The Secret Valley Of Flowers – Kas Plateau

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When you think of Valley of Flowers in India, what comes to your mind? Uttaranchal ?

Think again!

Even Wikipedia certifies this as the valley of flowers in India and there are many outfitters that offer treks to the alpine meadows in the Himalayas.

But, there is another valley of flowers in Maharashtra; near Satara. The Kaas Plateau comes alive for a short 3- 4 weeks duration after monsoon season and the plateau is covered with flowers for miles upon miles.

If you would like to visit, the window of opportunity is very short, at best next two weekends. This place is about 25 kms from Satara; with Pune being the biggest city closest to Satara. For a map link, click here.

My photography club did a weekend trip here. We couldn’t make it but I wanted to share the beauty of the place. Purples, Indigos and Whites dotted the landscape.All photographs are by award winning ( and a fellow Club member) Satish Chelluri. If his photos don’t make you want to go there this weekend, then I think you got poor taste ;)Don’t believe me, check these photos from his Flickr stream.

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Enjoy!

Travel Tales From Nilgiris – Coonoor Sightseeing

The day after our trip to see the fantastic views from Upper Bhavani lake, we took it easy and spent the morning taking in the sights around Coonoor: Dolphins Nose and Lambs Rock. They are all in the same area almost along the same road and can be pretty much covered in a morning.

The morning was clear and we wanted to make the most of the sunshine.We drove out after breakfast.

Dolphins Nose
A long winding road out of Coonoor, through thick sholas and road-side tea gardens, led us straight up to Dolphins Nose. The verdant hills beckoned us. It was green from the tea gardens, thick sholas, silver oak trees and even moss and grass thanks to recent rains.

We saw Law falls from here and Coimbatore plains below. Do pay for the use of telescope as the guy will show you a native tribal hut camouflaged to human eye. Be ware of monkeys – they are aggressive and will snatch food from your hand. I bought passion fruits at the vendor and the monkeys started following me waiting to see if I will feed it to them.I ran to the car to store them while we wandered around.

Terraced tea gardens

Law Falls

Monkey eating human food

Sholas and tea gardens

Harvesting Tea
Around here, we saw a lot of folks harvesting tea. They were all super busy in their work, but allowed us to take turn harvesting a few leaving and posing for pictures. It is backbreaking work ; plucking the leaves, filling in sacks, hauling them to trucks. I don’t think I will take my morning cuppa so lightly. Its hard work!

Harvest time

Harvest time 2

Next to Lambs Rock

Playing in tea garden

Lambs Rock
We drove down to Lamb’s Rock which is also known as shooting point. The views here were more or less the same as that of Dolphins nose and as it was more crowded we didn’t stick around for too long. We could have easily skipped it.

View from Lambs Rock

Private tea estate near lambs rocsk

Needlecraft
There is another place we could have skipped in Coonoor -Needlecraft. Advertised all over Coonoor as the place for hand-embroidered linen,we wanted to check it out for gifts. This place is run by two snooty women who don’t give a damn about customer service and sales. They are probably doing this out of boredom with no real need for selling their wares. The embroidery is beautiful but not extraordinary or worth the steep price.

Their garden is exquisite. Rambling country style-in full bloom.I could have spent the day there if only the owners were more co-operative. The kids were antsy by now wanting to play again.

We headed back to the resort for lunch and for an afternoon of Spa-time. If you stay at Taj resort in Coonoor, don’t miss the spa. Getting a shirodhara massage on a cold rainy afternoon next to a roaring fireplace is an indulgence you cannot afford to miss in India. Am sure you are gonna love it!

Stay tuned for more travel tales from Nilgiris. What to shop, what else can you see, flowers…

Travel Tales From Nilgiris – Upper Bhavani Biosphere and Lake

Sholas, Farms and Little villages

After taking the toy train from Coonoor to Ooty, we spent the rest of the day in Upper Bhavani Biosphere and Lake. It’s about an hour’s drive or so from Ooty via Emerald Lake Village.

Farms along the way

To say that the drive is scenic is an understatement. Farmlands dot along the way as you weave in and out of rolling hills. Dense sholas or forests along edges of small farming towns, and acres upon acres of cabbage, carrots and beets farms. We even stopped to pick carrots from a from en-route. There isn’t much in terms of facilities along the way, so stock upon snacks and water in Ooty or in Emerald lake village. The road is in good condition. Private vehicles are not allowed in the sanctuary and you have to switch to government jeeps or eco-tour buses.

Freshly pulledcarrots

Little goat

We took a private jeep for us and headed inside the sanctuary. The initial part of the sanctuary was ho-hum. Fallen tree branches and muddy roads due to the heavy rain from previous day made everything slick. Red and brown mushrooms were the only interesting things we observed.

Brocooli forest

First stop inside was to view the cauliflower ( or broccoli) shaped trees. Dense forests with green florets. Clouds weaved in and out over the trees. To see such pristine dense forest in India with no littler is a rare scene. Not to mention very few tourists. A lovely waterfall reminded us of Lonavla in monsoon.

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Temple next to waterfall

Next up was a Bhavani Temple located next to a waterfall. It was perched on a cliff side and was straight out of movies. The wind was very strong here and we had to make sure that we held on to the kids tight. The river meandered in the valley below again densely covered with those broccoli florets trees.

Bison

We drove further and saw a majestic wild bison en-route. It was tall, young and could have easily trampled us with its strength if we encroached its private space. Luckily it crossed the road and disappeared into the forest and we continued on – excited about its sighting.

bhavani lake

The last stop of the trip was at Upper Bhavani lake -an artificial lake created by the dam which helped the farmlands flourish in the area. The lake was hidden behind clouds when we arrived but when they parted – we were mesmerized. It looked like an infinity lake snaking across valley below. The sparkling water now a muddy brown due to rain and the silt that flowed into it’s from surrounding brown red mountains.

We parked and took in the views despite the cold. The kids were bundled up and in the car as we didn’t want them to fall sick. Vipul with our friend S,with whom we were travelling, headed to the Upper Bhavani Falls which was another picturesque setting. The falls were classic and the guys hiked to the bottom to enjoy them more while we waited in the car with the kids.

waterfall

Vipul insisted that we go see the falls too, so we left the kids in the car with S and headed down the rocky path to the falls. When we turned the corned, clouds had rolled in and we couldn’t see a thing. We saw some tall trees and nothing much beyond. But the sight of the falls right ahead of us when the clouds parted was simply marvelous.

We were cold and didn’t want to hike down on muddy path so we headed back.
It was drizzling a bit all this while and once we started driving back it began to pour. We were soaked in the 15 seconds it took to switch from the govt vehicle to our car.

We dried off the kids and started our drive back to Ooty. Suddenly, we all realized we had skipped lunch and everyone was very hungry. With all the excitement of bison, new vistas and lakes behind us, our stomach’s grumbled but we had about an hours drive back to Ooty. The carrots we had in the car were freshly pulled and were not in ready to eat condition. They had to be scrubbed clean. We ate some bananas that we had stocked on hand for the kids. We survived somehow till Ooty where we had a late lunch of dosa and utthapam. The weather cleared up by the time we had lunch and filter coffee and so we did some shopping – chocolate, seeds and more fresh vegetables to bring back home.

I bought this bunch below for just over a dollar.

Vegetables

By then the kids were tired from being in the car and wanted their play time. We headed back to Coonor where they could have free reign on the lawn and run to their heart’s content.

It was another lovely day in the mountains. We were so inspired that we are now planning another trip there when the weather is brighter and sunnier.

Travel Tales From Nilgiris – Toy Train Ride

The third day of the trip was actually the highlight of our trip in Nilgiris. In the morning we had a ride in the toy train from Coonoor to Ooty.

Varun was absolutely elated. He simply couldn’t wait for the train to arrive at the station. This is what happens at Coonoor station an hour before the actual journey.A train comes up from Mettupalayam to Coonoor. Two additional coaches are attached to this train at Coonoor.Tickets for these coaches are sold at Coonoor station 40 minutes before the train departs. You may need to reserve in advance  in high season, but we could walk in and get tickets on the fly.

The train ride was fun with kids. Looking out of the windows, screaming when in a tunnel, breeze through your hair, and amazing vistas – farms, gardens, eucalyptus and oak trees. Every conceivable shade of green. Lantana was blooming and nodding along with grass and other brush. It was pleasant and a new experience.

The actual trip in a pictorial format below. Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

At Coonoor Station looking forward to the train trip.
At Coonoor station

Train tracks leading the way to Ooty
Train tracks

Trees from the train window
Trees from train

Little colorful villages below
Views from train

Choo….choo train
Train Chooo choo

Tea gardens across the valley
Tea gardens from trian

Views of Farmland in the valley below
Farms from Train

Finally, after about an hour, at Ooty station
At OOty station

And ready to play…
Palying at Ooty station

We had to drag them out of the train station into the car so we could continue to Upper Bhavani Lake Exploration. Rain threatened and they reluctantly agreed with some kicking and fussing.

Stay tuned to see the Upper Bhavani lake vistas – they are simply mind-blowing.