Munnar – Part 3

The second trip to Munnar on Sept 16th was a totally unplanned one. We (my bf AGM and I) were planning to go to Valparai but since there was a Tamil Nadu bandh on that day we had to shift our focus to Munnar. We were in Coimbatore at that time so we decided to hire a taxi for our trip. I wanted to show him our mighty western ghats.
We started from Coimbatore at around 5.45 am. The route was through Udumalpet (which was the route we had used last time we went to Munnar but only on our way back) We decided to play it by the ear and based on when we reach the Munnar city we might do Top Station. But the only thing we had planned was the wild life trek in Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary which is close to 3 hours from Coimbatore. We even got new shoes for those because we didn’t get ours to Coimbatore.
We stopped at a hotel in Pollachi (which was the only one opened on that day) for our cup of coffee and bio-break (in other words washroom breaks). After that we started on our way to Chinnar. On the way we spotted a beautiful peacock, a peahen and a lone wild elephant in the forest area (Anamalai forest reserve). It was exciting, even though I wasn’t very comfortable with the lone wild elephant. Thankfully it was already on its way to the forest seeking shade. We had slight rain on our way from Coimbatore so I thought it might dampen our plans of the trekking. But close to Chinnar it was scorching hot. We reached Chinnar by around 8.30-8.45 am. Our driver checked with the forest guides and told us that there hasn’t been any animals spotted and it may or may not be a waste of time to do the trekking. It was a three hour trek with the fees being 250 Rs for Indians and 650 Rs for foreigners. We decided to just go ahead with it even if it meant that we will get our workout done.

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The guide is a local tribe from in and around the area. He told us that there was a herd of elephants which had crossed path a couple of days ago but none after that. We told him about the wild elephant we saw. Since it wasn’t a season for the animals to be out and about he couldn’t guarantee us anything. It was alright with us.
AGM was already feeling the heat (as he isn’t used to it) a few minutes into the trek. We decided to take it slow.

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The heat was upon us and it was just 9 am. The guide was telling us how the lack of monsoon was affecting the area. The funny part is that this section of the ghat doesn’t get rain when Kerala gets its share of rains. Only when Tamil Nadu part of the area gets rain this area too gets its share. Which has been close to zero this year. We can see the dry land all around us.

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When we came to this watch tower, the guide asked us if we wanted to have a look from the top. We both said yes, but after the second level, my fear of heights started to kick in and I wasn’t ready to go a step beyond that. AGM was already not too happy about my decision to climb this one. So we took a couple of photographs from the second level and the guide went to the top to see if he can spot any animals. After that we started to walk on towards the well defined and yet wild paths of the forest.

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In the above photograph can you see the green roofed area, that is where the trekking started. You can also see that there were hardly any clouds and the sun at its peak. Almost 45 minutes into the walk, the guide asked us to wait in an open area and went in to check for those elephants.

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We sat down on the rocks and I changed to my zoom lens when AGM spotted something moving in the trees in a distance. I used my zoom lens to see what they were and there they were…a group of deer going in search of shade. It was so exciting to track them. I couldn’t get many good shots of those but here are a couple of them.

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It was already close to 15-20 mins and there wasn’t any sign of our guide and we were wondering if we should go in search of him or get back to the base camp 😉 Thankfully after some time he came and told us that there is no chance of seeing any other animals. We told him about the deer. He explained us the types of deer that are in these areas. And then continued on our path. Since we knew that any further walk into the forest wouldn’t yield any result, we decided to go towards the shades.

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He said that we can find a lot of monkeys and birds in the shady area. What he didn’t tell us was that shady area is a stream.

1-img_0129What a pleasant surprise when we found out. We were almost more than an hour into the walk by then and the sun had drained our energy. We finished a bottle of water already. So this portion was such a reprieve. Along the stream it was another hour of walk. But we managed to see a lot of birds, squirrels (not the usual ones, but the big wild ones) and a huge monkey fight which lasted for almost 5-10 mins. Only when they broke up and one set came to our side of the stream we started to move so as to not cross them 🙂

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Start of a fight

After almost 2-2.15 hours of trekking in Chinnar and watching some beautiful birds (haven’t posted any photographs of them here. Might do it in my other blog later) we headed back to the base camp. In case you are interested in doing the wildlife trek, you may have to do it between Dec-Feb which is the peak time and you will be guaranteed to see some wild animals and if you are really very lucky a leopard too. Don’t expect a big cat like a tiger (even though this is part of a tiger reserve area) They aint there anymore. But it was worth the walk. Both in terms of our workout (if only we had a little bit of wind, we could have done a little longer walk) and in spotting those beautiful deers and birds.

After that we rested for a while in their restaurant (which didn’t have much except for coffee and tea), bought a lemongrass oil from them (the proceeds goes to the tribal community) and started on our way to Munnar city. Since it was the Onam week, the whole of Kerala was celebrating the holidays. We did expect some crowd and decided to skip a few placed accordingly but we did not expect the road traffic on this route. Good lord. Almost close to 11 am we were inching through those ghat sections. The reason? because some idiot had blocked the traffic which is coming down and a bus at that and since the roads were too small they were having trouble getting the space. This continued until we reached close to Eravikulam Park which is on the outskirts of Munnar city center. A lot of autos and cars didn’t bother to come in a line and tried to overtake the people inching and caused more delays. And when we reached near Eravikulam, the people who had parked their cars on the roads to get to the park , which was highly overcrowded, added to our woes. We were supposed to be in Munnar city by 11.30 or so but were there on the roads just outside the city center until 2 pm. It was pathetic. We were hungry and tired because of the stupid drivers. Just a little bit of common sense is what is expected. And not to mention the groups who are travelling by buses and who throw the plastic plates and cups on the side of the roads. I didn’t expect that in a matter of 6 months or so I would find Munnar so dirty. It was sad to see it.

When we reached closed to the city center it started to rain. There were rains here and there on our way but it started to rain very heavily. There was a rope tugging competition on the road too as part of Onam celebration competitions. We finally decided to go with the first vegetarian restaurant we spotted because it was already 3 pm and that ended up bad as well. The food wasn’t good at all. And when we came out we thought we might go and see those Tea Gardens which was 10 km away. But thanks to the rain, we had to make sure to get back on the ghats by 5.30 pm or at least by 6 pm to make sure to reach Coimbatore back by 10 pm at least. When we started we saw that the route to Top Station was also inching slowly with vehicles being blocked due to traffic. So we decided to ditch any more travel and went ahead with shopping.

We shopped around for a while, watched the prize distribution competition that was held at the edge of a street for the Onam competitions, AGM went and checked St Anthony’s church, got our dinner packed (just in case we don’t make it on time back) and by 5.45 pm we were on our way back to Coimbatore amidst heavy drizzling. Here are a couple of photographs taken using my phone while driving back.

In spite of empty roads on the way back, we reached our hotel by 10 pm only. As much as I was happy with my last trip to Munnar, this trip left a sour taste except for that amazing trek in the morning. Guess we should have left it at that and headed back. And Munnar in a day was not a wise decision especially during the Onam holidays. Since it was a last minute choice we had to go ahead with it and see how it ended up. We ended up being in the car far more time than we were on the land. In spite of all that, I cherish my trek in Chinnar with AGM a lot. We had a lot of fun during that walk.

Moral of this trip: Munnar cannot be done in a day. You have to stay at least for a night if you want to see any of those good places. And if possible do not take the Udumalpet route to get into Munnar. Theni route is the best choice but again that depends on from where you are driving from. Coimbatore to Munnar via Theni is totally not a good choice but then you have to be in that awful traffic to the city. If only people used their common traffic sense while driving through these ghats.

 

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