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Travelogue......Silent Valley

Hello to all the friends who enjoy exploring new places and are wanderers by nature. Here comes one travelogue which may not be able to encourage you to undertake this journey. Nevertheless it’s better to have more inputs.

I was on official tour to Tirupur, the southern capital of cotton industry, a small industrial town about 50 kms E-NE directions from nearest airport of Coimbatore, Tamilnadu, famous for manufacturing hosiery garments. While travelling from Delhi to Coimbatore, my co-passengers on Air India flight AI 657 were six gentlemen in their mid-thirties. This group of businessmen were on a holiday for six days not knowing where all to visit other than Rameshwaram. During the flight, we struck some conversation and while the plane halted at Mumbai, with the gracious help from my friend who was surfing net, we planned their itinerary which included Rameshwaram, Madurai, Alleppey and Munnar. While planning their tour, the idea struck that 26 Jan being the national holiday, i too have a spare day and nothing much to do in Tirupur. Ooty, Kodaikanal, Madurai etc have already been explored. Also i had made a statement that i want to get away from hustle -bustle of Delhi at least for a day and want just silence as my company. So the friend suggested a destination called Silent Valley National Park.

The place is about 120 kms west of Tirupur. It’s the part of Nilgiri Biosphere reserve and was declared as National park in 1984 by the government of India. 26 Jan being a national holiday i was apprehensive whether the park will be open to tourists? But, the helpline (my friend) gave me a contact number +914924253225, which was picked by a lady. She did not know English or Hindi, and knew only Malayalam. But on my query, she called a person who could converse in English. He confirmed that they would be able to host us on 26 Jan also. He also told me that inside the park we would have to travel by their Jeep for which charges would be Rs.1000/- and per person entry fee would be Rs 35/- with digital camera permission for Rs 25/-. I had requested for open Jeep, to which he responded that there is only one open Jeep and if we could make it to Mukkali (The entrance gate) by 8.30 AM then he would be able to provide it. The Jeep could accommodate only seven passengers.

I spoke to my taxi driver in sign language and using proper nouns. The main route to Mukkali is via Palakkad (pronounced Palghat) and Munnarkad. He understood it and we could understand that it will take about 2 hrs. Also, he had to take permit for entering Kerala with his Tamilnadu registration number vehicle. We were a group of four members staying at two different locations. So i called the driver at 5.15 AM and planned to start at 5.30 AM. Also, i took help of Mr. Subramanium an employee of our host who could speak Tamil and Hindi. As reaching in a remote place could be difficult I once again dialed the number and asked Mr. Subramanium to understand the route and brief our driver. Now the person on the other end did not know Hindi or Tamil and Mr. Subramanium does not know Malayalam or English. However, trusting that the driver has understood our destination and requirement, we let the driver pack up for the day. He promised that he would be in time next day i.e. on 26 Jan.

Next day, the taxi reported 10 min ahead of planned time, but the driver had changed. He picked up my colleagues and came to me. My friends who are from Odisha did not know Tamil. They came and told me that this driver does not any word from Hindi or English, he only knows Tamil and his name is also Tamil. When i asked them, when they do not know his language how have they deduced his name is Tamil? The simple and innocent answer was we asked his name 2-3 times in Hindi, English and sign language, every time he has answered 'Tamil'. This was the hilarious beginning.

The driver did not turn towards Palakkad so i asked him with sign language, 'where'? He answered 'Annakuti-Mukkali','short'. Now this road was not the main road and after travelling for about 2 hours at breakneck speed we saw a milestone in English reading Munnarkad-53 kms. The terrain was hilly, so we thought we cannot make it. The office was to open only at 8.00 AM so i was not able to contact the person at Mukkali. However, after travelling another 27 Kms from Annakuti at about 8.00 AM i contacted the wildlife warden office who guided me to travel for another 3 kms and take a right turn. Finally we reached Mukkali at 8.50 AM. Mr. Jayakumar who knew English was there. Immediately he completed all the formalities and sent us with Mr Suresh, the driver of open Jeep. I had requested a guide who knew at least one of the languages known to me. But again there was a problem. So after having a breakfast of Appam and Chutney in a small restaurant in front of the reception, we boarded the Jeep. But ‘Silence’ whom i wanted to accompany me was not allowed to board the jeep because of his animosity with the diesel engine of the Jeep. Though the mobile phone tried to drag the 'silence' along by denying the signal follow us. The Jeep traveled for about 22 Kms on boulder laden track climbing to almost 1300 meters height through thick forest. We all kept on sticking our necks out and looking up the trees for any sign of at least monkeys but we could not see any life except those two legged animals who had started before us and had stopped enroute. There were no signs of orchids either. After about an hour or so we reached the core area of the Silent Valley Biosphere Reserve. The National Park spread over an area of about 89 Sq Kms in the northern Palakkad district of Kerala is supposed to be home for Lion Tailed Macaque, Tiger, Leopard, Elephant, Gaur, Malabar Squirrel, Porcupine, Indian Pangolin, variety of Leeches etc beside spotted deer, barking deer and bear. It’s also home to enormous variety of flora including about 1000 types of plants and 110 types Orchids. The park was thrown open to public by Shri Rajiv Gandhi in 1989.

After reaching the core area, there is a 4 storied watch tower with 125 steps to climb. One can have a bird’s eye view of the actual valley where river Kunthi originating in the rain forest travels for about 23 Kms. A small but well maintained display room which is called the museum by the local authorities is also there generating awareness about the importance of preserving the biodiversity. At the end of the tour of the display room there are interactive games on biodiversity, which would be liked by the children as well as grownups. But presently it was non-functional.

After visiting the display room one can trek down about 2 kms to the river through thick forest on a kuchcha track. There we could see some more variety of flora but no fauna except the Indian Giant Squirrel, which is in abundance in Kerala. The official best season to visit is between Dec- Mar. After visiting all these places we came out of the park by about 2.30 PM.

Here are my suggestions for the authorities as well as the friends who are planning to visit the park:-

For the authorities (anybody listening?).....There we were told by the person explaining the display room (Thanks to a lady accompanying the group for translation) that the tourism is not encouraged by them to protect the biodiversity. Then why so many jeeps and even mini buses were allowed in the park? How come the park was open to the public even on a national holiday? Let’s stop it.

If we want to encourage it then............let’s make more tracks for touring. There is only one track and so much of traffic will never allow sighting of any animal. Change the timings...... 8.30 AM to 2.00 PM timing is just not correct for any animal sighting. It should be open in early morning hours and evening hours just prior to sunset.
Guides and officials are extremely friendly and honest....they need to be imparted at least working knowledge of English and Hindi for the sake of tourists from other states.

The jeeps with old types of diesel engines need to be replaced with more silent engines (it will also match the name of the park).

For friends planning a tour..... Plan only if you are interested in Flora and do not plan if you are interested in Fauna. For flora also, take a friend who has good knowledge of the flora and can identify the plants. Carry water and some eatables with you inside the park, but do not litter. It’s a rain forest and the view would be best in Monsoon season but during that time the trekking to the river bed would be impossible owing to the terrain and surface.

See you all till next visit...........

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About The Author


Abhijeet Sarmandal


Maharashtra ,  INDIA

I am an engineer from MANIT, Bhopal.

 Happily married, having two kids and lots of friends. I am what I am, is because of people around me. My indulgence include driving, cooking, music and exploring new places. I believe in humanity and thoroughly convinced that all religions are same.

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