Monday, September 16, 2013

DISCOVERING HIDDEN HILLS RAIN-FORESTS AND STAY AT TEA GARDENS OF VALPARAI SOUTH INDIA

The morning mist around Valparai, a rain forest hill town
Morning mist around Valparai
We were in Coimbatore.  The city, 2nd largest in the state of Tamil Nadu is located on the banks of the Noyyal River surrounded by the picturesque Western Ghats. Surprisingly the city has “sister town” relationship with the cities of Toledo in Ohio US and with
Esslingen in the state of  Baden-W├╝rttemberg Germany. A great financial and cultural cooperation.
We had visited number of amusement parks, museums and galleries for which Coimbatore is famous and were enjoying our mouth watering Tamil lunch on a banana leaf when we heard about “Valparai”. We heard a loud and exited discussion from the next table claiming almost a discovery of a hidden paradise of secluded rain-forest hills of “Valaparai” in this part of South India.
I discussed with my friend Tommy Singh and the next day, we were on the road to discover (for North Indians like us) secluded hills of Valaparai. You can go to Valparai either from Coimbatore Tamil Nadu via Pollachi - Azhiyar  or from Cochin Kerala via Chalakudy – Sholayar. From Coimbatore its around 110 Kms.
Beautiful Azhiyar (Alyiar) dam and lake on the way
Beautiful Azhiyar (Alyiar) dam and lake on the way
After Pollachi, the landscape  was stunning! The drive up the mountain to the Valparai plateau began at the scenic Azhiyar (Alyiar) dam and lake surrounded on three sides by mountains and dense forests of the Anamallais with its exotic rain-forest smell in the breeze.
From Alyiar, the road climbs up with hair pin band, almost 38, if my count was correct!
Then we passed through beautiful tea gardens, stopped for a cup of tea and proceeded. In between wherever we stopped for a break to enjoy the splendor of nature and the beauty of tea gardens we saw many rare and exotic bids...perhaps a paradise for bird lovers! At many places, monkeys including a rare Lion Tailed Monkey greeted us. Wow!
From Coimbatore, it took us around 4 hours to reach at our destination. As most of tourists visit Kerala, compared to this part of Tamil Nadu, it is better to cover Valparai from Cochin.
The accommodation was booked at Sinna Dorai Bungalow at Parry Agro Paralai Estate. There were hotels at Valparai but we preferred a bungalow at a tea gardens. My goodness, what a bungalow, nestled in nature!
Sinna Dorai Bungalow in tea state where we stayed
Sinna Dorai Bungalow
See yourself: (http://www.sinnadorai.com/index.html)
Note that tea estates also provide accommodation with full board, though are a bit expensive (We paid Rs. 6500 per day for double occupancy with full board)

Treks and Walks in the tea gardens

Strolling around tea gardens  Valparai
Strolling around tea gardens  Valparai
For the next 2 days, we had treks and walks in the tea gardens. The tea gardens were scenic and delightful to stroll through.   Most had forest corridors,  pretty little private dams and streams flowing through them.

Wild life

We saw wildlife everywhere!  The rare monkey “Lion tailed macaques” were strolling on the main road, as do bisons and sambar deer.   Lucky to meet a Nilgiri Tahr and of course elephants.  We also saw variety of birds!

The General Information

Valparai is a beautiful, mystic and a sleepy small town on the hills in the rain-forest. The locals speak Tamil and Malayalam and some English.
Getting there:
Nearest airport and convenient rail head is Coimbatore which is well connected to major cities in India. Valparai is a two and a half to three hour drive from here via Pollachi and Aliyar.   Direct Public and Private buses also ply infrequently.

* Coimbatore to Pollachi and Pollachi to Valparai buses are very frequent.  A taxi drop from Coimbatore to Valparai will cost approximately Rs.2000 and up.

* Kochi is also a convenient airport/ railhead.    If you arrive at Cochin, you can take the Chalakudy route to Valparai, seeing the Athirapally falls and the Sholayar Dam on the way.  Public buses also ply between Chalakudy and Valparai, maybe 3 or 4 times a day.

Other places to stay:

Green Hills Tel: 04253 222562
http://greenhillhotels.com/
Stanmore Garden Bungalow and Monica Bungalow at Korangu Mudi +91 422 2311834
http://www.stayhomz.com/stanmore.htm

Restaurants

Restaurants are called "Mess"

 The Plaza Restaurant is  spic and span, spotlessly clean and serves a delicious home style vegetarian and non-veg south Indian "meals" at lunch time, with excellent if repetitive tiffin in the morning and evening.    The appams available in the morning are outstandingly good.  It is on the main road opposite the Police Station as you enter Valparai from the Pollachi side.
Mary Matha's Mess on the first floor of a building next to Plaza also seemed popular

The route


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photo of Kiran Travelfury
Travelfury
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