advance.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Loknathan

      I haven't traveled to Manjola by bus. I think the first bus starts from Ambai between 6 & 7. At that time there were just 4 services daily I think. No permissions are needed to travel by bus.

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    2. thank you... :)

      Delete
  28. Dear shinu Sir.
    I am Thameem

    I have seened & downloaded All of you're photos & they are beautiful to see...

    Please me and say Sir!...

    Can I know that is it difficult to get permission from DFO officer.. Sir!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thameem

      Enough buses ply between Ambai and Nalumukku, via Manjolai and you may travel in those buses without any permission

      Delete
  29. shinu why u dont prefer kulaswekharam route to go to TVM

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Up and down journey as detailed in the above report was via Kulasekharam

      Delete
    2. Dear Mr.Shinu,

      It's indeed great that you are guiding many tirelessly. Very interesting. very informative. so caring advice & suggestions. It recalled my memories to Manjolai and Kothayar in the year of 1993.

      Regds
      Dr.Rajendra
      rksairam@gmail.com

      Delete
  30. Nice blog, could you email your contact, would like to talk to you so I can visit a few places :)

    my ID - chandru.raghu@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  31. we are planning for a trip to manjolai in next month with family member(including child),whether any animal attack is there?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Manjolai is an inhabited place and many people live there with their families

      Delete
  32. Hi shinu, I just wanted to know which is the best place to stay in manjolai? where are the EB guest house located? Are they under the control of EB or PWD.Kindly let me know.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Hi shinu i am rajesh its quite interesting to look the blog at manjolai we are planning to go there by this month Wht its advaisible to visit by this month if advaisible could you help us to get permission from the required person and to stay in that heaven for at least one day.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Hi Shinu,

    Thanks for sharing very interesting narration about Manjolai and beautiful places nearby. After seeing your blog and my know friends experience in that place I have decided to visit Manjolai. I too love Nature and drive through forest. Myself and few of my friends visited Kuthiraivetti on 7th Mar 15.

    It was amazing to be there. We liked everything in that place. People, Stay, Food, water, drive, nature etc...
    Except nearby guest house we couldn't roam around anywhere. BBTC personnel was very strict to monitor vehicle and people roaming around estates. You are really gifted to see all the places and I am sure the passion carries you all the way.

    All the best and keep continuing with new updates.
    If you could share some experience with wild animals during your visits that surely help us to mentally prepare how to react with it.

    Best regards,
    Antony

    ReplyDelete

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