“Some journeys are but ports in the sea, while some are lighthouses that make you stop, reflect and proceed.”

 

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Emerald lake, Ooty

Unbridled natural beauty

Every journey has a simple value at its core. Some are for fun; some are in search of peace & quiet and some are to experience culture & heritage. I personally believe that most journeys start with an intent but end up with something very different at its core. This journey to the catchment areas of Nilgiris has a very simple value at its core – unbridled nature.

The above image of emerald lake has been stuck in my head for the last few months. The mirror-like sheen of the lake nestled among the emerald green hills is a pretty picture but what makes me come back to this image again and again is not its picturesque beauty. It’s the beauty of the entire ecosystem in spite of human intervention. This was just one of the many moments that made me stop, look around and enjoy the beauty that surrounds me. Parsons Valley Retreat (PVR) is this quaint little home stay located in isolated catchment areas of Nilgiris (a few kms from sandynulla). Over the last few years, it was part of a restricted area of Nilgiris rainfall catchment region and hence was off the radar for most travelers. Towards the end of summer, CKS a friend and fellow oorsutter saw this FB post about Parsons Valley retreat and on further inquiry, it was made clear that the home-stay was open again for general public.

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CSKs White Stallion amidst tea estates – Sandynulla, Ooty

Rains were delayed and we quickly headed up kalhatty, zipped around the tea estates, drove through some bad/very bad roads and entered this small valley located bang in the middle of 3 catchment areas. The drive down into PVR is challenging (to put it mildly) but the view is absolutely worth it. A small farm nestled in a quaint valley with a stream of fresh water flowing near it. All around it was surrounded by woodlands and short stretches of rolling grasslands. We checked into our rooms and a had a delicious but simple TN style home-cooked lunch. We started talking to the caretaker and based on their inputs, planned the next 24 hours.

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First Looks – Parsons Valley Retreat

Words can’t do justice to the beauty of this place and hence I will let the pics do the talking.

After spending some time lazing around the small stream right outside the homestay, we decided to take a stroll through the woods to a nearby valley. After a 20 min hike, we reach the top of the valley and spend some time gazing at the majestic views while being acutely aware of the fact that we might be wandering around tiger territory. After a few quick clicks we walked back to PVR to enjoy some hot coffee by the stream. Post sunset, the cold started setting in and we lit the bonfire after a simple meal and sat up sharing wildlife and travel stories between us. We decided to hit the bed by 10 pm as it had been a long day and we planned to visit few of the dams early next morning.

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Tadaaa – Welcome to the valley

 

4.45 am start the next day in order to watch sunrise from Porthimund dam. The pitch-dark sky is lit up by innumerable stars and was a beautiful sight to behold. We drive through some moderate to bad roads in the grey hours. All we can see is silhouettes of hills and valleys all around us and the broken road. After a staring match with a huge wild male buffalo, we reached the dam just before the sun lit up the sky. The next 30 min at the dam was just sublime. We stood and stared at the sky and watched the golden rays paint the hills. All this time, Baz Luhrmann’s sunscreen song is playing in my head:)

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Awaken. Arise

 

The cook guides us to a viewpoint from which we can clearly see Emerald lake in all its beauty. We drive around a corner and lo and behold, we have emerald lake in front of us and the hills are basking in the warm sunlight. The hills are my muse and I hope that someday I have all the time to walk around the valleys and explore many a trail. After a quick stopover at Parsons Valley dam, we get back to PVR. After a hearty breakfast, we are on our way back home but decide to chance our luck at Bandipur for the evening safari.

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This is where my home is, somewhere up in the hills,
Where blue skies and windsong, are nothing but cheap thrills.

 

CSK managed to pull some strings and we get ourselves a seat on the JLR canter. Spotted deer, elephants, gaurs, crested serpent eagle, couple of owls – lots of sightings. Suddenly the driver gets a call and we race from one corner of the jungle to the other in search of the big cat. We spent 45 minutes driving around in circles hoping to sight a tiger. It was almost time to drive back to civilization and the driver decides to take one last turn around the pond in which the tiger was sighted earlier. As we near the pond, we see a sub adult male walking out of the water and just before he disappears into the lantana, he turns around and stares at us for about a minute. My first tiger in the wild – perfect end to an awesome weekend.

 

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That Look! Sub adult male, Bandipur

Can’t help but think of these great lines by PB Shelley

“..Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

Its human nature to build, build and build but today, it important that we stop and think.
Pristine, unbridled nature is something that everyone needs to experience and pretty soon, there might not be a lot if it left for the future generations.
Hope that as responsible travelers, we all do our bit to respect and protect whatever little natural beauty we see around us.

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Looking back at Emerald Lake, Ooty

Route & Road Conditions

BLR – Mysore ORR – Gundlupete – Bandipur – Masinagudi – Kalhatty – Thalaikunda: Usual Ooty route, nothing new to update. Not sure how kalhatty is now post rains.

Thalaikunda – Sandynullah – Parsons Valley Dam: Good 2 Lane tree lined roads which were a breeze

Parsons Valley Dam – Parsons Valley Retreat: You are not allowed to drive over the dam hence you will need to take a detour through some moderate to bad roads which drive down & then up the slopes of the valley that is downstream of the dam.

Once you reach the other side of the dam and you see the rusty gates on your left, look right and you will see a board in tamil and a trail. That’s the way to the rabbithole 🙂

Steep, bad trail that’s mostly just stones and gravel that needs some very careful driving. Not sure about conditions now after the heavy rainfall that this region received during the monsoon. Only doable in cars with 190+mm of GC and enough low end grunt to climb up steep slopes.

Parsons Valley retreat – Porthimund Dam: Mix of decent to bad roads that are only as bad as the roads in BLR. Only need to keep an eye out for wildlife.

 

Things to Note

  • Dont expect star level treatment. PVR is a very basic home/farm stay but the caretaker and cook ensure that you are not wanting for most basic needs.
  • Hot tasty South Indian food is the standard fare and cook does go out his way to ensure that you preferences are considered while making food.
  • Rooms are warm and cozy with decent hygiene levels. Do note that you will find an insect or two roaming around as you are staying amidst the forest.
  • We traveled with families and hence the home stay is definitely good for families.
  • Drive to PVR only if you have some experience tackling bad roads with steep gradients. The last stretch to PVR is not an easy drive and needs patience and experience to tackle the gravel and inclines.