Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Nelliyampathi – The Orange Hill

                         We, a team of 7, from Trivandrum had to attend a wedding ceremony of a colleague’s son, to be held at Metur near Salem. The wedding was on 28th May 2009, and we planned to start on 27th morning. Immediately after the wedding we would leave for Nelliyampathi , I insisted, so as to reach there by evening. Using my contacts, I could arrange a stay at the guest house run by Agriculture dept, within their orange farm. The agricultural officer, Sathyan sir, was good enough to extend the service of Mr.Rajesh, of his dept., who was earlier a driver at Nelliyampathi. We started at 9 AM on 27th in a hired Innova. We took the Thrissur – Palakkad – Coimbatore – Bhavani – Mettur route and reached Mettur by 10.30 PM. On reaching there, we came to know that the guest house bookings, our colleague had done for us at Mettur, got cancelled at the last minute, due to urgent visit of officials. However our colleague arranged a hall belonging to the ‘Kerala Samajam’, Mettur, for our stay. Though we had to sleep on floor, I found it more comfortable than the usual dump guest houses, especially in TN.

                               Woke up by 7 in the morning and went out to explore the place. The hall we slept yesterday was very close to a junction by name ‘Salem Camp’, the residential camp of employees of the once famous ‘Mettur Spinning Mill”. After the lock out the employees hesitated to leave the quarters, as they were not paid the compensations. These earlier employees and their kith and kinds are the inhabitants of the place now. Had break fast from the groom’s house and waited at the church for the ceremony to be over. Immediately after the function, not even waiting for the lunch, we left the place, as we were informed by Rajesh, that the forest officials may not permit us to Nelliampathi, after dusk. Reached Bhavani and continued along the Coimbatore stretch until Perumanaloor and took a left turn for Tirupur.

                    Had lunch from Tirupur and reached Nenmara, via Palladam, Pollachi by around 5.00 PM. Took a left turn for Nelliampathi and passed the Forest check post by around 5.30. The road to Nelliampathi is very smooth, unlike the other hill tracks of Kerala.           Had short stops, to have the greenery, lit by the setting sun.                     Reached Nellimpathi by 6.45 and was thrilled to find Rajesh waiting for us with a 4 wheel drive, to have a night safari to Karassoori. Karassoori is about thirteen km deep into the jungles of Nelliampathi, where Elephants and Bisons rule. Many in our team were not used to such madness, and they opted to stay back. Some how I managed to get every one of us into the Jeep and took off by 7.30.                The temperature dipped dramatically and many started shivering. I had my Jacket on and got equipped with a torch light. The track to Karassoori shall not be called so, as one can opt for their own paths, while clutching up the rocks, slanting 45 degree and above. After one hour drive reached Karassoori, where there is a small structure with an idol of a deity.                     The place, at a high altitude, was so lonely and the cold wind was sharp enough to get through the skin. Had to leave that lovely place soon, half hearted, as I could read the anxiety in many faces, to get back to safety, as early as possible. Apart from a lone Bison, no one disturbed, and to the relief of many, was back at Nelliampathi by 9.30. Occupied ‘Silver Clouds’ the well furnished three bed room guest house, belonging to Agriculture dept, within their Orange farm. Rajesh had made earlier arrangements, for our food, at the lone canteen of the place, and went to bed by 11. On my request, Rajesh agreed to take me to Karassoori, early next morning, along with Madanan and Baiju of our team, who had similar tastes.

29 – 05 – 2009

                        We were seated in Rajesh’s 4WD by 5.45 AM, daring the chilly wind. In fact Baiju had the entire woolen from the guest house, along with. It took around one and a half hour hike, to reach Karassoori, as we had many stops on the way to have a snap or a two. A bison on the wayside had a strange stare on us indicating his displeasure in being disturbed so early. Another one on the track near Karassoori went under cover quickly.
           At Karassoori, Rajesh mentioned about a private resort further deep, and we drove up to that place, about 2 kms from Karassoori.              Misty valley, the resort, was a neat place with a beautiful garden and a small canteen, where we were offered tea.                 The jeep which took their guests, for jungle safari, then returned, and we heard them speak of elephants they found on the way. On our return we found a wild jack tree and Rajesh was up on it, to present us with one.                     We went into the woods to extend a helping hand, but the special protection group – leeches – weren’t happy on us. Reached back the guest house by 9, once again troubling the bison, we found earlier.
                   After a quick break fast, packed ourselves in the jeep, for a crawl over rocks, to ‘Manpara’ , via ‘Seetharkundu’. Seetharkundu is a view point well within the Pobson’s Organic coffee plantations. Though the road up to the view point is motorable, vehicles are not permitted into the estate. Its about a km walkto the point, to have a bird’s view of the planes beneath, belonging to both Kerala and TN.                      Returned to the jeep and started the hike to Manpara.The track to Manpara is in very bad shape, that at many instances our soft hearted co-travelers screamed of the fear that the jeep may turn turtle. But Rajesh, our chauffer, confident on his skills and his vehicle, was busy shifting between the 2 wheel and 4 wheel drive options, paying least attention to the passenger’s worries. At a point we could see the distant mountain top and the path leading to it, revealing the fact that the torture will continue for a while.             And finally after one hour’s climb we were atop Manpara. View from Manpaara will fit only on a large canvas, as you have lots to see beneath.                    On one side lies Chulliyar and Meenkara dams close to Pollachi town and on the other side, Lower Aaliyar dam appears to be a small pond in the Valpaara valley.                      Rajesh points to a distant peak which is higher than our present position, naming it ‘Church Hill’ – the place we were to visit after noon. The cool gentle breeze atop was so soothing that we lied on the ground for a while.                      On the descent, just after half a km, Rajesh took a right deviation, into a track that appeared very less frequented. Rajesh announces that we are moving to Cheria(Small) Maanpaara which is normally inaccessible to travelers. We smell elephants around, and Rajesh stopped his vehicle, all of a sudden. Anxious eyes looked around to find that we were in front of a huge slanting rock. So, no elephants, but a climb up the rock, we thought. As we were to alight from the vehicle, I found Rajesh switching over to 4 wheel drive. In the midst of screaming ‘Noooo………s’, he throttled the vehicle. Slowly it ascended with the people inside, clinging on to it. Three minutes later we were on top of another rock, presenting us with another panorama, distinct from that we had from Maanpara.            Few minutes there and we descended, as we were running short of time.
After lunch at the canteen near our guest house, boarded the jeep for Church hill, in a direction opposite to Manpara. From Kaikatti junction took a left turn, along the winding path through Manalaroo tea estate.               After half an hour’s drive entered Thoothanpara estate, re acquired and added to Parambikulam Tiger Reserve in 2007, after 99 years of lease. The track became more narrow and curvy and the drive was at a slow pace, expecting a tusker at each bend. No sightings and we reached the bottom of the rock on top of which stands the ancient one room church, believed to be built by a foreigner who settled here about 100 years back.           It was an ill maintained small rock building which is all about to ruin.            We found the holy cross lying flat on the floor. We managed to get it upright. Atop the rock we found the majestic stretch of ‘Parambikulam’ tiger reserve just beneath. Parambikulam dam and Peruvaripallam dam were clearly visible from the rock top. Memories of an earlier visit to Parambikulam sprouted, while we had spent a lot of time watching spotted deer near the dam site.

                On our return, another deviation to the left, took us to KesavanPara, about a km from the road to Kaikatti. There is a small pond on top of the rock which never dries.            Pothundi dam and the road from Pothundi to Kaikatti, lit by setting sun, lie below.               Time was up by then and returned to the guest house for a quick pack up.

          Along the descent through the dark woods of Nelliampathi, I was watching my friends, all tired and silent. For most of them, it was a journey to Metur, to attend the marriage ceremony, which got extended to Nelliampathi. And I smile in the darkness, for, it wasn’t so for me………….

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  1. we are going to Nelliyampathi on 23rd of this month

  2. Wish you a happy journey Steve

  3. u mentioned that u have arranged a stay at the guest house run by the agriculture department. Shall i get the contact number plz.

  4. Sorry Jobin, I lost all those contacts.

    You can manage if there is some one in agriculture dept.

  5. shiny any good cottages to stay with family near by poomparai..need your advice pls !

    1. Pream kumar : The place were I stayed was 'Club India Resorts' and the bitter experience I had there has been well explained in my post. (http://sshinu.blogspot.in/2010/03/poomparai-kukkal-mist-and-th-e-m-isery.html)

      Apart from that there are no other places for a family stay, where I had been to. My acquaintances in that sector has reported there are home stays run by locals. And I'm not in a position to recommend one for you as you are travelling with your family.

      You may better stay at Kodai and explore Poomparai and Kukkal in a day

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