Saturday, 20 January, 2007

Silent Valley 2006

Trek to Silent Valley (20th October to 25th October) – nature at its best

Come Diwali, there is always a trek planned to avoid the noise of the crackers. This time it was a Trek to Silent Valley in the core area – a dreamland for naturalist and trekkers. Having trekked in the core area 3 times before, I can never forget the thickness of the forest. With great difficulty and lots of influence, I could get permission to trek in the core area for 5 members. Thus a team of 5 members (lacchii, Ajay, Kiran, Babu and Gopi) made arrangements for the trek.

We couldn,t get tickets in the train and so had to travel by Semi Luxury Bus up to Palghat. We reached Palghat at 4.00 am on the 21st. On enquiry it was learnt that there is a bus to Mannarkad at 4.30. It was one and half drive from Palghat. We reached Mannarkad at 6.00 am in front of a vegetable market. After purchasing vegetables we boarded a bus to Mukkali at 6.15 am and reached Mukkali at 7.00 am.

The information office was to open only at 8.00 am. We had breakfast at the only available hotel. After completing the formalities at the office, we proceeded to Sairandri by jeep accompanied by 2 Guides from the forest department. The 24 km distance was covered in 1 ½ hour. We were all looking for some sighting of wild animals. We could only sight 1 barking deer.

At sairandri, we climbed the watch tower to have a look at the full range of Silent valley. It was rare privilege to be in one of the best evergreen forest in the Nilgiri Biosphere reserve. 3 Km from Sairandri is where the proposed dam site on the River Kunthi. Thanks to the environmentalists and naturalists (Kerala Sastra Sahitya parishat and an organisation in Bombay) who vehemently campaigned and saw to it the project to build the dam was abandoned by the Government. A metal suspension bridge on the river marks the point till where the tourists are allowed.

Crossing the bridge, real trek starts. The trail initially is a steep climb towards east and since the team is an experienced one having trekked together in various parts of the Western Ghats, moved at a faster pace. We were greeted by the leeches as we entered the shola forest. After 40 minutes of steep climb, the path levels and from this point it is an easy walk with lots of orchids to look at for another 45 minutes to reach Poochipara, our day,s camp shed.(1370m). Poochipara translates as “CAT ROCK” appearing like a squatting cat seen from a distance. However much we tried we couldn,t make out a squatting cat. We gave our provisions which we had taken, to the Forest Guards who served us hot rice and sambhar.

Next day, we started at 8.30 am after breakfast with a pack lunch. Experiences with the leeches made us apply oil mixed with snuff till the knee. (This really has a very good effect) The path all along is a wide one with a gradual ascent and descent walking in North West direction. Initially the trail is through grassland where we could sight a herd of Guars which had come for a morning walk. After some snaps we moved on and the trail descends into a valley through thick and dense mixed jungle till we reached the Kunti River. Crossing the river, we enter into the shola trekking for nearly 3 hrs fighting with the leeches which tried to climb onto our legs for a happy break fast. Snuff mixed with oil applied onto our legs till our knee made those leeches difficult to have a go at our blood. It was difficult to move along easily as we had to keep bending to remove those leeches for more than 100 times. Here I wish to say that, never trek during the rainy season in Silent Valley; else you miss to see the amazing forest. The forest canopy is a treasure house for a variety of birds, trees, flora and fauna. After trekking for nearly 4 hours we reached our camp site Vallakkad at around 2.00 pm. We were at the same height as the previous day. As per the Forest Guard, there once was a Guest House built by a Britisher Mr Walcott near the Grass land just before the present Camp Shed which might have given the name Vallakkad.

Having planned to come back to vallakkad the same evening, we started our trek to Sisipara at 8.30 am with only our pack lunch and some snacks. Initially the plan was to trek up to Sisipara, leave our luggages and trek up to Anjinda the highest peak in this region and camp at Sisipara. The forest guards at vallakkad briefed us that after the rains, the camp shed at Sisipara is full of water and is not possible to camp inside. Sisipara which is at a height of 2370 m is the entry point to the Nilgiris. A steep climb on a winding path of 8 km inside the shola forest takes you to Sisipara. This is the only place in the Western Ghats where one can see Rhododendron species. Since the weather had turned bad, we decided to skip the trek up to Anjinda which would take another 2 hrs, and decided to return to our camp site Vallakkad.

The return journey was not tough since the route was familiar. We moved at a much faster pace and reached Sairandri on the 25th morning. The forest Guards had made arrangements for the jeep to take us to Mukkali. It was rare privilege to be allowed to trek through the national park. I wish to thank the DFO who gave me the permission and the ever helping Forest Guards stationed at all the camp sites keeping the camp site so clean making our stay comfortable. I hope to get another chance to trek to Anjinda peak and cross over to Ooty.

Thanks to the restrictions in entering the core area, the place remains litter free. I remember the settlements inside the national park with rubber plantation, when I first trekked in Silent Valley. The concerned officials have taken great pains in vacating the encroachments and I fully agree with the restrictions made for entering the forests. You need to be lucky to get an entry inside.

Never miss the Information centre where the details about all the national parks in Kerala forest have been neatly made and the sounds of all the birds and animals which are available inside the Silent Valley have been recorded.

The programme goes like this.

Bangalore to Palghat or by train / Bus

Palghat to Mannarkad by Bus 40 kms 1 ½ hrs

Mannarkad to Mukkali by Bus 20 Kms 45 min

Mukkali to Sairandri by Jeep 24 Kms 1 ½ hrs

Sairandri to Poochipara Trek 8 Kms 1 ½ hrs

Poochipara to Vallakkad 16 kms 4 hrs

Vallakkad to Sisipara to Anjinda to Vallakkad 30 kms 9 hrs

Vallakkad to Poochipara 16 kms 4 hrs

Poochipara to Poochipara peak to Sairandri 12 kms 3 hrs

One can extend the trek from Sisipara to Bangitappal (12 Kms) and from Bangitappal to Upper Bhavani (12 kms) after getting permission from Ooty forest officials.

Mukkali can be reached from Coimbatore also which is considered faster than from palghat.


Deepak said...

Interesting article. Let me know when you organise next time

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