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Saturday 4 June 2016

Nilgiris Part 3 - Glenmorgan Trek / Moolakad Trek / Mukurthi Dam & Micro Hydel Power Station

These are a series of Nilgiri short treks which I thought to bind it together as one blog.
Write-up : Anish
Glenmorgan – Thavalamalai – Oosimalai – Taramund  

Been to Glenmorgan Lake many a times. The rivers of Nilgiri hills which starts from the high plateaus of Mukurthi to the north forming Pykara lakes and Hydel power projects all the way to Glenmorgan, Singara, Masignagudi (maravakandy) and Moyar  is a marvelous engineering. The Pykara power plant which is 3 km above Glenmorgan is the highest plant installed in the whole of Asia. Singara Power house is situated down from Glen into the Mudumalai Valley receives heavy power flow of water through the tunnel dig in the mountain from top till its foot. From Glenmorgan there is a winch which goes down all the way to Singara power house. Our trek starts from the exact location where tourists end their view from the view point down the winch line. It was a raining week and in the midst of it I had arranged a two days trek to different places in the beautiful Nilgiris. Udhaya, Loga, Shiva and Murugan and I were the team for the first days trek. We reached there around 9am and started off to view the winch line before the walk.
To the left was a downwards hill and the connecting Mudumalai forest which is also the route for Glen falls but today  our direction was to the nearby mount onto the right side. I have seen it before but clueless about what was behind that. Started walking through the tea estates. Behind was the Glen Lake shrinking its size as we climbed up the hill. The surrounding views of the tea estates and the lake got better and better. Crossed patches of shola worrying about the leeches but there wasn’t any and it was a surprise. Within a couple of hours we were on top of the hill looking into the siluvaimalai and Mudumalai forest behind it from a distance. Sat for a while at the top and walked down to siluvaimalai which was the nearby hill.
A single Gaur was grazing on the way and as we approached him. His staring made us wait for a while and it disappeared suddenly.Towards the end there was a cross placed. Clouds were fast and winds were smashing us. Reminded the second tadiandamol trek. Standing by the edge I was in-between the slopes and Mudumalai. After sometime returned to the top as it was known as Thavalai mala and the rolling hills deep down to the edges in these ranges was called oosimalai. We have two hills with same names near Gudalur but these are  different.  

Rested for a while and since oosimalai was visible we thought it was a short distance but it wasn’t. The climb down made the landscapes bigger, the rocky ways steeper and the grasses longer. We were eager to reach the end point for the views of Mudumalai and alas we were there. The climate was just the best. The views were longer in this side because the plains of Mysore were always drier than the Gudalur – wayanad side. Straight down I could spot the Murugan temple on top of the hill before Bokapuram. I have enjoyed watching these hills and the needle point near glen many times from that temple hill but never thought I could do it vice versa. And never have I witnessed so many mud roads inside the Mudumalai forest, I wonder why! May be the past generation was so actively involved in clearing up the forest for woods. 
With my zoom lens I started searching for any wild animals and spotted a guar grazing some 2 km away in the nearby hill. Two Years ago I have done the bokkapuram – sholur trek while our team got stuck with a couple of elephants on the way up and we were hiding on top of a big rock for nearly an hour. All those forest areas were traceable from this point along with the memories. 
Singara,Theppakadu, Masignagudi, Moyar, Mavanallah and sholur villages could be seen. I could also spot the Ebanadu Temple on top of the last mountain which was hardly visible but my camera caught it. The next line of mountains was Bikkapathi Toda Hills and Kodanadu which I have walked before. I started realizing that I have scaled most of the North-east upto the south of Nilgiri Mountains. After an hour there was more hills left to explore and some was just amazing as we went nearer. Steep cliffs, rock cuts, the giant proportion of different sizes of rocks cuddled up into one was just spell bounding a scene. 
Stopped near a small water flow for the packed lunch. Dipping my legs into the ice cold water was super relaxing. After a while it started drizzling and our next leg was into the shola. 

As soon as the first guy spotted leeches all of us wore the leech socks within no time. The next two hours was inside the shola climbing up the hills to reach a Toda settlement. No proper trial existed and we were confused at several places. Whenever there was an opening we would find the nearby hill and proceed. By 4pm reached a small opening with some rocks and decided to have a break. The scenery here was just out of the world. The North east Nilgiris slopes were visible while the clouds and sunrays made that frame real spectacular. Enjoyed a while and left for the next stop near the tribal temple.
From the shola we were onto the grasslands. Reached Taramund which is a much larger Toda settlement than the rest with more than fifty families. Saw their age old Temple and several Mund. A twenty minutes walk from there we reached the main roads. After a tea break by 6pm walked up to the lake where my car was parked.  On the whole even if it was just a 12km trek it was a fabulous day of high peaks, great views, grasslands, shola forest, Toda Mund ending with the beautiful Glen Lake.  


Glenvens - Moolakad - Water Falls 

Our second day trek starts from Moolakad village above the Santhanamalai hills in Gudalur taluk, West Nilgiris. From childhood whenever I was taken to Santhanamalai temple I would always stare at the huge ‘M’ shaped mountains which stood gigantic and scary in a way. Towards the left there was a huge waterfall. Later on I found out that these mountains were the edges of Mukurthi national park towards east and merged with the Pandiar hills. There are stories like Adivasi tribal’s still living inside these forests and Govt used to provide free ration and clothes not by gate crashing into their place but by placing it somewhere in the middle. But for the last couple of years that practice has stopped is what the villagers describe. Reaching Moolakad itself was a task. Through the Manjushree plantation jeep roads, we drove past their Guest house, a British bungalow with green lawns.
Manjushree is the daughter of Basant Kumar Birla and they own most of the estates here in different names. We reached Moolakad and rest of the friends was waiting there. Along with Loga and Udhaya it was already 9am. Our plan was to follow the river to reach the fourth waterfalls. Climbing the whole mountain requires at least two days we decided to play it safe as it was raining for the past one week and the forest is spread with Lantana bushes. The only way up was through the Rocky River. Our team had seven members and from the village we followed the river.

Initially I thought it was risky walking an entire day through the river with a dull shoe but it went interesting. Most of us were learning the balancing part through the rocks. Could see slips and falls here and there but everyone was alert not to get damaged or went crashing into the rocks. After an hour we reached the first falls with a small pool. Nearby was the rock hut which resembled like a real hut where adivasi’s used to live several years ago. The river diverted from above and we decided to turn left for the second falls but this climb was steep and dangerous enough to withdraw two members from climbing it. Rest of us decided to take the risk and removed our shoes and bags. It was slippery at most parts and a slip could definitely be your end. Vijay a local boy around had already fractured his arm at the same place 6 months ago was again in for the challenge even though we were not in favor of his decision. After a thrilling thirty minutes of careful climbing we were all under the falls. These waterfalls are actually very fierce but since it’s the end of summer we are trying out the possibility. Climbing down is the next big concern now. Steep flat rocks without any support was a tough ask, at many places it was a nerve wrecking experience.

I was worried about Vijay and Udhaya but slowly everyone reached back safely. Back to the place where we left our shoes and bags our next diversion was to the right. Walking along another stream for the next 1 hr we reached the third falls. Hari, udhaya and vijay enjoyed a bath under the falls as we were trying to find a way to climb on top of that. Finally after many failed efforts one by one climbed up through helping each other to the top. It was already 2pm and some of them suggested me to return back after resting sometime as we had to reach back to the village by 5pm to drive back home safely through the elephant infested forest roads. But I wanted to do one more falls so we continued through the rocks. Behind all this I could see the huge mountains which was now much nearer than the view from the village.
We must have done around 40%. Reached the fourth falls which felt like a dead end to this route. Anymore climbing can be done only through the forest. We decided to put a stop here under this small and beautiful falls and clicked some groupies. The place was mostly covered with moss and was slippery all around. I now wanted to climb more and more but it wasn’t practical as the initial plan was a day trek and hence we returned unwillingly. Reached the third falls quickly and halted for lunch break.The next 2 hrs was nonstop rush through the rocks. By this time everyone has quite mastered the art of jumping down through the rocks with perfect balance.Loga managed to fall flat into the water and some rocks a couple of time making all of us more watchful and avoid being a laughing stock.

Yesterdays trek with today’s jumping around the rocks is turning out to be a bit hard on the joints for all. Just before reaching back to the village rains started pouring but all of us escaped by finding a shelter inside a temple. Back to the village I looked at the huge mountains and wished someday to be on top of that and bid goodbye’s to the local friends there and left the place by 5pm. While returning we went to santhanamalai to view the whole place and trace the days roaming routes only to realize that it was still a very long way up to the top. Hopefully after the monsoons!       

A drive to Mukurthi Dam

I was at home but my thoughts as usual were about the unexplored mountains around Nilgiris. That’s when my family friend who was working in the department came to our house. I haven’t seen the dam and micro power house even once and asked him to arrange a permit to which he happily agreed to visit the place that same day. My father (acha) and I decided to drive through the forest roads even if the road was in bad shape without hiring a jeep. The diversion was just after Hanumapuram or before Pykara. Forest gates were closed but the watcher was notified about our visit. After a small search for him around the area he was somewhere up and told us that the gates weren’t locked and we could enter it by opening the twist lock. We also had to lock it before driving in.

The drive upto the dam was nearly 10 km through the forest roads and as expected the roads were meant for jeeps. These are highly protected areas in the district and to drive through the Mukurthi Sanctuary was actually feeling nice. The climate was chilly and wet which once again enhanced the pleasure of driving through these roads. The other end of Pykara Lake started emerging at a distance to the left and we were driving to the Mukurthi Lake. At several places we stopped the car to enjoy the lake view around and upon reaching the dam area i really felt like this is a protected zone. 

The quaint bridge to the other side and the green colored water was all very different. We first got down at the lower layer first and later drove off around the hill to the top. There was a security guarding the area but since we were permitted there wasn’t any issue. Even before viewing the dam or the beautiful lake I was searching for the peak. I am as familiar with the structure of Mukurthi peak as I have researched a lot and read books about it and within seconds I could spot it. Mukurthi peak is a dream and when I finally saw it I even thought of leaving my dad behind and head for the peak. But I know it just won’t work that way without a proper permission from the forest department. But one day or the other I will surely reach the peak. 

Back to the lake the dam had construction work remaining with new control equipments installed. There wasn’t any staff or a working atmosphere around. The actual long view of the lake as in Google maps was blocked with several small islands. Spent some time there and returned back to the bridge down. Parked the car and both of us got down to the edges of the river crossing the grassy patches. Took many picture walking around and acha was enjoying the place as well. On the shores of the river I also met a team of four Kerala doctors assisted by the forest department with guns and knives. They were equipped with fishing permissions and equipments but to their dismay not even a single fish was in their kitty. By 5pm we had already spent more time than we thought and decided to drive back. After the 10 km ride back we again closed the forest gates and reached the ooty- Gudalur highway and back to our home chatting about a wonderful place we just visited. 

                                                                 Author  : Anish vk

Clicked by : Anish, Udhaya
   Team: Anish, Udhaya, Loga, Krishnakumar, Shiva, Murugan, Hari, Gokul, Mani
Place  :  The Beautiful Nilgiris