Nilgiri Tahrs and Kurinjis of Eravikulam National Park

Neelgiri Tahr

Nilgiri Tahr

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.

Kurinji Bloom

Kurinji Bloom of 2006

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 Park Bus

The Park Bus

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.

The Juicy Mango!

The Juicy Mango in Queue

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.

Tahrs at a Water Point

Tahrs at a Water Point

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.

Kurunji Calling!

Kurunji Memories

Lakkidi View Point

Lakkidi Viewpoint

Views from Lakkidi Viewpoint

The visitors to God’s own country, Kerala are often mesmerized by the pristine beauty of its beaches and backwaters lined with thick coconut groves. The pretty pictures of them have played a critical role in highlighting Kerala as ‘ God’s Own Country’. But there is more in Kerala which is beautiful to the extreme. The Lakkidi viewpoint at an height of 2300 feet is one such gem. Situated on the  Kozhikode-Wayanad border it offers some unparalleled bird’s eye views of mountain ranges of western ghat. It is along NH 212 and connects Wayanad with Kozhikode and the rest of Kerala. It is also called as the ‘Cherrapunjee of Kerala’ for high amount of rains at an average yearly rainfall of around 500 to 600 cm. The resultant lush green mountains with Pookot lake just at 3 km from here sets this place as a perfect picture post card indeed.

My tryst with the beauty of Lakkidi occurred in month of June this year when I went to Wayanad with my family for an holiday. On NH 212, travelling good 58 kms from Kozhikode we cleared 9 hairpin bends between Adivaram and Lakkidi on the highway to reach this point.When we reached there in late afternoon, we saw many vehicles stationed there along the road. The weather was clear on that day. The passengers of these vehicles were merrily clicking the photographs in all possible poses and one thing was common in most of their efforts to get the best shot. All of them were trying to get the background of the valley view in their pics. I too fell to the temptation and got few pics. The view of lush green hills with interminable views for miles together, was really amazing and awesome. I could not resist myself to get my picture clicked with the background of mountains. For the family photograph, services were hired from our young at 60 driver, D. Unnikrishnan. He obliged us with photographs happily. In fact he got so engrossed in his effort to be a good photographer to his guests that we had to warn him many times about the oncoming vehicles on the NH, as he could not see them with his back to road. He did not disappoint us either as you can see the photograph taken by him below.

The Family Pic with panoramic background of Mountain ranges

Family Pic with panoramic background of Mountain ranges