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Old 30th September 2018, 16:58   #1
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Default Munnar 2018: Neelakurinji, a flower that blooms once in 12 years

Neelakurinji blooms once in 12 years, the last season was 2006. Next season would be 2030. And 2018 was washed away by incessant rains that devastated Kerala. Connectivity to Munnar was broken. Finally, by first week of September the rains were over. It is time to recover not just for the people of Kerala but also for the abundance of flora and fauna the beautiful state possesses. The rains have washed significant kurinji shrubs, but the eastern slopes received lesser rain and there was hope. By second week of September, sightings of Kurinji blooms were reported around Kanthaloor. Most of these sightings were deep inside forests beyond accessible limits. The bloom is already delayed and would only last a few weeks.

Not willing to miss this opporunity, I started exploring whatever information available from the internet. During this effort, I happened to speak to eravikulam national park authorities and Walla! they confirmed Kurinji bloom at Rajamala. Quickly hatched a plan for the weekend and booked tickets online. Link. I had worries about road connectivity but then whats wrong in trying.

Teaser
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For those who prefer watching over reading


15 SEP 2018 | Bangalore | Original plan 2:00 AM

Prepared vehicle a day before, we call her Night Fury. Filled up, fluids checked, windshield water topped, tyres inflated. All such preparation mean a delayed sleep. Some how managed to wake up by 3:00 AM. My little angel was deep asleep. How can I disturb her. So I transformed the rear seat into a cozy bed with enough pillows to support so she can continue her sleep.

Actual departure 4:40 AM

by sunrise we had crossed Dharmapuri
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Had breakfast at Omalur bypass. Passing through Sangagiri, Bhavani, Udumalai, Chinnar wild life sanctuary, reached Marayoor by noon.

Forest check-post, Chinnar
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Semi arid rainshadow region
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Landscapes transform with elevation

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Last edited by Thermodynamics : 4th October 2018 at 21:00.
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Old 2nd October 2018, 21:19   #2
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Default re: Munnar 2018: Neelakurinji, a flower that blooms once in 12 years

Stopped at Marayoor for lunch, crossed sandal wood forest and typical Munnar scapes emerge.

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Anamudi

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What a location for tea stall with Anamudi as backdrop. The rain chasing in, perfect setting to sip on a hot cup of tea.
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Bridge that connected Munnar-Udumalai ripped off by rains
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and a makeshift arrangement
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Munnar was empty devoid of tourists. Hotels were available for throwaway prices but we had already booked an oyo. Checked in by 3:00 PM. Some day light still left, we thought of exploring around. There was a Kerala tourism office beside our hotel. I ventured into a conversation, asked him about Kurinji bloom, he mentioned three regions, Rajamala, Top-station and Kolukkumalai. Rajamala was already in our plan since we had purchased tickets for next day. Kolukkumalai would be a long detour thought of skipping it but please do read the rest of the travelogue there is a twist. For now we decided to drive down to Top-station, explored Mattupatti Dam.

Mattupatti Dam
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On the way to top-station, there was an eco-tourism office and once again I inquired about Neela Kurinji, they repeated Kolukkumalai-Kurangini hills. There are some sightings around top station, but in the interiors and tourists are not allowed. The sun was going down, no point to drive all the way to top station, it would be dark. So we decided to get back to hotel and Munnar greeted us with a beautiful sunset.

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Explored market place, got souvenirs, a simple dinner - appam kadala curry from a road side shack and we called it a day. Not much to do we hit the bed early knowing tomorrow is going to be a long day.

Last edited by Thermodynamics : 4th October 2018 at 21:05.
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Old 3rd October 2018, 08:18   #3
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Default re: Munnar 2018: Neelakurinji, a flower that blooms once in 12 years

SEP 16 | Sunday | 6:30 AM

We got ready early and checked out of hotel. A road side restaurant on the way to Eravikulam national park was serving piping hot idli sambar. With plenty of time on hand, we had a lazy breakfast, Munnar was still waking up.

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Arrived at the park at 7:30 AM. Our ticket slot was 8:00 AM. There were not many tourists, so they allowed us to hop on. The park ticket costs Rs.120 per person which includes transportation from entrance to Rajamala and back.

For first time in our lives we saw Neela Kurinji. Kind of Excited. But we were informed upfront not to touch/pluck flowers, breaching which would attract a penalty of Rs. 2000.

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Pictures of Eravikulam National Park

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Nilgiri Thar in its natural habitat
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spot the Thars
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what are you looking at, "idhu enga area" (this is our kingdom)
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Although we witnessed Kurinji bloom, it was sparse, no way closer to the photos one would get to see from the internet. Anyway it was time to head back, We thought this is all for this trip.

Last edited by Thermodynamics : 4th October 2018 at 21:12.
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Old 3rd October 2018, 08:26   #4
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Default re: Munnar 2018: Neelakurinji, a flower that blooms once in 12 years

Part 2

by 11:00 AM we left Eravikulam National Park and planned to get back home via Chinnakanal, Bodimedu route. Road widening activities were going on at several sections between Bodimedu and Munnar.

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view point around Gap road
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This is an important photo, I mentioned earlier about a twist in this tale.
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Notice the Go-pro on the roof ?, placed to record time lapse. I completely forgot and moved on. After some 3 kms, my wife asked where is Go-Pro. Man !... Drove back scanning every square feet of the road and luckily found it, intact and recording . The whole event is captured in the opening video.

It was lying on the road in front of a tea stall and I wonder no body noticed it. Time for a tea break. I started conversing with the tea master and asked him about Kurinji bloom at Kolukkumalai. Affirmative! now this is a solid third confirmation of Kurinji sightings at Kolukkumala. I asked about options to get there and he said, go to Suryanelli and hire a Jeep, it is quite a bit of off-road. At this point, we did not make our mind but surely Kolukkumala started luring us. There are two routes to Bodimedu, either I can take the usual highway or a shorter narrow road through Suryanelli. I chose the latter and thought would figure out the Kolukkumala option at Suryanelli.

As seen from the tea stall
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Periyakanal water falls in full flow
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Anayirangal Dam as seen from Suryanelli road
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Kolukkumala is about 10 km from Suryanelli. The Jeep rates are fixed by Government which is flat Rs. 2000 + Tamilnadu border tickets 100 per person. It is one of the worst off rides I ever had been through. The 10 km stretch takes about 1 hour and 90% of the ride would be either in first gear or 4X4.

Our steed
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Yo-yoing, tumbling, rolling, dancing, banging... and having a nice chit-chat with the driver. He was very fluent in Tamil. I heard stories of Kurangini tragedy and the ordeal Jeep drivers had to go through in the aftermath. Since then, the Government has regularized tourism sector in a more stringent way. Tourism was put on hold for three months. By the time the authorities gave nod to tourism, rains arrived. All these mean, those winning bread from tourism such as the Jeep drivers, have lost 6 months of earning, plus they have to spend to get their papers updated. Now the Kurinji has bloomed, this is a peak season but Munnar is deserted. He went on describing the details of that tragedy, how could they have escaped etc.,

It started raining heavily, we were pondering, did we make a mistake, would we be able to see anything ? Our driver said, don't worry, it would stop in a while. May be in the mean time he suggested to explore Kolukkumala tea factory. That sounds like an plan. We visited the factory which claims to be the highest tea factory of western ghats. It is probably also one of the oldest. The process too is quite old, dates back to the British era, the machinery appears old too. He explained the types of tea and how they classify leaves. Then they are dried using wood smoke. Interestingly grinding is extremely gentle. They still use old fashioned palm tree planks studded on copper plates. While the palm wood provides a gentle abrasive surface, the copper plates dissipate heat faster so there are no hot spots. Ground tea leaf powder is then strained, classified by size and left to cure. The curing/oxidizing step takes about 8 hours and you get the conventional black tea. They served us a nice cup of black tea, we bought a few packets home.

The rain had stopped, our driver told us we are all set to trek. The trek starting point is about 1-2 km from the tea factory.

Kolukkumala tea factory, back drop - meesapulimala
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Sunrise view point, in the morning would be awesome as the clouds will be at a lower altitude creating a dramatic sunrise above the clouds with mountains peeking through.
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Trek starting point, back drop - top-station.
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The trek is short 10 mins but very steep
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Kolukkumala tea factory as seen from trekking route
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Top-station
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Last edited by Thermodynamics : 4th October 2018 at 21:49.
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Old 3rd October 2018, 08:31   #5
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Default re: Munnar 2018: Neelakurinji, a flower that blooms once in 12 years

A short descent after the climb would lead to a breath taking view point. The elevation drops from 2400m to 700m straight down (Kurangini).

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This is a new view point created only a week ago when plantation workers accidentally discovered Kurinji bloom along the slopes of Kolukkumalai to Kurangini and they made a makeshift access. On a clear day, the plains of Bodi (400m) can be seen. Believe me, this new view point sits on a slope of 80+ gradient. The view from here is absolutely breathtaking. One can see panaromic views of top-station, kolukkumala, Meesapulimala, Kurangini, Multiple water falls, plus jaw dropping depth of valley as you look down.

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Please see this image in full resolution, you may notice the entire hill covered by Kurinji.
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If we had got more time, we would have loved to trek through. Alright, I'll let the pictures do the talking, some pictures may appear upright but are in fact shot from a perspective of looking down.

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The trees here are not vertical to gravity, they are horizontal

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Old 3rd October 2018, 08:35   #6
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Default re: Munnar 2018: Neelakurinji, a flower that blooms once in 12 years

We thought the trip to kolukkumala would take about 2 hours, but we were wrong. The mesmerizing beauty engulfed 6+ hours of our schedule. It was already 5:45 PM and we were tired, especially because of the ordeal of 2 hours of off-roading. I had to cover a long way home 490 km. Somehow managed it with an hour break of power nap.

Arrived home | Monday | 03:15 AM

Sunset - back waters of Anayirangal Dam
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Bodi city, from one of the hairpin bends
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Route map
Munnar 2018: Neelakurinji, a flower that blooms once in 12 years-map.png

Thanks for reading

Every travel teaches something new. There are lessons to reflect upon. Take away for us are ...
1. Do not worry too much about unpleasant events, you never know what good is in store because of them.
2. You do not always need a perfect plan for a perfect goal. There is nothing as such. Just set out, God will guide you.

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Old 4th October 2018, 22:26   #7
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Default re: Munnar 2018: Neelakurinji, a flower that blooms once in 12 years

Thread moved out from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 5th October 2018, 00:15   #8
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Default re: Munnar 2018: Neelakurinji, a flower that blooms once in 12 years

Quote:
Originally Posted by Thermodynamics View Post
This is a new view point created only a week ago when plantation workers accidentally discovered Kurinji bloom along the slopes of Kolukkumalai to Kurangini and they made a makeshift access.
Beautiful pictures. BHPians 'atul.ktm' and 'nandita_bayan21' were at Kolukkumalai last weekend and they had shared similar pics too.

I was informed by a friend about Kurinji bloom in Kodaikanal, and since I didn't have extra days to spare - did a one day ride from Bangalore to Kodai and back - only to be informed that we just missed the season. We saw different kinds of blue flowers and can only hope one of them was the famous Kurinji.

Makes sense to do a quick dash to Kolukkumalai now?

PS - I'm surprised the thread has not seen much action. Probably everyone don't realize its only happens once in a dozen years!
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Old 5th October 2018, 01:58   #9
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Default re: Munnar 2018: Neelakurinji, a flower that blooms once in 12 years

There are some more sensational pictures doing the rounds on WhatsApp. Am not sure if many of us will be around to see the next bloom in 2030.

Go for it, guys. Its a show nature puts on every dozen years - there is no guarantee that we will wake up alive tomorrow, go and see this even if it means taking time off - tomorrow may be too late.
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Old 5th October 2018, 04:06   #10
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Default re: Munnar 2018: Neelakurinji, a flower that blooms once in 12 years

@thermodynamics nice pictures, thanks for sharing.

My wife has told me about the kurinji pookal, her dream to see this, planning to do this, late October, early November.

@thermodynamics, can you hazard a guess as to how long the bloom will remain, will it last till November mid atleast?

The Govt site says only till October.

From your description and Google maps, it seems to me that we can see the kolkkumalai - kurangini slopes from Top Station as well.
Will there be good enough sightings from Top Station or would you recommend the Kolkkumalai trek?

Eagerly awaiting your response. Thanks.
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Old 5th October 2018, 09:20   #11
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Default Re: Munnar 2018: Neelakurinji, a flower that blooms once in 12 years

Quote:
Originally Posted by Thermodynamics View Post
Although we witnessed Kurinji bloom, it was sparse, no way closer to the photos one would get to see from the internet. .
+1


We visited Eravikulam National Park on 25th September. We felt the same. For us, a visit to Kolukkumalai was out of scope.

Thanks for sharing this amazing travelogue with excellent photographs.
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Old 5th October 2018, 09:41   #12
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Default Re: Munnar 2018: Neelakurinji, a flower that blooms once in 12 years

Quote:
Originally Posted by CrAzY dRiVeR View Post
Beautiful pictures. BHPians 'atul.ktm' and 'nandita_bayan21' were at Kolukkumalai last weekend and they had shared similar pics too.

Makes sense to do a quick dash to Kolukkumalai now?
I am eager to read their story, it has been a while. I would definitely suggest to make a quick dash, as soon as possible. May be tomorrow
Do also explore the trekking option from Kolukkumala to Kurangini, if weather permits. If you are planning to do, let me know, I'll share the Jeep driver's number and you may get a first hand information if the bloom is still on. Another tip about Kolukkumala: the best time of the day is around sunrise. So stay at Suriyanelli and book a jeep apriori at 4:00 AM or Camp at kolukkumala, there are two camping sites around.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steeroid View Post
Go for it, guys. Its a show nature puts on every dozen years - there is no guarantee that we will wake up alive tomorrow, go and see this even if it means taking time off - tomorrow may be too late.

Although it blooms once in a 12 years, this is true only for a specific hill/mountain. This year at Kolukkumala means next season at Kolukkumala would be after 12 years. But every year some slope will be in bloom respecting the 12 year cycle of its previous bloom.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Relax&Cruise View Post
@thermodynamics, can you hazard a guess as to how long the bloom will remain, will it last till November mid atleast?
The Govt site says only till October.
From your description and Google maps, it seems to me that we can see the kolkkumalai - kurangini slopes from Top Station as well.
Will there be good enough sightings from Top Station or would you recommend the Kolkkumalai trek?
Do it as soon as possible. It has been already 3 weeks since I visited, there were patches just starting to bloom, they said that should be on full bloom in 10 days. So the best bet is to do right now. If possible explore camping at Kolukkumala and trek to Kurangini.

Last edited by Thermodynamics : 5th October 2018 at 09:50. Reason: typo
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Old 5th October 2018, 13:39   #13
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Default Re: Munnar 2018: Neelakurinji, a flower that blooms once in 12 years

That must have been an amazing experience!!!

Have been wanting to travel to view the flower bloom but hasn't happened so far, no patience to wait till 2030, hopefully something turns around during the weekend!!

Is the view point reachable with a regular sedan or does it require a SUV/4x4?
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Old 5th October 2018, 14:05   #14
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Default Re: Munnar 2018: Neelakurinji, a flower that blooms once in 12 years

Quote:
Originally Posted by Thermodynamics View Post
We thought the trip to kolukkumala .....Every travel teaches something new. There are lessons to reflect upon. Take away for us are ...
1. Do not worry too much about unpleasant events, you never know what good is in store because of them.
2. You do not always need a perfect plan for a perfect goal. There is nothing as such. Just set out, God will guide you.

A wonderful travelogue and photologue, Thermodynamics! I must be one of the rare blokes who had not heard of this beautiful flower and its twelve year blooming cycle. And the accompanying photos were mesmerizing too. I had (selfishly I think) felt that Uttaranchal was God's chosen land. Now I know that the hills of Kerala have strong claims to that title as well. And that episode with "the twist in the tale" is a gentle reminder to have faith in the workings of providence!

Last edited by shashanka : 5th October 2018 at 14:09.
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Old 5th October 2018, 14:14   #15
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Default Re: Munnar 2018: Neelakurinji, a flower that blooms once in 12 years

Fantastic thread. Thanks for sharing. I only learned about it a few months ago and have this on the bucket list.

Are there regions around there that also sell the "kurinji honey"?

Also, you had a lunch at Marayoor. Is it that very same Marayoor that's popular for its "Marayoor Jaggery"?

Sorry, two food related questions - it is my lunch hour after all!
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