The Nilgiris district of Tamil Nadu

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

My hubby and I flew from Bombay to Coimbatore where we were met by our rental car driver Mr Jagdeesh [+91 95004 70007 / +91 94862 79917].  

 We drove via Manjur to Avalanche in the Kundah reserve forest. Avalanche at 2036m altitude, is by a crystal clear, turquoise lake of the same name, surrounded by meadows, mountains, plantation forest and dense sholas [montane rainforest]. 

 The Tamil Nadu electricity board maintains a Power house there as well as part of the Kundah power project. Our days were spent lolling in the meadows, walking up the surrounding mountains about 2500m, exploring the dense shola forests and just basking in the peace and pristine clean air. Nights were about -4C but daytime was bright, sunny and at times warm, thanks to the high altitude, low latitude [about 11N] combo. A family of Nilgiri jet black langurs were residents of the trees in the rest house and they entertained us no end in the mornings. Another family of Malabar giant squirrels occupied the trees at the back but we could spot them just occasionally. We spotted a herd of Nilgiri tahr high up on the rocks above the valve house of the powerhouse. A drive to Upper Bhavani reservoir [30km] rewarded us with views of the huge Thai shola valley, herds of bisons and scores of barking deer and sambar. Last year we saw elephants, nilgiri martens, wolves and civet cats but not this year. The best bit was exploring the shola forest, dark, dense and dripping with all sorts of epiphytes. Numerous mountain streams run through the sholas creating little waterfalls along the way. The forest floor was carpeted in ground orchids[seeded] and assorted high altitude wildflowers. Crimson nilgiri rhododendrons were just coming into bloom, they are called Pongal pooh as they flower during Pongal festival which is around 14 Jan. We also saw a huge feline pugmark which we were told was of a tiger. Could be given the size. After a few days here, we proceeded to Ooty stopping at the scenic bridge dividing Avalanche lake and Emerald lake. Ooty seemed grotty coming from Avalanche. We stayed at the govt run Hotel Tamil Nadu which gave us a 50% discount, and was quiet and well located on a small hillock near the main commercial area. As this was our second trip we knew exactly what we wanted to see. The next day we first went upto Dodabetta Peak at 2637m the 2nd highest mountain in peninsular India, then took a trip down the Pykara road stopping first not at the touristy "Pine Forest" but about half a km further where we cut through the woods down to the Kamaraj Sagar lake. Very pleasant. A stray ordinary monkey and lots of birds kept us company. Further down the same road, we stopped by and entered a small patch of shola forest, delighting in the new unidentified orchids we found here. After a long while, we continued to the 9th Mile meadows and again went further about 1 km, cut through the forest and were rewarded with a huge vast expanse of meadows all to ourselves. Great views of the nose shaped Mukurthy mountain and surrounding ranges, without any other tourists and their litter. Resting in a meadow is a wonderful feeling. From here we continued to Pykara waterfalls, not much water at this time of the year, its more rapids or cascades, but a pleasant walk along the river nonetheless. Pykara Lake further down was serene and vast, completely cleaned up since last year, credit to the tourist department. Bisons and deer come to the shores late evening and early mornings. It is possible to combine the Pykara trip with a visit to the Mudumalai WLS which is a downhill detour from Thalaikundah on the way, but as we had been there the previous year, and fresh from Upper Bhavani, we decided to relax on the Pykara route instead. We also spent a day at the huge Botanical gardens, walking upto the Toda tribal mund [settlement]on top. A strange sight at the gardens was of a group of Indian male tourists approaching a young white couple for a group photograph with some of them covertly staring down the girls blouse. I thought that was very disgusting, they would never have dared behave like that with an Indian woman. From there we walked to Ooty Lake and took a mini train ride along the shores. Also did the Ooty Coonoor Ooty mountain train ride which gives different views of tea gardens and slopes, and visited Syms botanic Park in Coonoor as well. We bought our fill of tea, aromatic oils, spices and scrumptious Ooty fudge from KingStar and excellent bakery products - puffs, butter biscuits and cakes from Ooty bakeries. Ooty cheese and marmalade is also a good buy. Home made chocolates of every variety are sold from all outlets including the mechanic, electrician and hardware stores, but we didnt particularly fancy them. Jagdeesh took us back via the Kotagiri Mettupalayam route which is a good clear road with less traffic, passing by vast tea estates, eucalyptus and shola forests at the higher levels and tall evergreen forests at the lower levels. There was a light sleet and the air was laden with the fragrance of eucalyptus and mist. We were lucky to see a Malabar giant squirrel frolicking in the jungle on the way. From Mettupalayam we took a different route all the way to the airport byepassing the Coimbatore city traffic. All in all a fantastic holiday, we are going back as soon as possible.

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salim on

all the snaps taken are beautiful.very lucky person who have visited this place.

anjali on

you have a great sense of camera and nice eye for nature

ganesh on


sreejith on

what a beauty

Supali on

Really u r have a very good sence of beauty, thanks to upload all the pics


Thank you all very much for the comments.

S.P.Sundaram on

Aug 28, 2010: New York (USA)
When I see the Avalanche Penstock and Avalanche Power House Photos, tears roll down my cheeks. Reason: My memories flew back about 50 years. It was the year 1961 , I was the Junior Engineer (Penstock Erection) for EB. I constructed that whole Penstock every inch by inch from top Valve House to the PowerHouse Turbine, with the assistance of one Mr. Bheeran Koya (Head Serang) and his gang. Every day morning I walked up from base Powerhouse Camp to the Hill top Valve House till I completed the whole Penstock and connected it to the Powerhouse Hydro Turbine down the hill.Just before commissioning that Avalanche Power House (we called it Power House No. 5, at that time), I was transferred to take charge of erecting giant Penstock and Turbine of 2nd Power House at Mettur Dam(we called it Mettur Tunnel Power House), in Salem District..
All are memories. So many things happened later, in my life. Now I am living in New York, USA, as a Retired Engineer, after serving in the New York Government Railways for 25 years.

indianature on

Sundaram Sir, it is a pleasure to read your comments. Avalanche PH is still called Kundah Power House V.

I have sent you a separate e mail.

S.Natarajan - Dubai on

Really Yr photos are fantastic. As if, I was with you all along, Bcz My dad was woking in Parali Power House No 3, where me , my brothers & sisters all studied - in project schools. I was remembering the olden Golden days and those memorable day can't get back..Anyhow all the best fr yr good photography.

indianature on

Thank you. It must have been lovely to actually live there.

murugan max on

hi, checked up u pic, great u guys have had a good time in ooty visit, i am max , i own kingstar chocolates, keep in touch, cell- 09843020744, visit

Neil on

Hi, we are visiting India and are debating going to South India. After reading your blog and seeing your pictures we are thinking of making the trip. We were wondering how many days your trip was and would appreciate if you can give ideas/suggestions for places to stay. Thanks.

aravind on

Just read your blog and loved it...esp. the photos. They were simply lovely. We are planning a trip to Ooty in April 2012. So while trying to find out more of the place, your blog came in handy.

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