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Old 19th September 2015, 10:19   #31
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Default Re: A rejuvenating long weekend at Valparai The young green hill station

Day 3: Monday, 24th August 2015

Wake up call in Sirikundra was very different from that of Monica. Loud cry of some animal. I jumped from bed, it was 6:30AM while I looked on my mobile phone. Woke up wife as she is equally excited about wildlife. Boldly slipped out of the tent since its electric fencing all around. I guessed it is some large animals like Sambar deer or blue bull. Attacked by a big cat? Looked all around and carefully to the forest in front of us. 

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Noticed some movement and upon looking more closely, realized my expertize in identifying animal by sound. Yes it was nothing but a Lion Tailed Macaque. To our surprise, upon seeing us it gained more courage and decided to come near to us. The security in charge also has joined us by then and tried to shoo him away. But the king of monkeys managed to scoot in through a gap in the fence and climbed a tree inside the Bungalow. Monkeys are usually seen in groups, this could be an odd guy who left the family after fights according to the security person. And he was right, there is a small wound on his face if you look carefully.

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But as guided by Arulpeem earlier in this thread, whatever we saw earlier were Nilagiri Langurs and this was our first spotting of a Lion Tailed Macaque. We were excited and decided to utilize the extra time to checkout Kurangumudi which was near Monica and known for animal spotting.

Kurangumudi Estate is also under the ownership of Woodbriar group and much easy access from Monica than Sirikundra estate. But each of these drives energize us with the fresh air and green scenery all around also increasing the chance of some animal spotting. There has been many instances where Leopards are spotted in estates even where human inhabitation is there. Tigers were also spotted but very rarely. There is also a video in youtube where forest department captured a tiger which came to human territory and started killing cattle.

There were no directions available in Google maps for Kurangumudi. I have added the same today with best efforts to locate the area. Refer the map below. From Valparai town, drive back in Sholayar dam road, take left to Monice Garden Bungalow, drive further through Monica Tea Estate and Stanmore Estates and further to Kurangumudi Estate which is roughly 8KMs away from the town. Kurangumudi Estate is in higher altitude than Monica and even Stanmore with much lesser human presence. Landscape is beautiful and we drove sedately clicking some photos.

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We could not spot any animals and we reached a small village towards the end of the estate which is bordered by forest on one side. While enquired, the villagers told that the area is frequented by elephants and there was a lone tusker seen even the day before. They enquired with other tea estate workers who were sitting in front of a shop and they confirmed none were spotted that morning. We were not disappointed as the drive was really worth it for the scenic beauty of this area.

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While returning, we decided to check-out Stanmore Bungalow which was about 2KMs inside the estate from the main road. Roads were bad but easily drivable on the Fusion. Stanmore Bungalow is located in much higher altitude than all the other three Bungalows owned by Woodbriar group and hence offers a 360 degree view of the tea estate. Bungalow is retro ambience as the Sirukundra. Stanmore do not have tent houses but they have wooden chalets like Sirukundra. What is more exciting is that the chalets are two storied suitable for larger families and we added them in our wish list. Since there were guests and it was early in the morning, we decided not to explore in detail and disturb them for more clicks.

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While we approached Sirukundra, estate workers have plucking the tea. While we reached back at the bungalow, breakfast was ready. Poori masala, Dosa, Sambar, Tomato Chutney, Coconut chutney, Bread, Butter/Jam, Corn flakes, Masala Omelet, Pomegranate juice, Tea/Coffee. Food was homely.

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I decided to explore the Bungalow while wife decided to rest in the Wooden Chalet nearby the dining area checking the clicks on her mobile. Best thing about these wooden chalets is the balcony which sufficient privacy and being built on tall platform, safe from leeches and other reptiles compared to tents.

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Wife decided to resume her sleep while I quenched my thirst for photography. Rear view from Bungalow is a tea carpeted hill with a small water fall which can be explored by foot if one decides to.

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Flora surrounding the Bungalow were worth framing and some of them are below.

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(To be continued…)

Last edited by jacs : 19th September 2015 at 10:23.
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Old 20th September 2015, 20:56   #32
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Default Re: A rejuvenating long weekend at Valparai The young green hill station

Look carefully, there is a tiny damselfly on the Orange Lilium flower. Followed by snaps of a Squirrel, Red Vented Bulbul, White Cheeked Barbet, Malabar Whistling Thrush and a Common tiger butterfly.

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While I returned to tent, wife was asleep and decided not to disturb her. Time to check out the AC issue and as anticipated the fuse has blown off. Fusebox of Fusion is also under the glove box like most other cars and fuse map is made available on the blind side of the glove box. The spare fuse set which was kept in the first aid kit came handy for the first time and I changed the fuse. Started the car and turned on the AC button and thank god it worked. Nothing complex for a mechanic's intervention unless it again blows off repeatedly.

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While I was leaving back to tent after fixing the AC issue, the security person informed me that the Lion Tailed Macaque had settled in the kitchen area by then and I could take close shots. I quickly picked the camera and went to the kitchen area in the bungalow. Yes, the king was then searching for food and posed for some clicks before it jumped inside the small well were food waste was disposed. I felt bad as the king will now realize it’s easy to make a living near humans and eventually start stealing food.

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Wife was awake and getting ready as I reached the tent. Realized it was 11AM and we need to vacate. We reached back the parking area and quickly explored the Sirikundra factory. Bills were kept ready at the dining area, this time it was 600 Rupees for our Dinner. Breakfast was complimentary. Total expense of the stay was INR4000. Reasonable! But I liked Monica better, may be because the Bungalow was also more accessible to those who stay in the tents.

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Thanked Babu and the other staffs and started our journey to Nallamudi Poonchola. I have rated 4/5 for Sirikundra Bungalow in GoIbibo & Tripadvisor. Recommended for its retro ambience and decent food.



(To be continued…)

Last edited by jacs : 20th September 2015 at 20:58.
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Old 23rd September 2015, 20:26   #33
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Default Re: A rejuvenating long weekend at Valparai The young green hill station

Detailed write up with superb clicks. Kudos. I am sure that you have enjoyed your fusion through hilly narrow roads. Continue exploring and share it with us..
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Old 24th September 2015, 23:10   #34
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Nallamudi Poonchola is about 12KMs from Sirikundra Bungalow, we drove back to Valparai direction and took left on the main road as referred in my earlier post. Couldn’t resist myself from clicking these symmetric patterns in the Sirukundra Estate.

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Those who are coming from Valparai town should take the narrow road leading to the circle near the bus depot down south of the town. And then take left from the circle, cross the bridge and stick to main road till the directions are seen for Nallamudi Pooncholai. And there is a Fuel station as you cross the bridge if you are running short of fuel. The other fuel station is in the town itself near to Hotel Green Hills.

Upon driving for few minutes, we reached an arch on road which was engraved “Welcome to Sholayar/Kaliyar Estate”. Sky was clear and blue as we climbed up. Roads became narrower and twisty. Need to drive slowly since State transport buses are plying in this route and so as carriage vehicles which can throw surprises in sharp turns.

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We crossed Birla Estates and Bombay Burmah Trading Corporation (BBTC) estates. There were adequate directions for Nallamudi Poonchola on the way and we reached the spot without any confusions. There is a small tea shop which is a sale counter for various products from BBTC including Green Tea, Tea, Coffee etc. There is a waiting shed where a Forest Security Officer is also present to issue entry passes to the view point.

Car parking is arranged nearby to avoid vehicles and blockages on road. Luckily being a working day, very few tourists were there. Parked the Fusion lavishly and proceeded for taking the entry pass while a Merc A180 CDI was making its way to meet the Fusion.

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Entry pass cost was Rs25 which also includes the entry for Nirar Dam. We politely told him that we have already visited Nirar. He did not had tickets just for Poonchola and hence permitted Camera free while we took two tickets!

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Roads were wide enough to take the car but not sufficient for two way traffic. View point is less than half a kilometer away from the parking but we could feel the higher altitudes as we walked through the Tea estates. As we approached the steep climb near the view point, got the first glimpse of a waterfall.

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Wow! Lush green mountains spread around with long waterfalls make the experience unique. Really romantic place it is. And thankfully the area was free from plastics and other litters during our visit.

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There is a small “Seen God Shrine” on the top view point and one can find a very elderly man (looking like a sage) who claims to have seen Lord Muruga some 40 years back from there. I did not attempt to hear these things from him but observed him preaching his experience to some other visitors. I do not intend to prove or disprove his claim. Why on earth would a man spend forty years of his life on a hill without proper food and shelter? And all alone! It would have been like “Man vs Wild” during those days.

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We spent some time gazing at the breathtaking view and decided to return as it was 12:30 noon by then. Back at the entrance, decided to try the Lemon tea from Bombay Burmah Trading Corporation. It was really nice, the shopkeeper told us more about the products and how to use each of them. We bought some green tea and black tea leaves for sharing with friends back home.

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Once we leave Valparai, no decent options are there for food until we reach Athirappally. Hence we went again to Hotel Green Hills who served us decent meals again on the third day. After a satisfied lunch, we drove slowly bidding goodbye to the Restaurant manager and picking up another bottle of water. Weather was pleasant and we drove through the red flower carpeted roads of Old Valparai. But became cloudy as we approached Sholayar Dam. We resumed a peaceful drive till the Poringalkuthu Dam Catchment area and stopped there for few minutes.

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And headed further to Vazhachaal, made entry in the checkpost. Wife wanted a quick glance of Vazhachaal falls and we struggled to find a slot to park the car as it was flooding tourists being vacation for kids. We did not bother to stop at Athirappally falls as it was like a crowded town with hundreds of vehicles and people all around. It was getting hot as we drove towards Chalakkudy and we realized AC stopped working again! It was the final leg of the return journey and we drove rolling down the windows. Traffic was significant as we reached NH47 and it took about two hours to reach home.

It was 7:15 as the car was parked and we were waiting for a minute for the worm down. In fact we were a bit tired as driving with windows rolled down and it was really hot outside.

We ordered dinner since too lazy to go out or cook. While waiting for the food after a thorough shower, I probed.

Me : “How was the trip? “
Wife : “Of course it was amazing and memorable.”
Me : “I could not show you a Tiger or even an elephant!”
Wife : Smiled “This trip was all about us. We did spent quality time which is what I loved most about this trip.”


Yes. It was not about the wild life spotting or the romantic atmosphere, but this was like walking eight years back. We were free like birds in the blue sky. Escape from the most hated daily alarms, hectic traffic, boring meetings and unyielding gossips. Most importantly breaking regular day patterns and letting our heart drives us through the day. I am sure this is the most worthy trip we have made together till date.

A true rejuvenation! We re-discovered the joy of togetherness.


The End.

Last edited by jacs : 24th September 2015 at 23:15.
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Old 25th September 2015, 09:48   #35
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Default Re: A rejuvenating long weekend at Valparai The young green hill station

Thanks once again for this wonderful travelogue. You've compiled entire tour details beautifully with amazing photos.

Valparai, Athirappaly soon on the cards and your detailed travelogue is the ready reference.

Hope Valaparai maintain its serenity as is and will not be like another Ooty. All depends on tourists like us to help and protect those places retain their beauty, without invading much.
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Old 25th September 2015, 11:12   #36
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Default Re: A rejuvenating long weekend at Valparai The young green hill station

And the log comes to an end

You guys managed to squeeze in a second honeymoon eh?

Extremely well written Jacob. And as I said, Valparai is supposed to be enjoyed the lazy way.

Munnar and Valparai are tea-estate hills, that men has encroached by bullying out the wildlife. Whereas nature has already given upon Munnar, and is almost completely urbanised, in Valparai, the wild has decided not to give up without a fight. You can feel the jungle at almost every corner of the tea estates - LTMs, Nilgiri Langurs, Gaurs, Elephants and Leopards (some even man eaters) can turn up at unexpected places.

There is one more tea estate hills around here - but here the wild has the upper hand, it almost feels as if the forest is closing in on you. Nelliyampathy - you should plan this next. Or perhaps we can have our next Kochi T-bhp meet there

PS: I have a feeling the wild animal like sound you heard in the morning might be that of the Great Hornbill. It is a rough braying like sound sometimes ending in manic laughter
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Old 28th September 2015, 19:08   #37
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Default Re: A rejuvenating long weekend at Valparai The young green hill station

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Amazing travelogue, Jacs. Keep it coming. Can't wait to read the return leg of the trip.
I am surely going to plan a trip to Valparai next time I visit Kochi.
Thanks. You should certainly do this. Try not to go on long weekends.


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Originally Posted by mukundmenon View Post
Really refreshing travelogue. Thanks for sharing details on road conditions and routes taken, will come handy to others (including me!) who have kept the Valparai trip on the backburner for too long. Always had doubts on the road conditions through Valparai- reserve area, which are now cleared thanks to you.
Thanks. Bad roads are only very few KMs between Kerala and Tamil Nadu check posts in Malakkapara. And the road which takes us to Chinna Kallar.


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Detailed write up with superb clicks. Kudos. I am sure that you have enjoyed your fusion through hilly narrow roads. Continue exploring and share it with us..
Thanks. Yes I enjoyed Fusion to its fullest sweeping tight corners since no passengers were there in the rear seat


Quote:
Originally Posted by Nempuguru View Post
Thanks once again for this wonderful travelogue. You've compiled entire tour details beautifully with amazing photos.

Valparai, Athirappaly soon on the cards and your detailed travelogue is the ready reference.

Hope Valaparai maintain its serenity as is and will not be like another Ooty. All depends on tourists like us to help and protect those places retain their beauty, without invading much.
Thanks. I shall try to summarize my takeaway from this trip soon. In fact I did another trip in this route last weekend and it was quite crowded due to long weekend. But nothing like Ooty yet.

And yes, each one of us should take extra care to preserve the authenticity of this place. This time I had a verbal fight with another team who had thrown biscuit packets out of the window while parked in the check post.


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You guys managed to squeeze in a second honeymoon eh?

Extremely well written Jacob. And as I said, Valparai is supposed to be enjoyed the lazy way.

There is one more tea estate hills around here - but here the wild has the upper hand, it almost feels as if the forest is closing in on you. Nelliyampathy - you should plan this next. Or perhaps we can have our next Kochi T-bhp meet there

PS: I have a feeling the wild animal like sound you heard in the morning might be that of the Great Hornbill. It is a rough braying like sound sometimes ending in manic laughter
Thanks Praveen.

Yes Nalliyampathy is a good choice for a weekend getaway and lets try if we can have a Kochi circle meet there. I had been there once but long back as a bachelor.

Sound was from Lion Tailed Macaque which I reconfirmed. Actually I am longing to spot a Hornbill which did not happen yet in any of my wildlife trips

Last edited by jacs : 28th September 2015 at 19:09.
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Old 29th October 2015, 13:37   #38
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Default Re: A rejuvenating long weekend at Valparai The young green hill station

Thanks for the excellent travelogue

Planning to spend a week end out there - short stay (2 days that includes travel). Please let me know your suggestions/pointers ?
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Old 30th October 2015, 17:35   #39
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Default Re: A rejuvenating long weekend at Valparai The young green hill station

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A true rejuvenation! We re-discovered the joy of togetherness.
The End.
Dude...this is definitely not the end. There are going to be many more.
Enjoyed the travelogue and wishing you many more.
Casually checked the prices of sinnadorai and its stinking nasty! how can they charge so much? with tourist demands, the prices of all places are moving up i guess.
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Old 1st November 2015, 14:58   #40
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Thanks for the excellent travelogue

Planning to spend a week end out there - short stay (2 days that includes travel). Please let me know your suggestions/pointers ?
Thanks Balu. I certainly recommend Monica Garden Bungalow for short stays. And with just one night in hand, I suggest you do a drive to Loam's view point in the day1 evening after checking-in and refresh (not too late!). Next morning, you could attempt Kurangumudi and Nallamudi pooncholai if rising early is not a problem. Do not plan a hectic schedule ticking a list, do it relaxed.


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Originally Posted by FuelInjector View Post
Dude...this is definitely not the end. There are going to be many more.
Enjoyed the travelogue and wishing you many more.
Casually checked the prices of sinnadorai and its stinking nasty! how can they charge so much? with tourist demands, the prices of all places are moving up i guess.
Thanks dude. Yes, Himalayas is something which we long for and need to do it with better half at a possible opportunity.

Sinnadorai is on the north while looking at the Tariff but experience seems to be unique. The bisons in my clicks are actually nearby Sinnadorai's.

If you really have 2 nights in hand and with large family, checkout Wooden Chalets in Stanmore. Worth it in my opinion.



By the way I am adding another couple of episodes from another drive (with friends and family) to Manampalli. You may want to check that as well.
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Old 3rd November 2015, 12:51   #41
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If you really have 2 nights in hand and with large family, checkout Wooden Chalets in Stanmore. Worth it in my opinion.
have booked the wooden chalets for this weekend. Kids also accompanying us. Any special suggestions or places to visit? it would be a 3 day 2 night trip. Any precautions for infants?

Last edited by FuelInjector : 3rd November 2015 at 12:51. Reason: more info
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Old 3rd November 2015, 14:16   #42
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have booked the wooden chalets for this weekend. Kids also accompanying us. Any special suggestions or places to visit? it would be a 3 day 2 night trip. Any precautions for infants?
Congratulations! With three days in hand, you can do justice to the trip. You could anyways cover the loam's view point, waterfall estate view etc during onward or return trip or both . Try and visit one view point each in the morning and another in the evening. I would strongly recommend a morning drive to Kurangumudi, its a lovely route. Nallamudi Pooncholai is a must go. Nirar dam and Chinna-kallar can be avoided in my opinion while travelling with an infant, not worth it considering road and worth of the view. If you wanna see Bisons, go to Puthutottam direction around 5PM.

Briar has all that is needed for the stay including clean linens, blankets, kettle, geyser etc. And town is not too far for buying something. Few things which came on top of my mind are.
  • Insect repellent cream (There are safer ayurvedic alternatives)
  • Basic medicines (Colic aid, pepanyl syrup, vicks etc)
  • Sweater and monkey caps for kids for outdoors
  • A large travel umbrella could come handy while taking kid to view points far from parking (like Pooncholai)
  • Any specific food kids prefer (Resort can help cook or allow you to)
  • Have short breaks during uphill and downhill for fresh air and water.
  • Drive slowly and leisurely with AC on tackling curves with patience (my experience).

Please feel free to PM for any specific information which you think I could help with.

Last edited by jacs : 3rd November 2015 at 14:19.
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Old 3rd November 2015, 23:52   #43
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Congratulations! With three days in hand, you can do justice to the trip. You could anyways cover the loam's view point, waterfall estate view etc during onward or return trip or both . Try and visit one view point each in the morning and another in the evening. I would strongly recommend a morning drive to Kurangumudi, its a lovely route. Nallamudi Pooncholai is a must go. Nirar dam and Chinna-kallar can be avoided in my opinion while travelling with an infant, not worth it considering road and worth of the view. If you wanna see Bisons, go to Puthutottam direction around 5PM.

  • Insect repellent cream (There are safer ayurvedic alternatives)
  • Basic medicines (Colic aid, pepanyl syrup, vicks etc)
  • Sweater and monkey caps for kids for outdoors
  • A large travel umbrella could come handy while taking kid to view points far from parking (like Pooncholai)
  • Any specific food kids prefer (Resort can help cook or allow you to)
  • Have short breaks during uphill and downhill for fresh air and water.
  • Drive slowly and leisurely with AC on tackling curves with patience (my experience).
Jacs, thanks for the write up and the specific pointers . I am also planning to visit Valparai this weekend (Saturday - Tuesday). Accommodation would be at my cousin's place who is working at one of the Tea estate functionaries in Valparai. The given 4 days include up and down travel (Chennai - Valparai) and hence 2 days would be spared for exploring Valparai. Hope I can cover few good places as you mentioned.
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Old 4th November 2015, 13:46   #44
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Default Re: A rejuvenating long weekend at Valparai The young green hill station

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Jacs, thanks for the write up and the specific pointers . I am also planning to visit Valparai this weekend (Saturday - Tuesday). Accommodation would be at my cousin's place who is working at one of the Tea estate functionaries in Valparai. The given 4 days include up and down travel (Chennai - Valparai) and hence 2 days would be spared for exploring Valparai. Hope I can cover few good places as you mentioned.
Wow! You have a cousin in Valparai that too associated with a tea estate? Then you should really make use of this trip to gain permissions for visiting Grass Hills, arrange local jeep transportation for visiting Chinna Kallar during animal crossing time in the eve with permissions. Rest all locations you can anyways do.

All the best
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Old 4th November 2015, 15:21   #45
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Default Re: A rejuvenating long weekend at Valparai The young green hill station

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.
Please feel free to PM for any specific information which you think I could help with.
Thanks buddy. shall PM you once i reach there. my wife has this long checklist thats already getting populated as i type .
leeches - are there any in this part?
Does the chalet offer electric kettles and bottled water? They have charged for food - assuming that normally include BF/Lunch and dinner.

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Originally Posted by Cruiser_D View Post
I am also planning to visit Valparai this weekend (Saturday - Tuesday). Accommodation would be at my cousin's place who is working at one of the Tea estate functionaries in Valparai.
Cruiser_D - lucky to have a cousin in tea garden. Nothing like it. All the best and hope you have a good one. If possible lets synch up while there. we can PM each other.
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