Trekking in the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, Thoovanam Waterfalls.


Chinnar wildlife sanctuary - waterfalls

One fine morning, opened my inbox to see our old friend Chandrashekar’s mail proposing a weekend trek for the 4th & 5th of July 09. This time the destination was the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary (CWS). Fired up the browser to check out what Chinnar was all about… I had heard about Chinnar sometime in the past and the name was stuck in my memory since the person who mentioned it had said that ‘Chinnar’ is near ‘Munnar’! (The Chinnar Checkpost is indeed around 60kms from Munnar.)




Here is some text from Wikipedia:

Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary (CWS) is located 18 km north of Marayoor in the Marayoor and Kanthalloor Panchayats of Devikulam Taluk in the Idukki district of Kerala state in South India. It is one of twelve Wildlife Sanctuaries among the Protected areas of Kerala.

It is under the jurisdiction of and contiguous with Eravikulam National Park to the south. Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary is to the north and Kodaikanal Wildlife Sanctuary is to the east. It forms an integral part of the 1,187 km2 (458 sq mi) block of protected forests straddling the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border in the Annamalai Hills. The Western Ghats, Anamalai Sub-Cluster, including all of Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, is under consideration by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee for selection as a World Heritage Site.

There are 965 species of flowering plants in the sanctuary Ecoregions of the sanctuary comprise mostly grassland and wet grasslands vegetation and some South Western Ghats montane rain forests and high shola at the higher western elevations. South Western Ghats moist deciduous forests at mid elevations give way to dry deciduous forests and thorny scrub forests in the lower dryer eastern edges of the valley… The Marayoor Sandalwood forest is located here.

34 species of Mammals live here, including many Panthers and Spotted deer, 50 -60 Indian Elephants, Gaur, Tigers, Sambar Deer, Common langur, Bonnet Macaque, Hanuman monkey, threatened Nilgiri Tahr, vulnerable Rusty-spotted Cats and about 240 of the only vulnerable Grizzled Giant Squirrels in Kerala. 245 species of birds including Yellow-throated Bulbuls.

52 species of reptiles including 29 species of snakes, Indian Star Tortoise and the largest population of vulnerable Mugger Crocodiles in Kerala live in the Sanctuary. Most common of the 42 species of fishes observed in the Chinnar and Pambar rivers are Garra mullya minnows, River-carp baril,Giant Danio and the endangered hill stream game fish Deccan Mahseer. 22 amphibian species live in the Sanctuary. There are 156 species of butterflies.

Apart from the flora and fauna, Chinnar also has a bit of ancient history thrown-in. There are several hundred ‘Dolmens’; ancient tombs…

A dolmen is a type of single-chamber megalithic tomb, usually consisting of three or more upright stones supporting a large flat horizontal capstone (table). Most date from the early Neolithic period (4000 to 3000 BC). Dolmens were usually covered with earth or smaller stones to form a barrow, though in many cases that covering has weathered away, leaving only the stone “skeleton” of the burial mound intact.

There are dolmens in Kerala, South India, about 7 km from Marayoor near the small village of Pius Nagar, also known as Alinchuvad. These dolmens are set in clusters of two to five dolmens obviously for the burial of a family. There are hundreds of such dolmen clusters in the area.

Apart from overground dolmens, underground burial chambers built with dressed stone slabs have also been discovered in Marayoor.

All these dolmens are made from heavy granite slabs, mined using primitive technology. This was a burial ground for several centuries for a noble tribal dynasty known as Adi Cheras, the royal family, which rose as a paramount power in South India in the First Century CE. The Adi Chera tribe traded with the Egyptian and Roman empires of the time. Most of the overground dolmens found in Alinchuvad were made before the Iron Age since no tools were used to dress the granite slabs. On a nearby hill, granite dolmens made, using tools, are also seen. One is underground and the other is overground.

The overground dolmen of this type was not used for burial.

The length of the dolmens range from 11 ft to 4 ft. There are scores of 4 ft versions of underground type. They had two earthenware pots, one containing the ornaments and weapons of the individual and the other contained the cremation remains.It appears that the tribe continued to use this burial practice until the tribe was destroyed in the beginning of third century CE.

We started our trip at around 9.30pm on the evening of 3rd July 09 and returned back to Bangalore at around 5.00am on the 6th. We went in a Tempo traveller, piloted by our usual driver Kumar. He seriously has lots of patience to deal with a gang of trigger happy trekkers… whenever we spotted something worth a pic or two, I would yell…’Kumar! stop!!’ and get the van backed up to get the correct pic from the window. A sincere thanks to Kumar for not deciding to abandon us in the middle of nowhere





I’ll try not to πŸ˜‰





Since the route was via Hosur road, we decided to catch up with the group near the silk board fly-over…





Got onboard and promptly fell asleep, only to be woken up for the early morning tea & pee stop…





By around 6’ish we reached the first check-post…





A little after the check post, came across this wild boar ambling along…





Trees on the hill, giving it a halo effect…





I just could not stop taking more and more pics of the mountains around…





A little after 7am, we reached the Chinnar check post…







Welcome to the jungle…





Waiting for the paperwork to be through!





Among other things, Sangeetha can speak fluent English, Hindi, Marathi, Kannada, Telugu, Tamil… and Malayalam too! While she was taking care of the details, I was walking around taking pics…





The current list of programs available. They have not bothered to update their website as yet…





There is dormitory accommodation available at reasonable rates in the eco-center next to the check post…





Show the boys a river… and this is what you get!





Langurs…





Size-wise…





Since milk (for chai) and normal rice is not available at the check post, we negotiated with a van driver who regularly travels on this route to get us some rations…





Neela kurinji is a shrub that was once abundant in the Western Ghats. The Nilgiris – blue Mountains, got their name from the purplish blue flowers of Neela kurinji which flowers once in 12 years. The last flowering was in 2006…





One good thing about trekking in this season was that there was hardly any sun throughout the day…





The Chinnar watch tower is just a few hundred meters from the check post and offers a panoramic view of the forest…









Antler of a deer…





Sangeetha recently remarked, "How come you never take any flower photos?"… Well, here you go!





We first went out for a ‘Riverside trek’, which would take us to the Chinnar River…





A Sambar deer…





Ok, I really could not stop myself from taking pics of the mountains around πŸ™‚





A small break!






Contd…




One comment to...
“Trekking in the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, Thoovanam Waterfalls.”
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Manickam

I have been reading your articles – interesting – when u go on hikes do you have maps etc of the various paths , or is it with help of local guides . Would be interested to know. I am a keen walker in uk where there are detailed ordnance survey maps and multiple guides and info on walks. Would be delighted to know more on your walks and how you do it. Best wishes . Manickam




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