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Old 8th June 2011, 23:12   #1
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Default The road truly less traveled in trail of the monsoon : Ambanad Estate Sojourn*

My Musing!

Well I am now back in office, but the fragrance of the spices and flowers still lingers .My mind is still trapped in those timeless hills and bungalows which still haven’t quite managed to shake off the old British Legacy!

Since we landed in TVM 5 months back, my wife and I were trying one odd place after the other practically every week. Bogged by there-is-nothing-to-do-out-here disease when in the city, and haunted by the witches from Ooty,Coorg, and Mysore where we used to frequent while in Bangalore, we have traveled on a regular basis on weekends .

The Beginning

We started off from TVM in our trusted Companion, our Black Wagon R Vxi last Saturday morning after a full blast on Friday night. Our planned destination was Tenmala,which is about 60 Km from TVM in the TVM Shencota highway. We packed our breakfast [which we wanted to have in some nice place in the outdoors],our little bags and other items and started the journey by around 8 AM in the company of the real hero who made this trip absolutely mesmerizing ’The Monsoon’. It had been raining profusely since the last two days with the rains keeping its regular appointment with the school kids on first day of the academic year. Contrary to popular opinion I feel that the monsoons is the best time to travel around Kerala if you have a vehicle with a roof and windows to keep you snug and comfortable. The first touch of the life giving waters is greeted by the ever so grateful seeds, frogs and countless other creatures living in, on or inside the mother earth, and the resulting sprout of life, noise and commotion is nothing short of spectacular. Such is the profusion of new greens in the road sides and farms and hilltops that you really feel that the green canopy of kerala that you see from an Aircraft has descended down to touch the earth. It seems as if every inch of soil is bursting with life! And that is what really makes this place truly god’s own.

Our Breakfast


Whats in a breakfast,you may ask! read on or just checkout the pics below!

Now back to our story, we filled our car to the brim from the nearest filling station and stated out on the TVM Shenkotta road .our first destination, as I said earlier was breakfast. We were always on the lookout for a memorable place to have our Bread/Butter/Omlette and Sausages, and we were not to be denied for long! On the way just after a place called Palode,you will come across an old bridge over a beautiful brooke.

The bridge is absolutely very old, most probably British. As you cross the bridge, to your right, on one bank of the brooke is a very dense tropical forest and on the other bank is a rubber plantation. The rivulet actually flows very wide and slow in this area, slowly emerging from a right angled turn. We stopped here and decided to follow the river a little up, using the rubber plantation bank, as the other bank was not accessible. The place has an uncanny un earthly feel about it, with an open invitation from the river saying “I challenge thee to cross me into these pristine lands”, but we, after much deliberation decided not to take the invite and decided to settle down and have our breakfast, enjoying the peace and the greens.

Check out the pics of our roadside breakfast shop ! Amazing is it not?
The road truly  less traveled in trail of the monsoon : Ambanad Estate Sojourn*-dsc07551.jpg

Here is the view from the Bridge
The road truly  less traveled in trail of the monsoon : Ambanad Estate Sojourn*-dsc07542.jpg

Another one
The road truly  less traveled in trail of the monsoon : Ambanad Estate Sojourn*-dsc07543.jpg

and one more
The road truly  less traveled in trail of the monsoon : Ambanad Estate Sojourn*-dsc07544.jpg

Rahul's Discovery of TBGRI

Post breakfast we were on our way to tenmala and had a very memorable detour to the Tropical botanical Gardens [TBGRI – Tropical botanical Garden and Research institute] near palode.This place turned out to be another nice surprise for us. The TBGRI is spread over 300 acres, of which over 100 acres is a pristinely preserved forest. We managed to understand that even the forest that we saw on our Breakfast detour was a part of the institute. Apart fro the 100 acres of natural forest, the institute has developed another 100 acres of man made forest. The rest of the area consists of various research facilities and green houses.

The TBGRI sells all kinds of medicinal plants and is conducting very serious research on the medicinal plants of Kerala. Medicinal Plants come here fro all parts of India,but the most prominent is the Agasthya ranges in the Western Ghats near trivandrum .The guide who was pretty knowledgeable explained the uses and medicinal properties of many plants ,some of which are actually found in every kitchen garden.But many of these plants are now facing extinction from our households and gardens. The main reason is the extinction of traditional knowledge, and our craze for western medicine. In the mad rush to imitate the West we forget the few good things that our ancestors passed on to us.

One of the other key attractions of TBGRI is a fossil of a 50000 year old tree. It is an amazing structure with even the annual rings clearly visible! We also saw other exotic plants like sandal, Amazonian giant lotus, various types of pitcher plants and over 70 varieties of the banyan tree. There is also a 25 acre bamboo park which is home to over 75 varieties of bamboo, ranging from the huge “Budha belly“bamboo to a variety that actually look like a vine!

It took us almost three hours to walk around TBGRI,and then after giving a long review in the log book, we said good bye to the gardens with a promise that we will definitely be back.

The road to eternity!

Our next stop was, after driving for two more hours of course, Tenmala .This drive I would say is the best part of the driving experience,its a well maintained road with rubber plantations and forests on either side,especially once u go past kulathupuzha.

The Famed Road to Tenmala

The road truly  less traveled in trail of the monsoon : Ambanad Estate Sojourn*-dsc07553.jpg

The hill you see on the edge of this photograph turned out to be our final destination,little did we realize that when we took this photo

The road truly  less traveled in trail of the monsoon : Ambanad Estate Sojourn*-dsc07556.jpg

This is what the monsoon does to our hills
The road truly  less traveled in trail of the monsoon : Ambanad Estate Sojourn*-dsc07569.jpg

Take a closer look here
The road truly  less traveled in trail of the monsoon : Ambanad Estate Sojourn*-dsc07571.jpg
Attached Thumbnails
The road truly  less traveled in trail of the monsoon : Ambanad Estate Sojourn*-dsc07563.jpg  


Last edited by rahulsukesan : 14th June 2011 at 21:47. Reason: Removing [Font] tags, please avoid copy pasting from external font editors. Also do a Preview before Submitting posts. Thanks
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Old 9th June 2011, 00:28   #2
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Default Re: The road truly less traveled in trail of the monsoon : Ambanad Estate Sojourn*

How were the road conditions from Trivandrum to Tenmala?
Were they very congested during day time?
Is the Tenmala dam reservoir boating open through the year, including the monsoons?
Did you take a look at the cottages they have built for staying at the eco-park?
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Old 9th June 2011, 22:03   #3
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Default The road truly less traveled in trail of the monsoon : Ambanad Estate Sojourn Contd.

Off to Tenmala

Tenmala means “The honey hill” in Malayalam, and the name did not come to being for nothing. There was once a time when the hills around this place was abundant with bees, and a lot of forest people could be seen selling honey in the roadsides.But those days are gone now and you hardly see any honey in these areas.

Tenmala has a big dam built over the Kallar river, and is one of those small villages in western Kerala at the junction of Tamil Nadu,Kerala and the forests of western ghats.The Kollam Shenkota Rail and road passes through this village. This road has been an important trade route between Tamil Nadu and Kerala for ages, and is one of the most important passes connecting Kerala and Tamil Nadu.The rail line is meter gauge and there used to be service in this route until almost two years back. If you move a little ahead of Tenmala towards Tamil Nadu side, you would come across a magnificent series of British era bridges, which even after 150 years stand majestically on the side of the road.

The Railway bridge on the way to Palaruvi from Tenmala,this is my personal favorite pic!
The road truly  less traveled in trail of the monsoon : Ambanad Estate Sojourn*-dsc07558.jpg


This one was taken through the windshield
The road truly  less traveled in trail of the monsoon : Ambanad Estate Sojourn*-dsc07557.jpg


Another marvelous engineering feet in Tenmala is of course the Tenmala Dam. The tourism hot spots are now developed in and around the dam.

In recent years Tenmala has turned into a big eco tourism hot spot, with the development of a Govt sponsored green zone ,adventure park and organized trekking expeditions. There is a 2 hour trek as well as 2 day trek packages to choose from, depending on the availability of time and resources.The 2 day trek is in the range of 2.5K/head and require a minimum group size of eight.So if you are planning for one,make sure you have adequate headcount!

If you are planning to stay in Tenmala,various options are available including a tree top residence!,this one will set you back by about 3K for the night but is reportedly magnificent.Other options are permanent swiss tents just behind the main reception area or non permanent pitcher tents which will be erected on request inside the adventure zone.

Palaruvi,The milky falls

We checked out the different options and decided that we will stay in tenmala as the last option.Palaruvi Falls,which is quite close by[15km from tenmala]we thought, may provide better options.So we sarted off to Palaruvi Falls after lunch and on the way saw those railway bridges mentioned earlier,which were amazing.By the way for the adventurous, these railway lines offer a fantastic trekking opportunity,especially in the rains.Arm yourself with an umbrella and just start walking .
We reached the diversion towards the Palaruvi Falls after about 10 minutes.We need to take Rs 10/head passes to get to see the Falls.In the ticket counter they were also selling Tea produced at some local estate.I asked them where the tea was coming from,and they told its from Ambanaad Estate.This is the first time that I was hearing about this place and I made more enquiries and found out that the estate actually offers accommodation in its Bungalows. We decided to try our luck after seeing the palaruvi Falls.

The falls is about 5 km inside the forest and is served by a well maintained road.The place is absolutely wonderful in the rains with water falling from a height of about 50 mtrs or so.The place did total justice to its name,and quite resembled a stream of white milk flowing down.

Off to Amabanad!

Later we started our trip towards our final destination,Ambanad Estate.Ambanad can be reached if you take diversion from Kazhuthurutti,which is about 2 Km from Tenmala towards Shenkottai.We did make enquiries at the junction and confirmed that accommodation was indeed provided there.Unfortunately the telephone numbers we got from the Palaruvi Ticket counter were not working,and hence we could not confirm.

We decided to take a chance and started towards the estate.From now on its completely Rubber Country,’God’s Own Corp” for the average Keralite.We drove for about 10 KM into the estate (Imagine its size!), and the landscape slowly started changing towards forest and then small plantations of coffee.But tea was nowhere to be seen even now.We were now forced to think that there was no major cultivation of tea in this area and the tea we saw may be coming from small kitchen gardens!


The road to Ambanad
The road truly  less traveled in trail of the monsoon : Ambanad Estate Sojourn*-dsc07574.jpg


After a while we encountered the first hairpin bend and then four more in quick succession.Now the landscape changed again and slowly but surely patches of tea also started emerging.Finally we reached in front of the a big gate and honked hard.It was raining profusely,and it took some time before someone opened the gate.He asked as what we wanted and we replied we came to stay in the estate.He said prior reservations may be needed but asked us to go forward and ask at the next gate.So we went ahead braving the heavy downpour and chilly winds towards the next gate which was about 2 km away.

Just inside the gate we saw these boards which chilled our hearts.
The road truly  less traveled in trail of the monsoon : Ambanad Estate Sojourn*-dsc07693.jpg

The people at the gate were friendly,but they also said prior arrangements would be required, but said that the estate asst manager may be found in the Tea factory near by and he may be able to help.So we went to the tea factory which was further down the road.The tea factory is a huge lonely building which does not look well maintained.There are signs of a labour strike near the gate with posters and banners listing the demands of the striking workers.


The Tea Factory Looking Ominous!
The road truly  less traveled in trail of the monsoon : Ambanad Estate Sojourn*-dsc07598.jpg


I went inside the factory and got introduced to the Assistant Manager,who was extremly well mannered and polite.He said,to our great relief,that stay could be arranged in the factory guest house which was quite near by.



All this while it had been raining heaviliy and the place and the whole set up was looking absolutely mesmerizing,There were green hills just beyond the factory which were wooded very deeply and the clouds were almost kissing the top of the woods, somewhere up in the hills the distinction between the forest and the clouds were so pale that the seemed to merge into one another,like lovers.


Beautiful,need I say more?

The road truly  less traveled in trail of the monsoon : Ambanad Estate Sojourn*-dsc07607.jpg

Last edited by rahulsukesan : 14th June 2011 at 22:07.
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Old 12th June 2011, 14:25   #4
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Default Re: The road truly less traveled in trail of the monsoon : Ambanad Estate Sojourn*

Lovely pictures. It is indeed a pleasure driving in Kerala during the rainy season. Did you have to book ahead for your visit to TBGRI?
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Old 14th June 2011, 22:09   #5
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Default The road truly less traveled in trail of the monsoon:Ambanad Estate Sojourn Part 3/5

Our Home for the night!

On the other side was our rest house,the shelter to be for us.It stood on the bank of a huge man made lake[with water supplied by the rains falling in the nearby hills]

Out little palace for the night,do you envy me?
The road truly  less traveled in trail of the monsoon : Ambanad Estate Sojourn*-dsc07576.jpg

Another one
The road truly  less traveled in trail of the monsoon : Ambanad Estate Sojourn*-dsc07577.jpg

Our visitor for the day, rather, night!
The road truly  less traveled in trail of the monsoon : Ambanad Estate Sojourn*-dsc07584.jpg

And here is our personal pool,fed by the crystal clear waters of the monsoon!
The road truly  less traveled in trail of the monsoon : Ambanad Estate Sojourn*-dsc07615.jpg

We finally got into our guesthouse,where we were greeted by our cook for the day Mr Palani.He was speaking continuously,which was fun.We settled down and later went back to Tenmala to buy chicken for the night.

This was real adventure,coming down the hills in the night and going back again,check out this eerie photograph that I took!

The road truly  less traveled in trail of the monsoon : Ambanad Estate Sojourn*-dsc07594.jpg

And on the way we almost ran over a Russel's viper which was crossing the road.Fortunately I spotted the snake just in time and the car came to a screeching halt just in front of the beautiful animal.

We were back in about 2 hours and it took another hour for Palani and his wife to make our dinner.Before the dinner Palani prepared some delicious fried chicken which when accompanied by the chill of the night tasted godly!

We had our dinner and went to bed,bidding good bye to an absolutely glorious and fun filled day!

Last edited by GTO : 18th June 2011 at 17:07. Reason: Do NOT discuss alcohol in any way on this forum
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Old 15th June 2011, 15:56   #6
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Default Re: The road truly less traveled in trail of the monsoon : Ambanad Estate Sojourn*

Thread moved from the Assembly Line to the Travelogues Forum. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 15th June 2011, 17:05   #7
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Default Re: The road truly less traveled in trail of the monsoon : Ambanad Estate Sojourn*

Wow...lovely monsoon pictures there. Monsoon in Kerala is something special!
I am driving to Kerala this weekend.
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Old 16th June 2011, 22:49   #8
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Default Re: The road truly less traveled in trail of the monsoon : Ambanad Estate Sojourn*

Quote:
Originally Posted by Latheesh View Post
Wow...lovely monsoon pictures there. Monsoon in Kerala is something special!
I am driving to Kerala this weekend.
Absolutely,Kerala is sheer magic in the rains!

Quote:
Originally Posted by SajiNSalin View Post
Lovely pictures. It is indeed a pleasure driving in Kerala during the rainy season. Did you have to book ahead for your visit to TBGRI?
Thanks Saji,

No need for bookings,you can just walk in,but if you want to buy something[the best buys are medicinal plants] you need to go on a week day in the working hours,which I persume is from 10 am to 4 pm.
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Old 8th June 2012, 21:37   #9
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Default Re: The road truly less traveled in trail of the monsoon : Ambanad Estate Sojourn*

@rahulsukesan - Beautiful pictures there, boss. I have been dying to go out since the rains started but was not able to do so. Now you are just rubbing it in with these photos . Anyway looks like you had a gala time. Please share the contact details, tariffs, etc of the place also. It will be helpful for kindred souls like me. Hope you still have loads of pics.
Btw me & fellow tbhpian Pramod did the railway trek you mentioned in your post some months back. We liked the trek so much that we repeated it again!

Last edited by Nutty Nair : 8th June 2012 at 21:43.
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