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Old 13th October 2010, 19:15   #1
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Default A trip through the lesser known roads of Munnar and Vagamon

A bunch of friends suddenly realized that the last week together as roommates in Chennai is fast approaching. Add to that, I had a newly acquired Safari 4x4. So we decided we are going to test the beast to make our last weekend together a memorable one. And where better to test the beast than in a hilly terrain and forests of Idukki district of Kerala

All of a sudden, 2 day weekend seemed too short. By Wednesday night we realized that in order to escape into the forests of Idukki district of Kerala, we needed one additional day (However to completely experience the wonders that this part of Kerala has to offer, one would require atleast a week and mostly people will still feel a week is not enough). So Wednesday night we searched all the possible information regarding Munnar routes and a big thanks to Team-Bhp and Google Maps we finalized the routes. One final hurdle was left. All of us needed a Friday off at a short notice. As they say, where there is a will there is a way, we got the Friday off, though all of us literally had to beg and make unrealistic promises to our respective Managers.

Since we did not believe in too much planning, we did not pre-book any accommodation prior to the travel. We later realized this was a really bad idea.

So by Thursday evening, the vehicle came back from servicing and we were all set to go.

A trip through the lesser known roads of Munnar and Vagamon-img_1041.jpg

After leaving within 20 minutes we were stopped by police. After showing all the vehicle papers, he still wanted an NOC since my vehicle was AP registered vehicle. I told him that I had all the toll receipts and diesel bills and had entered Tamil Nadu 2 days ago and will be leaving the place by end of next week, he did not listen. I doubt that police officers (I think he is of a higher cadre than a constable) really know the rules. Add to that we were having difficulty in communicating as I did not know Tamil and he did not know Hindi. I informed him that if I take NOC, I would have to re-register in Tamil Nadu and I am not breaking any rules by bringing the vehicle for 2 weeks into a different state. He did not buy that argument. After arguing for 30 minutes he finally relented and let me off as he was loosing lots of ‘business’ by arguing with us .

The route we took was Chennai – Krishnagiri – Dharmapuri – Salem – Erode – Kangeyam – Udumulaipettai – through Chinnar Wildlife sanctuary and finally Munnar. The two wildlife sactuaries enroute made us go for this route instead of the route through Chennai – Trichy – Dindigul – Theni – Munnar.

On the highway, we were cruising at a constant 80/90 kmph and trying to overtake a lorry which was on the left lane. Suddenly and Indica speeding overtook us from left and cut to the right lane suddenly during a curve through the minimal gap between the safari and the lorry. And then a “bang”, a cow was sitting in the middle of the 4 lane highway at 2 am and Indica had collision with this cow. His indica completely lost the bumber and could see sparks flying around. And in that moment, we had nowhere to go. On the left was a Lorry, behind was another bus. So we too had to go over the cow. We did not realize much at that moment what happened but when we stopped and looked back, we found the animal walking. We thanked God that nothing unforeseen had happened and proceeded with the journey.

The route upto Erode (more specifically Perundurai) is completely 4 laned and well maintained although you can find an odd cow and an odd goat strolling in the middle of the road here and there. After this, the route upto Udumulaipettai is in good condition and 2 laned and will go through the windfarms. It is easy to take a detour and enter into one of the many the wind farms

A wind farm from distance
A trip through the lesser known roads of Munnar and Vagamon-img_1088.jpg

Massive windmill upclose. It is quite scary to stand in beneath the windmill. The thought of the massive blade cracking and falling below comes to mind
A trip through the lesser known roads of Munnar and Vagamon-img_1066.jpg

Our Ride during one of the detours towards a windmill
A trip through the lesser known roads of Munnar and Vagamon-img_1092.jpg

After these mini-detours, we reached Udumulapettai and then entered the Anamalai Tiger Reserve on the Tamil Nadu side which crosses into Kerala and is called Chinnar Wildlife sanctuary on the Kerala side. Tamil Nadu side, there is not much checking. However, before entering Kerala, there was a thorough checking of the vehicle which is a very good thing in my opinion especially in forest areas. After entering into the forest area, there is a sudden change in the landscape. The plains give way to hills, the paddy fields give way to tall trees and thick bushes, and mostly importantly the hustle bustle of towns/cities and villages gives way to a calm and serene atmosphere.

Entering Anamalai Tiger Reserve
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Forest Checkpost at Chinnar Wild Life Sanctuary. Thorough checking of vehicles done here
A trip through the lesser known roads of Munnar and Vagamon-img_1146.jpg

Falls enroute. There was a signboard saying that one can go on a trek to these falls from this point. If we had more time, we would have definately done this trek
A trip through the lesser known roads of Munnar and Vagamon-img_1206.jpg
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The road
A trip through the lesser known roads of Munnar and Vagamon-img_1233.jpg

The last leg of this journey towards munnar was through sprawling tea-estates. I will let the pictures do the talking as I am short of words to describe this beautiful landscape.
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Loads of pictures coming up in the next post.
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Old 13th October 2010, 19:20   #2
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Great drive. One should always take the Udumalpet road, just for the roadside sightseeing!
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Old 13th October 2010, 19:23   #3
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Himavanth, congrats on the new ride. She looks just perfect! The green tea carpets of Munnar look gorgeous. Can you please share the details of how the 4x4 handled, FE etc?
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Old 13th October 2010, 21:02   #4
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Fantastic Pics himavanth..... Munnar, I love that place a lot.

Please do post more pics...Looking forward to it

-Ravi
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Old 13th October 2010, 21:11   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ExtremeTorque View Post
Himavanth, congrats on the new ride. She looks just perfect! The green tea carpets of Munnar look gorgeous. Can you please share the details of how the 4x4 handled, FE etc?
Safari is never a great handler and you cannot throw this vehicle on corners. I bet you will be scared to death if you do those stunts .
However, if your prime motive is to travel into unknown roads, safari is a good vehicle and it gives you the additional piece of mind mainly due to the high ground clearance. More over, the comfort in long drives you get in safari is among the best. I never felt tired. My relationship with this vehicle has just started and I would require more time to completely understand its dynamics. tsk and adc will answer your queries much better

It gave me around 12.5 km/l on highway (100% AC) and I think it gave around 8 - 10 in ghat section (did not calculate on ghats), all the drive was on light foot and was never trying to win any drag race.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ravib View Post
Fantastic Pics himavanth..... Munnar, I love that place a lot.

Please do post more pics...Looking forward to it

-Ravi
I have around 1000 of them if you are interested


Contd....

We finally reached Munnar and found accommodation in Aranyaka Homestay on the way to Atukkad falls. I would highly recommend these cottages if one wants a very good view and well maintained rooms at pretty reasonable rates.

View of Atukkad falls from the cottage
A trip through the lesser known roads of Munnar and Vagamon-img_1386.jpg
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A couple of hours rest and we were off to explore the lesser explored trails.
We started towards Pothamedu and continued from there on without any information regarding the destination and were keeping our fingers crossed that the ˝ lane road leads us to some other highway.

So we continued from Pothamedu towards Bison valley road and proceeded further. The road width kept on decreasing. After happily driving for an hour, things were becoming scary as the road condition was deteriorating at a rapid rate. It was getting darker by the minute and the human inhabitation becoming sparse. After continuing on this trail for 3 more hours, we finally touched a highway that connects to the Ernakulam Munnar highway. After 2 more hours on the highway we were back in Munnar.

Since there were no villagers and could not find the route in any map, I cannot provide exact route details regarding this route. If anyone wants to explore this route, go to Pothamedu via Ramaswami Iyer headway dam and go straight on and on and on. However, I would suggest to do this route only if you have vehicle with high ground clearance as the road is broken at many places and there is a high probability that the vehicle can hit the underbelly.(4x4 not necessary).

Some pics of the journey
A trip through the lesser known roads of Munnar and Vagamon-img_1491.jpg
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We were thoroughly exhausted after continuous driving for 20 hours.
Just before sleeping we had seen some pics of Vagamon and decided that was the place we would go the next day and went off to sleep
The next day, it was time to say good bye to Munnar and move to Vagamon.

Last edited by himavanth_m : 13th October 2010 at 21:19.
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Old 14th October 2010, 10:05   #6
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Superb pics there! Thanks for making me relive the memories.

It made my recollect my honeymoon trip to Munnar.
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Old 14th October 2010, 11:50   #7
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It was time to leave the comforts of the guest house
A trip through the lesser known roads of Munnar and Vagamon-img_1618.jpg
A trip through the lesser known roads of Munnar and Vagamon-img_1696.jpg

People waiting at the Tata Tea Factory with their harvest
A trip through the lesser known roads of Munnar and Vagamon-img_1702.jpg
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Another day of continuous driving lay ahead.

Last edited by himavanth_m : 14th October 2010 at 12:05. Reason: Some pics are lost while attaching.
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Old 14th October 2010, 13:40   #8
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OT:: One small question I wanted to ask. I can see the iron iron on your bumper draped with the Indian flag cover. Is this allowed on general/civilian vehicles?. Did anyone stop you for this till now?. I was curious on this.
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Old 14th October 2010, 15:35   #9
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Default Vagamon it is...

Quote:
Originally Posted by shishir_bn View Post
OT:: One small question I wanted to ask. I can see the iron iron on your bumper draped with the Indian flag cover. Is this allowed on general/civilian vehicles?. Did anyone stop you for this till now?. I was curious on this.
The previous vehicle owner was related to politics. Hence I believe the Indian Flag. I do not know if one can keep this on a civilian vehicles. But so far no one has stopped me.

Contd..
The route taken:
Munnar – Idukki – Kulamavu – Moolamattam – Vagamon.
The route from Munnar to Idukki and upto Moolamattom is one of the best stretches of ghat section you will ever see. It is completely 2 laned. The scenic landscapes that this route provides are second to none.
A trip through the lesser known roads of Munnar and Vagamon-img_1712.jpg
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A detour on the way towards a bridge
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As luck would have it, we got our tyre punctured just before reaching Idukki. After getting the puncture repaired, we proceeded through the heart of this district.

The famous Idukki Arch Dam
A trip through the lesser known roads of Munnar and Vagamon-img_1946.jpg

Terrific scenery enroute
A trip through the lesser known roads of Munnar and Vagamon-img_2013.jpg
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After reaching Moolamattom, one has to take a right near the bus stand to reach Vagamon. This route is again very dangerous as we had seen lots of landslides enroute. There was also road construction work that was going on. And to top it all off, a Safari hardly fits the width of this road. Again I would suggest this route only in an SUV as ground clearance is an absolute must.
A trip through the lesser known roads of Munnar and Vagamon-img_2052.jpg
A trip through the lesser known roads of Munnar and Vagamon-img_2062.jpg

Closer to Vagamon, this narrow road widens and opens up into rolling grass covered hills, meadows, velvet lawns. This hill side village is a heaven of tranquility. I will let the pics do the talking
A trip through the lesser known roads of Munnar and Vagamon-img_2095.jpg
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It was getting darker when we reached vagamon. We started looking for accommodation here. However, all the homestays we saw here were fully booked. One of our friends suggested we move to Kumarakom in Kottayam district for night stay. So without a second thought we proceeded to Kumarakom. Again the route is in a decent shape with the odd pot holes.
At night finally after an exhausting day, we reached Kumarakom, only to realize that the resorts here are too expensive for a nights stay. It was almost midnight and no place to stay for the night. Thinking that we would not be able to explore the backwaters in half a day, we decided we move to Thekkady and explore Periyar Wildlife sanctuary the next day. Had we persisted, we might have found decent accommodation at Vagamon or Kumarakom. But at that point of time we were over enthusiastic to just drive on and moved to Thekkady.
During the night from whatever I could gather, this route is an absolute bliss to drive on. I would have preferred to do this stretch during the day but due to circumstances, we had to do this overnight. Finally we reached Thekkady at 4 am only to realize that no one is awake and ready to give a room to 4 bachelors. This time we were determined not to drive further and take rest for atleast 6 hrs. So after walking into almost every lodge that we could find (We must have walked into atleast 15 to 20 lodges here), we finally found a shabby room.

Since most of the drive was during the night, there are no pics of this leg of the journey.
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Old 14th October 2010, 15:42   #10
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Man ! You shifted tourist locations, for the want of a hotel!
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Old 14th October 2010, 18:05   #11
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World would be beautiful if we had lot of green places like the ones your pictures show. Awesome!
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Old 15th October 2010, 17:18   #12
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Default The final leg of journey...

Quote:
Originally Posted by ampere View Post
Man ! You shifted tourist locations, for the want of a hotel!
Yeah, we were over enthusiastic

Quote:
Originally Posted by joe1980 View Post
World would be beautiful if we had lot of green places like the ones your pictures show. Awesome!
Most of this green cover(tea-plantations) is man-made. I believe without this, the route would have been filled with more trees and thick jungles. Even though it looks beautiful, due to these tea plantations, there is a lot of soil erosion happening resulting from heavy rains that this part receives. This is not good. Had there been trees, due to deep roots of the trees, the soil erosion is arrested even after the rains.

Contd...
The next day morning, we woke up and headed towards Periyar Wildlife sanctuary. But this sanctuary is filled with hordes of tourists and guides informing of the numerous elephant rides.
A trip through the lesser known roads of Munnar and Vagamon-img_2223.jpg
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One thing that caught my ears was the all day jungle safari through the forests and one had to book the safari a day in advance. Since it was already Sunday afternoon, we had no other option but to go back. Dejected that we could not enter into deep jungles, we decided to head back. We would have loved to include Gavi in this trip but shortage of time and lack of planning was the culprit.

But one of our friends just suggested the route Chennai Via Munnar again. This route to munnar is Tekkady – Kumily – Poopara – Munnar. Again this route moves through thick jungles and well maintained route with decent amount of traffic. Closer to Munnar, one can see the tea-plantations green carpet again.
A trip through the lesser known roads of Munnar and Vagamon-img_2250.jpg
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We reached Munnar in the evening, had lunch and decided we will now finally go back to Chennai via the usual route. This route back to Chennai is Munnar – Poopara – Theni – Madurai – Chennai. The route upto Theni is ghat section and after that a 2 laned road upto Madurai and from there on, it is completely 4 laned. We reached Chennai cherishing every moment of the trip we had.

Finally after 3 days and 2 nights, we can proudly say, we have entered Munnar from almost every road possible to Munnar and explored the lesser known roads in Idukki district. But if someone questions us on the places to visit in Munnar, we would have to reply “we will get back to you on that”

Last edited by himavanth_m : 15th October 2010 at 17:23.
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