The tourists to Munnar (Kerala), seldom miss a trip to the Eravikulam National Park situated at a short distance of 7 km from Munnar town. This park recognized as a National Park in 1978 in Kannan Devan hills of western ghats is famous for the two things. One is the once in 12 years blooming Neelkurunji flowers(Strobilanthus kunthianum) and the second, endangered Nilgiri Tahr(Neelgiritragus Hylocrius). This park maintained by the forest and wildlife department of Govt. of Kerala is one of the safest abode for both of them. The base elevation of park is 2000 mt with the highest peak of south India, Anamudi Peak at 2695 meter also being inside the park.
My visit to park took place first, in 2007 and then again in June’14. The popularity of the park also means that there is lot of tourist movement(read pressure) in the park. We started early from our hotel at Munnar to avoid wasting time in waiting. But it was not to be. When we reached there, it was already a big and serpentine queue to enter the park. The park authorities habituated by the tourist pressure have constructed the covered waiting area. The entrance to park is prohibited in private vehicles since 2006 and only battery operated forest department mini buses are allowed to go up. We too decided to queue up.
The queue was really moving slow and we had nothing to do except waiting. Indian entrepreneurial skills here came handy to break the monotony of waiting. Around the waiting area, a whole sort of market has grown up selling, caps, popcorn, mineral water, cold drinks and what not. I zeroed on the ripe mangoes being sold in southern style. In southern India the mango is sliced open by sharp cuts and the salt with red chili powder is added to enhance the taste. I got four of them for my family. It was really a juicy treat to have.
After finishing with the mango treat and after gulping few bottles of mineral waters while waiting, we got a chance to board the bus. The route to top takes around 25 minutes only. One has to walk from that alighting point marked by tourist facilities. The park is spread over 97 sq km and is part of district Idduki. As soon as we entered in the park we saw few Tahrs, strolling together without being much concerned about us. The fur on their body was thin and their horns are bent backwards. The males were darker in color and more stout. Few of them stopped at a water source to drink water. We took pictures and kept on looking at them till they did not disappear from our sight.
We kept on moving upwards the 1.3 km pathway up to vantage point inside the park. The pathway is strewn with bushes of yet another amazing park wonder, the Nilkurunji flower blooming once in 12 years!. It is basically a shrub which blooms with blue beautiful flowers. The plant attains a height up to 60 cm and is found between the altitudes of 1300 mt to 2500 mt in nilgiri hills of western ghat. This is also the state flower of Tamilnadu. At the time of our visit the blooming was still four years away. Last time it bloomed in 2006. Interestingly local people used to calculate their age by number of blooms they had witnessed in life time. We saw the shrubs only, imagining the beauty of blooming flowers. On the highest point of the park we witnessed the great valley views and clicked few more photographs before returning backwards with nothing but great memories.