Ride to Silent valley national park and a visit to Bethany Hospital, Anaikatti.

Tilak Francis

Well-Known Member
It has been three months since my last ride. An accident in the last ride and the ruptured Supraspinatus tendon with glenoid labrum tears did not curb my passion for the long rides. My friend Titus while on a random phone call, suggested me to visit Bethany Medical Center in Anaikatti. After going through their website and understanding their dedicated service rendered to the tribal population of Kerala, I got fascinated to visit this place

My Undergraduate college senior and my friend, Jacob, who works for Evangelical medical fellowship of India was ready to join me for this ride in his bullet 500. Our plan was to reach Coimbatore on Saturday evening, before night fall, as the Anaikatti road was a well known Elephant corridor. Titus, my friend arranged a stay at his friend Daniel's house in Coimbatore. Daniel was very cordial and contacted me and invited us for the dinner on Saturday night at his house. All the plans of the ride looked fine. We did not know what was in store for us at that time.


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Tilak Francis

Well-Known Member
Saturday 27/02/2021
Jacob started from Chennai and reached my place around 9.30 am at Vellore. He had breakfast and I told him to rest until I join him after my half a day duty at 12.30 noon. I went around 10 am to my quarters inside my campus and greeted Jacob. His bike looked shining,polished and well maintained. I was happy to see him in complete riding gears. A comfort I get when I see my riding companion with all safety gears like mine. I took him around MBKG Pannai, the institution I work, which is an integrated orphanage for children, destitute women and elderly.

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My packing, a night before the ride. Separate plastic covers for different items including one cover for dirty cloths.


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Odometer reading was 52487 km at the start.

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Both bikes were loaded and ready to go.



My son took this snap and waived us off from home.


We started off exactly 12.45 pm and were passing via Ambur, Vaniyambadi, Krishnagiri. We were cruising in 70-80 km /hr. My mom parceled Chappathi rolls for us and after turning towards Dharmapuri from Krishnagiri, we slowed down and were looking for a shady place to stop and eat. Suddenly a Toyota Etios car came on the extreme left in opposite direction..They were coming in wrong side as the crossing to other side of the road with gap in median, would be far away. I managed to dodge and went past but I saw in my rear view mirror whether Jacob did the same. But unfortunately, he did not notice the vehicle in the wrong side and hit the car. I saw him falling on to the ground. I stopped and was waiting, thinking that he will pick up the bike and come riding to me. I got scared to the core when he was lying there more than 5 seconds or so. I turned around and rushed to him. Meanwhile a man helped him to get up and gave his cellphone and water bottle which got rolled away on the road. I asked Jacob whether he was OK and he said he had no injuries. I was happy to hear that. The people tried to move and bring the bike to the side of the road. But they could not move and they dragged it to the side of the road. Then we noticed that the fork was bent and the front wheel hitting the engine. We did not know what to do. Jacob was still in shock and not talking much but standing quietly staring at his bike. One guy who had a mechanic shop near, came forward to arrange a small load van to carry it to Dharmapuri, where there was a RE showroom. We felt the plan seems good and the cost was finalized for Rs.2000/- The car people who caused the accident were standing quietly till then. Once we were about to leave they picked up a quarrel with us demanding money from us, as their car bumper was damaged in the crash. Since Jacob was still not recovered from the initial shock, I started speaking for him. I told that they were the one who caused the accident and if at all, they have to pay for us and not we to them. As they were locals they ganged up repeatedly asking for the money from us. Then I sternly said we will go to the police so that we both could claim for the insurance with the FIR copy and I insisted that the police will catch them for the wrong side driving. They discussed among themselves and let us go.

After loading the bike, Jacob sat in the van and I followed him for 38 km to Dharmapuri Royal Enfield show room.
Upon Reaching the show room the service engineer said he can not take the vehicle and get it ready all at once and said it may take 3 days time. Then I said we have plans to be there in Bethany hospital the next day and all plans will be thwarted and pleaded to help and fix the bike some how. There was a biker who self introduced to us on seeing us in riding gears. His name was Harsha alias Sathish. Basically from Dharmapuri but works in Chennai for an IT company. He spoke to the manager of the service station and called in road side assistance of Royal Enfield to influence.

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Harsha, a biker, we met at RE showroom in Dharmapuri, who was very helpful.

Finally the service Engineer Prabhu accepted to repair the basics and give the bike in running condition but he insisted the frame of the bike which is twisted has to be replaced later. Prabhu also told that the load van driver has brought us to the farthest RE service center instead of taking us to the nearest Krishnagiri from the accident spot. While the repair was done, we had our lunch that was packed, inside the RE showroom waiting room. It was around 7.30 pm, when they repaired temporarily the fork, removed the crash bar and Mud guard to create space for front wheel to run without hitting the engine. Because of the bent frame, even after rectifying the bent fork, the front wheel was hardly 10 cm away from engine. We thanked the RE service personnel and we left for Salem. the bill was close to Rs 4000 including some tips. Harsha made arrangements for us through his friend in Salem for our lodge. we also decided to ride to Salem and rest for the day in a lodge as Harsha suggested. The service manager Prabu cautioned about the Thoppur ghat road which is notorious for accidents. 3 months back, TV news telecast the CCTV footage of a truck ramming into 20 cars which were caught in the traffic at Thoppur ghat road.


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At RE Service station waiting room


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At RE Service station waiting room



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On going Repair

At around 7.30 pm, we started riding to Salem. Harsha, the biker, we met at RE showroom, gave us a contact to book a room in Salem. As Prabhu, the service manager, told, I left Jacob in front and followed him from behind, so that I could check on his ride. we were riding at 60 km speed maximum for safety as Jacob's bike handle bar was little tight. I also felt that Jacob has not recovered mentally from the shock of sudden mishap. But that did not work well. He had difficulty judging the path every time a vehicle with high beam passed by in opposite direction. He was within the white lines on extreme left corner in that 4 track road. At times this white lines ended in the railing of the bridges which he did negotiate to prevent hitting the rails in the dark. Once Jacob ended up climbing the low raised divider at the adjoining country cross roads, and he came down riding with the center stand scratching the cement and sparking in the dark night. My heart skipped a beat. From that moment, I started riding in front, cautioning him with indicator lights, flickering high beam, low beam and with sound horns. Till we reached Salem, I was tensed as I was not sure with Jacob's mindset and also because of night riding which I do not enjoy much.


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While searching for the Aira Park Lodge near Salem old bus stand.

At Salem, we decided to take an Ac room against budget stay as we wanted a complete rest. We called Harsha's friend and we went to Aira Park, Fair lands, Salem. The Room was OK. The cost was Rs 1400/-. Then we went out walking to have dinner at 10 pm in Lakshmi Prakash hotel. The food was nice. We had Virudhunagar fried Parrota , Rava roast dosai, and onion Oothappam. By the time we finished our dinner , they closed the shutters and were winding up. I slept immediately after coming to room and Jacob had a shower before hitting the bed.




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Our room with all scattered luggage.


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Distance covered on Saturday. 27/02/2021
 

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Tilak Francis

Well-Known Member
Sunday 28/02/2021

Morning I woke to the alarm at 5 am. Got ready and we both were on the road at 6.10 am. I had to fill petrol as my bike hit the reserve exactly while nearing the lodge at 52745 km. Had great never before mileage of 43 km/litre from the last fill of the fuel. We stopped near the old Salem bus stand at an SBI ATM. Jacob needed a cash. After riding few kilometre we stopped at an Indian oil Petrol bunk and I filled 10 litres of petrol with my card. Also filled up free Nitrogen at that fuel station. We stopped again for a tea.

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Near Salem Old bus stand

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Near Salem Old bus stand

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First tea break near an Aavin cafe. Look at Jacob's bullet, looks like TVS super XL Moped after removing the mudguard and Crash guard.



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Second Tea break after an hour ride. Learned an hard lesson not to stress out the riding companion.





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Second Tea break. I could feel that Jacob was back to normal mode.
After seeing the Coimbatore Toll Plaza we slowed down and had Dosai at a mobile vendor. Nice Dosai for just Rs 10/- each.

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Coimbatore Toll plaza



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Had nice Dosai from this mobile vendor near Coimbatore toll Plaza



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Had nice Dosai from this mobile vendor near Coimbatore toll Plaza for just Rs 10/-


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Jacob and I
We moved slowly switching the GPS on in mobile to navigate through the city traffic.

Anaikatti from Coimbatore was just 30 km. It showed 1 hour ride to reach the destination in Google maps. After crossing the Vadavalli junction, the Coimbatore city concrete jungle slowly faded away opening up the rural mountainous landscapes. After crossing few brick chambers, the ghat road started. We saw sign boards of elephant crossings. We saw the big beautiful campus of Salim Ali centre for Ornithology and natural history. I wanted to visit the place but it required prior bookings and reference of staff working there. If you are a bird lover or a researcher, you may visit their website for relevant details Sacon
SACON campus was just 5 km before Anaikatti from Coimbatore.

We reached Bethany Medical Center around 12.45 pm. The staff kids playing around were excited to see us in full biking gears. One little girl was chatting that Jawa was her favorite bike. Jacob surprised the kids by removing his helmet, as the kids thought that was a lady. They got deceived by Jacob's Pony tail.

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Bethany Hospital Sign board



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Bethany Hospital


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The staff kids playing in the campus thought this was a lady biker


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Jacob surprised the kids with his pony tail in style.

About Bethany Medical Center

Bethany Medical Centre was established in 1990 to provide low cost high quality medical care to the vast tribal population and settlers of Attpapady.
Bethany Medical Centre, Anaikatty, provides health care for about 190 villages with a population of nearly 80,000. Due to their specialization in Cardiology, General Surgery, and Maternity, they also cater to patients from the nearby city of Coimbatore.
From a humble beginning, under the leadership of Dr. K Muralidar, Bethany Medical Centre has now grown into a 60 bedded secondary care hospital.



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Dr Muralidar, founder, Bethany Hospital.

For more details, do visit the bethany medical center website

https://bethanymedicalcenter.org/


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Bethany Hospital

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Bethany Hospital


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Bethany Hospital


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Bethany Hospital




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Bethany Hospital

We were trying to contact Ayyappan, who was supposed to show our guest room. We heard from other staff that he has taken a sick person in Ambulance.

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Waiting for Ayyappan, near the Bethany's Tuskerwoods camp center

We met Mohan, who was conducting boot camps in the forest, for IT groups who come in seeking adventure. He resides inside the hospital campus
.Tusker Woods | Adventure, service and spiritual enrichment awaits you
Mohan introduced us to Ayyapan's wife. She told that our rooms were arranged and showed us the way. She also took us to the canteen to have lunch there. We had Kadalai Kulambu(chickpea), Thattai Payar (Red bean) Poriyal, Appalam, and Pickle. In addition Jacob had Egg Curry. I was limited to vegetarian due to Lenten Fast. Oh! wish I had this trip after Easter.
Jacob was feeling tired and wanted to rest. We had plans to venture Mulli - Manjur roads of Ooty from Anaikatti. But I was skeptical as it was close to 3 pm in evening and did not want to ride in jungle roads at night. So we decided to rest in the afternoon and we had a good nap. We got up in the evening I took Jacob in my bike to Anaikatti Kerala border. We crossed and had one tea on the Tamil Nadu side and another on the Kerala side. Both tasted equally good. The Three roses brand was popular in all tea shops there. Sigh!!!
We tried exploring the road for 2 km in Sholayur route. Came across nice views in the evening sunset


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Sholayur road



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Fields of Anaikatti


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Forest between villages near Anaikatti



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Lone wind mill on a Hill top



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Jacob in his bike imprinted T shirt


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Busy Controlling the bike on the slope while taking out the SLR for a snap



We saw lot of farm lands protected with electric fence. We were wondering how the forest department would allow such kind of practice in the buffer zones near the national parks preserving wild life. The answer for that we got from the safari guide the next day.

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Electric fence

We came back to Bethany hospital campus. The block we stayed was also served as the elderly home. In Bethany Hospital it was referred as assisted living, since it was catering to the medical needs, specific for each elders living there. We spoke to some of the elders there. Most of their children were settled abroad and the elders prefers to live here and visit the children once in a year. They were sharing that it felt very lonely in Western countries when their children and grandchildren were out on weekdays at day time.
We again met Mohan who was sharing about his experience with the recent group from Bangalore that came for his jungle boot camp. We also met Ayyappan. He works as the ambulance driver and an all in all helper at Bethany Hospital. He was sharing that he worked as a mason in his native place, Nagerkoil. He used to earn around Rs 1000/- per day. But now He says he does not even bother how much was being credited as salary but he was praising God for a meaningful and a blessed life at Bethany Hospital.
We went out to a nearby tea shop again and had coffee. The shop was selling some hill products. Jacob bought ginger chips, sugar preserved gooseberry. I did not buy as i told Jacob that i wanted to check the price with other shops.
After chatting and roaming around in the campus, we went back to Bethany hospital Canteen and had dinner. Jacob had chicken biriyani and I had dosai with Kadalai curry. We came back to the room and slept around 10 pm.



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Distance covered on Sunday​
 

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Tilak Francis

Well-Known Member
Monday 1/02/2021

Silent valley national park (Excerpts from wikipedia)

This area was explored in 1847 by the botanist Robert Wight.

The national park is one of the last undisturbed tracts of South Western Ghats mountain rain forests and tropical moist evergreen forest in India. Contiguous with the proposed Karimpuzha National Park (225 km2 (87 sq mi)) to the north and Mukurthi National Park (78.46 km2) to the north-east, it is the core of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve (1,455.4 km2), and is part of the Nilgiri Sub-Cluster (6,000+ km2), Western Ghats World Heritage Site, recognised by UNESCO in 2007.[3]

Plans for a hydroelectric project that threatened the park's biodiversity stimulated an environmentalist social movement in the 1970s, known as the Save Silent Valley movement, which resulted in cancelling the project and creating the park in 1980. The visitors' centre for the park is at Sairandhri.The British named the area Silent Valley because of a perceived absence of noisy cicadas. Another story attributes the name to the anglicisation of Sairandhri. A third story refers to the presence of many lion-tailed macaques Macaca silenus.


Sairandri is another name for Panchali, from the Pancha pandava mythology.

Back to our Trip


I woke up to the alarm at 5 am. Took a cold shower and got ready by 5.45 am. Jacob also got ready and we were out on the road at 6.15 am, to Sairandri with GPS on the mobile. We did check here and there with people around to make sure we are on the right direction. I took Jacob in my bike and gave rest for his wounded stud.

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End of Tamil Nadu Border at Anaikatti.

The climate was very cold and we were in t shirts and dressed up anticipating a humid dry climate in the forest. I could hardly control the handlebar as I was shivering in the morning cold. We stopped near Thavalam and had tea and coconut biscuits.


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While trying my hand to stabilize and get a shot of a bird in the wild, near Thagarapadi.

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Finally, managed to get a good shot of the bird, near Thagarapadi.



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View of the valley at Thagarapadi.



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Jacob posing near Thagarapadi



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Selfie time Near Thagarapadi


Though it is all villages near Tamil Nadu - Kerala borders, still people were speaking in Malayalam only. There was not much difficulty in conversing between Tamil and Malayalam for us. We asked in Tamil and people replied in Malayalam but still we could understand each other.

We reached Silent valley national park office at Mukkali around 8.30 am. The prices as found in the Silent valley website ( Silent Valley National Park ) were slightly hiked. A jeep cost 2500/- and the bus cost 6500/- This prices include 3 hours of ride inside the 23 km(from Mukkali to Sairandri tower) jungle road and a guided trekking inside the forest towards Kundhi river for 1.5 km. The driver also comes as a guide.


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Silent valley National park office at Mukkali, Mannarkkad.


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Silent valley National park office at Mukkali, Mannarkkad.


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Silent valley National park office at Mukkali, Mannarkkad.


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Eco store selling tribal products at Silent valley national park office.



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Eco store selling tribal products at Silent valley national park office.
We wanted to share the cost as we thought it will work out to 500/- per head for five persons in the jeep. People were coming as families and were taking the jeeps and we left stranded for 45 minutes. Meanwhile, we had Idli and tea for breakfast inside the office campus at the Eco tourism canteen. After making few failed attempts with people to share the trip, we decided to rent a jeep for us and we paid 2500/- Immediately a jeep came from Mukkali junction. Two officers also boarded with us who were going to their post inside Sairandri forest. No permission from us, but they felt it was their privilege to come in the Jeep.

The driver looked very gentle and with pleasing manners. We came to know the driver, Mustafa, was not a direct worker under forest department instead he is employed by the Eco tourism on contract basis. They will be in uniform but are provided 1250/-per trip. The jeep and fuel were borne by the driver.

Mustafa stopped at a shop and told us to buy snacks as there were no shops beyond that place. But we said we have got some biscuits and water.

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Beyond this point after forest office, no shops were found.


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Enjoying the Jeep ride.
we started riding again. A bhavani forest check post came and Mustafa gave a slip of permission to pass through.

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Bhavani division check post and the entrance to forest road
We moved on. Mustafa was trying his best to tell us about the forest in Tamil mixed Malayalam. He was very informative about the plants and animals. At times he said he did not know, genuinely accepting that he was not "all known". But whatever we learned about the jungle in this trip, it was all from Mustafa.


.........To be continued


 

Tilak Francis

Well-Known Member
Great log.
Sorry to read about your friend's misadventure. Good that you were able to keep going.
Thank you. yes I was shocked seeing the condition of the bike after a head on collision that happened probably at around 40 km/hr speed. God's grace! we could able to move further.
 

Tilak Francis

Well-Known Member
.....Monday 1/03/2021 continued

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The road was slowly gaining elevation and the highest point in Silent valley is 1600 meters from MSL.

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A view of the only Kurumba village inside the national park.
The silent valley forest was divided into core area and buffer zone. Out of 23 km ride inside the forest, we will be taken only 1.5 km inside the core area where the forest was denser. The reason was to preserve nature. We were shown Malabar squirrel, Nilgiri langur, and a woodpecker.




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Malabar Squirrel on a wild fig tree

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Malabar Squirrel



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Wood pecker


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Nilgiri Langur



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Road in the buffer zone of the forest.


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A stop to feel the Forest without sounds.



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Learning time about the precious forest.
But we missed the lion tailed monkey which is the specialty of the silent valley national park. We were told that a week back one of the driver, Sekar, spotted a tiger with two cubs in the buffer zone.

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Entrance to the core zone.


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This entrance reminds of "Jurassic park" movie.


After two hours of drive at 20 km/hr speed we reached the Sairandri watch tower. There was a rest room and a fresh drinking water tap. We climbed the watch tower which was equal to a five storeys building height. It was built on a cliff and the view was breath taking. From watch tower we can spot Nilambur, Keeriparai, and Bavani parts of the silent valley national park.

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Way to Watch tower Area


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Small Man made pond near watch tower



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Watch tower

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High as a five storied building


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Watch tower

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Jacob and I with, Mustafa


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Jacob


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Me

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View of small pond from Watch tower

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View of Kundhipuzha river from Watch tower

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View of Kundhipuzha river from Watch tower

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Nilambur division view from the Watch tower.



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Inaugural corner stone


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The stone was laid by former Prime minister Shri Rajiv Gandhi​


Jacob was very happy that he could able to climb the tower without much difficulty especially after his Lobectomy, done two years ago.

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Jacob while resting on climbing the Watch tower.


The descent from the tower was difficult as the steps were of metal with steep and short like ladder. Holding on to the side rails was important to prevent trip and fall.

We got down from the tower and Mustafa accompanied as for the trekking down the river which was 1.5 km from the tower. we were hesitant as anything more than 5 hours will incur additional charge of rs 100/- per hour. Mustafa assured us that the trek will take only 1 hour. As we went he showed the "Cherr" tree which when touched will cause anaphylaxis (severe life threatening allergic reaction). On our way in the Jeep he showed as "Thani" tree which was believed as an antidote for cherr tree allergic reaction. A person has to hug the Thani tree to get rid off the allergic reaction from Cherr tree. Mustafa also showed wild Arrowroot which was believed to cure Urinary tract infection. He also shared that there was a Kurumba tribesman who treats cancer patients with natural herbs near the park.

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Leopard poop



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Trek through the thick rain forest


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CHERR' Tree that causes life threatening allergic reaction.


Mustafa shared an incident where an old couple with a young son came across an encounter with the tiger in the trekking path. The tiger stopped and went away. We curiously asked how to tackle the wild encounters with animals. Interestingly , Mustafa told that our natural two feet stance was perceived by animals as an aggressive position for fight. Only during fight, animals get in two feet stance. So, we should maintain eye contact and walk back to avoid conflict with animals. I was thinking to myself that wild animals are wild animals and will remain unpredictable. With biscuits in our bags, the tiger or a leopard would have an option between raw and baked items in the menu.

Mustafa also told about the spotting of Cholanaikkan tribes who were the last remaining hunter gatherers residing inside the virgin forest areas of Nilambur division. Approaching the tribe was considered dangerous as they still were hunter gatherers.

We also asked about the use of electric fence in the nearby village fields and about the one we saw the previous evening at Anaikatti. Mustafa said the curret is through the battery operated equipment called 'Mekker' which will only produce on and off power supply as a flicker and does not cause animal to get a power full electric shock.


We reached the broken river bridge and the trek ended there. Took some snaps and came back exhausted in the humid climate.

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Broken hanging bridge over Kundhipuzha



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Visible pebble stones under the crystal waters of Kundhipuzha

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Kundhipuzha


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Kundhipuzha


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Kundhipuzha


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while walking with Mustafa, I was wondering how much I would remember to write later.

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Selfie time​


After reaching the watch tower area back again, we washed our face in freshwater pipe and drank the water. Instantly we were refreshed.

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Parked Thar's that carried tourists


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In front of our Thar

Then we headed back to the national park office at Mukkali in the jeep. we reached around 2.30 pm. we had Kerala rice with sambar, rasam, appalam, pickle, poriyal and also had tea at the forest office canteen for the lunch. We also bought some tribal products (Honey, pepper, fragrant tree resin,and dhanthapala hair oil,) from Eco departmental store inside the forest office.

I wanted to buy a traditional Kerala kitchen knife for my home and we were looking out for that in shops around Mukkali and bought one near Thavalam. Jacob could not get a bigger size "Kerala Vettu Kathi" that he wanted but got one just like mine.

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Traditional Kerala kitchen knife made of rot iron.​

We reached Anaikatti and had a cool drink. We reached Bethany hospital around 4.30 pm.


....to be continued
 

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