My Travelogues....

Magical Megamalai !!!!

After my last trip to Valparai with my school mates I was waiting for an opportunity to explore one more "lesser known" destination down south. The long weekend owing to Bakrid turned out to be the right time. With the monsoon in its peak, temperature dipping, I was sure that any hill station will have a pleasant climate and the heavy rains would have ensured that the falls are at its ferocious best. Arakku Valley, Bodinayakanur, Kolli hills were some of the options I was pondering over. Suddenly I shoved them all aside and stuck on to the name.... MEGAMALAI. I had heard of this place being mentioned in one of the dialogues in the tamil movie "Raavanan". I was intrigued and attracted to that name. It sounded poetic, it seemed to have an aura surrounding it. Names can be deceiving I know. But I was ready to take a chance. Before even knowing where that place is, what it contained etc I decided that it will be my destination this time.

As always with any preparation for a trip, the first step was to google out information about the location, route, places of interest, accommodation etc. My prolonged freetime owing to bench period in office helped me spend that extra time in knowing Megamalai better. However there were just a handful of blogs that I could find on this place, one of them was a Tamil blog written by writer Jeyamohan recounting his recent trp to Megamalai. Although not much of information could be drawn from all these blogs, they were all unanimous in one aspect alone, that Megamalai was arguably the most beautiful hillstation in South India. Happy to have my intuition confirmed I continued my hunt for more information on this mystical place. A visit to the India tourism office at Mount Road and the Tamilnadu tourism office at Wallajah road didnt help me much. Even for them it was a place which was out of the radar of tourist interest. Undeterred by the lack of insights I went ahead to book my tickets to Theni. Through one of the websites I managed to book a cab and an accommodation with a tea estate cottage.

The D-day

05-Nov-2011: It was all set for the travel. Unfortunately only 3 of us were making it for the trip. Rest all my friends opted out. The low attendance did not dampen our spirits. We two boarded the night bus from Chennai to Theni. On the day of departure, rain was lashing out in Chennai, further strengthening our doubt of whether it was the right time to travel. The downpour was so severe that we doubted if buses would be plying. The incessant rain had made Koyambedu look like a dirtier and filthier version of Venice. Pools of knee height stagnated water mixing with the drainage gave us a tough time in walking our way to the bus stop. The maddening crowd and congested traffic ensured that the 9 o clock scheduled bus could depart only by 10.30. My other friend joined us at Perungalathur. With hopes of having a good trip we all hit the bed.

06-Nov-2011: Early next morning I woke up to find that we were passing through Dindigul. Still less than an hour was Theni from here. Surprisingly it was a sunny day here contrary to the gloomy mornings in Chennai. I was happy that rain had spared Madurai, atleast during our visit. Finally at around 9 o clock we got down in Theni to be welcomed by the cab driver who was waiting for us since 6 in the morning. After breakfast we kickstarted our itenary. The destination was "Chinna suruli" falls

Chinna Suruli

Chinna suruli falls is located in the Varusanadu village. A google search will make you think that Chinna suruli and Suruli are same. Many blogs and websites including wikepedia has this misinformation that both falls are one and the same. The confusion reigns not only because of their names, (co)incidentally both are located quite near to Theni (50 plus kms). Suruli is the more famous and commercial falls that is near to Cumbam with other attractions like Kailasanathar temple cave and other caves surrounding it. Chinnau suruli is a more remote and isolated falls. Its also called as Clound land falls or Megamalai falls. It took us probably less than a couple of hours to reach the place. The route from Theni to Chinna suruli was dotted with amazing picturesque greenery. To add to the beauty were the windmills lined up eternally. I always had a fascination about windmills. There is an aura attached to that big structures I feel. With a green carpet spread out, the windmills standing tall, hills in the backdrop and a fascinating shades of bluish clear sky as the roof, it was an ideal setup for a scenic photograph that would serve as a wallpaper.

Windmills all the way.....











The Road leading to Chinna suruli







The route continued to enthrall us, passing through various small villages. Kombaithozhu was the last village I could remember. Beyond a point the vehicle could not proceed owing to bad roads. We didn't complaint. We were all the more enthusiastic to have a walk to the falls. After a few minutes we reached the place.



A few stairs with railings on either side lead to the falls. The falls was neither big nor small, adequate to sitback and enjoy its heavy downpour onto you. Thanks to the monsoon, the falls had a good flow. Infact quite a good force that we could not get near the centre of it and had to be content with sitting on the corner. The huge pedestal kind of steps helped us to move around freely within the falls. With the rocks not being slippery it was absolutely a safe and thoroughly enjoyable bath, just that the water was pretty cold. After soaking ourselves completely in it for close to couple of hours and a few photoshoots, we dressed up and started back towards the vehicle. The first part of the itenary proved to be good and enjoyable. So far so good, I felt....

















Feeling refreshed after the nature bath, we started our way towards Megamalai. The driver found a way to head towards Megamalai, without needing to touch Theni again. The route again was awesome. It was a rejuvenating feeling to be at the countryside, far away from the hue and cry of city life. The beautiful trail offered us lot of opportunities to use the camera.

Chinna suruli to Megamalai route...















After a couple of hours we reached the foothills of Megamalai. My eagerness and anxiety grew. So far, everything that lead to this place was great, the falls and the trail. It was the perfect build up to something big. I was just hoping that Megamalai doesn't turn out to be yet another sober hill station with its share of tea estates. I was keeping my fingers crossed........

The moment we started ascending, the bumpy rides began. We were told by the driver that these are 'better' roads and the worse is yet to come. I already had the information that the road leading to Megamalai is very bad. That was the prime reason for me to have chosen a Scorpio to take us through. Since I was mentally prepared, the bad roads didn't bother me much. Infact I was more excited about the surrounding getting denser and denser as we drove further. What was a bright and sunny evening suddenly turned dark and gloomy. I had read somewhere that Megamalai receives rainfall almost 8 to 9 months in a year. A peep by the window to the valley down below revealed that the plains were enjoying a bright sunshine, but just a few meters above, here we are, experiencing a greyish menacing sky. At some places, it was so dense that even sunlight could not penetrate fully. By this time the roads had become worse, forcing us to a snail paced ascent. The chill weather, cool breeze, wonderful collection of songs and two friends by my side, I had no complaints about the slow pace. We were thoroughly enjoying every moment of it. Soon it started pouring, so much to our dismay. Rain was the last thing I wanted. I did not want to spend my entire day in Megamalai indoors. I was praying that it would subside soon. Before I could finish my prayers I noticed that the rain had stopped. Not for long before it started again. Like an indicator which keeps blinking on and off, the rain was just playing games with us. Pouring down and stopping. Repeating the process for N times. After a couple of hours we reached Megamalai.

During the ascent







Entry to Megamalai

Everything looked fine till the route opened up, to reveal a small village with tea plantations all round and a small green board reading "Megamalai". To be honest there seemed to be nothing special about the place we reached. The good times had come to an end I thought. Any hill station with a tea planatation would have looked the same, I felt. However since the bumpy rides and the lack of lunch had taken a toll on us, we were too tired and hungry to think beyond finding our cottage and settling down. It was already evening around 16.30 hrs when we reached Megamalai. Our cottage was still an hours drive from here, we were told. This added to the agony.



Highwavys and Manalaru

Nothing scenic to boost our spirits, a growling stomach and a battered back, we were waiting to hang our boots and have a few morsel of food. Thats when we sighted the Highwavy's dam. Something to divert our attention. Eager to have a look around, we got down. It was a tall structure with water on only one side of it. They had not opened the dam it seems. Nonetheless, something for us to use our camera. Adjacent to the dam is the Inspection Bungalow which has rooms to accommodate the travellers. The driver had stopped there to buy some liquor for us. However the brand of our choice was not available. Since we already had a stock of some brandy and taquila we decided to move ahead.

Highwavys Dam





It was a pleasant surprise the moment the vehicle drove a few paces ahead of the dam to stop at a shop for cigarettes. Behind the shop was a serene lake. It was a sight to behold. Suddenly we seemed to have regained our lost energy. The pristine beauty of the lake with its greenish hill backdrop had a soothing effect on us. After a few clicks we started our way forward towards Manalar, the place where our cottage was located.











The entire stretch from Highwavy's to Manalar (lower and upper) was scenic. The lake almost accompanying us throughout the trail. At every few feet gain there was a lake appearing from nowhere. There are around 6 dams in and around Megamalai itself it seems. Finally we reached the cottage just before dark.

I swear, the below picture is not a painting but a photograph !!!









It was a cute little place, our cottage. 2BHK with dining room and couple of additional rooms. The lunch that was prepared and kept ready for us was re-heated and served. It was tasty and sumptuous. We told the attenders that we need a camp fire after a couple of hours for us to start our boozing session. Promptly it was arranged along with some freshly cooked spicy side dishes of various varieties. The drinks session started at 9 pm and went on till midnight 2. Half a bottle of brandy and 31 shots of Taquila were emptied between the 3 of us. We were filled with liquor from stomach to throat leaving no room for food. The dinner was left untouched.


07-Nov-2011: Despite the heavy dosage of liquor, I managed to wake up as early as 6.30 in the morning, something I can't even dream of doing in Chennai even on a completely normal, non-liquor health condition. We were supposed to vist a nearby falls (Oothutheni I think, not sure). However by the time I could wake up the other two and manage to get ready it was almost 9.00. The maggi and soup packets which I had carried from Chennai served as breakfast for us. Since we were late to start, we straightaway headed to the tea factory.

Sand river cottage - The place where we stayed















Tea factory and Maharajamettu view point

Upset on having missed out the falls early morning, I was not too keen about the tea factory visit. The guide showed us around the factory and explained the step by step processing of how tea gets manufactured. Photography was prohibited inside the factory. After around 30 mins of looking around the factory we headed to Maharajamettu view point. The vehicle stopped at a point and the driver asked us to start walking. With the guide in the front we started climbing. From being sunny, it suddenly turned completely misty and cloudy. Thats the beauty of Megamalai. Every minute the weather keeps changing. A trait which I had noticed in the great Himalayas.

Woodbriar Tea factory



White curtains covering the green carpet.....















After around 30 mins of climb we reached a vantage point where the landscape ended. What awaited was something extraordinary. It was a sight beyond words. It was as if the clouds had descended below or probably we had risen above clouds. Its a scene which probably you can expect sitting by the window of a flight or probably in the highest peak of the Himalayas. As if the curtains were waiting to part away, the clouds gave way for a few seconds to display a hint of what lied below. I had seen lot of view points which are covered by mist completely. But this was the first time I had witnessed the clouds floating in front of me.

A view from the top







There was a police wireless transmission centre situated right on the view point. What a place to have your office !! The policemen were more than happy to see a bunch of enthusiastic tourists and offered us some water. Elated that the trip was getting better and better every passing hour we descended down towards the vehicle eager to know what was in store for us in the next destination before we pack our bags to Chennai

Since it was already early afternoon, the guide suggested that we finish our sight seeing by visiting the last place which is Iravangalar Dam and return back to the cottage so that we drive down from the hills before dusk. We didnt have a choice. Off we went towards Iravangalar Dam.

Iravangalar Dam

It was the perfect icing on the cake for a great trip that was coming to an end. Having been around quite a few hill stations in my life, never had I seen such a great congregation of clouds, water and green covered hills. The meeting of these three heavenly elements created absolute magic. I know it might sound exaggerating until you experience it for yourselves. The pictures below here does not do justice to the beauty of that location.

















With lush green carpet spread eternally, the sun playing hide and seek, clouds descending upon the hills and rain taking an off for the day, Iravangalar was the perfect finish that we could ask for. We did not have the heart to return from that place. Heavenly would be a word too cliched. Tranquil is probably the right word to exclaim. The place brought a sense of tranquilness upon you. Quiet, calm, serene, peaceful... the place had everything. Makes you wonder and gape in awe at nature. It is when visiting places of such beauty that my theism gets fuelled. What a wonderful painter and creator the Almighty is and how a lifetime is not enough to witness all of His such magic.

After making a U turn from Iravangalar dam we were all quiet for sometime, probably swallowing the bitter pill that the trip had come to an end and it was time to pack our bags. 36 hrs seemed to be too short a time. One more extra day would have definitely helped us cover some of the other places which were in our list of "to visit" and enjoy the silence of this location in a leisure manner. Probably sometimes it is better to have things in small dosage and end them with a feeling of "would have been nice if it was more", so that it will help you retain the craving for it and at the same time cherish its memories. Too much of anything might make us feel bored or think "I've had enough". Having all these philosophical consolations to myselves, I started packing my bags.....

Pack up time

Hot, delicious idlis and dosas were waiting for us once we reached the cottage. Probably one of the tastiest tiffin I had had in recent times. The previous day's untouched dinner was also reheated and served. Soon it was time to bid farewell to the hospitable and warm attenders who had served us for the past 24 hrs. With a thank you note in their guest register we signed off from the cottage. On the way back we were happy to note that some of the pics had come out really well. Thanks to the serenic backdrop and my DSLR camera, one of the best investments I had ever made. It helps me relive all those wonderful travel moments, by retaining and capturing the beauty of the landscape in its little frame.

On our way back





A few tips

  • Ensure that you choose the right season and the right time to visit Megamalai. Although its pleasant throughout the year, its best between October and Jan

  • Although the entire place is referred to as "Megamalai", the real beauty actually lies in the areas beyond the Megamalai. They are Highwavys, Lower Manalar, Upper Manalar, Vattaparai, Maharajamettu, Iravangalar dam, Thoovanam dam, Vanniar dam, Thekkady dam etc. We could not make it to the last 3 places, which later I found that was a costly miss. It requires a little trek it seems to reach those places. An album which I saw of these places was really good

  • We were not allowed to enter any of the dam, courtesy the strict security. However it seems a cordial talk or a tip might get you the access to enter. Try it at your own risk

  • The entire Megamalai hills was under private control till 2009. It was during 2009 that the place was declared as a Wildlife sanctuary after which it was opened up for public access. Its probably owing to this long deniance of public access, ill-maintained roads and not being in the radar of tourism, that Megamalai manages to retain its pristine beauty. The Govt. has plans of promoting this place for tourism. Roads being repaired, boat services in the lake etc. Hence before it becomes one more commercial pot boiler like an Ooty or Kodai and gets spoilt, ensure you make it to this place.

  • The roads leading from the foothills till the upper manalar, all the way is completely ravaged. Do not take a chance with your family car. It requires a SUV or a 4X4 drive. Bike might be an option if you are willing to bear the back-breaking bumpy ride. However considering the remoteness of the place, its better not to find yourself caught in the middle of nowhere with tyres punctured. Public buses do ply every 3 hrs from Theni. But it won't let you have the fun of stopping at your own leisure and enjoy the surroundings. Hence its ideal to book a cab. It not only gives you the flexibility of visiting places of your choice, it will also save you from a gruelling drive behind the wheels.

  • In most places you will not receive mobile signal except for BSNL users. So people who are fussy about it, better carry a BSNL sim. Others, who like me, prefer to stay disconnected to the world back home and get connected to the nature here enjoy the detachment!!

  • People who are keen on animal watching can opt for a early morning walk at 6 am towards the Vattaparai or Maharajamettu. If you are lucky enough, can sight the odd wild animals or the elephants visiting the lake for a drink

  • The place is infested with leeches. A few seconds of landing your feet on damp grass and the next moment you will have half a dozen uninvited visitors creeping up your legs. Better to wear a 3/4th and sandals so that it will help you notice that these blood suckers are on their way up. Carry a bottle of concentrated salt water to remove them off your body incase they stick to you.

  • The route via Chinnamanoor is worth taking for its scenery

  • Some of the options before (or after) visiting Megamalai are Chinna suruli falls in varusanadu, Suruli falls near cumbam, Kumbakkarai & Sothuparai falls in periyakulam. All these are less than a couple of hours drive from Theni

  • There are only 3 food outlets in Megamalai. Senthil Mess, Murugan tea shop and the third I forgot. I haven't tried any of these since our food was taken care by the tea estate cottage package

Accommodation in Megamalai

There are only 4 accommodation options available in Megamalai as of now. Two tea estate cottages owned by the Woodbriar groups (Sand river and Cloud Mountain), one panchayat guest house and one Inspection Bungalow. The details of the facilities offered in each of these, the price and the photos of the rooms are given below in detail

Sand River Cottage

A cottage situated in Upper Manalar right amongst the tea estate, this belongs to the Woodbriar groups. A private road takes you to this place. The entire cottage can easily accommodate 10 adults (excluding the floor space)

Facilities: Two bedrooms with double cot, two attached rooms alongside each bedroom with a single cot, two big bathrooms with heater + western toilet , one dining room, hall, kitchen, car shed and ample space out in the garden, a small swing in the garden for kids, campfire on request. No TV, internet or telephone

Price: Rs. 6325 for 4 adults (i.e the entire cottage can be rented). This covers three meals a day and a complimentary Tea factory visit. Every additional adult will be charged extra Rs. 1000. These are season rates. During off-season it costs marginally less.

Food: Customised as per the guest request. Both veg and non-veg. However prior intimation on the menu is a must since the ingredients needs to be brought from far off. We found it to be good and tasty.

Rating: Worth every penny

Photos of Sand river cottage - Megamalai

For bookings: Mr. Shivakumar @ +919894055554 or +919487850508. An end to end package of cab, accommodation, food, sight seeing, bonfire etc all can be arranged through him

Cloud Mountain Bungalow

A posh, luxurious cottage right in the vicinity of the vast lake. This also belongs to the Woodbriar groups. The entire cottage can easily accommodate more than dozen adults (excluding the floor space)

Facilities: Two master bedrooms with double cot, one bedroom with triple cot, attached bathrooms with bathtub and heater, western toilet , one dining room, library cum hall, kitchen, car shed and ample space out in the garden, a small swing in the garden for kids, campfire on request, TV and telephone

Price: Rs. 7400 for 2 adults (i.e only one bedroom and common rooms will be tolet). This covers three meals a day and a complimentary Tea factory visit. Every additional adult will be charged extra Rs. 1500. However, the entire cottage can be rented for 20K if its a ten member team. These are season rates. During off-season it costs marginally less.

Food: Customised as per the guest request. Both veg and non-veg. However prior intimation on the menu is a must since the ingredients needs to be brought from far off

Rating: A bit pricey. For those who seek luxury

Photos of Cloud Mountain bungalow - Megamalai

For bookings: Mr. Shivakumar @ +919894055554 or +919487850508. An end to end package of cab, accommodation, food, sight seeing, bonfire etc all can be arranged through him

Govt. Inspection Bungalow

Located overlooking the Highwavys dam, the sprawling campus has rooms rented @ Rs1000 per day. A double cot bedroom with attached bathroom that has western toilet and heater, a dining room is what you get for 1000 per day. No inhouse food facility. I could not find a plugpoint also, so better check with them if you are fussy about it. The scenic Highwavys lake is just a few paces walk from here. A decent little budget accommodation for those who would want to save a few bucks.

For bookings: Panchayat guest house @ 04554232389 or 04554232225. Most probably you might be asked to arrange a DD in their favour

Photos of Inspection Bungalow - Megamalai

Panchayat guest house

Located right on the banks of the Highwavys lake, this is the cheapest accommodation available in Megamalai. A single room with just a double cot and no other furniture costs Rs. 750 a day. An attached bathroom with indian toilet. I don't think there is a heater facility. Not sure. Other than the scenic location the place does not have anything to boast about. Bachelors who do not mind the dinghyness can consider this place. Rest can conveniently stay away.

Photos of Panchayat Guest house - Megamalai

For bookings: Panchayat guest house @ 04554232389 or 04554232225. Most probably you might be asked to arrange a DD in their favour

When I started writing this blog, I did not imagine that it would end up to be this lengthy. Lengthier than my Himalayan trek blog. Considering the hype and build up created by my above account I understand that, after your visit, some of you might feel let down that the place does not have 'much' to go around in the name of sight seeing. For those, the disclaimer is "the speciality of Megamalai is its unpolluted atmosphere, virgin jungles and the calm ambience. It is the sense of tranquility that is a takeaway from this place". Hence go ahead and pack your bags, Megamalai will not disappoint you !!!!

24 comments:

celebrate ur FREEdom said...

Nice. I plan to hit the place this weekend and your blog has given me some valuable info. Thanx buddy..

Sri Kumar said...

The first ever to comment on my travel blog.... thnx for the read and all the best for your travel

Muthu said...

Hi Sri,
Its very good blog with all the photos....I really liked it...If we have to go for a trekking inside the Meghamalai forest, do we need to get the permission from the government?
BR
Muthu

Sri Kumar said...

Thnx muthu... abt trekking I have no idea on it. You can directly contact the panchayat office and enquire on it. The number is there in my blog..

Sriram said...

Nice Travelogue.. Appreciate the details you provided. Hope to visit Meghamalai this year 2012.

KG said...

Beautifully written, can experience your joy. Lovely photos.

Really appreciate the minute details you've provided including phone no.

Keep traveling more and write more

Karthik said...

very well written sandwiched with beautiful photos..we were also planning to visit this place from last year..Finally decided to visit during the last weekend of this month and made all arrangements..your information will really helpful...thanks and keep writing

Sri Kumar said...

Thnx guys.... hope your visit to Megamalai proves to be memorable...

Anonymous said...

We were there in sand river cottage in a April 1st week. As you told it was am amazing trip. The food they served was one of the best in our life. Birds whistle was the only sound we heard for the whole day. The climate was amazing. We left the place with a decision to go there with a 3 day plan, we are going by 18th August..

San said...

Excellent review with photos and comments, Great.

Senthil said...

First of thanks for this post. It made happen after following all the details provided. I spent a quiet good time with my family. I have posted my set of snaps on my FB.

Senthil said...

My Snaps

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.520864784595486.141536.513814715300493&type=1

Ashok said...

Thanks a lot for your awesome images and your interest to post them all and it is very helpfull to the nature lovers...... Thanks again.... your pics r superb... I will plan a trip in this year......

agnargunam said...

Thanks for your detailed and enticing blog

fenoj said...

very wel writen..me and few bchlrs are about to visit this plc in august.hope its a gud time

Anonymous said...

We are willing to go by bike it is comfort or not,plzzz reply

Anonymous said...

On 23rd we are going by bike Mr .Mohan

Anonymous said...

Me n my friends went there..... Road was very damaged. We can't drive. To say climate was super. But the route was very tuff. Bumpy ride

Unknown said...

hi..we r planning to go there with 20 people in a mini bus..children r there..what is your opinion..plz reply

Sri Kumar said...

The cottages mentioned here will cost 2K each for 1 adult per day, inclusive of all 3 meals. Ride up the hill will be bumpy.. Now there is two more accommodation enroute to megamalai. Run by same Shiva. That's a budget accommodation. May month might be slightly hot..

john said...

Wonderfully Written... Really Appreciate it..!!! I've been planning to go there from a long time when my friend explained about that place...
Cheers...

yamaha siva said...

Superb.am staying ter on oct 2.will it be mist and cooler than kodaikanal?

கதிர் said...

Hope we will meet there.... we are coming on 3rd...

Pravien Siva said...

wonderful narration about the place..i am impressed and ready to go there with my friends next day....

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