Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Nelliyampathy - Your next retreat near Coimbatore


As we cross the bustling textile city of Coimbatore, the Walayar forest and Palakkad town, we can sense a change in the scenic charm. Red-tiled houses, swaying palmyrahs and a patchwork of lush paddy fields forming a verdant carpet loom into view as we cruise past Nemmara, a pastoral hamlet.

Glad to leave the scorching heat behind, relief washes over me as our car clambers up the wild and almost desolate slopes of the Nelliyampathy Mountains. We find ourselves relaxing, enjoying the brilliant scenery, the sudden dip in mercury levels, and the wildlife that suddenly throbs around us. As Nelliyampathy is located in close proximity to the wildlife sanctuaries of Parambikulam, Anamalai and Peechi-Vazhani, we are hopeful about sighting some stray wild animal on the Ghat Road. Though we can sense its presence, disappointingly, not even a single animal puts in an appearance! After an hour's drive from Palakkad via Nemmara, we halt briefly at the earthen Pothundi Dam and Reservoir. This is such a beautiful place to visit. The dam is built sturdily across the lesser-known Meenachadypuzha and Padipuzha rivers, the tributaries of the Ayalar.

This article is originally published in Travel India and India Study Channel


We discover to our amazement that the dam has been constructed with a mixture of jaggery and quick lime instead of cement! We tarried awhile to soak in the breathtaking beauty of the still-water landscape. The reflection of the necklace of hills in the still waters of the reservoir, crowned by a thin layer of mist, is stunning.
From Pothundi we begin the uphill climb along the winding road leading to the enchanting hill station of Nelliyampathy, perched at a height of 4,600 ft. above sea level. While negotiating the gruelling 23 twists and turns on the meandering Western Ghat road, every inch of which was covered in luxuriant foliage, we feel a strange sense of deep exhilaration.

As the Ghat road winds its way to the top, we stop at viewpoints from where stretches of Palakkad district are visible. we have a fantastic view of the Palakkad Gap, a geographical phenomenon in the Western Ghats formation in this region, bringing into view parts of the adjoining Tamil Nadu. We even come across some pockets of nellika (gooseberry) that is said to have given Nelliyampathy its name.

Another version attributes the name to the Kadar tribes who had established a hamlet or pothi near Nellikolam. Hence Nelliampothi in due course of time became Nelliyampathy! Midway through our ascent, we catch another glimpse of the Pothundi Reservoir, shimmering like a sapphire set amidst emerald green forests. we enjoy every minute of the drive through dense evergreen forests and stop at every turn to capture shots of the awesome landscape.

We admire the slender, sparkling waterfalls tumbling over the hillsides. Mother Nature seems to have put on her best face here! The landscape is filled with the breathtaking beauty of rolling hills and enchanting plantations of tea, coffee, cardamom
and pepper, interspersed by rows of great silver oaks. Right from the early '40s, Nelliyampathy has been renowned for its luscious oranges grown at the Agricultural Research Station.

Box-loads of these were carted to feed the British troops during World War II and also sent to the Queen of England. Currently, the fame of this enchanting hill station rests on the fragrance of its coffee, cardamom and tea, and even the Malayalee's much-loved drink, chaiya.
On reaching the destination, we drop anchor at Tropical Hill Resorts for a blissful, quiet weekend. Ensconced on this lush green coffee estate, once owned by a British coffee planter, we learn that today it is run by a Dubai-based entrepreneur. With its sprinkling of cottages and well manicured gardens, the resort still evokes strong memories of the Raj.

This article is originally published in Travel India and India Study Channel

We relished a delectable fare of authentic Kerala curries, spicy North Indian dishes, Arabic specialities like shwarmas and Chinese delicacies. But it is the fish curry meals, the Chinese dishes and Kerala parota with chicken curry that are a big hit with the guests. Feeling famished, we wolf down a sumptuous breakfast of aappams and stew, and wash it down with a cup of frothy, filter coffee. As we amble into the aromatic cardamom groves and lush plantations flaunting acres of coffee plants entwined with pepper vines, the fragrance of coffee lingers in the air.

The manager explains the art of planting, sifting, sorting, curing and the nuances of the different varieties of coffee such as Robusta and Arabica. we also see the old cardamom curing centre where cardamom used to be dried, separated, graded and packed. At dusk, this sylvan retreat comes alive with the excited twitters of thousands of birds. But the most memorable is the mellifluous song ofthe Malabar Whistling Thrush pervading the air.

While relishing freshly brewed tea with biscuits, we can hear the chirping of crickets in the distance. As darkness sets in, we embark on a jeep safari to the little woods in the estate. With the aid of a powerful search light, we sight wild boars and spotted deer fleeing at our approach and a herd of gaurs vanishing into the bushes, obviously annoyed at our intrusion into their terrain. But my date with the bold and the beautiful were cut short abruptly by fierce lightening and deafening thunder, followed by torrential rain! The next morning, we are looking forward to the prospect of boating in the resort's lake (the only one in Nelliyampathy), laden with lotus flowers in full bloom.

Set against the background of tea plantations on the emerald slopes, it presents a picture postcard view. "The best way to explore the sights, sounds and smells of this locale is to take a drive out to the vantage points," announces our guide. So we head to Sitarkundu where we have a dizzying view of the plains as far as Palakkad. Besides the sparkling waterfalls, a solitary gnarled tree that stands sentinel here is the major attraction. Our guide says that Sita Devi, Lord Rama's consort, rested here on her way back from Sri Lanka! Next on my agenda was a trip to the desolate Victoria Church, a relic of the Raj.

We also found the Fruit Preservation Unit interesting. Here, guavas and passion fruits are converted into delicious jams, preserves and squash. In the nursery opposite the farm, lilies, orchids and aromatic plants are grown. An excursion to an old tea factory proved to be very enlightening as we learnt about the intricacies of production, from picking '2 leaves and a bud' to the drying, selection, packaging and more importantly, the tasting! The highlight of our visit is the drive past vast tea plantations where we watch women fling tea leaves into the bags slung over their backs and tea pickers accounting for their day's pickings at the weighing stations.

As the magic of Nelliampathy overwhelms me, we set out with a guide in search of adventure, to explore some lesser trodden routes. Luck is on our side as we see endangered animals like the Nilgiri Tahrs frolicking on the hill slopes, the lion tailed macaques swinging from one branch to another and even the Great Indian hornbill.

The drive to Mampara, (a hillock 5,250ft above sea level), takes us past sprawling tea plantations and dense forests. We follow a treacherous, narrow track in a semi-open four wheeler for two hours! Sometimes the hillside views are shrouded by a silvery blanket of mist. Braving the biting cold and ferocity of the wind, we wait patiently for two hours for the mist to clear, because we am determined to capture this wild beauty on camera!

As we stand mesmerised, soaking in the awesome aerial views of Pollachi, Coimbatore and Mettupalayam, we see Nelliyampathy sprawled around me, bathed in the golden light. we salute this pristine wonderland, a natural treasure.

This article is originally published in Travel India and India Study Channel


Important Information about Nelliyampathy:

Nelliyampathy is perched at a height of 4,600 ft. above sea level in the Sahya Range above Nemmara, 60 kms south of Palakkad town.

How to reach Nelliyampathy

The nearest airport is Coimbatore (150 kms). From Coimbatore, you can reach Nelliyampathy via Palakkad, Nemmara and Pothundi.

When to go to Nelliyampathy

Nelliyampathy is pleasant throughout the year, though the days are slightly warmer during February-May.

Tourist information

The nearest tourist information office is the District Tourist Information Office West Fort Road, Palakkad (Tel: 0491-2523996).

Trekking options

With its innumerable trekking trails, Nelliyampathy is a trekker's paradise. However, you'll need to obtain prior permission from -
DFO, Nemmai Division (Tel: 04923-243179) or
Forest Ranger's Office, Kollengod 678506 (Tel: 04923-206852).

Sahya Eco Tours organises treks in and arour Palakkad district. (Tel: 94472 54887/0491-253883).

Where to stay at Nelliyampathy

Tropical Hill Resorts (Tel: 04923-246236), ITL Holidays & Resorts (Tel: 049: 246 464/65), Ciscilia Heritage (Tel: 04923-206283,94470 33560), Whistli Thrush Bungalow (Website: www.unusalplaces.info).

Shopping at Nelliyampathy

Shop for organic tea, tea leaves, jams, preserves and squash of passion fruit & guava at the Government Orange & Vegetable Farm (Tel: 04923 246225).

This article is originally published in Travel India and India Study Channel

1 comment:

manikandan said...

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