Valparai - Chasing Monsoons, to the Lap of Verdant Greenery!

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Valparai - Chasing Monsoons, to the Lap of Verdant Greenery!

Valparai - Chasing Monsoons, to the Lap of Verdant Greenery!

You know there is this very famous dialogue from the movie “Om Shanti Om” which loosely translates to if you wish/work for something with all your heart, the whole universe will conspire to bring it to you. Well something similar happened with this trip. It was planned even before I had gone to Ladakh and then it all fell apart. Sometimes I played the spoilsport and sometimes the weather played the spoilsport and another time everyone else took the turn of playing the spoilsport. While all this was happening over the week, only one thought was stuck in my head. I AM GOING TO VALPARAI THIS WEEKEND. How? I didn’t know yet and it was Friday evening already. True to the word, I was on my way to Valparai that night with a group of four.

Now that I’ve bored you with the dreary details, let me tell you about the little piece of heaven called Valparai situated approximately 500kms from Bangalore. Valparai is located 3,500 feet above sea level on the Anamalai mountain range.

What’s there? -->Beautiful winding roads, serene Dam sides, enchanting rainforests, spectacular viewpoints, greenery and wildlife abound, not to forget the verdant tea plantations.

Bangalore – Krishnagiri – Dharmapuri – Thopur (Take a diversion to Mettur here) – Mecheri – Mettur – Bhavani – Erode – Perundurai - Tiruppur – Palladam – Kattampatti – Pollachi – Valparai.

How is the road condition? --> Very well maintained I must say. The hair pin bends are a pleasure to ride and the windings are blissful as ever.

How Long? --> 7 – 8 hours. We took close to 12 hours with leisurely stops to fill our stomachs, take in the views and some photography.

Grass Hills and Top Slip for trekking and wildlife sightings.
Where did we Stay? --> We stayed at a hotel modeled as a homestay in the town itself. There were two rooms and we took them both and it was quite comfortable. But the downside was the room had no view. It was bang at the center of the market.

What are the options for Accommodation? -->There are quite a few expensive options in one of the Tea Estates around Valparai such as the Stanmore Bungalow etc. But you need to book quite in advance.
There are few Hotels and homestays where you can get accommodation on the spot if you are lucky. But Advance Booking is recommended.

Valparai - Chasing Monsoons, to the Lap of Verdant Greenery!

If you’ve read till here, I assume you are planning to go to Valparai sometime and if you do, please maintain the sanctity of the place. The best policy I’d suggest is leave nothing but footprints and take nothing but memories. Valparai is still relatively untouched by the winds of commercialization and yet we found plastic lying around everywhere. We did our bit and collected all the polythene lying at Number Parai. And I hope all the information I am giving wouldn’t be responsible for more litter.

In the wee hours of Saturday morning, the four of us were still wandering on the roads on Bangalore trying to pass time until Mr.V would join us from his work. Conversations flowed and sleep eluded us as we spoke the language understood by all – travels in Ladakh.  Finally after a long wait, we were bestowed with the presence of Mr. V and we were on our way to Valparai. It was 3 AM in the morning.

I slept through the night till we reached a small village at 5.30 AM where I got chased by a stupid dog. As we drove further ahead towards Erode, the heat was getting stronger. It was piercing. We could see no signs of monsoon we had hoped for. The ride was pretty much ordinary until we reached Pollachi by 11 AM. The anticipation was growing now that we were just 60kms away from the monsoon hideout or so we thought.

Valparai - Chasing Monsoons, to the Lap of Verdant Greenery!

You probably would not believe me if I said we were lost for an hour in the small town of Pollachi trying to find the road that led to Valparai. Apparently there are 3-4 routes that led to Valparai. As we found out an hour later, all the routes join the same route to Valparai. We were on our way to Valparai only at 12.10 PM – Exactly an hour since we entered the town of Pollachi. After a short drive, we passed by Aaliyar Dam and the heat wasn’t keeping well with the team. No one was interested in getting out in the heat over the dam and even though I was looking for an opportunity to put my camera to work, I had to pass.

Just as we crossed Aaliyar Dam Main Entrance which was way too touristy for my liking, I spotted a culvert by the side of the road that opened into a wide open space with green pastures, grazing cattle and endless waters. Now this presented a wonderful opportunity for us shutterbugs. We all spent quite sometime here, few of us clicking away to glory while the rest enjoyed the first signs of monsoon abundance.

Valparai - Chasing Monsoons, to the Lap of Verdant Greenery!
Valparai - Chasing Monsoons, to the Lap of Verdant Greenery!

After a long break, we entered Indira Gandhi National Park paying toll (Per Camera – 75 and Per Person – 15 Rs) and few minutes from here start the 40 hair pin bends that would lead us to Valparai though tea estates and lush green forests. On the 9th hairpin bend is the Loam’s viewpoint, no clue as to why it is named so but it offers a panoramic view of the mighty mountains and Aaliyar Dam at the bottom.

Even as we climbed higher, rains still eluded us. We could spot mist on the tips of green mountains and the temperature was lowering now after a whole day of sweltering heat. We were passing through tea plantations and I had my head stuck out of the window like a dog but so far, I felt Aaliyar Dam side where we had taken the first break was lovelier than what I was seeing now.

In my opinion, Tea Plantations are no better than mining on mountains. Far across the distance, I could see huge mountains that looked barren with the trees and forests cut down giving way to tea plantations. It is a not a pleasant sight to see especially to think that this would have been dense lush forests if not for all the deforestation.

There is a small patch of forest before entering the tea plantations of Valparai again, where we spotted a Giant Malabar Squirrel and it was quite huge and colorful too. We stood there watching its antics as it was gorging on a huge jackfruit. We also saw it jump over a huge gap in the trees above.

Valparai - Chasing Monsoons, to the Lap of Verdant Greenery!
Valparai - Chasing Monsoons, to the Lap of Verdant Greenery!

After this sighting, the road was winding through tea plantations again and we reached Valparai by 4 PM. If you are expecting to be greeted to a quaint pastoral settlement, you my friend are in for a surprise! Small as it maybe, it does not fall into the category of those old world charming hill stations. 4 PM was when the schools closed for the day and we were quite surprised by the number of school kids on the roads suggesting Valparai was not a small village after all.

The hotel operators informed us that the bungalow estates were booked already and the ones with vacancy charged exorbitant rates. Left with no choice, we settled for a homestay with no views but very comfortable and classy to an extent.

That evening, a young entrepreneur who was convincing enough, sold us an idea of a sumptuous dinner at a local house and a night ride into the forests of Valparai. Of course these words coming out of an expert sales person’s mouth sounded much more exotic and adventurous. Us city slickers bored of mundane lives, always in search of an adventure were more than ready to try it out. Turns out the rendezvous was not all we had hoped for but the dinner was really delicious and the ride going further down the lower Nirar Dam in pitch darkness while the rain gods had finally drenched us in the satisfaction of witnessing monsoon rains was well worth the effort. We stayed at a small shed in the middle of darkness and forests until 11 PM watching fireflies put up a show. With the realization that the area was clear of wildlife (because we did not spot any while coming down), my earlier apprehension of a drive in the dark gave way to awe inspired by the wet and wild jungles glowing in faint effervescence. After a tiring day, it was time to hit the sack.

The much needed sleep worked wonders and by 7 AM we set out to see Indian Gaurs that almost always make an appearance in the tea plantations around. We did see the Indian Gaurs. While I wasn’t very keen on spotting wildlife, the rest were having fun observing the huge creatures from close quarters. I used this time for some experimentation with hyperfocal distance charts and found the results to be quite satisfactory. So I guess, in few days you can expect photos with crisp subjects in focus from foreground to background.

You’ve gotta hand it to the local boy, he was one hell of an entrepreneur. Today he came to us with stories of a lovely crater where the clouds, sunshine, rain and rainbows always played hide and seek. For what it’s worth, he could be an amazing writer convincing people this world is truly an enchanted place. There was no rainbow because there was no sun as he put it, but the place, Number Parai as it is fondly called, was nothing short of splendor. 12 kms from Valparai, set amidst a stunning setting of green plantations overlooking a vast luxuriant valley with Anaimudi Peak rising right in front of you and a distant view Sholayar Dam waters fills your heart with admiration for nature.

Valparai - Chasing Monsoons, to the Lap of Verdant Greenery!
Valparai - Chasing Monsoons, to the Lap of Verdant Greenery!

The boy was accompanying us to show the route and there wasn’t enough room for 6 of us to fit in Fusion the conventional way which is when Mr. R and I rode in the storage space of the vehicle with dickey (boot) open. That did turn quite a few heads on the way and it was fun watching the view from a different perspective. The road that leads to Number Parai passes through a tea estate and is best described as a jeep track. The road stops 500 meters short of the drop. One needs to walk through the plantations to reach the view point. This valley separates the states of Kerala and Tamilnadu. Monsoon having arrived to here for quite some time now, the mountain slopes of Kerala were dotted with white streaks, huge waterfalls that is. The wind was pleasantly cold and we sat there for sometime in silence soaking in the beauty. And then it was time for me to prance around with my tripod and camera. After spending some defining moments of our trip here, we set out towards Bangalore.

On our way back, we stopped at a refreshing stream for a quick dip in cool waters. After all, what is a trip without a dip? It was here that Mr. R and Mr. V got their share of curses from the irked Mrs. A for their entire stance on Mr. A’s future six pack. We shared quite a few laughs over this before we headed to Valparai for lunch where Mr.V had to pay the price of having four souls waiting on him in the darkest of hours, if you know what I mean. By the time we started back for Bangalore it was 4 PM.

But seems our fate was shining bright and the Lion Tailed Macaques that had eluded us for two days came crossing the road right in front of us. Now one more thing I forgot to tell you about that boy at Valparai was that he also told us that these macaques don’t like girls/women and tend to attack single ladies. Go Figure! And needless to say, I was very apprehensive to go anywhere near them. But Mr. A insisted and I went near them only to find out the monkeys were not gender biased at all.

The road passes right through the LTM habitat and many drivers drove recklessly as we stood watching the macaques. Forest Dept. had appointed two guards to watch over the macaques to prevent roadkills. With a huge grin on our faces at having spotted LTMs we headed down only to be engulfed in mist completely. Now this was even better - A fitting end to a monsoon drive.

The journey back to Bangalore was filled with myriad conversations on myriads of topics but the most lengthy one that comes to my mind is how I gave Mr. R and the trigger happy Mr.V a long lecture on photography that would’ve made Ansel Adams roll in his grave. ;) You see, if you get me started on Ladakh or Photography, it would be next to impossible to shut me up after that. That being said, it was a lovely weekend escapade and since the rains evaded us, this trip shall be hence known as the pre-monsoon expedition and the monsoon expedition shall cometh soon!

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Neelima Vallangi
Last Updated : Jan 15,2021
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