Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Parambikulam Jungle Trek

Hi all!

Me and my cousins were planning for a weekend trip. We were discussing on where to hangout for the weekend. Finally, we decided to go to Pollachi - Top Slip and Valparai. So I searched throught the internet to find details about these places. Somewhere during that search, I found a place called 'Parambikulam'. Upon searching about that place, I found it is a Wildlife Sanctuary in Kerala. Though the Sactuary belongs to Kerala, the entry is through Tamil Nadu only. The site contained some phone numbers of the 'Eco Care Centre' of the Sanctuary. I immediately called up those guys and asked them, if there is any accomodation for a night. I came to know that there are some tree houses that can be booked in advance. The guy at the other end responded softly that, there is a overnight package for 5 people, which costs Rs.4000/-. It seemed to be a pretty good deal, so I immediately agreed to that. He asked for a confirmation and took my details and booked the package for me. The package name is 'Thelikkal Nights'. The Thellikal is a place inside the forest.

Myself and two others started from Chennai on 10th July, 2009. We took a bus to Pollachi. We reached Pollachi on 11th morning. Two more guys joined us there. We had already arranged for a cab to take us to the Parambikulam Eco Care Center. The cab guy came at the right time and we all headed towards Parambikulam. On the way we went to the famous Masaniamman Temple in Pollachi.

We need to cross Top Slip to reach Parambikulam. Top Slip is about 800 feet above MSL and the way upto Top Slip was pretty bad. On the way there was a traffic jam. We were surprised only to find that a huge tree had fell on the road, blocking the traffic. People had already come out of their vehicles, some were discussing about how to proceed and few others were clicking snaps and posing for pics. Very shortly the forest officer's vehicle came there and along with them two elephants. They were looking at the tree and discussing on how to clear it. It seemed they are very well trained in that. Immediately one of the guy climbed on an elephant and started to cut the tree with an axe.

The elephant helped him by pulling down thee tree. It was really a BIG tree and the guy was struggling to cut it. Slowly he and the elephant together cut the tree and a small portion was sticking together. The elephant came the other way, kept its both the legs on the tree and pushed it down, breaking it completely. There was a huge applause from the crowd surrounding them. The officer there asked us to be quiet as it will annoy the elephant.

It was almost noon when we reached near Parambikulam. There was a small restaurant and we had our lunch there. We then headed towards the Parambikulam Wild Life Sanctuary. we reached there around 2pm. The guys at the Eco Care Centre were friendly. Our booking was confirmed. The taxi guy was a localite and he spoke to the persons over there and reduced the package rate from Rs.4000 to Rs.3000. 5 people, trek inside the jungle and stay there overnight for Rs.3000 seemed to be pretty good deal. Thanks for the taxi driver. On payment, two tribal trekkers accompanied us to guide us through the forest. The trek is around 5 kms inside thick forest. From the Eco Care Centre, we drove a few kilometers and reached a small village. We bought raw materials for cooking dinner. Then we headed a few kms again. At last we reached the place to start our trek. The taxi guy left us there and went back to Pollachi.

The entire terrain was simply forest with plains all the way. It was end of summer and luckily there were no leeches. There was a dam at the starting point.It was very scenic at that place.

After crossing the dam we entered into thick jungles. It was very scary initially as it was kind of a first time experience for all of us.

We saw some deers initially and a few peacock. As we trekked further we saw a lion tailed macaque sitting on top of a tree, shouting at us as we passed through its habitation. The guides had always asked us to remain silent as our noise will irritate the animals.

We gained a lot of information from them regarding animals and their behaviors. We saw a foot print of a tiger that had crossed that way the previous night(as told by the guides).
We were nearing our room inside the jungle and it started to drizzle. We all had our rain jackets handy and it helped us a lot. Around 5.30pm we reached our room. The guide who came along with us started cleaning the room and we were awaiting one more guide to join us. After he reached the room, we all went to a river at the backyard of the house.
The waters were flowing with heavy gush. We took some water for our night stay and took some pile of woods needed for fuelling the stove. We came back and cut the wood and burnt it to make the stove.

Around 6pm, one of the guide took us into the forest in search of animals. That place was really scary than the one that we came all the way. We went a few meters and came back as the guide told us that there were no animals in that area. We took another route and we were told to maintain complete silence. Only the sounds of our shoes were heard. We tried to keep our steps soft to reduce even that sound. Suddenly the guide stopped and showed some signs. There was a herd of elephants grazing. There was an elephant calf and the guide told us it is dangerous to be around the herd with a calf elephant. We were standing around 30ms away from the elephant herd. It seems the camera flash would really irritate the elephants and I took a few snaps without flash. Yes, it came really bad. Suddenly one elephant made some sound and the guide asked us to get away from that place immediately. We all turned around and walked, but made sure we didn't run away. While returning home, we saw two wild buffaloes.

The guide at home had already started preparing dinner. There was no electricity in that building. We took our LED lanterns along with us. They made some firewood and cooked chappathi and kuruma for us. After a long tiresome trek it was very very delicious. After our dinner we had some chat and slowly one by one felt asleep and went to our beds. During the night there was a sudden noise and everyone woke up. We were afraid to even switch on our lanterns. We then found that it was a group of elephants that surrounded our home.

Next day morning, the guide had prepared black tea for us. We then started our trek back. The guides told us that a bus to Parambikulam village would come from Pollachi and would cross the place where we started our trek at 8am. We hurried to catch the bus.

We saw a few wild dogs en-route. We made it to our destination before 8am. we took some rest there and the bus came sharply at 8am :-). We took the bus to Parambikulam village.

It is at a higher altitude than the place we trekked the previous day. There was a dam. We decided to go boating. We took the Bamboo Raft. It was a pleasant ride.

The boat man told us that there are hundreds of crocodiles in that dam. On hearing that the ride became unpleasant for us. He took us to one small island. There was a crocodile on the bank. It went inside the water when we went nearby.

After our ride we took the same bus back to Top Slip. There was a canteen. We were very hungry. We went inside the canteen only to find that there was nothing available. Not even a bottle of water. The entire canteen was leased to one group. They were cooking on their own. What a canteen! We called our taxi guy to pick us from Top Slip to Pollachi. It would take atleast 1 hour for him to come. We thought of utilizing that time by going a safari in Top Slip.

Alas! None of it were there. The elephant safari is closed as it had rained the previous night. It seems the path will be slippery and the elephants would find it difficult to walk. The jeep safari is closed for unknown reasons and the van safari is not available for 5 people. We were asked to pay the entire amount for the van around Rs.1500. We felt that it would be waste of money to go by a van inside a jungle. The forest officer at the Top Slip was not at all kind to the tourists coming there. Tamilnadu Tourism will go great heights!!!

Our taxi guy came to pick us back to Pollachi. On the way we took a small divert and went to Monkey falls. There was a lot of water and it was fresh. We had a nice bath there and headed down to Pollachi.

We had our dinner at Pollachi and took a bus back to Chennai. The trip was full of fun and adventure. We had a very good time and hope you too on reading this. See you in another post. Bye Bye!!!