Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tripping up the Hills

A few years ago, I had been to the Kallakkad - Mundanthurai tiger reserve and spent a very enjoyable time there.An interest on my part to share the beauties of the place with Hubs and a shortage of time (isn't that always the case?) led us to plan to spend a couple of days at the reserve - more specifically, at this place called Kudhiraivetti.
With directions from Google Maps and numerous people on the road, we reached the foot of the Manjolai Hills, atop which Kudhiraivetti is nestled. The Reserve sprawls over these hills and can be reached two ways - from Papanaasam and from Kallidaikurichi and onto Manjolai. The Papanaasam route is much more eventful, with many falls on the way. But we picked the latter, since we wanted to see Manjolai.
Early morning start

The Reserve is a protected area (read: Red tape) and requires prior permission to visit or stay. We had obtained the permission from Forest dept. We now reached the check post near the Manimutharu Dam where they check if you have really obtained the permission (word of caution: be sure to pay any fees in exact change here. Any change remaining may be kept back as 'tips' ).
Manimuthaaru Dam

Since we had picked July to visit the place, we had to brave the elements to sightsee. First stop was Manimutharu Falls. Here a chain is tied across the bridge over the river, barring your path. A shameless beggar in a forest ranger uniform demands bribe from you here to open the chain. Whatever the season be, apparently we have to brave the pitiful humans too. Passing him with disgust, we also passed by the chance to bathe in the falls since it was raining and also windy, and went on driving up.
Manimuthaaru Falls

A word of caution here. If you are planning to make a trip to the same place, before you start check your car. If it's a compact car like our Chevy Spark, stop right there. Because a few kilometers after the Falls, the roads become extremely pothole-y. We had a tough time with the little Spark! You need a rugged beast of a four wheeler to navigate those roads.
The Bison that posed for us

Another thing to remember is to never ask the locals on those mountain roads the distance to a certain place unless you wish to have hopelessly inaccurate data. Rule of thumb is multiply the number by three to get the approximate distance.
Beautiful Hills and Beastly roads

There is a place called Naalu mukku after the main Manjolai town(?) which literally feeds the guests at Kudhiraivetti. We had to buy supplies for dinner here and carry it up with us.
Nallumukku Postoffice

Village of Naalumukku. Notice the loaded sacks atop each roof - to prevent it flying away!

A branch from Naalu mukku took us to the Kodhaiyar Dam. This place was mist-ifyin to us. No really. It was so completely covered with mists that we might as well have tried to see through clouds. And to think that we had actually spun stories to the forest ranger at the gate to the Dam about a fictional uncle in the Department to make him let us through, to be completely fogged up in the end! But then, for about 10 seconds there was a break in the mist which enabled us to see the beautiful Upper and the Lower Kodhaiyar Dams.
At Kodhaiyar Dam

To strike a balance, the roads were trying hard to cancel out the feelings of joy at the wonderful scenery surrounding us. Imagine our feelings when we heard from a local that the approach to Kudhiraivetti was much worse than this road!
With sinking hearts, we took the road up and found that he had not erred. After a shaky journey, we reached the destination. The place was as beautiful as I remembered and winds were as strong too!
The Kudhiraivetti Watchtower
View from the tower

Finding our compact room ready we thankfully stretched our limbs for a while before heading out to sight-see. Happy we were, for immediately we saw a lone tusker ambling along the hill-face some distance from us.
The pachyderm's picture

After he disappeared down, we found that there wasn't much else to see because again the mist had beat us there first! Next best thing to do was to go to bed.
Next day, all refreshed and ready to tackle the road we went straight down to the Falls for the morning bath. But sadly (for us) it was crowded with tourists so we went elsewhere in search of a peaceful place. Since we were familiar with the area, we went straight down and out of the Reserve and reached a village called Munnirpallam which lies on the banks of Tamirabarani where we could take a dip in the river in peace. After a leisurely and fun-filled wallowing, we started homeward taking with us bittersweet memories.
On the way back, I was wondering what could've made this trip less enjoyable than my first one. Then I hit on it - the first time we took the trip, my dad had taken care of the reservations, the driving and the general planning. My mom had taken care of the food side and the looking-after-the-family side. All I had to do was take/pose for pictures and revel in the wonderful scenery. Now I wonder how my mom enjoyed it then...