Friday 18 January 2013

Megamalai - Truly into the Clouds

Megamalai – Truly into the Clouds!
More Megamalai photos here.

I had this place, Megamalai (literally translated as Mountain of Clouds à Megam = Cloud; Malai = Mountain), in my mind for quite some time. This is simply for the reason that the place is cut off from the civilisation largely. Except for tea estates, forests, some waterfalls and dams, one cannot find anything much here. Not even mobile networks. Oh yea! That is one of main criteria for selecting such a place.

But what does it have? Miles and miles of beautiful landscapes, calmness, music of birds and the occasional stare of some animals. Of course, there are some people as well. Mostly those working in the tea estates who have settled here for decades and does not know much about the outside world, forest department employees and some employees working in the power plants.

Once we had finalised on the dates that we are going to travel, Rajasekar got the accommodation organised through a contact. The accommodation was arranged at the Inspection Bungalow near one of the dams. The contact person also had given us the contact numbers (as if the mobile network is going to be available) of a couple of other people working in the tea estates, so that we can catch up with them for getting into some of sight-seeing place inside the tea estates.

Rajasekar had already reached his house in Madurai the previous day. I travelled from Chennai and Dinesh from Bangalore to Madurai on the night of 20th and reached there early next morning. Refreshed ourselves at Rajasekar’s place and we were on our way to Megamalai, Rajasekar’s car.

The road till Chinnamanur was part of the National and State highways and was quite good. Once we took the exit to Megamalai after Chinnamanur the roads became bumpy. When we registered our vehicle in the check post at foot of the hills, the guard there warned us to drive very cautiously as we only had a hatchback and not an SUV.

We understood why the guard asked us to be careful once we hit the ghat roads. It was narrow, no boundaries and you can see the road only here and there, and rest of the road was completely damaged due to lack of maintenance.

Now, as if this was not enough, once we have driven a few meters, the place was covered with thick mist all of a sudden. The visibility dropped drastically to only about 10 feet! If we make one wrong move, we would end up sliding down the mountain. With the thick cover of mist, this only became even more challenging. Rajasekar did negotiate the terrain (I am not going to call it a road anymore) really well. We were unable to get the vehicle past the first gear and moved only at a speed of about 5kmph. But that was enough to take us and the car safely to the destination.

We stopped a couple of times on the way to take some photographs of the breath taking place. The view of the valley was not very clear as the mist cover was very thick, but it was an enjoyable weather. True to the name Megamalai, the hills welcomed us with its mist cover.

We reached the destination by noon. It was the Panchayat office in a place is known as Pachaikoomachi (he he try pronouncing that fellas). The buggers in the place told us that the Inspection Bungalow which we had booked had been taken by some VIP and that we will be accommodated in the cottages behind the Panchayat office. Now these so called cottages were unclean, damp and stinky. When we protested they told us that there is no other alternative. Pathetic that we had to put up there without a choice, at least for that night.

There was a small shop right outside the Panchayat office run by one Murugan. It was the only place having lunch at the time. There is another shop a few meters away from the Panchayat office run by Senthil, but they prepare lunch only on prior request. So we had no other choice at the moment, but to have it Murugan’s shop. Now I would definitely not recommend this place for a few reasons.

Firstly the food was pathetic. Secondly and the most intriguing part is that they don’t server hot water. This is very uncommon for a hill station, that too in December on such a chill weather. They simply said that we will have to settle with the bottled water that they sell. Cheap marketing tactics! Thirdly, for such stupid food and service, the price is quite high.

So even if your fate makes you stay in the Panchayat office, ensure you are not eating in Murugan’s shop.

After lunch we went to Thoovanam dam. This dam is built across the water body that flows through megamalai and falls into the suruliyar river. This is really very secluded place with just a couple of forest guards stationed at the dam. It provided a very good view of the entire place. Once could also trek down the dam and reach the falls,m but that is not possible unless there is a prior permission obtained from the forest department. We spend some time there and returned back to the Panchayat Office.

In the evening we roamed the place nearby guided (???) by one of the Panchayat office guys and spotted some bisons a couple miles away in a place. It became apparent that these guys have no interest in wildlife or know anything about it, when we saw the excitement in the face of the guide for seeing a couple of bisons about 2 miles away!

On the second day we had breakfast at Senthil’s shop and not the wretched Murugan shop. They mostly prepare breakfast for the commuters of the local bus that plies from Maharaja Mettu to Chinnamanur. It arrives near the Panchayat office around 8:30pm and the commuters used to have breakfast at Senthil’s shop. This is the routine there and the same in done in the evening as well. So we were lucky to have been there at the right time and had a good breakfast at a very reasonable price.

Though we had informed the guides in the Panchayat office that we will need a guide to take us to Maharaja Mettu, we later decided to explore ourselves by asking the local people there. The guides in the Panchayat office were quite keen on charging us for everything without having any knowledge.

Maharaja Mettu (Mettu meaning hill, some people even call it muttai) gives a very good view of the surrounding valleys and views of small towns and villages surrounded by mountains on all four sides. We had to park our car at the check post of the tea estate and had to climb up on foot for about half an hour or so. Unfortunately we were not able to clearly see these landscapes due to heavy mist. Though it was not as thick as the previous day, it was still thick enough to make the entire place misty and overcast. Yet, we took some photographs of the beautiful views (whatever was possible) and returned back.

By the time we returned to the car it was well past noon and we went into the small village near the tea estate to see if we can get any food. Unfortunately there were none as the only shop in the village closes the kitchen once everyone is done with their meals. One cannot complain too much here as they do not get too many visitors. If we need to have meals, we should have told them in advance so they can prepare for us and keep it till we come. This is the case everywhere in this place. So this will have to be kept in mind.

We thought of visiting the Vattaparai as well in the afternoon. This place is sort of a view point from where one can spot some bisons and other animals. We asked for the direction from the workers in the tea estate and started to the place. One of the worker also offered to take us to a small water falls near the estate if we return back around 5:00pm. He would have finished his work and also would not be too late to visit the place. It was already around 4:30pm when we reached there. We strolled there for a while but were not sure if that the right place we should be. So we thought of returning back to the place where were staying and thought of returning back the next day.

While returning back to the tea estate, it was 5:00pm and the person who offered us to show the place was just winding up for the day. He kept his belongings under a tree and joined us in the car. We drove for about 15 to 20 minutes past the tea estate into the jungle and reached the place. The place was quite secluded and beautiful. We spent about 20 minutes in the place, took some photographs and though should return back sometime during the monsoon so the falls will be a bit bigger than what it was now. It a nice place to spend a few moment in any case. But since it was already getting dark, we had to return.

Once we reached the Panchayat office, the people there were waiting for us to shift us to the Inspection Bungalow, the one which we had originally booked. We packed up our things, which was not much and started for the place. It was about 4 km from the Panchayat office and the accommodation here was very much better than what we had the previous day. It was around 8:30pm when we reached there. We also found a small eat-out nearby, but this one was very good in terms of quality, taste and price. We had a hearty dinner as we did not have much during the day, except for some energy bars and some tea.

We planned to go to the Vattaparai early the next day morning to see if we can spot any animals, with the help of a local guide. We arranged for that and also informed that people at the eat-out that we will need a breakfast around 10:00am or so.

We started around 5:45am the next morning, should have started a bit early. It took us about an hour to reach Vattaparai. It was the same place which we went the previous evening, but should have walked a bit further into the jungle. Thankfully we did not do that the previous day as it was getting dark and chances of getting lost there, without any mobile signal, would have been great. We should have explored further in the place, but since we were planning to return back that morning itself, we decided to stay just in that place and see if we are lucky to spot any animals. Of course, one cannot expect to see the wild animals at one’s own leisure, can we? No way. We did not spot any animals there, but did take some photographs and started back. The guide suggested that we visit another place before we return to base since we have come all the way.

This place is called Varaiyaadu Mettu. There was a dam across a river which forms a waterfall here. If we had the time and the right guide we can venture a bit into the falls. Since we lacked both, we just decided to get a good view of the place and return back. This place is another apt place for bird watching.

We returned back to Inspection Bungalow around 10:30, had breakfast, rested for about 2 hours and started back on our journey back to Chennai.

Here are few tips for people wanting to go there.

1.      Never ever stay at the cottages in the Panchayat office. Book only for the Inspection Bungalow and demand it if they come up with some crappy stories when you go there.

2.      Be prepared to eat whatever you get and also make sure that you inform the people at the eat-outs to have food kept for you if you want.

3.      Good time to visit is from September to January. After that it will get very hot.

4.      Make sure you have a car and in very good condition. Preferably an SUV. The roads can be testing.

5.      Take a good pair of walking shoes or slippers. You will definitely need it. There are lots to explore.



Linda G. said...

Very good log of your travels and great pictures, as always.

Unknown said...

Nice writeup ..Megamalai is going to be my next place to visit in this year 2013..Blocking this place for September 2013 now itself.. said...

very nice :)

Trails of a Traveler said...

Thanks Linda.

@Saravanan, this place is a must visit for lot of reasons. I wojuld love to dedicate one whole day just for bird watching here.

ராஜ சேகர் said...

"Rajasekar did negotiate the terrain (I am not going to call it a road anymore) really well!" _
I like this very much because it was really challenging to drive on that day. Its a most memorable and a bit adventurous trip too.

BTW you forgot to write about our trip to "Thoovaanam" the first day noon post our lunch.

Trails of a Traveler said...

@Rajasekar, thanks for pointing out. I completely missed about the Thoovanam dam. Now updated!


Shrinidhi Hande said...

Nice read. There're some minor spelling mistakes- you may wish to read once and correct

R Niranjan Das said...

Awesome post! Would love to visit this place. said...

refreshing, dramatic and beautiful :)

Trails of a Traveler said...

@Shrinidhi, thanks for pointing out

@Niranjan Das, thanks.

Trails of a Traveler said...

@joshidaniel, thanks a lot. It was indeed a refreshing place.

Unknown said...

I own 75 acres here... Looking forward to start my own resort
Soon all food and styaing problem will be fixed... Thanks guys

Unknown said...

Before I comment on your write-Up, I must say that I liked the photos, specially the one in clouds with the car view.

Your article reminds me the visit to Silk Route in Sikkim a few months back. Sikkim is another land of clouds. I have never been to Megamalai but looking forward to visit the place soon.

You may go through my post on Silk Route here:


Trails of a Traveler said...

@Eurostar: All the best

@Abhijit: Thanks a lot. Sikkim is in my wishlist. Waiting for the right time and opportunity to go there.


dotcombs said...

Am late visiting your lovely photos. Enjoyed reading the blog very much.

Unknown said...

can we go here with children???Pls reply..we r planning to go here on 1st May 2014

Unknown said...

Very nice and lovely said..Am Planning to go through Swift car..Is it Possible & How was the Road condition.