Monday, February 18, 2013

Silent Valley Park – Nilgiri Omnibus Part 5

Today Omnibus is going to Silent Valley Park.
All aboard!

River in the Park

Silent Valley National Park is located in the Nilgiri Hills Biosphere, (Palaghat) Palakkad District in Kerala, South India. It is a rare place in India where you can indeed observe silence from any sound made by humans.

Silent valley park gate
We catch a train from Bangalore and get down at Palaghat Station around 4AM. We come out of station and outside have a cup of tea in a restaurant. There I ask about how to get to Silent Valley Park and this gentleman tells us to walk to the main road and get Bus towards Kozhikode to Manarkad. The charge to Manarkad is About 20 Rs and it will take almost 1 Hour. Way is a typical Kerala lush green. Ghat section begins about 5 kilometers before Manarkad.

Zigzag road in the Silent Valley Park
Manarkad is a town and there are lots of shops. From Manarkad you will get buses to Anaketty, which goes to Mukkali. From Manarkad you can have a good view of the Hills to the east. The road from Manarkad Is a Ghat road along the forest and is very beautiful and it takes around 1 hour to reach Mukkali. Silent Valley is eighty kilometers from Palakkar.

Road in the Park
Kerala is God’s own country. This road to Manarkad is busy but passes through usual Kerala’s beautiful ghat landscape. Rolling low hills, lush green paddies and trees and some hair pin curves. When we travel in Kerala time just flies away. In no time we reach at Manarkad. I ask a student about what to do next to get to Silent Valley Park.

River to where people are allowed to walk.
He tells me to wait for the bus at the other side of the road where others are also waiting. Soon this other bus to Anaketty comes and we take it. It is mostly empty so we occupy our favorite seats in the front. Bus makes a left turn towards East, and leaves the main road and scenes begin instantly. I only wish to walk instead of taking the bus. We see beautiful villages, rubber trees and lush green paddy fields.

Mist in the park
Far away some mountains are visible and we never came to this area before so we think bus may go around those mountains but No Sir! Bus goes over these mountains. It makes several hairpin bends and climbs.
Over the mountains is the plateau that leads to Niligiri hills.

Hotel where we stayed
We see a small village at the ridge of mountain and after this comes Mukkali, and conductor tells us that this is the place to get down for Silent Valley. We find this place very pretty and peaceful. There are some shops serving basic food and tea so we have a tea. A hotel is visible but there is government guest house for tourists so we walk there but as usually this guest house if full with several groups because it is a long weekend. But I go inside and inquire for the bus to the park. People can enter in the park only on the buses operated by park department. Lady at reception says that buses are all full but then it turns out that one person is missing in a party so she issues us 2 tickets with no promise for second seat. In front of reception is another restaurant and that is serving excellent food so we have idli and dosa there. Whole place is a small jungle town and emits the aura of jungle.

Silent Valley Park
It is still an hour for the bus to depart and we must find a room. We return to the main road and inquire in the hotel and they give us a room for just 250 rupee. It is a basic acceptably clean room. We cannot lock this room from inside because all latches are broken but we put chair to prevent the door to open. There are 3-4 more rooms but all are vacant. We walk towards park reception and our bus is ready so we take the bus to the park. Bus climbs over the mountains and comes in the jungle. At a scenic overlook driver stops the bus and we see a small tribal village below us. This is the only human presence we observe in the valley.
One can cheat and enter in the park for the excuse to go to this village, in the evening we successfully try it but returned because we wanted to walk along the main road to interact with people and culture. That is more entertaining.

Bus stop at the park.
So we are in the bus and we see these lion tailed macaque, elephants, bison, giant squirrels, deer etc. and many snakes. This place is a paradise for bird watchers. It takes a little less than two hours for the bus to get to the last point on the road. A tall and shaky watch tower is situated here and people are allowed to climb over it. Here a nature museum and an office complex are situated in the jungle. People are allowed as well encouraged to take a 2 kilometers walk to the river in the valley. Walk ends at a rusty suspension bridge.

Enterence of the park
There are no shops or restaurants so make your fill before you get on this bus. Scenes of river and valley from watchtower are breathtaking. Special about the scenes and views here is that there is no pollution and everything far away seems close, crisp and vivid colored. This makes it a one of a rare place in India.

River views from the watch tower
One can watch endless mountains from this point. It is all a part of Nilgiri Biosphere. Bus gives a plenty of time to watch the museums and the walk and back to the watch tower. When we return from the valley, watch tower is now covered in mist.

Trees in the park
Bus returns the same way and we arrive back in Mukkali. As Mukkali area becomes visible from the height of the mountains; even a small patch of smoke becomes bothersome to the eyes. One can see the clear difference between the crisp views that we are leaving behind and the reality of not being in the park.

Watch Tower covered in the mist
We have our lunch in the small restaurant in front of the park reception, because everybody is very hungry. We go to our hotel room and relax for sometime and then walk on the road towards Manarkad, after one kilometer we arrive at the point where road makes several hairpin bends on the mountain and descends to the lush green valley. We spend sometime to watch the views and then return back to Mukkali. Day is not over yet so we walk now to the other side of the road and after few turns we find a couple of more hotels so that solves the puzzle about hotels. Whole area is very scenic. At the evening we eat famous Malabar parothas in our dinner and retreat to our room.

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