Valparai Visit

January 15, 2009

Though we took an overnight train, the visit really started with the sunrise after we got out of the train and were speeding towards Valparai from Coimbatore after a quick breakfast at Annapoorna….

dawn with shrine and pilgrims 100109

The chill dawn, the pilgrims on their way (most pilgrims would finish their pilgrimage by January 14th, when the sun begins its “uttarAyanam” or northward path, and the festival of Sankranti or Pongal, the harvest festival, happens), and the little lighted shrine in the gloaming, made me feel peaceful…

The road ahead of us was not too long in terms of distance, but would take longer than one thought, valparai 99 km signboard Because of all the hairpin bends, on which one has to go very carefully: jainy and the hairpin bends 110109 Here's the half-way point: 20 out of 40 hairpin bends But the spectacular scenery kept us absorbed throughout (thankfully, the driver kept his eyes on the road!) coimbatore-valparai route scenery 100109 We stopped at Monkey Falls on the way, to do some very productive birding; the falls are so beautiful.... monkey falls 10109 But there was also this place, which was actually called ... water falls board We had "Water Fall East" and "Water Fall West", too! Here I am, carefully documenting myself documenting the trip: me in wing mirror 110109 At Valparai, we stayed at the Treat Hotel: treat hotel 100109 It's very centrally located in the market, but the word "treat" was so small, we had to hunt for the hotel! I strongly recommend everyone...NOT to stay there...the roaches, the dirty sheets, the hair in clumps on the floor....I have stayed in simple accomodation before, but never something as dirty as this! Ranjeet, of course, was quite pragmatic, and said, "What do you expect?" ...but service was also pretty lousy and I had a strong suspicion that "lousy" might be actually the right word for the beds...sleeping was well-nigh impossible during the night that we stayed at Hotel (Ill)Treat! Of course, through a large hole in the wall, a cable snaked through across the tiny rooms to the TV, where we could watch soap operas or Animal Planet! One great tip we got from was to eat at what he called M3....the Mary Matha Mess, run by a Malayali... mary matha mess valparai The food was so good, hot and plentiful, served smilingly on plantain leaves, that all of us ate a little more than we should have. plantain leaves food m3 valparai 100109 The Mess had a nice poster listing the tourist attractions of Valparai: tourism places poster valparai Right opposite M3 is the quaint little Police Station: police station valparai The Church of South India (CSI) Church in Valparai is an unusual structure: CSI church valparai Just a few doors away from our Ill-Treat Hotel, I found this tea-seller; he sprinkled a little of a beverage called "Boost" on my cuppa and gave it to me; the taste was unusual, and nice! boost-sprinled tea valparai 110109 I also found this repairer of locks and umbrellas: lock and umbrella repair valparai 110109 Valparai is full of tea estates, and in the middle of these are fragments of the original forest. Luckily for naturalists, these forests harbour many endemic animals and therefore the tea companies are not allowed to cut them down to farm more tea. Here is one area, Puthuthottam (New Garden, obviously referring to the "new" tea gardens that took the place of the forests), which shelters the Lion-Tailed Macaque, the Malabar Giant Squirrel, the Malabar Whistling Thrush, and many other flora and fauna besides.... puthuthottam estates signboard 110109 Here's Garima holding that basic formula for tea-picking, "Two Leaves And A Bud": two leaves and a bud 110109 Some of the flowers and fruit we saw, too, looked very nice, sometimes deceptively so. Ranjeet, for example, was much taken by the appearance of these fruits: poisonous wild fruit 110109 But apparently they are poisonous! There was this snapdragonish flower: Photobucket And the flowers of the SILK-COTTON TREE (Bombax malabaricum, there's the "malabar" again!)are nectar centres for the birds: bombax malabaricum flower I recognized the CONVOLVULUS (Morning Glory) but not the sunflowery blooms: wildflowers 100109 valparai Even the leaf patterns with the backlight looked lovely: leaf patterns110109 A small wildflower showed its delicate pastel hues.... Photobucket These red flowers sheltered sunbirds, leafbirds, and plenty of others! wildflower red diagonal monkey falls 100109 On the road to Chalakkudy the next day, the sun scudded through the clouds: sun in clouds The Solayar dam smiled in the sunshine: solayar dam 110109 We passed this delightful little temple nestled in the greenery: temple in hills Jainy also went to pray, briefly, at this church (the original is in Velankanni near MAyavaram): karumalai velankanni temple I saw how children can amuse themselves without malls and TV; here's one youngster, spinning a top! playing with a top Everywhere I went, I noticed that the tea plants, as providers of livelihoods, are worshipped with sindoor (vermilion) and vibhuti (holy ash): tea plant worshipped 110109 </lj-cut> The lovely trip ended with this beautiful sunset: sunset valparai 100109 Then came the largest full moon (also the first full moon) of 2009: large full moon of 2009 Valparai is beautiful (even if Hotel Treat is not) visit when you can! I am off to Daroji Bear Sanctuary in an hour or two...everyone, don't be good, until I get back!