” In Quest of The Otter.
” Idukki stands tall. Kerala’s forest District is majestic in its aloofness. Magical in its richness. Mysterious in its denseness. Nature at its formidable best. Teasing, tantalising.. inviting… Experience ecstasy. Abandon. And a spiritual high at some of her best known hill resort like Thekkady and Munnar. For sheer romance head to idukki. For a rendezvous with nature.!
Tourists are essentially voyeurs. Occasionally, however, they stumble on sights that allow them to step outside their habituated selves.
What with its reputation preceding it, Munnar, at first, seems a bit of a letdown. pretty as a postcard. to be sure, with the green sprawl of tea gardens, manicured meadows, and the mists corkscrewing over them. Not radically different from the Scot countryside with its xo-bow lakes, banks of primroses, and willow-lined streams. To recreate a slice of which is what in the first instance got the British to cajole and coerce the Adivasis into leasing these hills to them. But a little distance from this hill town in different directions are places like Rajamala and Lock Hert Gap. Places where you breathe in the scent of the saga and gaze upon landscapes un-retouched by man.
Here, in the evenings with a frigid wind brushing your cheeks, you can almost reach out and touch the brilliant thunderheads in every direction, fleece white, and gunmetal gray. Then without warning, they rise hundreds of feet into the air, billowing up majestically like flamenco dancers rising out of a deep curtsy.
Rajamala is next door to the Eravikulam National Park, home to the almost extinct Nilgiri Tahr or Hemitragas Hylocres. Tourists are not allowed into the sanctuary’s buffer or core areas but they can catch sight of this rare mountain goat atop a rock silhouetted against the sky, or wading a forest stream in groups.
Anamudi, at 2695 meters, is the highest peak south of the Himalayas and is situated in the southern part of the Eravikulam sanctuary. Tourists are permitted to go out on trekking expeditions to this mountain.
Pallivasal, the site of the first hydroelectric project in Kerala, Pothamedu Attukal, and Nyayamakad are all wonderful picnic spots, within a ten-kilometer radius of Munnar.
Chithiripuram, near the Pallivasal, with its sleepy lichen-covered cottages, bungalows, and old playgrounds is a bit of England imported to a tropical setting. The Sita Devi Lake in Devikulam is well known for its mineral waters and is ideal for trout fishing. This place, true to its name, Goddess’ Pond, is an idyllic hill station with velvet natural lawns, and exotic flowers, and is subject to cool mountain breezes all day long.
Mattupetty is located at a height of 1700 meters and the Indo-Swiss Livestock Project here is a must-see. About a hundred types of high-yield cattle are reared here. ” Uphill from the dairy farm is Kundala, with tea estates extending as far as the eye can see on all sides. Further up is the Top Station, another good vantage point to survey the surrounding country. Once in twelve years the rare Neelakurunji, sacred to the god Murugan and symbolizing his longing for his beloved Valli, blooms here. The entire hillsides are blanketed in blue.
The top station, 32 kilometers from Munnar is 1700 meters above sea level and is the highest point on the Munnar-Kodaikanal road. It offers a panoramic view of the plains in neighboring Tamil Nadu, with its patchwork quilt of fields stretching into the distance. ” In and around Munnar there are, of course, a number of exclusive hotels and resorts, They merge gracefully with the hill-and-glades ambiance of this town. some of the resorts are located along the actual junction of the ‘three rivers’ or Mun aar, Mudirapuzha, Nallathanni, and Kundala. But there is nothing to beat an evening at the High Range Club of course possible only on invitation.
This charmingly colonial-style clubhouse, with its elegant lounge and dining room, gentlemen’s bar, and billiards room, is the favorite watering hole of every planter in this region. On request, the resort can arrange short excursions to places like Marayoor – it is the only Sandalwood Forest Museum in Kerala state. and is famous for its stone age dwellings – and Chinnar, which borders Tamil Nadu.
One must make a visit here if only to see the contrast with Eravikulam. While the latter is an evergreen forest, Chinnar is mostly shrub or shola. The stunted vegetation is a consequence of Chinnar’s location on the rain shadow section of the Western Ghats. but in terms of the variety of wildlife, there is no dearth in Chinnar.
A visit to Munnar will be incomplete without a peak into any one of the more than two-dozen factories here that process raw tea leaves. the aroma inside can be pleasantly overwhelming as you watch the different processes. first, the tea leaves are withered in hot air, then rolled into particles, then fermented and fed into driers before they are ready to be packed. ‘At special kiosks on the premises taste the high-quality tea served in fluted cups and you can almost feel your central nervous system rev up and change gears. buy a couple of mementos from Munnar.
The name Idukki is derived from the Malayalam word idukku, loosely translated and could mean corner or cleft. it is a name well chosen because across the entire district, valleys, and villages are wedged between hills with altitudes varying from 2500 feet to over 5000 feet above sea level.
Forests and wildlife abound in Idukki about 2500 square kilometers of its total 5061 square kilometers is reserved forest, much of which is home to a variety of flora and fauna. These forests are a source of teak wood, rosewood, and sandalwood. There are eleven peaks in Idukki that exceed a height of 6000 feet above sea level. Idukki is also associated with power generation. about 60 percent of Kerala’s power needs are met by the hydroelectric power station at Moolamattam, the biggest in the state. In this power station, there are huge generators with a total capacity of 780MW. After generating electricity the water flows through a 4000 feet long tunnel to a tributary of the Thodupuzha River. The Moolamattam power station is a joint Indo-Canadian project, 40 Kilometers from Idukki, and permission can be obtained to visit the underground powerhouse and tunnel.
Cheruthoni is the area around the Idukki and Cheruthoni dams near Painavu. At 3917 feet above sea level on a clear day, one can see even faraway Kochi. Cheruthoni can be reached only by jeep. The Kerala State Electricity Board, which is in charge of the dams, rents out boats for the tow-hours cruise between Cheruthoni and Kulamavu.
The Cheeyappara and Valara waterfalls are located between Neriamangalam and Adimali on the Kochi Madurai Highway. The Cheeyappara waterfall makes a graceful descent over seven steps chiseled into the rock face. it is also a great place for trekking with a number of trails, not too steep or thickly forested, taking off into the hills. Cochin airport to Munnar travels on the way first Local sightseeing for Tourister. Cochin airport to one-hour travel distance and a short tea break point. Tourist Taxi You can park near the waterfalls.
Thommankuthu waterfalls border Ernakulam District and are located 17 Kilometers from Thodupuzha. it is an ideal picnic spot and beneath each terraced step, the cascade collects into a pool. The next stop in the circuit is Peermede it is all hills and rolling meadows, but even if you are coming from Munnar, rest assured it won’t be just more of the same. In terms of pure prettiness, Munnar just about holds a candle to Peermede. At Vagamon, Kurisimala, Gavi, and Grampi gentle slopes and lawn-like meadows, riven by silver cascades, give the Lotus Eater’s idyll a bad name. The mausoleum of Peer Mohammed – a Sufi seer who was close to the Travancore rulers and lent his name to his place – and the summer palaces of the rest while the royal family is situated close to Peermede town.
Grampi, also known as Parunthan para or eagle rock. of its rocky perch, has a cardamom plantation spread out in the valleys beneath it. Cardamom, botanically known as Elettaria Cardamom, is normally grown at an elevation of between 600 to 1200 meters above sea level and grows under the shade of evergreen forests. This Queen of spices is cultivated on 56,376 hectares in the whole of Kerala of which 70 percent is in the Idukki district.
Pattumala, Seventeen kilometers to the west of Peermede, literally means draped in silk There are acres upon acres of lush tea gardens here with intersecting streams and natural gardens – with roses, orchids, and anthurium – that are a riot of colors.
Vagamon, 25 Kilometers from Peermede, is an interesting blend of Malayali preoccupations and European legacies. Kurisumala is both a retreat for monks – it is largely non-denominational and tourists are encouraged to unwind themselves in the serene environment of the monastery – and a very professionally managed dairy farm. Vagamon is also the proposed site of Kerala’s biggest eco-tourism Project. There are a lot of aboriginal settlements around Peermede. the Orali, Malayoram, and Malapandaram tribes are hospitable and neat, orderly, and meshe perfectly with the surrounding. The main tribal settlement is Plakkathadam and it has a lot of good trekking trails.
There are actually some wonderful trekking trails all around Peermade and in places like Kuttikanam adventure tourism is in its egregious infancy. stay too long here, however, and Peermede is picturesque perfection and tranquility can precipitate an overdose. it is time then to move on. Where to, but Thekkady? This is the queen – or are sanctuaries neutered- of forests, not only In Kerala but all over India. Thekkady is Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary is a Tiger Reserve. Along with Tigers, there are elephants here by the hundreds, not to mention sloth bears, sambar deer, wild boar, flying squirrels, and lion-tailed macaque among others. ” A boat trip along the splendid artificial lake formed by the Mulla Periyar Dam allows for sightseeing of most of these animals. for the more adventurous there are elephant rides, perfectly safe but high on the thrill. The cost for entrance per person is 350 rupees. For wildlife enthusiasts, treks are possible deep into the forest from the boat landing station at Nelikampetty [it’s the very old name ] and Manakavala. From the boat or elephant back most tourists are of course looking out for a flash of feeling yellow-and-green.
Conservationists, however, would want tourists to keep their eyes peeled for a more endearing predator, the elusive and endangered otter. like the tiger, the Otter too is a carnivore and occupies the top end of the food chain. Dams and bridges have destroyed much of its riverine habitat and its numbers and so has poaching.
The Grasslands of Eravikulam take a backseat to the majestic hills of Munnar in terms of scenery but the former is far more evolved in the grassland a tussock of grass does the work of an entire tree. like the grassland, so too the Otter vis the glamorous tiger.
The Periya Lake wind through some hardwood forests bare of leaves and spaced wide apart like dozens of fingers aimed at the sky. it is here, if you watch carefully that you will see the Otter go about his chores, only his eyes and nostrils above water. Call out to him softly and he will prick his ears and then glide away giving us a glimpse of webbed paws, a muscular tail, and a streamlined body fully adapted to surviving in the watery wild. Innumerable tourists take away this stock image of this rare animal. Many of the ecology-conscious among them, especially foreigners from the Fist world, are now involved in doing their mile for the Otter.
Kumily, Just fore kilometer away, is the closest town to Thekkady. it is a plantation town and is well connected by road to all cities in Kerala and neighboring states. and also one of the best viewpoints Pandikuzhi is located between the sleepy village of Chellarkovil and the Tamilnadu border. it provides an excellent view of the Tamil Plains and a bright day faraway Cumbum, with its coconut groves, can be made out.
The Mangaladevi temple is actually inside the Periyar sanctuary. at a height of 1337 meters above sea level, it was, long ago, part of a large fortress that kept those from the Tamil country with unfriendly designs at bay.
Vandanmedu, 25 kilometers from KUmily, is one of the largest auction centers for Cardamom. Vandiperiyar is eighteen kilometers from Thekkady en route to Kottayam and is one of the important centers of the tea industry. Pullumedu or Uppupara is an undulating grassland skirting the Periyar Tiger Reserve. it can only be reached by jeed or by a long trek from Vandiperiyar. The scenery on the way is spectacular. The scenery on the way is spectacular and from Pullumed proper the Ayappa shrine at Sabarimala can be seen nestling among the hills.
At the end of the circuit, a break at the Idukki Arch Dam will help relieve the tedium of the journey back to Ernakulam or Kottayam. build across two hills, named after the tribal couple Kuruvan and Kurathi whose love survived their estrangement this is the world’s second and Asia’s first arch dam. Not far from the Idukki Dam, across the Cherruthony River is a Cancrete ‘gravity’ Dam, 454 feet high. The spillway of the Idukki Reservoir is into the Cheruthoney Dam. To prevent the water from escaping a masonry dam has been constructed at Kulamavu. This Dam is 328 feet high. The water impounded by these three dams from a single reservoir spread over 36 miles at a height of 2300 feet above sea level. The view from, and around this reservoir is breathtaking. Below, the road that will take you home winds down the mountain flak you want to leave, have to leave and yet you also don’t want to leave So you promise yourself to come here again.