Valparai: a conflict zone or tranquil getaway?

“All tea estate workers need to be in the field before the siren rings at 08:00 am. They work hard collecting leaf buds through the day to meet a day’s target of 25 kg. One evening the supervisor sent back his wife and two others for falling short of 2 to 3 kg each. On entering the tea bushes once again, they had spotted a tusker. Not paying heed to it, the women began their work. The tusker feeling threatened, charged, rammed and all three were killed instantly, right in front of the eyes of the supervisor.”

“The mother carrying the infant was waiting to board the bus on a narrow road in a tea estate. In the few seconds between disconnecting a phone call from her husband and boarding the bus, a leopard sprang from behind a bush, gripped the infant by the throat and tried to run. Screams from people around must have terrified the animal, because it threw the infant far into the bushes before sprinting away. The infant died and the mother was inconsolable.”

This introduction to Valparai came from a man—also the cab driver—who lost his dog to a leopard in the wee hours at his house, also in Valparai. This is a place of serious man-animal conflict. It is said that, depletion of forests bordering tea estates has forced animals to seek food and shelter in the nearby areas with high civilian population.

Nevertheless, having set aside the thought that a leopard might emerge from any bush, brick or bark; I focused on what was in front of me.

01VIEW FROM THE BALCONY OF MISTY CREEK HOMESTAY

02

03NALLAMUDI POONJOLAI, A SPECTACULAR VIEWPOINT

It stopped drizzling. The sun looked up from the clouds creating a perfect rainbow. The mist cleared, unveiling a waterfall in the distant mountain. It was so romantic and, and a bunch of loud men came and ruined the moment!

04

 ROAD LEADING TO BALAJI TEMPLE

The road leading to Balaji temple within a tea estate that belongs to BIRLA family—this drive was also the best one. The reason being, soul-stirring Illayaraja’s songs that tumbled out of the cab’s tape recorder

05TEA ESTATES—even the smallest one runs to hundreds of acres

06VELLAMALAI TUNNEL—the difficulty to resist jumping under that falls!

07SHOLIYAR DAM—best seen during the day, but it has its own charm in the evening

08VALPARAI IN RAINS

09KARUMALAI VELANKANNI SHRINE—a quaint church in a beautiful landscape

10KOOZHANKAL RIVER—rivers and streams like this were just about everywhere

11And…some more! Guess, how many children are on the tree?

Two other places which you must visit when in Valparai are Balaji temple and Siddhi Vinayakar temple— the first one for its spectacular location, high on a hilltop within an expansive tea estate and the latter for housing a statue of “Vinayakar with Riddhi, and Siddhi,” who are considered to be his wives.

The trip became all the more fruitful when I met the owner of “Misty creek homestay,” a snake-rescuer, well-known in Valparai. When I expressed my interest, he mentioned the possibility where I can join in one of his ‘herping’ trips. Fingers crossed, I sincerely hope that happens soon.

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32 thoughts on “Valparai: a conflict zone or tranquil getaway?

  1. Like I said its a great experience reading your posts! Thank you for sharing the unheard stories of Valparai. Great Pictures too. And my answer is 2 kids on the trees 😀

    • As I was mentioning on a facebook comment, there is much more to the conflict Priyanka. Five days after I reached my hometown, I saw in the newpaper that elephants damaged a building at Valparai. I sincerely hope the situation does not worsen.

      • I hope so too. Mumbai has it’s own conflict …the city has encroached on the habitat of the already dwindling wild life…to expand the film city ( where most of the soaps and movies which make no sense are shot !!!)…and then we cry fowl when leopards jump into complexes and run away with children. It is a pity.

  2. Breathtaking photography, I love seeing the lush green. we all live with different kinds of danger, but being stalked by the wild animals must be so stressful. You’ve giving me something to think about today, I’m grateful for my home.

  3. valparai twas one of the loveliest abodes i’ve been in, but i couldn’t help but feel the slight stench of discomfort arising from the conflict you had mentioned. a forest officer over there had told me a year ago that it was a matter of time before they closed her down to get the fauna back in breeding, he sounded like a dreamer though. it would be great if more attempts are made to rectify this. great post btw!

    • It is a dreamland Christybharath. But there has been not much of a change in situation. Since I stay close to Valparai, the numerous incidents are covered in our regional newspapers. With regards to Valparai, sometimes I think may be we have woken up a bit too late…

  4. Beautiful post! Brought back fond memories of life on tea plantations, mainly in the Nilgiris. Although I never lived in the Annamalais, I have visited often. Hubby did a short stint there before we got married (aeons ago!!:-))

    • It is a lovely serene place. The fact that things have gone out of control is disturbing. Good that we don’t have to face such a situation in our vicinity. But I sincerely hope the situation changes in Valparai.

  5. This is an excellent post and not only interesting tourist information but also for raising awareness of how habitat destruction and agriculture collide with the needs of the small amount of wild animals trying to exist. The leopard sound frightening but the animal is just trying to survive. We humans get in the way, but how awful for the mother and family killed.

    • ‘the animal is just trying to survive’- I agree. The more intrusive we get, the more we end up encountering them under unfavorable circumstances. I wish there was a ‘reverse’ button and I could just press that!

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