Sunday, August 31, 2008

Attukkal Waterfalls- Videos

I have described in my post, the kind of excitement we experienced at Attukkal Falls, Munnar. You too can share the same experience by seeing the videos I recorded there...

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Videos of the fog

In my earlier post, I spoke of the fog and how we were thrilled by it. Here are a couple of videos I recorded, which show the extent of the fog and how the vehicles seem to appear from and dissappear into nothingness.... Go on, take a look at them.....

Friday, August 29, 2008

Magnificent Munnar – Part II - A day in the hills

Munnar has enough magic keep one enthralled for at least 3 days. There are a number of places to see and lots of trekking routes to explore in all the four directions. We however had only a day with us, and had to make the most of it. We decided to take the route which would take us to the dams and lakes where we could spend the day boating, which Samhith enjoys immensely. As it happened, most other tourists seemed to have had the same thought, and every boating pier was full, and we had to return without a single boat ride. We had lots of fun in other ways though, but let us take things in sequence.

The View From Mattupatti Dam

We started for Mattupatti Dam, about 12 Kms away. Here, in the lake created by the dam, one can ride speedboats. However, the speedboats were few, and tourists too many, and we were told that we would have to wait for at least an hour. None of us is known for our patience, and we decided to move on, albeit with some reluctance. Outside the boathouse, we found lots to occupy us though- there were the usual stalls selling wooden articles, food, and of course, games. Sankar tried his hand at shooting balloons, while Samhith collected them, and we spent more than half an hour whiling away our time. The best part here was the elephants, whom we could feed a basket of fruits, and climb on for a ride. We did both, Shankar feeding an elephant, and Sankar, Sandhya and Samhith going for an elephant ride.

Sankar, Sandhya and Samhith go for an elephant ride

We then moved on further, intending to visit Top Station (34Kms from the town), from where one could get a birds eye view of Tamilnadu. We were almost there, when we stopped for tea at a small stall by the roadside. The road forked there, one going towards Top Station, just a few minutes away, and the other towards one of the wildlife sanctuaries. (Incidentally, there are no less than 6 wildlife sanctuaries around Munnar – see the photo of the banner listing them).

We had now to decide what we wanted to see more – the jungle or the view. Samhith saw a calf tied to a pole there, and he found that more interesting than anything he had seen so far. His decision made, he went off to play with the calf while I wandered away with Sandhya, trying to find a washroom. It turned out that the nearest one was at Top Station, and we walked all the way, stopping to appreciate the riot of colours in the form of flowers surrounding us. After that, the view from Top Station was disappointing, to say the least. We decided to head towards the forest. Meanwhile, our husbands had spoken to the locals hanging out at the tea stall, and had decided that the excursion into the forest was a waste of time, as the calf my son was playing with was in all likelihood, the only animal we would come across. So there we were, turning back from the highest point in Munnar, retracing our route back to the lodge.

Samhith Plays with a calf at Top Station

A Riot of Colours
Our first stop on the way back was at the Kundala Dam. We had passed it on our way up the hill, but had decided not to stop. Now however, we decided to see what attractions it had to offer. This is a good place for a picnic, for the river bank is a vast expanse of green velvet-like grass, with facilities like boating (Pedal boats, row boats and Shikaras) and horse riding available.

Boating on Kundalay Dam

It is the ideal place to visit as a group, and I wished I could just sit on the river bank and watch others play. In fact, the place was full of people who had come from schools and colleges, equipped with bats and balls, racquets and shuttlecocks. The rain however arrived to play havoc on their well laid plans, and we all rushed to the few sheltered areas available in the form of small hut-like structures.

Samhith joins a group of youngsters for a game...

Here again, the boats were all booked, and there was a long line of people waiting. Again, we dropped the idea of boating and instead opted for a horse ride to make up for Samhith’s disappointment.

Sandhya and Samhith go on a horse ride
We then started back home, wondering whether to take a look at the few places left or head back to the room and take some rest. Over a hot cup of tea and steaming hot Onion and Potato pakodas, we decided to try out the Attukal Waterfalls, which, we learnt would be on the route back to our lodge. This decision led to the best time I have ever had in my life. Indeed, it must have been Lady Luck who made this decision for us!

The Attukal falls seen from a distance
We were about 5 Kms from Attukal when the weather started changing. It began with a slight chill in the air, and then a slight drizzle. Soon, before we even realised it, the visibility started reducing by inches, and we were surrounded by a curtain of thick fog. None of us had seen anything like it, and we were all enthralled by the sight! I wore out my poor camera clicking photos left right and centre!

Gathering clouds indicate the changing weather....
We found the turning to Attukal from the main road, from where the falls were about a kilometre away, and took the turn, determined to see at least one place properly in Munnar. The road led through the tea estates belonging to Tata Tea, and was edged by tea plantations on all sides. We however, could only get a glimpse of the vast carpet of tea leaves due to the fog. All our attention was on the road, which was hardly visible. Sankar, driving his huge car, had the toughest job of all, looking at the road ahead, navigating the sharp curves of the road, and also keeping an eye on the deep valleys on both sides. He said, later that the most difficult things about the drive was the knowledge that we were all sitting with him the car, and even a small error would prove to be fatal!

Pictures of the Fog...

The sound of rushing water alerted us to the nearness of the waterfalls, and suddenly the falls themselves appeared out of the fog. The sight of water rushing with such force is unnerving, to say the least. I have never seen a sight like that before, and the memory shall stay with me forever. There is a small bridge on the stream from where one can get the best view of the falls. Here, one is very conscious of the sheer force with which the water flows, and even a wrong step could spell doom.

The Attukkal Falls

All of us at the Attukal Falls

There is a small shack, or rather a house where one can get tea and snacks, while watching the falls from a safe distance. We spent some time walking around the place, getting a feel of the falls, but decided to get back as soon as possible, as the fog was getting denser. The return journey was as thrilling as the arrival, but we reached our lodge safe and sound, too early for dinner, but in no mood to sit in the room after such a wonderful adventure.

The restaurant at the Attukkal Falls

We had decided to have dinner at the Whispering Meadows resort about a kilometre away, and to while away the time, decided to take a walk. What was planned as a short walk up to Whispering Meadows turned out be a one and a half hour walk, going beyond the resort, and turning back when it began to rain. Finishing our walk in the rain, with the fog getting steadily thicker, was an adventure in itself, one I wouldn’t trade for anything! Once we were through the excellent dinner at the resort, we had no more energy to walk back, and hired a vehicle from the resort back to our room.

On the road, in the fog....

Thus we called an end to a day that began like a typical day at a hill station visiting the various points, and ended with an experience more like an adventure, one that all of us will always remember.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Magnificent Munnar - Part I - Arrival

Munnar is one of the most beautiful hill stations of our country, one which makes the appellation of Kerala as ‘God’s own country’ come true. It is a land of mountains covered in every shade of green imaginable and unimaginable; of tea plantations which stretch over miles and miles of countryside, not sparing an inch of the mountains; of waterfalls which cascade down the mountains, their origins too high to be seen, their final destination unknown, but their force increasing by leaps and bounds of the water……. The beauties of Munnar are to be experienced, not enumerated. But the memory I shall always carry with me of this magical place is the fog - The fog which made the road ahead practically invisible; the fog which appeared out of nowhere, bringing with it the chill and the monsoon rain. But before I get carried away, I must begin at the beginning.
The beginning was early in the morning on the 15th of August, our Independence Day, when we left our cosy beds to catch the first flight to Coimbatore. We reached my sister-in-law’s place at Tiruppur for lunch, and soon we had decided to leave for Munnar. Never mind that we had no hotel reservations and it would be terribly crowded, being a long weekend. My husband and brother-in-law are great optimists (they share quite a lot besides their names- my husband is Shankar while my brother-in-law is Sankar) and they were sure we would manage to get a place to spend the night, and that too, comfortably.

Windmills along the route

Well, to cut things short, we were off in Sankar’s new Hyundai Sonata Gold, on our way to Munnar. The distance from Tiruppur to Munnar is about 150Kms, and along the way, our first stop was at the Amaravathi Dam. The Amaravathi River is responsible for the lush greenery in this part of Tamilnadu, mainly Udumalaipettai and the surrounding areas. My father’s ancestors hail from this part of the country, their village being one of the so-called 7K villages (all seven names beginning from K) known for their fertile lands, all on the banks of the sacred Amaravathi. In fact, our ancestral temple also stands on the banks of the river, but that is another story, one which I shall relate some other time…….

The Amaravathi River near the Dam at Amaravathi Nagar

The Amaravathi dam

The rain gods had been generous lately, and the Amaravathi dam was full, and a sight to be seen. The water from the dam falling into the river, the canal full of water, into which children happily dived and swam - all this was a wonderful sight. But what my son Samhith really enjoyed was the Crocodile Park. Yes, there is a crocodile park, about a kilometre from the dam, where crocs are reared and taken care of. To give them credit, the park is full of crocs, big and small. There are Magars (Crocs) and Gharials, which are only found in the Gangetic rivers, and are easily recognised by their characteristic long snout (or mouth). But it is sad to see the condition of the pools of water that are supposed to constitute their natural habitat. All the crocs were fast asleep and were least interested in waking up. Somehow even their lethargy attracted Samhith, who wanted to know if they would at least wake up to eat!

A Corcodile sleeps with his mouth wide open

Baby Crocs in the Corocodile Park

After we passed the dam, things began to get more interesting as we entered the Indira Gandhi Wildlife sanctuary at Chinnar. It seemed to be our lucky day, for we saw a whole herd of deer and a few peacocks along the way. Though we stopped to take a good look at these animals, I did not take a single photograph this time, choosing instead to capture the memory in my heart. However, the experience was short lived, for the poor creatures were scared away by drivers who were more interested in rushing to their destination than enjoying the journey itself, appreciating the beauty of nature along the route. A couple of horns blared out, and the animals scattered into the forest, disappearing in moments. After that we only glimpsed monkeys, which are plentiful, wherever you go in India.

A monkey family at the forest Checkpost

Vast stretches of tea plantations announced the approach of Munnar. It looks just like a green carpet from a distance, only that it is impossible for a weaver to create as many shades of green like nature does. I understand that the green carpet is a constant all the year round, but now, in the monsoon, it was absolutely breathtaking! Every few minutes we glimpsed waterfalls amidst the greenery, some simply thin streams of water flowing along the fissures in the rocks, while some were thundering along in full force over the rocks of the mountains smoothed over time.


....and Tea Plantations......

By the time we reached Munnar town, it was evening, and Sankar managed to contact a friend of his, who arranged a room for us. We were first told that it was about 2Kms from the town, but ended up about 5Kms from the town. The place had no name. It seemed to be an extension (probably illegal) of the Sun Mount View hotel, but the rooms were very comfortable, and we had a view over the valley and the mountains beyond them. We took over 2 rooms and were glad to call it a day after dinner at the Whispering Meadows, a Km further from our place.

Our Cottage

We needed all the rest we could get, so as to be ready for a the day ahead, for we planned to do all the sightseeing we could in a day before returning to Tiruppur. Keep looking out for details of the wonderful day we had in Munnar.......

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A sudden trip to Munnar - Photos

“Let’s go to Coimbatore” said my husband, and like a dutiful wife, I agreed. But wait, that’s not where the story begins. The story begins earlier in the day, the 14th of August, when my sister-in-law was supposed to come on a visit to Bombay with her husband. We were all planning to go to Shirdi, and had made all the arrangements. Unfortunately, our plans went awry, when their plans were cancelled due to some persona problems. All of us were disappointed, but none more than my son, who simply refused to believe that his aunt was not turning up as expected. That’s when my husband returned from office and put forth his question. Coimbatore? …Now? …How? Questions flew fast and furious, but he had an answer for everything. We had a long weekend ahead, Independence Day on Friday the 15th, the weekend followed by the Parsi New Year on Tuesday. We could have five days in Coimbatore with Sandhya, just by taking a day off from school and office. Well, to cut things short, he booked tickets, and made all the arrangements in minutes, and we spent the rest of the night packing up and getting ready to leave early in the morning. We caught the 5:45AM flight to Coimbatore, and joined Sandhya and Sankar for flag hoisting at his office. They were equally thrilled at our arrival, and we all decided to spend the weekend at Munnar, just a 5 hour drive away. It was another matter that the weekend crowd would make it difficult for us to get rooms there, but we decided to take a chance and make the most of our holiday. You can read more about our trip in the posts to come, but for now, you can take a look at the many photographs I have taken in those two days. Keep looking out for more……

Friday, August 1, 2008

Dandeli Jungle Lodges Review

I recently found a wonderful site: Review Stream, specialising in reviews of anything and everything. They not only invite you to write for them, they even pay you for it. I tried it out, writing a review for Jungle Lodges at Dandeli, and you know what ? They paid me 2 USD!!!!! Of course, it is still on paper, or rather on the net, but anyway, thats a lot more encouragement I have recived so far. I am attaching a link to my review so that you guys can check it out.... Hey, don't forget to vote for m review.. they might pay me more!!!!!!


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