Valparai in western ghats in South India is an unexplored wonder. The first two parts of our travel to Valparai was covered under Valparai – An Unexplored Wonder and Valparai 2 – Charms of Sinnadorai Bungalow
Sleeping late in the midnight means no chance of getting up very early. Since there is no sun rise to be seen here, there is no need to get up at 5.30 either. But the best time to do some bird watching is early in the morning. When we open our eyes in the morning, it is 6.30. We come out of the room and stand in front of the valley and is mesmerised by the scene of clouds floating low in the valley. Or is it mist? (Please click on the pictures to see them in enlarged size)
We freshen up fast, take the camera, binos and step out to savour the morning. It is mildly chill and pleasurable as we set out on the roads to see if we can capture any birds. The rays of early morning sun were caressing the leaves of tea plants tenderly.
We are able to spot some birds and capture it in the camera. We come back and Murugan brings us the best tea again served in china. We discuss the plan for the day with Murugan and decide to visit Lower Nerar dam and Sholayar dam after breakfast.
We get ready and hog an excellent breakfast of Pongal, Ediappam, and Omelette along with fruits. Murugan joins us as we leave to Nerar dam and then to Sholayar. We come down the hills and hit the highway and move towards Valparai. As we hit highway, I notice two men having a placard “ Wild animals, drive slow”. Poorna asks Murugan what it is. Murugan says that they are members of a Nature Conservation Foundation, the Mysore based award winning and pioneering NGO working in wild life conservation and keep a watch of endangered Lion Tailed Macaque (LTM) which move in the area and if they spot any on the road, cautions motorists to slow down. He chats up with them to check if they sighted any LTM in the morning. They answer in negative. Murugan who knows them well, request them to give him a call if they spot any LTMs. We too are excited as these endangered animals generally don’t come down and live in the tall trees of forests in Western Ghats. We had in fact noticed a notice board on LTMs when we stopped at Sharavathi valley view point during our trip to Goa earlier this year.
We reach Valparai town which is a single street town and move towards Lower Nerar dam. The drive to Nerar should rank as one of the prettiest. The previous day’s showers have brought down the mercury levels and the road virtually goes through series of verdant tea gardens. We go down the hills to the dam site. This is again a small dam but surrounded by forests. The setting is lovely and we spend few minutes and start driving back.
Few kilometres of driving and I notice a large space at a curve and sights from there look nice. I ask Murugan whether we can stop here, get down and take a look around. By all means, replies Murugan. I park the Scorpio and what we see now is just spellbinding. Two local boys come to us and I chat up them asking if their holidays have started and what do they play etc. The boys say that the view from another point is stunning. I ask them the distance to it and they say it is ten minutes walk and we follow the boys. They are correct. You can see it in the pictures below. The views are just stunning.
Nerar dam done, we are now on the way to Sholayar dam. Road condition is fantastic. Again the terrain is so picturesque that we stop at couple of places to capture it on the camera. Few KMs of driving, we notice red coloured dried beds . Murugan says they are backwaters of Sholayar dam but have dried up due to lack of rain. We continue driving. Sholayar must be having one of longest backwaters. Finally we reach a place where there is water and click some nice pictures of the place. This drive should be most beautiful after the rains.
Else, we could have left early in the morning and visited it. But now it is too late as it will be dark to go and come back. This road has high concentration of elephants and two day back a woman was killed by an elephant. We return back with sunken hearts. We miss an excellent chance. I call up my friend HV Kumar and he also confirms that Athirapally is closer from Sholayar and we should have done that. He also confirms that the road from Sholayar to Athirapally is very picturesque and goes through dense forests. Possibly next time we should do this.
I stop in Valparai for drawing cash from ATM – there are SBI, Indian Bank and Union Bank ATMs – and start driving back. Few KMs from the town we see the volunteer displaying the placard “Wild animals, Drive Slow” and asking us to get down. We get excited and Murugan talks to them and confirms that a group of Lion Tailed Macaque have come down!! What luck!! We park the car on the side and Brinda gets ready to click and I focus through my binos. Here is a group of ten LTMs hanging around a jack fruit tree – LTMs love jack fruits. Brinda goes on clicking spree.
These are lovely animals and are not harmful. Couple of other cars also stop by. The volunteers are guiding us and asking us not to feed them. Satiated, we move towards the car.
Since the LTMs cross over the road, NCF has built monkey bridges to help them cross the road. There have been many accidents on this road involving LTMs and it is for this reason Nature Conservation Foundation has appointed two volunteers to caution motorists of presence of these animals.
We reach bungalow around 3 PM and looking forward to the lunch. We are hungry and not disappointed at all. Excellent south Indian vegetarian lunch. While coming into the bungalow, I notice Grassland hills basking in afternoon sun and shadow play looks interesting. While having lunch, i ask Brinda whether she is game to take a walk in the estate to capture Grassland hills in late afternoon sunlight. She is game and I ask Murugan if he can accompany us which he obliges.
We return back to the room, pick up the camera and follow Murugan. It is a short walk from the bungalow unlike the previous day hike. He takes us to a vantage point where we can see the beauty of Grassland hills in the afternoon sun. Here is what we saw……
Driving down and reaching Pollachi is a breeze. As i reach Pollachi, Poorna call up H V Kumar to confirm the route via Palladam to reach Avinashi there by avoiding Coimbatore. He confirms that is the best option. The boy filling diesel in the petrol bunk also confirms that the complete stretch has been relaid two months back and is excellent. How true it turns out to be as we have a peaceful drive – except for diversion in Mangalam where they are building a railway bridge – to reach Avinashi. From Avinashi, it is the good old road and we reach Salem by 3 PM. We stop at Salem for lunch in Sharavana Bhavan and are back in Bangalore by 6.30 PM.
Valparai is an unexplored and unspoilt beauty. Hope it remains so for some time. But i am doubtful. The opportunities here is huge unlike at other places. This place is more like Chikkamagalur or Coorg or Malnad – hills, waterfalls, wild life, treks etc…. Valparai can also be a gateway to explore Parambikulam as well. Of course a great place for drives.
We had a wonderful experience in Sinna Dorai Bungalow. If you want to have a typical “Planter’s bungalow experience” in all its glory, this is the place. We will definitely return after monsoons.
- Valparai is at a distance of 100 KMs from Coimbatore which is a major city in the South Indian State of Tamil Nadu. Coimbatore is well connected by Train and Air to all major cities in India
- By Road – If you are planning your trip from anywhere in South India, driving down in your own vehicle is the best option as it will give you flexibility to move around the place.
- 8 hours of drive from Bangalore. Road condition is excellent.
- 8 hours from Chennai
- 5 hours from Kochi
- By Train – Coimbatore is well connected to other cities in the country and the hire a cab from Coimbatore to Valparai.
- By Bus – There are no direct buses to Valparai. It is recommended to take bus to Pollachi either from Chennai, Bangalore and then change over to buses to Valparai. If coming from Kochi, one can look for buses to Pollachi which pass through Valparai.
Apart from Sinnadorai, there are only two other decent places to stay
a) Waterfalls Bungalow Waterfall Bungalow
b) Stanmore Bungalow Stanmore Bungalow
a) Anytime is good time for Valparai. If you want to see waterfalls then rainy season is the best. The best time will be between Oct – Feb.
b) Jungle safaris and treks are possible in Anaimalai Wild life sanctuary. Safaris and treks will not be permitted in summer due to forest fires. Check for latest details from forest office in Pollachi.
Tamil Nadu Forest Department Website
c) Good shoe, good binoculars and camera is a must.
d) Go for drives amidst the tea plantations. It is a treat to eyes.
e) Plan a trip to Athirapally falls in Kerala which is a two hour drive from Valparai. The drive to Athirapally is supposed to be very scenic.
f) If you have time stretch and visit Parambikulam Wild life sanctuary in Kerala and go for Tramway trek on the British built unused tracks of the tram which were used to haul timer from the Forest of the region during British times.
g) Always be accompanied by someone who is aware of the area while going on treks or walks.
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