Nilgiri Tahr

Nilgiri Tahr
Nature Beckons you....Listen to her whispers.....

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Gavi........The Abode of Nature's God

 All are familiar with  "God's Own Country", Kerala.The South Indian state is blessed with nature's treasures which no other state can boast of.But where in Kerala,is the home of the God of the God's Own Country?Make no mistake about it.He lives in Gavi.......

Google Earth map of Gavi and surrounding areas....

Yes. Gavi is God's own personal creation which I guess he would have been proud of.This "Junglish" Western Ghats region is amazing in beauty and bounty.This typical Western Ghats region is abundant in flora and fauna and the Kerala Forest Department must be lauded for keeping the place in pristine conditions but at the same time making ameneties for the serious tourist who wants to explore nature in its pure form,without disturbing its rhythm.
The Road leading to Gavi....

Periyar Tiger Reserve
Gavi falls inside the famous Periyar Tiger Reserve.It is spread over 777sq.kms and rich in exotic animals.One estimation done in 2010 puts the number of tigers in the reserve at 53.Camera traps are used now a days to enumerate the number of animals.

Most tourists visit Thekkady and take a boat ride and most of the occations they sight a few animals on the banks of the Thekkady Lake,formed by the Mullaperiyar Dam.Elephants are sure to be sighted follwed by Gaurs.The elusive tiger most of the times remains elusive!

But Gavi falls between the Sabarimala shrine and Thekkady lake.By observing the way elephats behaved on sensing our presence at Gavi,I believe they are more or less undisturbed by humans.

How we reached Gavi

On a fine December day we started our trip to Gavi and reached Kuttikanam,a nice cool village on the Kottaym-Madurai highway.Stayed thre for the night and started next day early morning.You have to take the same road to Thekkady but take a right turn after the Vandiperiyar town.From there the pristine wilderness of Gavi will not leave you.

Wild Elephants hiding......or Are they?!

After passing the Vallakadavu village you have to stop at the check post.While visiting Gavi one has to book the  accomodation in advance and give information about your vehicles.The register number of vehicles is communicated to the check post here, and only  people who have made the reservation can get inside.

Alcoholic consumption is strictly prohibited inside the tiger reserve and any "Spirutual" bottles must be surrendered at the check post.After the formalities we moved ahead and the verdant forests of Gavi,it seemed,was waiting to give us a warm welcome.

The distance from the check post to Gavi is about 20kms and the first sighting of wildlife happend when we covered about 10kms.It was a gorup on Nilgiri Langurs having a "sway" at the branches of a big tree.We stopped and took a few snaps and proceeded further.We then checked into the "Green Mansion" at Gavi.The staff are friendly and we were introduced to Mr.Ramesh who would be our guide till we make our return trip.A very nice guide,he turned out to be.

Leech Socks are protective

Gavi Green Mansion

We reached Gavi around 1pm and immediately had our lunch.The food is predominantly vegetarian and non-veg is served for dinner if you make the request.A typical South Indian lunch was to the liking of most of us.Ramesh asked us to take rest and informed us to be ready by 4pm to start our first trekking expedition into the wilderness of Gavi.

The Real Trek

We were all ready and we started off at 4pm sharp.The forest department is well prepared to fight the dreaded leeches and supplied us with long cloth socks to ward off the liitle marauders.We also carried some salt to defy any attempt to draw blood from any one of us!

Shola Grassland.....Typical Western ghats

Ramesh informed us of the sighting of a herd of elephants the same day morning and lead us to the same spot.But no elephants at that spot.We were on a grassy hill and we could see shola forest down below.Then we started hearing bamboo sticks being broken.Immediately we realised that the herd is having a sumptuous meal.

It would be dangereous to plunge into the shola and look for the elephants.Our guide suggested us to head in the opposite hill and wait  there for behomoths to emerge.We retreated our steps and took an altogether different trek path and waited for the elepahts to emerge.While waiting for them an unforgettable event happened!

Nilgiri Marten

Nilgiri Marten is an endangered animal found in the Western Ghats and in the Nilgiris.Martens are agile and are omnivorous.It was my colleague who spotted the Nilgiri Marten when we were waiting for the elephants to come out of the bushes.Nobody else saw it and he described it as a black animal with yellowish neck.Somebody suggested it being a Mountain Squirrel,descended to have some berrys.But Ramesh was sure what my friend saw was a Nilgiri Marten.

We congratulated him on seeing a rare animal.But luck was on our side and it emerged fromt he bushes yet again and thuudded ito the bushes below after crossing the road.I saw it quite clearly and the adrenalin was pumping fast.The camera was in my hand,waist high,and as I tried to bring it to eye level the Marten vanished.The sighting lasted may be for 5 seconds.Unlucky in getting the pic but fortunate enough to have spotted it.Many have seen Tigers in the wild and taken photos but Nilgiri Marten is not spotted often and not photographed.We are one bunch of lucky guys!

Hornbill.....A Treat to watch them fly

As we were wondering what would happen next 2 Hronbills flew atop the trees and making a lot of noise.It was a treat to watch these wonderul birds in flight.

Gaurs giving a nasty look.....

Gaurs Turn first

As we were waiting for the elephants to emerge we saw some movement at a distance in the opposite direction to the shola where the elephants were having a meal.It was a herd of Gaurs.Out of  a group of around 8-9 two gaurs gave us a nasty stare.I could get some pictures of them looking right into the camera.After a few minutes they departed into deep wilderness and out of our sights.

Elephas Maximus
Elephants welcomed us in grand style.....

The elephants emerged finally but at distance down below the border of the shola forest.We descended along with Ramesh and there were 10 elephants in 2 groups munching on the grass.There were smaller ones as well.They sensed our presence and as is the case with elephants they tried to hide.Even the tall grass were unable to hide them and we observed the elephants for close to half an hour.Then the time was almost 6:45pm and darkness was fast approaching.We decided to leave the elephants and retired to our 8 bedded room at Green Mansion.

Sumptuous Food

The dinner was good and a non-veg curry was offered.The forest guide looked after us well and we couldn't complain much.Most of the staff are of Tamil Nadu origin and are well trained to take care of the guests.A good night's sleep was mandatory and the next day the excitement would start with a jeep safari right into the deep wilderness of Gavi.

Lion Tailed Macaques

We were all up at 5:30 AM and after having black coffee usning the coffee maker kept at the room jumped on board the jeep.I suggested to Ramesh to have a look at the same place where we found the elephants and try our luck.But they were all gone and we took a different direction for the morning safari.

After a few kms we saw a Barking deer.But before I could take the camera and click it was gone!

Mountain Squirrels always want to munch.....

Immediately we met a few Mountain Squirrels and I was quick to click but the light was not very good.The driver said we would definitely get more squirells up the road and no need to get disappointed.The jeep went past a smallish settlement(that is where all the forest fellows live)and again into thickish jungle.We climbed a grassy hill and looked for any movement.Nothing there.

After travelling for about 15kms we came back.We met mountain squirrels again and I could take some reasonably good pictures.Then one pointed the fingers at a mountain at a distance and shouted "Deers".A group of 5 Sambar deers were looking intently at a distance with all the alertness they can muster.

"Face off"with Humans.....Lion Tailed Macaque

Then as we were approaching out jungle lodge a few Mountain Squirrels greeted us again.We stopped and observed them munching on the leaves on top of a tall tree.Suddently Ramesh raised his hands and listened carefully.He had heared the sound of a Lion Tailed Macaque.

We all know how threatened these primates are and it is not used to the presence of humans.Unlike the langurs they vanish into deep forest on sensing the presence of man.We saw a group at a distance and followed our guide into a thicket.We could see them at close quarters.Lovely species to watch and study.But as I said they dont lile the company of humans and disappeared.

Gavi Waterfalls

Then a very good breakfast was waiting us.Bread and butter is served along with traditional items of Kerala.Hot iddly and sambar was very good.A good cofee to end the morning session.

Sambar Deers listening intently

There is a small dam at Gavi and a lake is formed.Row boating is allowed and we crossed the lake and reached a beautiful waterfalls.Most of the waterfalls in Kerala and Tamil Nadu are crowde and here at Gavi it was so deserted with only the tourists coming to Gavi Eco tourism area come here.The water of the falls was little cold for comfort but a refreshing bath reinvigorated the souls of everybody.

We had lunch and decided to get back.The stay is allowed for 24hrs and we had to pay Rs.150 each for the extra lunch.We said a big thank you to Ramesh and the other staff and started our journey back to Trivandrum.But the excitement was not over yet!

Refreshing Waterfalls

As we started our cars,we were hoping to see the elephants,gaurs,martens for one last time.The tigers and leopards are elusive always and we had given up on them.

This little one was full of Energy

 We again stopped at the place where we saw the elephants and gaurs but the place was deserted.On retreating further the langurs were also missing.Now we were only about 5kms away from the check post at Vallakadavu.
We saw a stationary jeep at a disatance as we were driving and stopped behnd them.There were 3 elephants across the crystal clear river and munching on some grass.Again they tried to hide but to no use.I could take some pictures using the tripod but the animals were not visible completely.The elephants disppered and we also started the last stretch inside the Periuyar Tiger Reserve.

What a wonderful experience it was!Great place to spend a few days(we spend only one day!).24 hours at Gavi was a God's gift and very memorable.We are sure it is not the last one!

How to get to Gavi

Distance from Trivandrum 250kms
Distance from Kochi 170kms
Distance from Pathanamthitta 80kms

How to Reserve your trip

KFDC,Kumily 04869-223270

Animals seen during the 24 hour stay at Gavi

1.Nilgiri Marten
4.Barking deer
5.Sambar Deer
7.Mountain Squirrel
8.Nilgiri Langur
9.Lion Tailed Macaque
10.Leopard Cat(Not sure)
11.Leeches!(dont be scared.Protective gear available)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What if Mullaperiyar Dam Breaches?

Mullaperiyar Dam and if the unfortunate happens.......

"I sign this Agreement with the Blood from my Heart"

Visakhom Thirunal Rama Varma, Maharaja of Travancore,1886........

Yes.Thats what the erstwhile Maharaja of Travancore said before he signed the "Periyar Lease Agreement" in 1886.The agreement was between Travancore(Part of Kerala) and Madras State for sharing the waters of the lake formed by the Mullaperiyar Dam.The agreement was for a whopping 999 years!

But why was the Maharaja so pained in signing an agreement which would benefit a neighbouring state and its people?The Maharaja was forced to sign the pact because of severe pressure from the Britishers.

It took another 9 years to complete the dam.442 workers lost their lives during the construction.The dam is built on the conflunece of Mulla River and Periyar River and thus the name Mullaperiyar.The dam falls inside the famous Periyar Tiger Reserve and is an abode for many exotic wild species.It is a masonry gravity dam (Constructed using lime and surkhi mortar)with a maximum height of 155 feet and situated at a height of around 2900 feet in the Western Ghats.Water is diverted thru a tunnel eastwards to join the river Vaigai in Tamil Nadu.When the water level in the dam is 136 feet it stores 15tmc of water(tmc=thousand million cubic)

Mullaperiyar and the Baby dams
Then Travancore and now Kerala never faltered on their promise to provide water to Tamil Nadu.Tamil Nadu also never faltered on remitting the fees involved with the lease agreement till today.The agreement was renewed in 1970.Although the date for another renewal is long overdue from 2000,because of the dispute it is not signed yet.

All seems to be going well or is it?Kerala and Tamil Nadu find themselves in a tight situation arising out of the disagreemnts about the sharing of water and the height of the dam.Tamil Nadu wants the height of the dam at a certain level but Kerala wants it to be lower,because of the feebleness of the 115 year old structure.

closer look at the Idukki and Cheruthoni Dams

So thats the point.Kerala feels that the dam is old and can cave in at any moment.The breach would destroy anything everything on its way till it reaches the Arabian sea in Eranakulam.Around 35 lac people live on the path of the feared devastation.

Mullaperiyar is situated in Idukki district of Kerala and is known for the seismic activity for a long time to come.The people of the district feel tremors every now and then.Forutunaely for everybody these tremors recorded lower values on the Richter scale.And  the fear is one day a larger earth quake could destroy the Mullaperiyar dam and the gushing waters swallowing everything on its path.An earthquake which is 5-6 on the richter scala could breake the dam.

The Idukki Reservoir formed by 3 dams
Here is what happens if Mullaperiyar Dam breaches.........(Pray to God that it never happens)

-The gushing water would rise 50feet and reach the Idukki reservoir in 45minutes.Idukki dam is 36kms downstream from Mullaperiyar Dam

-Vallakadavu village,which is between Mullaperiyar and Idukki will be completely engulfed in flood waters

-After swallowing Vallakadavu the deluge will reach Vandiperiyar,the first major town on the way

Vandiperiyar,the first major town

-Then it will take Chappathu,Upputhara etc and reach Idukki reservoir.70000 people live in these areas.

-Idukki dam usually contains 80% of its total capacity of water storage.The Mullaperiyar waters will overflow from the Idukki dam.The Idukki Arch dam is supported by another 2 dams;Cheruthoni and Kulamavu dams.All three dams together make the Idukki reservoir.

-The Mullaperiyar waters will overflow from all 3 dams.The overflowing water from Kulamavu will reach Thodupuzha;a thickly populated town in Idukki district.The overflow from Idukki Arch dam and Cheruthoni will destroy the Neryamangalam Bridge which connects Eranakulam and Idukki districts.

Kochi Airport and Eranakulam will be wiped out

-The water gushes thru 11dams and many major towns and will reach Aluva and will engulf Eranakulam town.Before that the Kcohi airport would have been washed away.

Vallakadavu Village...Just 8kms downstream

Thodupuzha,a thickly populated town

Neryamangalam Bridge will be swept away.........

-It will take roughly about 3 hours for the water to reach Eranakulam from Mullaperiyar.35 lac people inhabit the total distance the water travels

-Kalady,Thattekkad Bird sanctuary,Parumbavur and Bhuthathankettu are the other major places which will be vanished by Mullapriyar waters.

But when a "water bomb"like the Mullaperiyar dam breaches its wall,no one can predict the way the flood waters would take route.It can take altogether different direction and cause much more devastation than what one would imagine.

From Mullaperiyar to Kochi....The long arrows point the flow of water...........

All can hope that good sense will prevail and Kerala and Tamil Nadu will come to an amicable solution whereby Tamil Nadu will get all the water they want and 35 lac people downstream the Mullaperiyar Dam will live in peace.

The Idukki Arch Dam

Friday, November 18, 2011

Athirapally.....A Kerala Rainforest

Athirapally.....Verdant and Pristine

Athirapally waterfalls is a very  famous destination for tourists and naturelovers alike.Its thick canopy of greenery and crystal clear waters attracts the whole family.For me the most impressive attraction is the Chalakkudy River which flows with all its glory here.The river is unusually wide here and and meanders thru thick forest which reinvigorates the souls of everybody.

It was time for us to make our trip to Athirapally and on a Saturday afternoon we reached the pristine location.The temperature was high(around 32 degree C)but he crystal clear and not so cool waters of the Chalakkudy river helped to soar our spirits.

I have decided that if I visit Athirapally again,the only indulgence I would engage myself is to dip in the water from dawn to dusk

Sholayar Dam(Kerala)

The road from Angamaly to Athirapally vis Ezhattumugham in not in good condition.But Ezhattumugham is also another place which will cool down the excess heat you have aquired because of the scorching sun.
A Trek to the top of the Athirapally falls is an experience in itself.It may take an hour to climb up toe top of the falls and come back.Of course that depends on how time you want to spend on the top.Some tourists want to come back only when it becomes dark
Vazhachal is a further 5kms from Athirapally falls.At vazhachal the river flows over a wide rock formation and the currents look intimidating.Bathing here is highlydangerous and one must find more calm waters upstream of downstream.
If you have decided to move forward from Vazhachal towards Sholayar and Walpara then pristine forest awaits you.In this route you follow the river upstream and there are locations where it looks like white water.

Athirapally from top of the falls...

Whitewater.......Near Sholayar

Friday, April 15, 2011

Berijam Lake:Kodaikkanal

Berijam Lake

When the mercury soars during summer,as is this year,most travelling south Indians head towards Kodaikkanal,the misty cool abode in Tamil Nadu.We have been to this place several times but that didint sap our enthusiasm to visit Kodaikkanal one more time.

We started from Trivandrum and reached Maduari and settled there for the night.After having received the blessing of Madurai Meenakshi Amman headed straight to Kodaikkanal.We could see heavy traffic up and down the hills leading to the hill resort.The temparature dipped as we climbed the undulating road towards Kodaikkanal.


We made ouselves comfortable in one of the old and economical lodges of Kodai.Spend the evening at the Kodai lake.Next day morning at 9am reached the Forest office to take permission to visit Berijam lake.I was forced to spend around 1hr for getting the permission.

Then we headed straight to Moir point which is the gateway to Berijam Lake.

There were quite a few tourists who took the pain to get the permission and see Berijam Lake.It about 14kms from Moir point to Berijam.The road is in good condition and misty surrounding was waiting for us.We stopped at many places and enjoying the serene atmosphere.

A Rvine on the way.......

The Berijam lake is quite vast and looked very calm and beautiful.No boating is allowed.No refreshments are also not there.We spend around 2 hours at Berijam and then headed back to Kodai.A very good trip which we all enjoyed.And for sure we will come back.........
Mom and Kid.....