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Old 3rd December 2016, 23:50   #1
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Default Bangalore - Valparai - Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary

It’s that time of the year when we are ready to pack our bags and head to an exotic destination. One of the perks of getting married in July (which you realize much later in life) is that we get to experience India at its best in the monsoons during our annual anniversary trip. After a long time this time though we were to make the trip without our daughter Smrithi who simply rebelled and said she needs a break from the hikes we take during our sojourns. Hmm wonder if she is getting smarter and wanting us to have more “our “time together or does she find us too old to hang out with

D day fell on a Monday so we planned to start early on Saturday morning. After the usual research we decided that we could visit a kerela government run eco guest house as our earlier experience with the Gavi guest house also run by the Kerela Government had been good. We booked online, actually called them and telephonically booked a cottage and tree house for each of the two nights, Priced at Rs 3000 per night for the two of us inclusive of all meals (Wow, as to what kind of meals,well we found out later!!).

DAY 1:
Checking the best available routes to the Chinnar Forest guest house with possibly a chunk of pure forest drive ensuring we should also reach the guest house on time for lunch. The shortest route from home of course was the Hosur Road highway through Bangalore- Salem –Avinashi-Udumalpet and hit Chinnar sanctuary which we decided to follow. Approximately 421 km and 7 hours as per google maps.

From the point of getting the quickest from point A to Point B it is hard to get a better highway with low traffic density and so we made quick time before we stopped for tea and fuel en route. Breakfast was at Hotel Annapoora (Random one, not “the” annapoorna of Coimbatore) which was good without being spectacular just after we crossed Salem on the left side of the highway. We had the staple south Indian food idli-vada and chow-chow baath(Bangalore slang for the sweet-kara combo of Upmaa and kesari baath). Their sense of humor was probably better than the food served, with the board to indicate that Gents toilet to the left and the Women’s to the right in keeping with the nature’s law of women being always right!

Having made an early morning start and gobbled up the miles, soon we were close to Avinashi around 11” ish” when we realized we were ahead of schedule. After having a brief discussion (Both knew we were not going to head to destination straight! - Not in our DNA..just a matter of who throws the idea first and bears the brunt if something goes wrong!) we decided we had probably enough time to make it to Valparai and then to Chinnar adding another approximately 140 km or 4 hours as per google maps estimate. We would probably need to have our lunch somewhere but the prospect of driving through the clouds amidst the rains was both heavenly and romantic and was a no brainer decision.

We could see the inviting green hills beckoning us we neared the Valparai check post. After buying the tickets at the check post we stopped to admire the lake on the left which was to offer us one of its many spectacular views as we snaked up the hills towards Valparai. We also crossed a herd of elephants by the stream as we picked a friendly race with a couple on a kerela registered swift who looked like they were on their honeymoon.

Nature also showered a perfect setting with lilting rainfall and a slight mist and with the winding roads and the lake omnipresent on our left it couldn’t have got better. The lady of the family in the swift was perched on the window sill waving at us and enjoying the rain falling on her when we came across a herd of the elusive Nilgiri Thar grazing on the grass ,that ,just when we thought it couldn’t get any better.

Stopping to shoot them through the eyes of our camera we had a few playful monkeys hopping on our car rooftop and joining the fun. We spotted another herd on the way up as we crossed the first of the tea estates and stopped for an inviting cup of hot tea and spicy mirchi bhajji at a roadside tea shop. It is undoubtedly one of the many simple pleasures of life experience especially in the rains.

Calling up the resort to inform them that we would not be on time for lunch which we planned to have at Valparai we learnt that as reaching the cottage involved a hike and we were expected to be there by 3 pm. Talk about facing a googly! That changed the complete equation, we then took a call to drive till the point we reached the clouds kissing the road and then head back to Chinnar sanctuary. This phenomenon was a guaranteed attraction for any road trip to Valparai and kept pulling us back to this place like a magnet.(It is like a “walking in the clouds “experience).

Views of the first leg before i pen the "Actual" trip!.

Ever Mesmerizing Lake and the green mountains of Valparai. It is such a bliss to climb up

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Ha! the beautifully laid curvy roads and Annamalai range

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what a beauty - Nilgiri Thar

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We were gliding slowly through buttery roads, stopping wherever we felt like...And monkey also decided like wise

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As we went further up to our favorite spot!

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This is the spot which brings us back again and again to valparai. Any time of the year, this spot is as misty as it gets.

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Day 1 continues...

The way back to Chinnar was largely uneventful with the main agenda to make it there by 4 pm at the latest as we had promised the guys there that we could make between 3.30 to 4pm which thankfully we could. Pity as the route was scenic and the rush practically forced us to just keep driving without stopping to admire nature.
Totally famished as we hadn’t had lunch we were served a hot plate of rice and daal and after devouring the same we packed our bags for the 5 km trek to our cottage. We were surprised when we weren’t offered the luxury of having our bags carried at least partly by the guide(Mani), along the entire trek in the sun. But I guess it was a back packers experience and we learnt the lesson of only carrying bare essentials when we choose to live in the wild in isolation. We also got a taste of Government run resorts which are matter of fact with low regard to niceties like customer feel good service.

A word about the Chinnar Sanctuary and the eco forest resort run by the government of Kerela. Firstly Kudos to them for having a truly eco forest reserve where guests are allowed to experience the wild with the support team facilitating the same. They have around four log house cottages and a tree house machaan besides a dorm facility available. All the cottages are spread across the reserve in close proximity to the base where the dorm is situated but pretty much in isolation from each other so literally for a radius of several kilometers you are alone and cut off from the world and with nature and more importantly no network access. The guides and cooks are natives and know the forest like the back of their hands and are delighted to take you trekking to your heart’s content. In fact their incentives are based on the trekking activities.

Chinnar forest reserve is unique in the sense that it is largely a dry deciduous forest located in the shadow area of the western ghats and receives rainfall for only 48 days throughout the year. The typical vegetation is dry grass land with thorny short shrubs and dotted with a few trees. The major attractions are the Giant Grizzled Squirrel and the star tortoise both of which we were fortunate to spot but were able to only capture the star tortoise on camera. It is a trekker’s paradise as also being home to a lot of exotic birds and colorful butterflies and so a popular destination for avid bird watchers. It has two rivers the Chinnar and the Pambar flowing through the reserve. A bit of trivia thrown in being that these are among the few rivers in Kerela flowing eastwards.

Coming back to the trek we saw several peacocks and birds en route as we reached a river side (Chinnar river) log house surrounded by 360 degree mountains which was to be our home for the night. Mani made us a hot cup of black tea served with biscuits and left us alone promising to be back by 7 pm with our dinner. Another bit of trivia or local folklore being that one of the mountains(we have nick named it Love mountain) is meant for local romeo’s and juliet’s where you can actually get the love of your life by throwing a written love letter from the mountain and success rate is considered near 100%.

We chilled out on the small rocky surface with the hot tea and just relaxed hearing the chirping of birds and the shrill sounds of the peacocks admiring the imposing mountains surrounding us as night quickly descended on us. Star gazing though was heavenly with millions of diamonds dotting the sky. I guess it is only on trips that we actually stop to star gaze immersed as we are in the daily routine of our mundane urban lives with so much light pollution around us literally hijacking the stars

Dinner was Chappatis with curry and cool water was from the clear river right besides the log house. The uniqueness of the curry was that by dropping a boiled egg in to a perfectly vegetarian dish(for the wife)was converted into a yummy egg curry.(Talk about malayalee innovations).It was hot inside the house mainly because of the tin roof and we had to keep the windows closed to prevent rats and insects from getting in though the door itself did not have latch and in semi open state!! Mani slept outside the room and we settled with loads of giggles about someone sleeping outside open door on the eve of our anniversary night;-) to a decent night’s sleep . We woke up at the crack of dawn on the day before our anniversary raring to start the day full of energy.

We were warmly welcomed to Chinnar
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Mani our guide for next couple of days
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Star gazing spot!
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Log house out of nowhere where we spent the night
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River in front of the log house
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Love Mountain!
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DAY 2:
After a hot cup of black tea (again, we packed our bags and set out to the base where we were to have our breakfast before setting out on our trek. Breakfast was, guess what, kadalai curry and puttu!. Suitably refreshed after breakfast we took off into the forest with Mani who advised us to wear light clothes and avoid red clothes which apparently gets to the goat of the elephants. (A google search later neither confirmed nor denied the truth on this though it said in Africa the elephants were upset by the red color as it was the attire of the local tribes men who would hunt them).Typically Kanthi termed it hogwash.
The trek was a bit harsh as there was no cover from trees though it helped in spotting animals and birds clearly. The peacock apparently raises its family near the thorny bushes which protect its young ones from predators. We also spotted a gaur and the giant grizzled squirrel which scampered away amidst the tall trees before we could focus the camera on it. We also saw many wild bees in its bee hives and lots of birds before we spotted the star of the day quietly resting by the path with its distinct star shape on its shell. Kanthi gave me loads of credit for spotting it!!!. After photographing the shy fellow we made our way back to the base. Mani meanwhile was talking away to glory non stop. Looked like he loved his job. Another bit of trivia shared by Mani(who was fast becoming a treasure trove of trivia) was that the sting of wild forest bees was much lesser than city bees and that the swelling after the bites heals typically within a day. Mani seemed to have nothing but sheer contempt towards our regular urban life style.

What a sighting for us!

Bangalore - Valparai - Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary-img_2871.jpg

A cup of tea later we trekked to the watch tower from where we could spot a few deer’s and had a birds view of the forest around us. ( I know the amount of black teas we gulp seems to be humongous).We then trekked round the watch tower and could again see some deer herd up close and also found many fallen antlers. We were warned by Mani not to carry the antlers back even though they were fallen down as they are illegal to possess.
Came back to base, we were told by the staff that there is no lunch since we were late. That was not warranted we felt… after grabbing biscuit packets, we took the car to go to Alampetty Forest check post(around 8 kms away) which is the base to start the 3 km trek to Thoovanam Falls. We had authentic “Chukku kapi” (made of dry ginger, water and palm sugar) in a very cozy mud house café.

Alempetty was lot more greener and cooler. We took a guide (in fact one more also joined us as there were a herd of elephants on the path) and tip toed past a couple of elephants barely 50 meters away in the woods. Between us we were armed with a pointed umbrella to protect us from a charge besides our two legs to run as fast as we could (Also neither of us were wearing any red clothes and so I felt safer though we had major argument on the red color with Kanthi adamant on proving a point by trying to make me wear red t-shirt!). The experience was chilling and eerie. Safely out of the herds range we also spotted the giant squirrel again. Trekking our way through the forest we came across a couple of streams which was fun to cross. I got my shoes wet in the bargain, (as usual wifey walked bare feet smartly) and walking along a narrow ridge we got our first glimpse of the waterfall in all its glory.

We got to the waterfall and there was only word to describe the fall “Fantabulous”. The white spray was splashing on us like rainfall. We spent a few minutes just soaking in the view and trying to get the best lighting to click away on our mobile phones. Finally the guides forced us leave soon and we made our trek back to the base. Since the water was in full glory it was not possible to get closer which was a possibility in the summers we were told. The return journey was again largely uneventful except that we had to take a circuitous route back to avoid the elephant herd which was still around.(and once again I managed to trip and get my shoes wet in the stream).

We then drove back to the eco resort and went for our last evening trek. This time we trekked along the stream and the cover was actually greener with tall trees. Not expecting to spot any animals we were stopped suddenly by Mani who pointed to a snake waiting to cut across the path. The snake totally blended with the background and there was no way we would have spotted him on our own. We also spotted a couple of hares scampering in the open grass land before we reached the stream. We played for sometime in the cool waters and returned back. Packing our bags now considerably lighter, we walked to the tree house which was a km away from the base. A check in the fit app on my mobile showed that we had walked over 22 kms since the morning. An end to an exhaustive but fun filled day.
We came back to Chinnar around 4:30 PM for the much anticipated tree house stay! The tree house was perched on a strong peepal tree and access for the house was from a rope ladder which was swaying like a snake when we tried to climb it. It was comical for Kanthi to see me struggling up. Entrance to the house was through a trap door which we had to push open. The house furnishing was basic with a Quechua air bed with air pillows making that squeaking noise at the slightest movement. We pushed them aside and slept (tried to sleep) on the grass mat (paai). Toilet facility if needed was in the open. We didn’t dare to go down once climbed up for the rest of the evening. The guide left us and said he would return with dinner shortly. It was a fun experience in the middle of nowhere on a swaying tree house as we stayed at the balcony hoping to spot some wild animals. We were warned about elephants who frequented the area and a broken tree damaged by elephants nearby was a reminder.
After a short while we were served dinner by Mani and then he left us to ourselves as night fall descended.(No prizes for guessing the menu).All we had was a solar lantern to keep us company. The night spent was without any sleep as had a visitor in the form of a little white mouse who took a liking for our company and a shaking house. To top it there was also some noise from a metal sheet kept out side. We went out to balcony in pitch dark, while the house was swaying in the wind, rolled up the sheets and put them aside. The moment you the door, into the house, it became unbearably hot. (Courtesy Tin roof again. Reason for these roofs were, they are sturdier than bamboo/wood ones )
Not exactly the best way to spend your anniversary night but it was nice to put it aside in our memory as an experience. All in all, the idea was romantic and fun but in reality, one would spend a sleepless night in tree house is all we could arrive as a conclusion. In hindsight staying in Alampetty could have been much cooler and better is what we thought


Watch Tower
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Breath taking Thoovanam Waterfalls

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The "Romantic" Tree house and my climbing skills

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DAY 3:
Waiting for the morning when Mani promptly returned we bid adieu to the tree house and after settling our bills we were off to home sweet home. After a hot cup of black tea and some breakfast of course. Just off the sanctuary we spotted an elephant family near the road on the way back. The rest of the journey was uneventful. We took the Udumalpet –Palladam-Avinashi-Salem-Bangalore route back and were home by 4 pm.
Places of Interest Nearby:
*Marayoor forests with the sandal wood forests and the dolmens.
*Eravikulam National park near Munnar.(Home to the Nilgiri Thar)
*Munnar town.
*Anamudi shola National park.
Idukki district where the park is located is very nature rich and offers plenty of options

Distance Covered and road conditions:
We covered approximately 930 kms to and fro. The road condition was pretty good and not too traffic laden . I guess driving back on a Monday and starting early on a Saturday also helps. Our faithful steed the Yeti was brilliant as always

Chinnar and Alempetty Information

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Final Recommendation: If one wants to trek around these regions, our recommendation would be to stay in Alempetty rather than chinnar as that is much cooler option and has better scenic spots.

Last edited by vijayols : 10th December 2016 at 23:03. Reason: need to finish the blog
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Old 11th December 2016, 13:53   #2
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Default re: Bangalore - Valparai - Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary

Thread moved out from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section). Thanks for sharing!
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Old 14th December 2016, 12:28   #3
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Default Re: Bangalore - Valparai - Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary

I pass through Chinnar more than once in every few months during my Bangalore Munnar drives (my better half is from Munnar), but have never bothered to check on the facilities the place offer. Your travelogue offers a good insight on what is in offering, let me add this to my must to do list for 2017
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Old 14th December 2016, 16:58   #4
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Default Re: Bangalore - Valparai - Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary

I think its definitely worth a short stay at least. I am sure you would have done the Thoovanam falls trek too having passed that route so often.
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Old 14th December 2016, 23:41   #5
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Default Re: Bangalore - Valparai - Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary

@Vijay - Thanks for the very detailed travelogue. Great pictures I must say.

This is on the must do list for 2017!!
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Old 15th December 2016, 20:35   #6
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Default Re: Bangalore - Valparai - Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary

Thanks Rohan.We should be sharing travel destinations more often!So what are the plans for the christmas vacations?
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Old 16th December 2016, 15:49   #7
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Default Re: Bangalore - Valparai - Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary

What a location to choose for a wedding anniversary!!

A wonderful travelogue. And thanks for digging our another lesser traveled location

Quote:
Originally Posted by vijayols View Post
Final Recommendation: If one wants to trek around these regions, our recommendation would be to stay in Alempetty rather than chinnar as that is much cooler option and has better scenic spots.
Are there similar 'eco' huts at Alempetty too? And what would you rate as your biggest grouse against the huts at Chinnar?
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Old 16th December 2016, 16:00   #8
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Default Re: Bangalore - Valparai - Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary

Excellent travelogue with nice pictures to go with it, thanks for sharing
Nice selection of place to celebrate an occasion away from the crowds!

How does one access the place ? How far inside is it from the forest checkpost on the Udumalaipet side ? And how does one get to Alempetty from Chinnar ?

Quote:
Originally Posted by vijayols View Post
Places of Interest Nearby:
These places are also nearby:
1. Amaravathy Dam and Crocodile Rearing Centre
2. Thirumoorthy hills
3. Aaliyar dam (en route Valparai)

Last edited by NPV : 16th December 2016 at 16:09.
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Old 16th December 2016, 16:10   #9
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Default Re: Bangalore - Valparai - Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary

Thank you mallumowgli.The rates for alampetty is the one mentioned in the travelogue.

We felt the alampetty eco cottages were distinctly at a cooler location otherwise the chinnar cottages were just fine.

The tree house though romantic and totally isolated as all the non dorm cottages was just too hot with no ventilation and a tin sheet placed outside was noisy and we hardly slept.
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Old 16th December 2016, 19:21   #10
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Default Re: Bangalore - Valparai - Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary

Thank you NPV for the appreciation.The Valparai drive as always is heavenly and totally in contrast to the Chinnar experience where its very little rainfall all throughout the year.Surprisingly we havent covered the places you have mentioned and would definately cover them during the next visit.

The Chinnar eco resort is just on the border as we cross in to Kerela from Tamil Nadu.Approximately 35 kms from Udumalaipettai.

A short 10 km drive from Chinnar going towards Munnar and we hit Alempetty.From here its a short trek to the Thoovanam falls.The trek is through thick forests and most likely to encounter elephants en route.We also need to cross a couple of streams and the first glimpse of the falls from the mountain side is simply breathtaking.The falls are a treat and the cool mist soaking you as you get closer to the falls is pure bliss.

Alempetty also offers eco huts as does Chinnar.Chinnar forest is drier and famous for its star tortoises though.
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Old 17th December 2016, 16:11   #11
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Quote:
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Thanks Rohan.We should be sharing travel destinations more often!So what are the plans for the christmas vacations?
Heading to Delhi-Agra-Amritsar. I want to actually pen down a travelogue this time

You have a fun trip of the Andamans. Hopefully, the weather won't play spoilsport.
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Old 17th December 2016, 16:36   #12
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Driving Rohan?Have a great time.

Keeping fingers crossed on the weather at Andaman.
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Old 31st December 2016, 14:45   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NPV View Post
Excellent travelogue with nice pictures to go with it, thanks for sharing
Nice selection of place to celebrate an occasion away from the crowds!

How does one access the place ? How far inside is it from the forest checkpost on the Udumalaipet side ? And how does one get to Alempetty from Chinnar ?


These places are also nearby:
1. Amaravathy Dam and Crocodile Rearing Centre
2. Thirumoorthy hills
3. Aaliyar dam (en route Valparai)
Thanks NPV. I missed quoting. So, not sure whether you got my response.

The Chinnar eco resort is just on the border as we cross in to Kerela from Tamil Nadu.Approximately 35 kms from Udumalaipettai.

A short 10 km drive from Chinnar going towards Munnar and we hit Alempetty.From here its a short trek to the Thoovanam falls.The trek is through thick forests and most likely to encounter elephants en route.We also need to cross a couple of streams and the first glimpse of the falls from the mountain side is simply breathtaking.The falls are a treat and the cool mist soaking you as you get closer to the falls is pure bliss.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mallumowgli View Post
What a location to choose for a wedding anniversary!!

A wonderful travelogue. And thanks for digging our another lesser traveled location



Are there similar 'eco' huts at Alempetty too? And what would you rate as your biggest grouse against the huts at Chinnar?
The last picture in the blog gives details on Alempetty guest houses. The biggest pain in Chinnar huts is Tin roof and no windows which basically cooks you inside.

Last edited by Vid6639 : 31st December 2016 at 19:03. Reason: merging posts. Pls. use the edit option when replying within 30mins. Thanks,
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Old 31st December 2016, 16:11   #14
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Default Re: Bangalore - Valparai - Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary

Quote:
Originally Posted by vijayols View Post
The Chinnar eco resort is just on the border as we cross in to Kerela from Tamil Nadu.Approximately 35 kms from Udumalaipettai.

A short 10 km drive from Chinnar going towards Munnar and we hit Alempetty.From here its a short trek to the Thoovanam falls.
Yes, I did read your earlier post as well, thanks!
I could identify the location now on the map. Usually when heading to Munnar, one can easily miss both the Chinnar eco resort as well as Alempetty as this is the forest section before nearing Marayoor and Munnar. In fact, the first place of activity one usually encounters is near Eravikulam national park entry where vehicles are parked haphazardly and there are lots of people milling around.
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