Trekking in Chinnar Wild life Sanctuary- Vasyapara
I came to know about the option of trekking and camping inside the Chinnar Wild Life Sanctuary from a travelogue recently. We can stay inside the forest in a Hut in Vasyapara. It has been a while since I had an outdoor night camping and hence I decided to go for it. Though the contact details of the same was not mentioned in the travelogue I managed to get it from Soni George of Thommankuthu Ecotourism who have been working in Chinnar Earlier. I was planning to take Ajith also for the trip and made it a two day venture in the week end of August when Independence Day was coming so that I will get three days leave. It was planned to start from Cochin on Friday morning in bike as it was only 180 Km from Cochin. But in the last moment Ajith had to back up as he was having some official tenancy. I didn’t want to postpone the trip as it is very difficult to get a three day week end and with reference to my work schedule such a week end comes in October only if I miss this week end. So I decided do the same alone.
Thursday night itself I have done the packing purchase and fueling as I had to leave early morning. I was planning to leave by 5 am but when I woke up next morning it was raining heavily. I had a split mind whether to go or postpone the trip. But after 1 hour the weather was clearing and it was OK to move. Just a small spraying was there which was ignorable. I stated from Cochin close to 7am and the route selected was Kolenchery> Valakam> Kothamangalam > Neryamangalam > Adimali > Munnar > Marayur > Chinnar.
Chinnar is situated 18 km North of Marayur on the Marayur – Udumalpet road (SH 17). Chinnar is in the border of Kerala and Tamilnadu in the Devikulam Taluk in Idukki District. Chinnar is one among the twelve Wild life Sanctuaries in Kerala and is a protected area. Chinnar WLS falls under the rain shadow region (A rain shadow is a dry area on the lee side of a mountainous area (away from the wind). The mountains block the passage of rain-producing weather systems and cast a “shadow” of dryness behind them) of Western Ghats and is getting an average rainfall of 500 mm annually spread across 48 days. It is a Dry deciduous forest. The rain season is in October November and December like it is in Tamil Nadu. (Information gathered is from various sources in google including Wikipedia. Any misrepresentation of information should be excused)
I rode slow enjoying the picturesque routes from Adimaly to Munnar Stopped every now and then for pictures and relaxing. Stopped at Valara falls and Cheeyapara falls. There was comparatively good flow in both falls as it was raining in Kerala for some time and lot of people were travelling along the same route as it was a long week end. From Adimaly itself it started drizzling. At some points it gained strength and I had to stop. But I wanted to continue. From Adimaly I had breakfast and by 10.30 I reached Munnar. Without stopping I proceeded to Marayur. Munnar to Marayur route is really a feast to eyes as we could see the mighty Rajamala along the whole route. I hope Anamudi being inside the park is not visible from the road. One side of the road was completely tea plantation and the other side was beautiful hill ranges rolling one after another with lush greenery as far as we could see. As I was already little late I didn’t stop for pictures more and I wanted reach my destination (Chinnar WLS).
One more mesmerizing stretch was the road inside the Marayur Sandal forest. The gentle breeze carried the fragrance of Sandalwood. The garden was well maintained with fence all over to windbag intruders and each and every tree were marked and numbered with Iron plates. Marayur Sandal is considered to be one among the best quality Sandal in the world. From Marayur Chinnar WLS is 16 km and Marayur is the nearest town to Chinnar. You cannot find any shops or refreshment centers past Marayur so travelers are advices to take all necessary things from Marayur town itself. There are frequent Bus services from Munnar to Udumalpet and vice versa. Private vehicles also ply in this route as this is the easiest road connecting the state of Tamilnadu with Munnar. There will be strict checking for Private vehicles in the check posts.
By 1 pm I reached Chinnar WLS Eco tourism promotion office from where I had to take permission and make the payment for the trekking although the booking is done in Munnar Divisional office. The Office is having a small refreshment centre also from where you can have food (menu will be minimal) and can get freshen up if you require. They have rooms and dormitory also which has to be booked in advance and are very nominal. Those who come for day trekking to Thoovanam falls and other packages also can book rooms here. It should be noted that there is no electricity in Chinnar. We can see day trekking point 10 kms before the check post. I made the payment and we started at around 2 pm from the office after having the lunch. Two guides are supposed to come with us to Vasyapara as it is the longest distant point of ecotourism but Prakash was the only one who came with me and the other guy will come with food items for night and someone else will carry the mattress for me which I didn’t know otherwise I would have asked them not to. The initial trail was through plain grass lands and scrubs. Scanty rainfall causes dry climate in Chinnar almost around the year. Last year also they received very little downpour. Unlike rainforests and all large trees are very less in the area.
Walking for almost 45 minutes we reached the tribal settlement at Chambakkara. We have to cross Pambar for reaching the settlement. Government has made houses in the colony. From The tribal settlement we need to go another 6 km inside the sanctuary into the core area of the park for reaching the destination of the day the Vasyapara Hut where I am supposed to spend the night. There were ups and downs along the way but was easily manageable as they were not so hard. It was little hot as it was the hottest time of the day. After walking for another hour we took a break for water.
There were birds everywhere around us. Different species of birds were flying all over. Some of them were very colorful and were a thing of beauty. Most of them flew on the very sight of us and I was unable to get a good click on them. We crossed one hills by this time and the Vasyapara hut is in the other side of the next hill. We need to ascend the next hill and need to move to the other part of the hill through the side of the hill. Another 30 minutes’ walk through the hill side we reached Vasyapara hut by 5 pm.
It was more of an isolated place than what I was expecting it to be. The Hut was on the top a hill which was surrounded by enormous hills of Tamilnadu and Kerala. The front side of the hut was facing to the Tamilnadu side and the other three sides were part of Kerala. All the sides of the hut is guarded with iron fences wires to restrict wild animals to get into the compound except the front side. Front side of the hut is a vertical drop of at least 100 feet. The area below the Hut is considered as the core area of the park and this is the area where there is maximum possibility of sighting wild animals. Prakash my guide opened the door and made the necessary arrangements. I didn’t want to go inside as the view from outside was so spectacular.
I could see hill ranges rolling after one another in 360 degrees. If I was there in the season it would have been greener. October to December we can expect rain and tat time it will be lush green and we can see all kind of wild animals including Elephants, wild gaur, Wild boar, Sambar dear, spotted dear, peacocks and other birds, leopard( if lucky) etc. I wish I would have come in the season. I selected August as I thought it will be apt to visit a dry forest after the Monsoon. But only after reaching there I came to know that the rainy season is from October to December. I roamed around the hut (not moving out of the security perimeter) clicking on what all I could. My guide was busy making black tea. In off season water has to be carried from the tribal settlement which is almost 6 kms away. They used to store water in the tank which is attached to the washroom. Luckily there was water for our use because they have stored it 3 weeks back when there has been a higher level inspection in Vasyapara.
I was tired after the long walk and I took the black tea and snacks which was provided enjoying the beauty of the hills and forest covers. By this time the other guide Babu has come all the way with the food item and two more people were there carrying the mattress for me. In Chinnar and on the way to Vasyapara there is no range for mobiles (any network). At Vasyapara top Vodafone was having feeble range and I was able to contact home. As it was a holiday I also was not getting calls from office and all and hence it was a very calm and quite day. I also didn’t want to make my phone ring in such a placid atmosphere and hence I kept it on silent mode. By 5.30pm me along with Prakash went for a roam around hoping to find some wild animals. We went up through the back side of the hut and in 10 minutes we were in the top most position in Vasyapara.
We roamed around the whole area but for some time we were not able to see and wild. Suddenly Prakash pointed to some places where he felt some movements happening. We waited there without making any noises and in no time a group of wild gaur popped out of the covers. Prakash said they are searching for water as there was a pond in the direction they were moving. We moved a little bit closer hopping to get some pics but as soon as they had the feeling of our presence they disappeared into the bushes and we were unable to locate them after wards they simply disappeared into the wild. Though I couldn’t get the whole herd I managed to get the snap of a single one. We roamed around for some more time checking some of the edges of the mountains and some rocky cliffs. When light was going down we thought of returning back to the hut. On the way back we saw the remnants of Sambar dear which was eaten by some predators. You can see the tusk of spotted dear and sambar dear in some other places also which were eaten over by predators.
The sunset was not Clearly visible as it was cloudy and was raining in the hills of Kodaikanal where the Sunset was supposed to happen. It was a beautiful scene to see it raining in the distant hills. The rain clouds completely covered the Kodai, Ooty and Palani hills. I tried taking the pics but as it was very distant I couldn’t get the same in camera. But my eyes captured the beauty and stored in my internal memory. Came back to the hut and sun light was dimming and by the time my dinner was made ready by Babu. I could see the silhouette of the distant hills.
I wanted to have a camp fire and as soon as I completed saying that my hosts where ready with dry woods which is abundant nearby. We had a chit chat on so many things. Babu was a good narrator compared to Prakash. He told me about their life styles, culture, festivals, food habits, escapades with wild animals their experiences with sandal wood robbers, how they track animals, what do they do to keep them away from their settlements, different types of flora and fauna, The discussion was so informative and it went on many other topics. I have learned so many things from them. By 9.30 I had my campfire dinner.
Chappathy and veg curry was tasty may be because I was so hungry but I should admit that the taste and smell of the curry was different and tempting. After dinner also the discussion went for some more time. I could see the light littered Udumalpet town in the long left corner of the hill range. By 11.00 I went to bed but insisted on keeping the door open so that I could see the silhouette of the hills from my bed. Though I have thought of not asking them to bring the bed all the way for me it made a difference in the resting hours. As my back pack was heavy I was very tired after the walk although it was not a hard climb. Babu and Prakash also lie down in the sit out so as not to leave me alone. Normally they used to sleep in the kitchen which is behind the hut. I remember gazing at the hills through the open door till the time my eyes shook hands with sleep. Had a good sound sleep. Though there was no fan and all it was a smooth sail from night to dusk.
I woke up into the chirping of birds, howling of peacocks and yanking of Elephants. I wanted to see the sunrise and hence woke up early. Babu and Prakash were already awake and were looking down to the bushes for spotting some wild life as it will be easy to spot them in the early morning. They have shown me a herd of gaur and Elephant in the distant bush. Got some pics of the gaur herd but the Elephant disappeared into the trees. There were peacocks running around there and some boar also I could see in a distance. After watching them for some time it was time for us to leave now. I had to say good bye to the serene place which has given me one of the best every morning of my life
We were taking another route while returning back to Chinnar. We climbed down the cliff downwards entering the core area of the park. I was expecting some encounters with wild but could see some wild boars and peacocks only. After getting down the cliffs the walk was almost through the plain grounds and hence we could cover more distance in short time. After moving to a distance we could see the Vasyapara hut on top of the hill. Looking at the hut from this place was a different feel as it appeared quite alone and serene in the wild.
There were so many varieties of cactus plants big and small all over the place. Different varieties of shrubs medicinal plans were there. Babu has shown me some plants and trees with special features. He has shown me Kerosene tree (Mannenna Maram in Malayalam) which he said would catch fire even when it is wet. On the way we saw a herd of Sambar dear and spotted dear but could not take any clicks as they vanished into the woods in our very presence. Near to a dried up lake Prakash shown me the pug mark of leopard which was fresh. Babu said it would have moved this way early in the morning.
We saw the Watch tower on the way. As it was an easy walk through the plain grounds we managed to cover the seven km without break and reached Chinnar River in two hours. We came through the settlement colony where Babu and Prakash lived and I could see their houses. Babu left home for some domestic purpose and we proceeded.
Move along the banks of Chinnar River for some time to see the grizzled giant squirrel which is a specialty of Chinnar WLS. We almost roamed around for 20 minutes but couldn’t find any. Came to forest office and took. After baggage check for security reasons I took my bike. It was 11 by then and I was feeling hungry though I had food in the morning. The 7 km walk had drained all my energy. I had Appam and Egg curry from the canteen and in no time was ready to start. Bye this time Babu has come back to the office. I said good bye to all and started from Chinnar by 11.30 am.
On the way I had two stop at some scenic locations for taking pics which I couldn’t do on my way to Chinnar yesterday. The main attraction of it was the Thoovanam water falls. We can see the Thoovanam falls deep inside the jungle from the road itself. Anybody wants to reach the falls can take a day trekking package from the Eco tourism entre a guide will accompany you for reaching the base of the falls. It was a beauty to view from the top. It seemed like a silver fire inside the deep forest. I wanted to go but may be some other time. I have kept it for some other day. Again I had stopped at some more places taking photos. I couldn’t resist my self stopping at the sight of The Rajamala hills at one side and rolling tea estates on the other side. Great view and road was also ok apart from some small troubles in some places. It was damn hot when I started from Chinnar but as I was reaching Munnar it become cooler. I had to wear jacket before reaching Munnar as the chilling wind could have made me sleep else.
I wanted to go for top station and see the beautiful trios once again. I haven’t missed them whenever I have travelled to Munnar or via Munnar. But it would add another 80 kms to my total itinerary and which at this point felt hectic for me considering the fact that I have already covered more than 250 kms in the last 24 hours in bike and a tiresome 15 kms by walk inside the jungle and yet another 120 kms to reach back. I kept on riding without stopping anywhere except for some pictures in Cheeyapara falls and Valara falls.
At Valara falls I took a half an hour break which I could not resist. Earlier at Valara falls lot of shops where there for refreshment and all but same month last year there has been a terrible landslide from the upper part of the falls to the road which has took two lives and possibly more if it would have happened in any peak hours. Luckily the mishap was early morning and caused minimum causalities. I sat opposite to the falls gazing at the beauty of it. There were lot of people moving to and from Munnar stopped at the falls and were taking photos making loud noises , throwing food stuffs at the avian around etc. I killed 30 minutes observing all this took some pics and was ready to move. I wanted to cover the rest of the road ASAP and in one stretch as I have to go Trivandrum after reaching home. I have promised to reach home by End of the day. By 4.40 I reached Cochin and straight away went to room for a quick freshen up. Had a bath and took my bag again which was already set ready to go home the previous day.
Went to South KSRTC stand and caught a Kollam Bus. Reached Kollam by 11 and got into another Trivandrum bus soon. Reached home by 1.30. I could remember taking a shower, having food and thanking Mother Nature for keeping me safe for two days before slipping into deep sleep. It was yet another memorable day. The silence and oneness I have felt at the jungle Hut was unique and will never be forgotten.
Name: Chinnar Wild Life Sanctuary
Location: Idukki Kerala District Border of Tamilnadu
Topography: Reserved Forest
Height/Elevation: 400 mtrs to 2522 mtrs
Nearest town: Marayur- 10 km Munnar-48 km Udumalpet- 37 km, Palani – 66 km, Pollachi – 65 km , Adimali 74 km,
Best time to Visit: Best is post Monsoon (October to February)
Things to do: Trekking, Nature walks, Night stays in Log house, Wood house and Jungle cottage
Nearest attractions: Thoovanam Water falls, Munnar,
How to reach: Reach Chinnar by Air
The nearest Airport from Chinnar is Coimbatore 109 km and Cochin 176 km. From Cochin as well as Coimbatore one can find Buses to Munnar. People coming from Munnar can reach Munnar and take Bus (Munnar Udumalpet bus goes through Chinnar) or taxi to Chinnar.
Reach Chinnar by Road
By Road: Munnar is the nearest town from Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary at a distance of 65 km. Chinnar is well accessible from Kochi and Coimbatore. Regular buses ply from Munnar to Udumalpet via Marayur.
Reach Chinnar by Train
Although Pollachi is the nearest railway station 25 km from Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, Coimbatore (108 km) is the major railhead. Coimbatore is well connected to Indian cities like Chennai, Bengaluru, Ernakulum, Mumbai, Delhi, Mangalore, Gorakhpur, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Indore, Jaipur
Nearest ATM: NO ATM in Chinnar. Can find SBT ATM in Marayur. All banks ATM are available in Munnar
Fuel Station: Marayur
Nearest Hospitals: Need to come to Munnar or Udumalpet for Hospital Facility.
To arrange similar treks please contact Rakesh @ 9745112411
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