It was suggested by my brother in law, who had heard of this eco-tourism thingy and asked us to check it out, even though the water levels are less. They also have a trekking as part of this package. But since it was much near to our home (almost an hour and half journey by car), everyone wanted to join (except my parents). Now it became a family picnic. And guess what, since my dad is not joining, we would be driving on our own. And everyone needed a break. So total of 5 adults and 3 children packed in our car started from home at around 8.15 am.
Route taken: Mettupalayam road – Karamadai bus stand – Take left on Velliangadu road (just opposite Karamadai Ranganathar temple) – Right on Thollampalayam road. The roads are very nice till the end of the Mettupalayam jurisdiction but right after that its dusty with lot of pot holes, gravels .. well practically no road at all. You have a few hair pin bends to climb over a small hill and come back down. The view is good from there (I did not drive this area. My driving got restricted to the plains..because honestly with the kids in the car, I don’t want to take chances). We also enter the forest range crossing a check post. At the end of the check post you have two ways to go. Left to Ooty (a different route to Ooty if you want to take the least traveled path) and on the right to Pilloor Dam and Baralikkadu boating place which is on the Athikadavu river. But since there are no roads, we got delayed. It was supposed to be a hour and a half journey but got extended to almost 2.15 hrs (discounting the 20 mins break in Periyanayakan palayam for the breakfast)
When we land there we see that there is a bus which had tourists and 2 cars. Since this is a weekend activity and only limited and already reserved people are allowed, it is less crowded. The only person handling the activities there is the Forest Officer and a bunch of tribal ladies who are there to help with food. The place looked amazing. Inside the forest you come across a water body with such a nice place to rest. They had swings and chairs and rope cots and wind blowing through those trees throwing the dried leaves around.. Wow that was so so relaxing. They have nothing around, except for those tribal settlements a few kms from there (where they cook and get us the food). They have restrooms built and kept clean too.
They don’t even ask you for the money unless you are done with everything. The Forest Officer was very kind and nice and asked us to enjoy our time as there was already a group who have gone for boating and that it would take an hour or more for them to come back. We were served with sukku coffee, which was very tasty and each of us took place in the swing and were having fun. The kids were also enjoying themselves. Only that I was not allowed to swing because both my first niece and my nephew wanted to be with me and that swing build on the tree barks was so small that I cannot balance them both.
We fed the kids and got them ready for the boating. We were given very nice and clean life jackets (except for the kids) and each coracle which is not the simple bamboo one, but built for sturdiness, hosts around 4 adults. So we split up into group of two and headed in our own coracles. No points for guessing in which coracle my first niece and nephew were riding :). It was hot (panguni veyil palla ilukumnu solluvaanga… the same veyil dhaan..) but the presence of water and my coolers made it bearable for me. It wasn’t sweaty..just the heat and dehydration due to exertion. They take you around the lake and its always a pleasant experience to be in water. Seems like this place is there for almost 7 years now but not much crowded as they have restricted access. This year the monsoon is very very less and hence less water now. The water tastes good. My 2nd niece on the other coracle is adamant that she will have her hand in the water (she just turned one) and whenever my brother removes here away from water, you can hear here wail so loud that it echoes 🙂 and then you place her hand in the water , her sound switches off..
The other two in my coracle were very good and quite. My first niece was little afraid of touching the water and slowly she warmed up to it. My nephew did not want to take any chance.. He was happy jumping between his mother, father and me.
They took us to a place almost near the dam and left us for some resting. This place was uninhabited (except for a skull of a huge animal lying there) and is thick in vegetation. We walked around in the wild for some time until we were not able to control the kids who were beginning to run around. Some one heard some rustle in the trees and started panicking about snakes being there and stuff. God.. some one was really getting scary in our group (it wasn’t me anyway) and then we started heading back. On our way back we started to get some shades and got to see some nice birds, even a kingfisher (sadly couldn’t take a photo). Kids started getting hungry (it was almost 2.15 pm) and so more crankier. When we landed back, they had started serving food. So both mom’s went ahead to feed their respective children and we started having our lunch and saving the moms the food when they are ready. The food was really very good. Chapathi, kurma, veg rice, raitha, keerai kootu, curd rice, ragi balls and chicken gravy for non vegetarians (served in a separate place) along with bananas. They had water also. It was almost an hour or so by the time we were done (and we were the last of the lot to finish off and pack for the other place). We paid the Forest office (350Rs per head) and started our way to the entrance of the Athikadavu area where we have to take a left to go a few kms for seeing the streams and where we are allowed to take bath.
Ideally, if we want to do trekking, we can started from the place near a bridge which comes between the stream and the boating place and walk down the section of the stream. But since they had elephants coming in that area recently (even we saw the elephant toe prints on the sand near the stream in an isolated area) they did not want us to do the trekking. You need to walk to the stream which is more dehydrating because of the heat and I am so amazed that the kids too walked. If we had to carry them, we would have felt more tired. Except for the 2nd niece, both the kids were very happy to walk till the stretch. Then when we came to the stream, we saw the other group (around 10-15 people) there. So we tried some place a little further up and came to a very quite place where no one was around. We spread the mat we had carried and fed the kids they evening milk and relaxed while my brother and brother in law went for a bath some place a little away from where we were. It was cool and shady and very relaxing and kids were very happy playing there. The same someone got really scared hearing the screeches of the monkeys somewhere above and since we were told that elephants had been there the day before yesterday for water, it drove wild. Thankfully we had two dogs who were guarding us the whole time 🙂
After around 5 we started heading back. Our car which was cleaned before our trip was so muddied and dusty, I was sure my father was going to have a fit. But we cannot help it because the roads were that bad. I drove in the plains again for some time and then when it was getting late for the kids for their dinner (it was around 7 pm) my brother took over and drove like his usual self (i.e. crazy) and we reached home by 7.30 pm. We were all dead tired and exhausted. But altogether a nice day out.
At times I feel like quoting my niece (first one)..”veetuku holiday” she would say if she doesn’t want to go home but keep roaming around 😉
Now is not the right time to visit. Some time after a good monsoon and a little warmer climate would be very apt for this place. And we should make the reservations beforehand because they do not allow more than 80 per day to this place.
Photos are present here.