I wrote about picturesque Avalanchi (7200 Ft) and its beautiful lakes in an earlier post. This one is about exploring the hills and forests nearby. We arrived at Red Hills Eco Resort at Avalanchi in the late morning on a bright December day. After lunch and some lazing in the sun, it was time to start our jeep safari to Parsons valley and Parthimund dam.
There are quite a few species of animals here. On the way, we saw a herd of about 30 wild buffaloes grazing in the valley below. At another place, we could spot a pair of sambar deer close to the road. The male deer watched us for a while from a safe distance.
We also saw a lone nilgiri langur with shiny black coat, busy feeding himself in the forest near Parsons dam. On our way back, we encountered the same group of wild buffaloes again, hurtling down a narrow road towards our car and then going past us further down. Watching these 800 kg monsters with massive horns, charging towards us thumping their heavy hoofs, made my heart skip a beat! It was sudden and completely unexpected. Overall, we were satisfied with the sightings.
Our final stop was Parthimund Dam. As we were driving, fog started gathering and visibility came down to just few hundred feet. At the edge of the dam waters was a very unusual sight. The sky and the surroundings were painted gray by the fog and cloud cover, and the hills over the waters appeared like a silhouette. At a distance, the sun was shining on the water, like a spotlight, through an opening in the cloud cover. This was so surreal that you start feeling a bit uneasy, as if you are in an alien world!
Next morning, after breakfast, we started our trek to the top of the Red Hill, the fourth tallest peak in the Nilgiris. This was a moderate (means, not easy) trail, with boulders, light bushes and some steep slopes in places, on the ascent. As we kept climbing, the wide view of the Emerald and Avalanchi lakes with reflection of the blue sky appeared even more spectacular. No wonder that they chose this location for shooting of the Hindi movie Ajab Prem Ki Gazab Kahani few years back.
The climb was tiring, so we sat down several times, catching our breath and drinking water. Moby, the 2-year old German Shepherd from the Resort, also joined us in the trek. At times if we were falling behind, he would wait patiently, looking towards us, till we caught up. By the time we reached the top, we were exhausted. Sitting down for some time, we rested our legs and relished the joy of conquering the peak, looking at the mountains and lakes below.
The trail for descent is through the other side of the hill and is bit tricky. This side gets much less sunlight due to its orientation and as a result has thick undergrowth with moist, sometimes slushy, ground underneath. Often we had to make our way through narrow gaps between the bushes and moss-covered trees. It started getting adventurous. The forest was so thick that Rajendran, our guide, was going out-of-sight frequently, even though he was within an earshot. Without an experienced guide, it would be impossible to find our way here. Suddenly, we were alerted by the thump of a large animal running through the forest towards us, while Moby was barking angrily in the background. We froze on our path till it passed from behind the bushes and we could only catch a fleeting glance. Only then did we realise that it was a male Sambar Deer, weighing about 150 kg, chased by Moby.
After some more walk through the forest and crawling under the branches, we came out in the open into the tea plantation. We slowly walked through the tea bushes to the Resort. It was about lunch time. I was tired. All muscles in my legs were crying for rest. But, it was a thoroughly exciting trek and the joy remained with me long after the aches in my legs were gone.