Friday, January 8, 2010

Meenuliyaan – The pain is worth

                     The beauty of this expedition lies in the fact that we didn’t expect much and we got more than the earlier ‘much’. As usual I, Sunil and our family got packed in the damn new WagonR – just done 100 kms – and were off by 2 PM on 26th Nov 2009. We were to join Sinesh and family from Ernakulam, at the Range Officer’s residence at Kothamangalam. We took MC Road upto Moovattupuzha, and deviated to Kothamangalam. Reached Dinesh’s residence at 8.30PM, to find that Sinesh and family were the early birds. Dinesh lead us in his 4WD Jeep, to Thattekkad Forest Inspection Bunglow,about 12 kms from Kothamangalam, were our night stay was arranged.

IB Thattekkad
           While having food, Dinesh accidentally mentioned about the night patrol in the woods, and in minutes we were ready with the torches. Dinesh was confident enough to hand over the wheel to me, for he didn’t know, it was the first time I was driving a four wheel drive, and that too, through the forest tracks. The team took off by 11 PM, and the patrol continued till 2 in the morning. Though we didn’t have any major sightings, it was a thrilling ride through the silent woods.          At places we waited for elephants, on smelling them, but no one turned out. We were back at the IB by 2.30, and knew nothing till 7 AM. 
            Started bird watching, soon after breakfast, aided by Mr. Mani, the caretaker of the guest house, who turned out to be an expert in the field. Walked into the depth of the bird sanctuary and we could spot many beautiful, as well as endangered species.                  Haven’t been much exposed to world of flying creatures, the ignorance was a set back. Some effort is to be put in, for a research in this direction, I decided. There is a watch tower inside the sanctuary, with a single room atop.            We left our ladies and kids in this room and rang up Dinesh to come with his Jeep.                  As he arrived with his driver, Mr. Saju, we explored the sanctuary with an aim; to spot the endangered Ceylon Frog Mouth. Mani lead us, and finally after an hour’s wandering, we could get him (or her, I’m not sure).                   Got out from the sanctuary by around 10.30 AM, and headed for Meenuliyaan. Saju and Dinesh lead in their 4WD and we followed in our WagonR and Sinesh’s Paleo. Went up to Kothamangalam and took the Munnar route. Just before Neriamangalam took a right deviation and after half an hour’s journey, reached Chullikandam Forest station. Dinesh stood back, as he was very much in need of sleep, and assigned Mr. Jolley, an officer from Chullikkandam station, to lead us to Meenuliyaan. 

           The convoy went ahead, took a left deviation from Mullaringad, and after a long climb along steep roads, reached Pattayakkudi. From there the road towards the base of Meenuliyan is in very bad shape, and I struggled a lot, to take my WagonR along with. Reached the base by around 1 PM, parked the vehicles, and started the trek.                    Initial part winds along plantations and it soon gave way to steep rocks with green patches. And it was here, I found a sign board by the Forest dept. ‘Meenuliyaan Biodiversity Zone’ and that too, in a piece of hard board, just hung over a tree.                 Thus the wonders of Meenuliyaan lies, known only to the locals. From here onwards the trek became harder as the gradient went steeper.         You find a hilltop ahead and reaching there is no relief, for you find another ahead.                    Jolley just kept on chanting the mantra ‘its near’. Atop one such hillock we lost breath and had a brief stop. We had the sight of the valley, and the Munnar region on the other side, contiguous with ‘Idukki Wildlife sanctuary’. Jolley said that Periyaar can be seen from here if we move a little more to the edge, but that would be a very dangerous act, for a wind can get you off the cliff.           He continued that, once you are atop Meenuliyaan, Periyar could be seen flowing beneath, and that would be a better as well as safe sight. I could spot a distant falls, like a silver line, which would eventually join Periyar beneath.            From here onwards, Sinesh took over my younger one, freeing my shoulders, and that was a real relief. Quenching thirst, moved on, and our ladies were really testing the strength of the tree branches they had from the way. Jolley consistently insisted on keeping away from the edges of the rocks, and we had a hard time in managing our kids, who were set free on this no wall space, from their regular four wall space. About 2.30 PM we reached a high grown grass land, and wading through it, entered a thick canopy, which no one expected atop a rock.          It was just as we got into an air conditioned room from mid noon traffic. We had drinks and light food, which we had carried along. The cap of woods was so lush and least explored, that it had thick under growth.               The creepers and prop roots hanging from the towering trees were so strong, that even I could perform a Tarzan act.          There were natural swings, for which ladies fought with the kids.              On Jolley’s instruction we walked over to the edges, and firmly gripping on tree branches, leaned to a sight, which I never had from a height.            I couldn’t believe, it was the Periyar beneath, as it was just a rope thick. Folds of mountains belonging to the Idukki reserve and Eravikulam national park lied ahead, mist covered. The geography of the canopy was such that we could even spot the rocky cliffs, that we had trekked through, and then I knew why Jolley was so strict in leading us through a specific path. Just meters apart from our trek path the cliff fell at right angle into the valley.        Sinesh, the more adventurous, crawled along to the edges, to have a better view.          We then moved across to the other side of the canopy, to have another view of the valley, and the Periyar was clearer like a snake, in the valley.            Not for the mist, it would have been a longer snake. Started the down trek and it was much easier than the climb, apart from the slips, many of us had.            There were many water holes on the trek path, which I didn’t mention earlier, which could sooth our aching legs. Reached the base by around 4.30 PM. Now we had to hurry as we had planned to visit ‘Thommankuthu’ falls, before its dark. Left Jolley, got in Dinesh, and proceeded to Vannappuram town, driving over Kottappara Mala from Mullaringad. From Vannappuram took Thodupuzha route, and a left deviation just a km later, got us on Thommankuthu route. Another 7 kms took us to Thommankuthu Junction. Parked our vehicles and walked to the falls, which is about a km from the junction. Dinesh, being a RO with the dept, could afford a forest watcher to guide us. The view of the falls wasn’t worth the walk, to be frank.             But the information that there are many beautiful falls, ahead, within the thick forest, which Dinesh would take us to, on a later trip without the ladies and kids, boosted our spirits. Had a dip in the cold flow and it was dark by then.                Our night stay was arranged at the Inspection Bunglow, Edamalayar, about 50 kms from ThommanKuthu. This IB is well within Edamalayar reserve, famous for wild elephants, once we cross Vadattupara. Owing to time and space constrains, I shall continue with the Edamalayaar experience in the next post.

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  1. Shinu,
    Congrats for this wonderful blog! Stumbled upon this from a web search. Keep up the good work. It's amazing how much travel you do!

  2. fabulous ..would like to share more about the same or 9995810047

  3. Thanx Irshad
    I'll reach u soon

  4. in dis pic its not is a big rock....plz click the pic and see

  5. Jackson, who told you that's an elephant? Its just the entrance to ThommanKuthu falls

  6. sir,i am student of u at alert{navodaya},that a realy nice blog u have,keep on the good work


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