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Old 6th April 2018, 16:21   #1
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Default Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness

What lies beyond? The answer promised interesting, exciting even.

This question-answer intrigue churned on my mind since my trip to Athirappilly-Vazhachal Falls and Peringalkuthu Dam (A drive to Asurankundu Dam, Athirappilly-Vazhachal Falls and Peringalkuthu Dam), where we were given just an hour at Vazhachal Forest check post to return from a drive along the Chalakudy-Pollachi road to visit Peringalkuthu dam. I could not but get excited about the prospect of driving further along the forest route till Pollachi.

A chance to find out finally presented itself when a friend suggested a drive to Parambikulam via Athirappilly and Valparai with an overnight stay in Pollachi. I was keen on staying for a night inside Parambikulam Tiger Reserve, but that was not meant to be this time.

Plan? The plan was simple. I will take an overnight bus from Bangalore and he will drive down from Thiruvananthapuram. We will meet up at Chalakudy, drive via Valparai to Pollachi where we will stay for the night, drive to Parambikulam for a safari the next morning, then return to Thrissur and go our separate ways from there. No bookings were made, no finer details were worked out. We thought it best to make up specific decisions as the day went along. With Chalakudy as our starting point, we had three days and three nights at our disposal.

Day 0:
The evening before the commencement of the drive from Chalakudy, I presented myself at the Electronic City toll plaza (in front of Audi Service Bengaluru), the usual pickup point for KeSRTC buses towards Salem-Palakkad route. Being in the middle of a long weekend, there was not much of a rush at the plaza:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00001.jpg


KeSRTC Kottayam Volvo showed up 30 mins late:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00002.jpg


The bus was mostly empty and stopped for dinner at Saravana Bhavan near Krishnagiri. I slept off after that and woke up only when the bus neared Thrissur. I thought it best to alight at Thrissur, get a room just to freshen up and then take another bus to Chalakudy.


Day 1:
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The bus pulled into the Thrissur Bus Stand around 4:30 a.m. I found a room opposite to it, freshened up, and got into another bus towards Chalakudy at 6 a.m. The Superfast made good time and reached Chalakudy by 6:45 a.m., where my friend had arrived 15 mins earlier after a 4 hour drive from Thiruvananthapuram.

We wasted no time and immediately set off towards Athirappilly, our first stop for the day.

Early morning on a holiday, there was sparse traffic and the roads were inviting:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00003.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00004.jpg


At about 7:40, we reached Athirappilly, only to be informed that the ticket counter would open only at 8.

A view from the road:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00005.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00006.jpg


My last visit was still fresh and the water level had not improved, it was mid summer anyway, so I was not keen to walk till the waterfall, but my friend had not visited in a while. Finally, we decided to walk till the top of the fall. We purchased the tickets as soon as the counter opened at 8.

The entrance:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00007.jpg


I am Kerala's state bird...destruction of habitat is a threat for me...give me continuous rain forest for survival:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00008.jpg


A kanikkonna (golden rain tree) in full bloom, heralding the arrival of Vishu:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00009.jpg


Stream on top, just before the fall:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00010.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00012.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00013.jpg


The falls:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00011.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00016.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00015.jpg


Fishing:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00014.jpg


A red-whiskered bulbul:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00017.jpg


After spending 20 minutes at the fall, we walked back. We decided to have breakfast from one of the restaurants in Athirappilly.

Idiyappam and green peas:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00018.jpg


With this view:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00019.jpg


Post breakfast, we drove on towards Vazhachal check post.

Last edited by darklord : 6th April 2018 at 20:38.
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Old 6th April 2018, 18:44   #2
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Default Re: Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness

We reached Vazhachal check post by 9:15 a.m. Neither of us were interested in visiting the falls nearby. After making entries at the checkpost, we were given a slip and a 2-hour window to report at Malakkapara check post, a distance of 45 km.

Road narrowed down, but still had fair surface:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00001.jpg


After a while we came to a point on the road which afforded a view of the Peringalkuthu reservoir. There was some activity on the banks:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00002.jpg


AFAIK, a couple of forest officers were inspecting a hunting ground. There was a dead sambar deer and a couple of other carcasses. Who the hunter was, we can only guess. Later, when we described the scene to our guide in Parambikulam, he guessed it was either a leopard or a tiger:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00003.jpg


Way to a tribal colony. "This is not a public road. Entering the forest is punishable."
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00004.jpg


A view from Anakkayam Bridge enroute:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00005.jpg


Roads began to deteriorate a bit:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00006.jpg


A yellow wagtail (note the elephant dung in the background):
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00007.jpg


A view of the valley:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00008.jpg


Narrow roads, not much of a shoulder:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00009.jpg

The road surface steadily began to deteriorate and wound up horrible as it neared Malakkapara check post.

After driving for a bit, we came to the Lower Sholayar reservoir and Thottapura view point. Can you spot the Lower Sholayar Dam:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00010.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00011.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00012.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00014.jpg


Remnants of an old bridge, perhaps of the Cochin Tramway?
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00013.jpg


One of the many signboards:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00015.jpg


Even though we took very minimal breaks, the narrow, bad road ensured we took exactly 2 hours to cover the 45 km and reach Malakkapara check post. Entries made and slip handed over, we proceeded to Valparai.

A few shots from near the check post:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00016.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00017.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00018.jpg


Forests gave way to tea estates. There are a few homestays available in Malakkapara.

Though we were slightly disappointed on not sighting any significant wildlife, we enjoyed the drive so far and drove on towards Valparai.
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Old 6th April 2018, 22:46   #3
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Default Re: Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness

After about 10 minutes from Malakkapara check post, we saw Sholayar Dam on the right:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00001.jpg

The spillway:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00004.jpg

Bridge across the spillway:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00005.jpg


Flowers were blooming on the banks of the spillway:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00002.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00003.jpg


The road condition improved:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00006.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00009.jpg


Tea estate on the way:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00007.jpg


Our steed:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00008.jpg


An estate bungalow:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00010.jpg


We had our first significant sighting just after. A Lion-tailed macaque was sitting by the roadside.
Quote:
A recent assessment for IUCN reports 3000-3500 of these animals live scattered over several areas in Kerala, Karnataka. The lion-tailed macaque ranks among the rarest and most threatened primates.
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00011.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00012.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00013.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00014.jpg


Go slow:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00015.jpg


Tata coffee:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00016.jpg


All we saw were tea plantations though:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00017.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00018.jpg


We came across a T junction, the left one going to Pollachi bypassing Valparai and the right one through the town. We decided to take the one through the town.
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Old 7th April 2018, 13:45   #4
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Default Re: Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness

Valparai Town turned out to be chock-a-block with people and vehicles. There was not an inch to park or stop. Being a Sunday, the market was full of life. We moved out of the town without stopping and proceeded towards Pollachi. Somehow, clicking photos of the town slipped my mind.

The roads remained good. Hairpins began appearing. At 32/40 hairpin, we came across this memorial. G A Carver Marsh, a pioneering planter. I am unsure if he is a good guy or a bad guy as I stand in 2018.
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00004.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00001.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00002.jpg


The place was beautiful:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00003.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00005.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00006.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00007.jpg


The hillsides were green carpeted with tea plants:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00008.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00009.jpg


We moved along and in no time, stopped at another place that caught our eye.
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00010.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00011.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00012.jpg


The tug of war between the car and the camera was getting stronger as we drove on.
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00013.jpg


Rain clouds began to form in the horizon:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00014.jpg


Now the problem was picking a spot to stop as there were excellent views all along the road. We saw this place that sold tea and tea powder, the company outlet of Waterfall Estate. There is also good parking space, a valley view point, and true to its name, a waterfall (dry this time).Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00015.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00016.jpg


Jacarandas in full bloom:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00015a.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00017.jpg


As we drove on, we were leaving the tea estates behind and once again forests began to appear.

Last edited by darklord : 7th April 2018 at 16:12.
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Old 7th April 2018, 18:56   #5
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Default Re: Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness

The road was smooth and perfect to enjoy your drive:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00017.jpg


We are halfway there:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00018.jpg


You may not be the only one who wants to take this hairpin:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00019.jpg


We found a perfect spot that gave us a good view of the valley and the winding roads:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00020.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00023.jpg


There was a proper view point below:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00021.jpg


Aliyar Dam and reservoir:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00022.jpg


Brief break:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00024.jpg


Rain clouds still undecided:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00025.jpg


"We are not going to see any in this ghat road, right?"

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00026.jpg


We drove down and stopped at the Aliyar Dam view point. Rain clouds throwing a shadow over the reservoir:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00027.jpg


The much clicked shot of the road is now obscured by trees; realized an obscured shot is nothing to rue about because of something I noted next..:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00028.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00029.jpg


..the tree was visibly supporting life:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00030.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00031.jpg
Anyone can ID the bird?


The twisting road that passes in front of the dam far away:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00033.jpg


We walked back to the car and noticed a guard chasing something away from the road and down into the woods. It made short work of the steep incline:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00032.jpg


We didn't see clearly what it was. We hoped to catch it on the way down, and as we drove down, indeed there it was, in the woods:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00034.jpg
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Old 7th April 2018, 22:31   #6
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Default Re: Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness

It was indeed a small herd of Nilgiri Tahrs, an endangered species. We were surprised and happy at this sighting as they were elusive, to our knowledge. Yet here they were, grazing happily as they worked their way down the cliff, perhaps unperturbed because only a couple of people were present in the vicinity.

We first spotted just this mother and calf:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00001.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00002.jpg


Then we began noticing other individuals of the herd:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00003.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00004.jpg


The herd was working their way down the cliff and we drove down the road, hoping to find a better vantage point to shoot them.

The cliffs they were traversing with ease:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00005.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00006.jpg


We drove down to a point where we had good visibility of the tahrs:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00007.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00008.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00009.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00010.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00012.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00013.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00014.jpg

It was herd of 5-6 individuals including a calf:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00011.jpg


Their population is going up and I really hope they get out of the endangered list.

Quote:
Perhaps, in the first-ever comprehensive study of the Nilgiri tahr population in Western Ghats, the WWF-India has put the population at 3,122 and added that with diligent conservation and planning, the population could reach the 5,000 mark.
The Hindu


Our moods uplifted by the sighting, we drove on.
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00015.jpg


Hairpin 2/40:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00016.jpg


The rain decided now was a good time to come down:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00017.jpg


With the rain welcoming, we reached the plains:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00018.jpg


We got out through the check post a little before 3 p.m. Our destination for the day, Pollachi, was still 25 km away.

Last edited by darklord : 7th April 2018 at 22:34.
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Old 8th April 2018, 11:34   #7
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Default Re: Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness

We reached the plains. The road continued to be smooth and now has enough shoulder:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00001.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00002.jpg


We passed in front of Aliyar Dam. Being a Sunday, it was too crowded, and we were not too interested either.

Now the hunger pangs were catching up with us. We had skipped lunch. Pollachi being coconut country, there was no dearth of tender coconuts. We stopped at a roadside stall for a couple:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00003.jpg


We drove on to Pollachi where we had to find accommodation for the night. We had a few names from the internet and decided to check them out in person.

Beautiful road:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00004.jpg


There were intermittent showers:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00005.jpg


We brought our rain with us into Pollachi:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00006.jpg


We checked out a hotel in Pollachi town, but we were not too impressed. We needed a room just for the night, but we were on the road for 20 hours and we needed the sleep to be good to enjoy Parambikulam. We called up Sakthi River Resorts, a resort a bit away from town, but close to the turnoff towards Parambikulam. They had non-A/C twin available for ~2600 including taxes. They also offered breakfast and wi-fi. We decided to splurge.


Pollachi-Palakkad road:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00007.jpg


Sakthi River Resort:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00008.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00009.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00010.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00011.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00012.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00013.jpg


Aliyar River was flowing adjoining the property:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00014.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00015.jpg


We had an early dinner and sat down by the river bank to watch the sun setting, listening to the birds chirping. A peacock was making its call from across the river. It was a peaceful evening:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00016.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00017.jpg


Initially we thought of using the pool, but then we were too tired and went back to the room for an early sleep.
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00018.jpg


We planned on starting towards Parambikulam by 6 a.m.
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Old 8th April 2018, 15:35   #8
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Default Re: Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness

Moving out of Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing. - Support Team
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Old 9th April 2018, 11:19   #9
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Default Re: Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness

The balcony of our room opened into the Pollachi-Palakkad highway, but despite that we had a sound sleep and was ready to leave by 6:20.
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00001.jpg

Our route for the day:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-fullscreen-capture-492018-103427-am.bmp.jpg


The resort's restaurant opens only at 7:30, so we decided to skip the free breakfast and have it from Top Slip or Parambikulam. The checkout process was done in 5 mins and we hit the road by 6:30.

It was a slightly foggy morning and life was just beginning to return to the road.
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image0001a.jpg


The right turnoff towards Parambikulam from Palakkad-Pollachi road, as seen approaching Pollachi:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00002.jpg


The railway cross en route was open:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00003.jpg


The road was smooth, traffic was sparse and was lined by trees and coconut groves on both sides:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00004.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00005.jpg


We did not encounter any significant traffic and there were enough signboards to guide us:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00006.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image0006a.jpg


We reached Sethumadai check post just a little after 7:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00007.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00008.jpg

Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00009.jpg


We were told that although the ticket counter opens at 7, the counter clerk has not turned up yet. A TNSTC bus to Parambikulam zipped past, no tickets for them. We had to spend about 20 minutes before the clerk came along and issued the tickets.

AFAIK, the shop near the check post is the last place where you could get packaged drinking water, although soft drinks in cans and glass bottles are available in Parambikulam township.

The total cost came to ₹390 (entrance fee 2 x 30, 100 for LMV, 80 for still camera, plus another 150 in a green receipt which was mostly in Tamil, we could only make out "Help Save Tiger" part). We were advised to be extra careful since it had rained fresh yesterday night and hence the animals might be unpredictable.

We were waved on by 7:30.

Hardly had we moved 200 meters when there was significant activity by birds. We first noticed this peahen:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00010.jpg


Next came this bird:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00011.jpg
Can anybody ID?


A Green bee-eater was on the lookout:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00012.jpg


The road became lousy and broken:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00013.jpg


This Nilgiri langur was not too keen on posing:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00015.jpg


But I did get a good one:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00014.jpg


Broken, winding and going up:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00016.jpg


We spotted this Malabar giant squirrel on a tree, but it was not a clear shot:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00017.jpg


We hoped to get a better shot as the car swung along to the upper part of the road:
Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness-image00018.jpg
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Old 9th April 2018, 12:45   #10
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Default Re: Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness

Great Going Darklord, keep the pictures rolling..

We have done the Athirapally --> Pollachi road around 10 years back , was pure bliss on a rainy day... Hope your group had a great time as well.
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Old 9th April 2018, 16:28   #11
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Default Re: Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness

Good trip.

The birds as per your order -
1. (Fishing) Open-billed Stork
2. (Yellow wagtail) - It's the Grey Wagtail.
3. Yellow-browed Bulbul
4. White-browed Bulbul
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Old 9th April 2018, 16:47   #12
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Default Re: Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness

I am in awe of the sightings you've had on this trip. And to be absolutely frank, I'm a wee bit jealous of your travels What a lovely write up! Cannot wait for more!
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Old 9th April 2018, 17:37   #13
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Default Re: Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness

Wonderful Travelogue there Darklord

I thought the Lion Tailed Macaque can only be found near Valaparai belt.

But, during my recent visit to Tirumala I found couple of them roaming around the ghat roads.

Also, I managed to spot the Giant Malabar squirrel at Srivari Padam (Tirumala)
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Old 9th April 2018, 18:33   #14
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Default Re: Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness

Nice pictures and crisp travelogue and very good spottings too.

Reminds me of our trip to Valparai and then to Athirapally and back, which we did during 2012, on couple of bikes from Pollachi. We were able to spot a good amount of Nilgiri Tahrs on the way back during our trip, where they were just roaming around the cliff and the road. And those 40 hairpin bends were pure joy.
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Old 9th April 2018, 19:51   #15
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Default Re: Parambikulam through Valparai - Escape from madness

Quote:
Originally Posted by TheHkrish View Post
Great Going Darklord, keep the pictures rolling..

Hope your group had a great time as well.
Thanks. We indeed had a great time.

Quote:
Originally Posted by discoverwild View Post
Good trip.

The birds as per your order -
1. (Fishing) Open-billed Stork
2. (Yellow wagtail) - It's the Grey Wagtail.
3. Yellow-browed Bulbul
4. White-browed Bulbul
Thanks very much. Always great to know the specific species you are shooting.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BoltThrower View Post
I am in awe of the sightings you've had on this trip. And to be absolutely frank, I'm a wee bit jealous of your travels What a lovely write up! Cannot wait for more!
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Originally Posted by Prodigy07 View Post
Wonderful Travelogue there Darklord
Quote:
Originally Posted by jpcoolguy View Post
Nice pictures and crisp travelogue and very good spottings too.
Thanks guys.
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