Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Unexplored Ooty- Upper Bhavani - Parson Valley - Emerald - Avalanche - Porthimund

When we started from Chennai on September 3rd, I had the map with me and was thinking about how to make it to those eight lakes covering the Highest to the Lowest catchment in The Nilgiris. Those eight lakes are Upper Bhavani, Western Catchment 1-2-3, Portimund, Avalanche, Emerald and Parson Valley.

Journey from Chennai to Coimbatore was rather comfortable by Duoronto Express and had spent the time tasting some mouth watering non - veggie fries. Mr.Kumar (our driver) was present at the Coimbatore Rly station with his usual smile and was expecting another contemporary bunch of tourists heading for Ooty. However, I exchanged his smile with a witty wink, which was,'Jack, you have a hard road to hit'.

My wife had a slightly thought of me that this guy wouldn't go to a place called Ooty without any unfathomed place to jeer. Nevertheless, she would have to admit the fact in spite of her dislikes. We decided to head for Ooty without much of the options considered. We retired at Hotel Alkapuri after stuffing ourselves with amazingly soft Kulcha's and steaming Dal Fries. It was too freezing outside and the rain was making no man's business.

4th morning was cloudy and when I checked with the Hotel manager, I didn't get a fruitful response about those lakes. He clearly told me that I had to get permissions from the Forest Dept to make it through. I prayed and prayed and finally hit the road. Ooty to Upper Bhavani was 60 km and after a couple of twists and turns we reached the upper hills and there we were surrounded by the dense woods and mists.

                                                    ( Tea garden on the way to Upper Bhavani )

                                                   ( Way to Upper Bhavani )

Suddenly the road became rough and too dark to drive. I was trying to keep both Tuku (my wife) and Kumar ( driver ) hope alive and was boosting confidence. I, myself wasn't too sure about our destination as the weather was changing colors to dark pale in every 10 minutes. We crossed a few wild streams which we presumed as waterfalls. It was almost 11 am and too dense and misty to move ahead. We kept our nerves up and just moved along the visuals ahead. We crossed a few local lads and they were nor too convincing about the place, Upper Bhavani. We were the soul riders on that stretch.

                                                  ( wild stream what we presumed as waterfalls ) 
                                                  ( Wild streams everywhere )
                                           ( Unnamed water sources formed due to seasonal rain )

                                  ( Way to Upper Bhavani, where the mist started to dense )

                                       ( Anytime a 'Urban Legend' in hoods may appear on the horizon )

                          ( For a moment we thought that someone was hung on the logs )

After a few hours of desperate turns and snaps, we finally reached the Upper Bhavani Dam. We were absolutely spellbound and Kumar was uttering the same word 'Nallah' (means amazing in Tamil). We could clearly see that the mist was relieving droplets in the lake and flying up. The place was simply amazing. I wonder and still wonder why people spend so much time and money to visit abroad. It's here mates, just need to open your eyes. I recalled, when I was jotting down the details about this places, my neighbor once said,'Sumit, don't miss The Western Catchments, Porthimund and Upper Bhavani'. I thanked him once and again. For a few moments, I was speechless. Tuku just smiled at me, I knew her gestures, I could bet my bottom dollar, she was happy like anything.

                                     ( Upper Bhavani - Western Bank )

                                 ( Upper Bhavani - Eastern Bank )

                                                                ( Upper Bhavani Lake and Dam )

For a moment the world turned into water, mists and greens. Wherever or whatever we see were all shadowed by the misty curtains. We met a few TNEB folks there and they were even surprised to see tourists in that misty hoods. We exchanged a few 'hellos and thanks' which in return got my camera to wake up. As this is a highly restricted area and photography is a punishable act. With due respect to TNEB and Govt. of Tamilnadu, I was forced by my inner core to break the act and clicked a few shots (above). However the TNEB gentlemen promised us a stay at the TNEB inspection bungalow on our next visit. Unwillingly,we had to glimpse a last look at the Upper Bhavani catchment and drove down the same road back to Ooty. The road already travelled is less travelled. Isn't it? we were not exceptions and with a few hourly counts, we were back in the heaps of Ooty.

5th Morning was a mixed bag of 3rd and 4th, Sun was playing hide and seek, without much preserves we hit the road for Avalanche and Emerald. I was pretty sure that the road was the same for both. Kumar had a glimpse of our vibes,yesterday and he was stopping his 'white horse Tavera' wherever there was a chance of a sight. The distance between Ooty to Avalanche was around 20 kms and road was tarred well. Without much hassles we made it to Avalanche. We were surprised to see that only one narrow bridge connects these two lakes, Avalnnche and Emerald. However we stopped and stepped into the banks of Avalanche, It was stunning. The clear crystal water of Avalanche was visible till the far and Tuku was lost completely. She couldn't stop smiling. I was patting myself with a merry face,'Man you gave your best to your most beloved'.

                                   ( Avalanche - from the Western Bank )

                                                      ( Avalanche - from the Bridge End )

                                                    ( Avalanche from the Eastern Bank )

                                      ( Me and Tuku with the Bridge behind )

We crossed the bridge and went the other side to see Emerald.

                                            ( Emerald from the bridge )

                                              ( Emerald with the misty mountain backdrop )

                                           ( Emerald from Porthy Village Road )

                                    ( Emerald on and from the top of the world )

As we planned earlier, later on 5th we proceeded towards Mudumalai and Waynad and further to Kochi. We spent each day at Mudumalai and Waynad and when we observed the much anticipated flock of tourists in Kerala for Onam, We decided to come back to Ooty and rescheduled the entire plan. Tuku was not happy at all and was giving me a soulful sight of less unlighted soul. She had plans to act as my guide for Kochi and Munnar what she had planned for years. I had never been to those places before. With a swamp of sacrifice for much awaited 'guided tour','Uru's at Beypore' and 'Jimikis' we reached Ooty on 8th. She winked a smile in between for Soochipara Waterfalls. That was not enough though. Rest, she had her justification in her kitty which holds enough to push me to the Guillotine.

                                                     ( Soochipara Waterfalls )

                                             ( Me, at Soochipara Waterfalls )

After reaching Ooty on 8th, We found our old room at Hotel Alakapuri and Tuku was silent still. I was bit happy though and somewhere at the core my unfinished trip to Porthimund and Parsons Valley was playing a symphony. Well, I didn't disclose it to the audience.

9th morning was a cloudy again and with a few drops of heavenly drops. Kumar was asking about the day's program and without any other options concerned, I uttered Porthimud and Parson's valley. Tuku gave me a doubtful look as if, ' what do you want to deal with?' . I replied with a look,'Need the same trust, you have been there for me for years'. Kumar repeatedly was asking about the roads and the routes and I said,'same as Avalanche'. After a an hour and odd minutes drive we reached the Forest Checkpost at the Parson's Valley - Porthimund point. The forest official pounced in and showed the door immediately after hearing we didn't have permissions to visit those two lakes. Kumar was not too convincing too. This is where I had to step in and have been doing for years, 'negotiation'. Tuku had fired all her guns in between, and i dodged her bullets left and right. The forest official (as requested, keeping his name undisclosed) was firm on his grounds and i had my hand closed, with all my skills and experience. Finally, I played my triumph asking him to join us and be our protector. After a few minutes spent, he agreed and I thanked Sai Baba once again. When guard becomes the guide what else you could expect. He hopped in the front seat and Kumar pulled the throttle. The first statement from the Forest guy took the 'morning thing' out of us,'Please at any cost do not get down or stop the vehicle, as this place has a growing population of 36 tigers'. Kumar rolled his window up and Tuku gave me a witty look,'Hey man, gotcha sweat in?'. I looked forward to spot one. The forest guard was describing the places inside the core area and sharing his experiences. We spotted a few Sambhar, Barking Deer, A herd of wild buffaloes, and a couple of Nilgiri Black Monkey (Langoors). The road was horrible, rather 'no road' is a better word. Kumar was trying his best to settle us with utter comfort. At many places the forest guard and his mates ( he asked 2 more of the guards to join us ) were clearing the road as it was blocked by trees,branches. Twice the Tavera needed a bump and the guards did. En route we spotted a few Tiger Pug marks and the remainders of a wild buffalo and per the guards, it was fresh and hunted not more than 6 hours ago ( I am not posting that picture as it might be disturbing for a few ). I could see Kumar sweating as he never been to these places before and never had this kind of experience. After a couple of hours of sweaty and bumpy rides, we reached the Porthimund Valley. The catchment was as amazing as the others. And I bet, it would be tough to chose the best. Each catchment has it's unique surroundings and wilderness which would be unwise and derogatory to map their unfathomable beauty.I was pretty much sure that whoever has visited these lakes will nod to me. We had to park the vehicle and walk half a mile to reach the bank of the Porthimund catchment,and for the first time Mr.Kumar joined us as he was so scared to stay alone in the cab. We all were simply lost in the herbs and herds. I wouldn't prefer to describe a much, rather be there, see there. that's it. I heard, someone said to me,'Thank you'. I knew who she was. It was getting dark and we drove to the Parson's Valley catchment. Once we reached the Eastern Banks of the Parson's valley catchment, Our Forest Guard whispered,'Tiger on the other bank'. It was spine chilling. I am describing mine. The catchment was about 500-600 feet wide and on the other bank, I was convinced with an animal which had some yellow marks on his skin. The first bet goes for the tiger. However it was mist and distance which had the hindrance, I am still confused whether it was a tiger. My '1000m ranged Bushnell' confimred it was a cub not a full grown tiger, still I failed to capture any photograph as my standard Nikon zoom refused to reach that far. I may have had a chance to picture him and I lost.

( A wild Sambhar was spotted en route )

( Porthimud Catchment )

( Porthimund Lake and small isles )

( An unfathomed deep , Porthimund )

( The Forest Guy with me )

( A herd of curious wild Buffalos )

( The leader was more curious )

( The Parson Valley Lake from the Eastern Bank, We spotted the Tiger Cub on the other Bank )

( The Nilgiri Black Langoor )
( Pug Mark of a Tiger )