June 2022 - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Hike to Nadumalai River through the Tea Gardens of Stanmore Tea Bungalow

Nadumalai river and Tea Estates, Valparai

You are standing at the Stanmore Garden Bungalows near Valparai, one of the properties managed by Briar Tea Bungalows overlooking a panoramic view of tea estates and mountains. As you stand mesmerized by the beauty of the sprawling tea estates, you can hear the sound of water in the yonder. This sound of water is coming from the Nadumalai river, Valparai’s main river that begins its journey in the nearby mountains. This is the starting point of your hike to the beautiful Nadumalai river. This hike is possible only if you happen to be staying at any of the properties belonging to Briar Tea Bungalows as the entire trail passes through private tea gardens and estate roads.

The hike through tea gardens to reach Nadumalai river
This hike to Nadumalai river from the Stanmore garden bungalows is a steep down hill trail through tea gardens and finally through dense undergrowth to the Nadumalai river. The hike is fairly easy downhill, though you might huff and puff a bit on your way back up. The only things to watch out are for leeches and slippery terrain if you happen to be walking during the wet season. On your hike, you might come across the whistling sound of the Malabar whistling thrush, the dance of a peacock or the sight of other pretty birds. And if you happen to be lucky, you might even get to see wild dogs or a herd of wild elephants. So this trek is not just a simple walk through tea gardens, but it is also a wildlife walk, if you keep your eyes and ears open and your mouth shut.

The hike which begins at Stanmore Garden Bungalow ends at the rocks by the Nadumalai river. These rocks can double up as your picnic spot. You can sun bathe here after a dip in the river, you can indulge in some reading here or you can simply enjoy a bite from your picnic basket with your family and friends. This location is absolutely pristine and quiet. The only sounds you can hear here are the gurgle of the river and the sounds of nature surrounding it. Do ensure that you leave this place exactly as how you found it.

Gorgeous leaves near Nadumalai river, Valparai
The rocks of Nadumalai river are also a great location to indulge in some wildlife and nature photography and even to record some authentic sounds of nature. This is my favourite activity to do as the sounds of nature drown away all your thoughts and you end up feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. A dip in the river, a small bite to eat and a short nap on these rocks will charge your batteries in record time.

The best time to go on this hike is straight after your morning tea or coffee as this is when the weather will be pleasant, the rays of the sun will be golden (for all those photographers), there is a higher chance of spotting birds and wildlife and you can work up a great appetite after to indulge in all the food items cooked for breakfast.

The rolling hills of tea as seen from the cottages of Stanmore Garden Bungalows, Valparai
Don’t miss this hike to Nadumalai river if you happen to be staying at any of the Briar Tea Bungalows as this pristine and peaceful location has everything from rolling hills, sprawling tea gardens, rich birds and wildlife, a gurgling river, a lovely hike and a fabulous picnic spot. I highly recommend this private trek.

Key things to remember on this hike:

1) A good pair of walking shoes or slippers will help you keep your feet firmly on the ground

2) There is a good chance that you will get leeches on this hike. Do carry some salt with you, if required. Else, just be alert to the leeches climbing onto your shoes and remove them before they start to suck your blood

3) Swim wear, sunglasses and a towel will be required if you wish to take a dip in the water and sun bathe on the rocks near the river

4) The river can have a strong current during the wet season. Do seek local advice and take good care if you don’t happen to be an excellent swimmer

5) Don’t forget to carry along your phone or camera so that you can create excellent memories

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Saturday, June 25, 2022

Valparai’s Lion Tailed Macaque Bridge shows how we should co-exist with nature

The lion tailed macaque tree bridge over the Valparai forest highway

This old world monkey endemic to the Western Ghats of South India was once on the world’s 25 most endangered primates list. Today, it is no more on this list and its numbers are slowly increasing to healthy numbers. And all thanks to simple, yet effective wildlife conservation efforts by the government, forest department, local authorities, wildlife enthusiasts, plantation owners, locals and others.

A Lion Tailed Macaque Crossing on the Valparai Forest highway near Puduthotham
I am talking about the lion tailed macaque, an arboreal rainforest dweller who prefers the upper canopy of moist evergreen forests. There was a time when their numbers thrived along with the rest of the forest species. Then their forest habitat started fragmenting as humans started timber harvesting and building exotic plantations like tea, coffee, rubber, etc and villages on the edges of the forests started burgeoning into large towns, cities and hill stations. This led to a drop in their numbers. Lion tailed macaques were killed while crossing the highways and humans were either killing them for meat or to protect their fruit trees and crops.

The endangered primate - Lion Tailed Macaque

Today, there are beautiful bridges that connect the upper canopies of the trees on either side of the Valparai forest highway.  These bridges have been built keeping the lion tailed macaque in mind and is aimed at preventing these primates from getting down from their trees and crossing the forest highway on foot. You can see these bridges near the Puthuthottam estate (just a few kms before Valparai town) in the buffer zone of the Anaimalai tiger reserve where these lion tailed macaques frequent every day in search of food. These bridges prevent vehicle and macaque conflicts and thus reduce stress for the lion tailed macaques. A lot of effort from the forest department and the locals is key in building and maintaining these bridges.

A Lion Tailed Macaque Portrait
This is another example of how we can happily co-exist with mother nature, even if it means it is a old world monkey. Yes, we did usurp their forests by building towns, highways and plantations. But, it is never too late. We can set the balance right. The lion tailed macaques of Puthuthottam show us that they trust us humans. They have left their strictly arboreal nature and come to the ground level to feed and forage. They are happy near our homes, tea factories and farms. They keep us close, but still maintain safe distance, which is good in a way. We humans should also be happy to see them at close quarters while keeping our distance from them.

This is a story of Valparai’s lion tailed macaque bridge and how we should and can co-exist with our wild denizens.

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