Legend says that long long ago a group of people migrated from the present Rajasthan towards the south. Having stayed in and around the present
Well, enough of the Badagas and the other tribes of the Nilgiris. But how do I know all these and what’s the story behind the name 'Nilgiri'? I learnt all these from Mr. Vijay Kumar, a Badaga, who has, among many other things, a wealth of interesting information about the tribes of Nilgiris. It’s from him that I learned that the Badagas named their new habitat aptly Nilgiris - mesmerized by the blue tinge of the hills when soaked in fog and cloud. They have been speaking a language which is closer to Kannada than Tamil, due to their long association wit Karnataka. Also as they are originally from Rajasthan, their language does have many similarities with the northern languages. That explains the uniqueness of the name “Nil Giri”, or the
Well, that’s the story of Nilgiris. But how did I meet Mr. Vijay Kumar?
That’s the next story.
Willie Collins, a planter and hunter, popularly known as Huli Doray - meaning Tiger (Huli) Man (Doray is used to express reverence and respect), by the local Badagas, fell in love with the Nilgiris and started constructing a house near Ithlar, one of the Badaga villages close to a Toda village called Othe-Kal-Mund or the “One Stone Village” – popularly known as Ootacamund by the English people. By 1875 Willie’s house on top of a hill was complete. He named the hill Red Hills because he belonged to Red Hills in
We started from
Lush Green sorroundings of Red Hills
We relaxed for the rest of the day after a sumptuous lunch. Though we’re the first to reach Red Hills on 25th, by afternoon all the eight rooms were full.
The next morning a total of eleven people, including two kids aged ten and six, started for the trek to the Red Hills peak, which shouldn’t take more than three hours to climb up and down. The trek is not very hard but it’s advisable to take a guide. We had Mohan, the manager of the resort and Mobby, the sweetest ever dog of the Vijay Kumars, guiding us. Some part of the trek is through jungle and it’s very easy to get lost because the trail is almost invisible for most part. The trek provides an awesome view of the Emerald and Avalanche lakes and the surrounding hills of the Silent Valley and Makurti National Parks. Vijay Kumar has arrangements for night-stay in tents for six people in the Red Hills Peak. We didn’t know about this but could very well feel the excitement of such an experience.
That same evening we visited the Parsons and the Parthimund Valley and Lake, quite close to Red Hills. We took Mohan with us because otherwise there's every possibility to get lost in the innumerable turns in the Mukurti National Park. Parthimund Valley Lake provides a very good place to watch the sun set. Both the valleys are picture perfect and the lakes serene and tranquil. Each and every place appears to be a picnic spot. The Parsons Valley Dam was the site for the last scene of the film Roja, filmed by Mani Ratnam. It’s a rare spectacle to see so many lakes languishing alongside the hills at a single place.
It’s interesting to learn about the background of all these manmade lakes or rather catchment areas in this part of Nilgiris. Mr. Vijay Kumar provided me with all the information. Many valleys around Ooty have been provided with a number of dams to reserve the waters of Nilgiris and drain all of them into the Bhavani Sagar Reservoir on the river Bhavani which finally drains into Cauvery. All these valleys and the associated catchment areas, at various altitudes, provide spectacular views. Each of these pristine valleys and lakes, surrounded by hills and forests are fantastic and unique tourist spots which are still not that infested with the insensitive and irresponsible tourists. That adds more to the charm of these places. The Western Catchment 1 flows into the Upper Bhavani Reservoir. The Western Catchment 2 & 3 flow into Porthe Mund Valley Lake, which in turn flows into Emerald & Parsons Valley Lakes. Parsons Valley also flows into Emerald which has a Hydel Power Plant. Emerald & Upper Bhavani flow into Avalanche where again there’s a Hydel Power Plant. Avalanche and Emerald Lakes are in same height. They flow into Kunda, where again there’s a Hydel Power Plant. Kunda flows into Piloor, then to Geddai and finally into Bhavani Sagar from the south eastern side. Beyond Porthe Mund is the Mukurti Lake which flows into Pykara Lake, which has Hydel Power Plant. The water from Pykara Lake, off the Ooty-Gadalur-Mysore NH67, flows till Singara, which has an underground turbine, and then into Moyar River, which finally flows into Bhavani Sagar from the western side. Thus almost all water of Nilgiris go into Bhavani Sagar and then finally to Cauvery!! If time permits each of these lakes and valleys is worth visiting. Upper Bhavani requires permission from Forest Department and Electricity Board of Tamil Nadu because it’s the gate-way to the Makurti National Park. Vijay Kumar can take care of the permissions with prior intimation. The trip to Upper Bhavani, which we did the next day, can be clubbed with a Jungle Safari of Mukurti National Park for a half day trip from Red Hills. The Upper Bhavani Lake is the most tranquil and serene out of all the lakes. It skirts the Makurti National Park and is visible for a long time along the Jungle trail. There are several interesting trekking routes in the Makurti National Park. All treks can be organized by Vijay.
I’d decided this time that I’d surely write about the trip in my blog. The last evening I sat with Vijay Kumar to take notes about the history of Red Hills and I ended up gathering a lot of information also about the people and culture of Nilgiris. I learnt some fascinating facts about the Badagas – like their tradition, which they follow still now, of collecting money for any fellow villager who’s ailing, their traditional ritual to make someone free to marry again in the event of death of his or her spouse or their tradition to not take any dowry – to mention a few.
The journey back to Bangalore was not that great, not because of the fact that the traffic was quite heavy, but because of the sadness that had engulfed all of us on leaving the serene Red Hills. No wonder that Red Hills has been featured in Outlook publications like 52 weekends from Bangalore/Madras, 100 Hill Stations of India and 50 Trekking Holidays, 50 Driving Destinations in Autocar India, Go Now, Rave and Lonely Planet!!
- Distance from Bangalore: Around 300 KM
- Distance from Ooty: 25 KM
- Route from Bangalore: NH212 for Mysore-Gundalpet-Bandipur, Kalahati Ghat Road through Masinagudi-Ooty, Avalanche Road from Ooty through Ithlar till Emerald, Right towards Red Hills at Emerald
- Number of Rooms: 8
- Tariff: Peak Season 5K per couple and 4K in off season. Price includes accommodation and all meals
- Places to see (Close by): Parsons Valley Dam/Lake, Parthi Mund Valley Dam/Lake, Avalanche Dam/Lake
- Day trips: Upper Bhavani (30KM) & Makurti National Forest Jungle Safari and all other places around Ooty-Conoor
- Treks: Red Hills Peak & multiple routes in Makurti National Park. Refer to this site for more information about Upper Bhavani and treks in Makurti Natinal Park: http://www.forests.tn.nic.in/WildBiodiversity/np_muknp.html
- Contact: Vijay Kumar +919442254755, firstname.lastname@example.org
Direction to Red Hills