Friday, January 21, 2005

Bellikal

Anil organized a trip to Bellikal this weekend. There were five of us
in the group: Anil and Poornima, Mandya muscleman Mohan, ace
photographer and PVR Gold Class patron Manjula and me of course. Before
I ramble on, here are the photos from the trip:

My album on flickr

Manjula's photos on webshots

The Silver Stone Estate

Bellikal (belli = silver, kal = stone in Kannada) is a tea estate off
the steep Kalhatti ghat road to Ooty from Bandipur. The place is
unspoilt and not frequented by tourists. No one stays at the estate
full time. The estate owner, Mr. Pannalal comes down to host the
occasional visitors. Panna is a nature lover and seeing Anil's
unbounded enthusiasm for nature and wildlife, agreed to come over this
weekend to host the five of us.

Accommodation was in a portion of an ancient estate house built by the
Britishers. The place has no tarred roads, electricity or telephone
lines. The estate adjoins the Mudumalai and Bandipur forests. The lake
in the estate is a major water source for the surrounding areas and
attracts wild animals in the evenings. The tea plantation covers only a
part of the estate lands. The rest of the land has been forested and it
is frequented by bears, bisons and even elephants.

Day 1

On the first day the travel weary gang had a nap on the rocks at a view
point in the estate. After the refreshing nap we went bird watching.
Manjula got some great shots of the birds around the estate. Birds seen
in the estate included the shrike, wood peckers, bulbuls, drongo,
morning dove and the crow pheasant. After the bird watching session we
went to a view point overlooking the Moyar plateau. While returning we
spotted a bison at a distance. The first day's experience was pretty
good, marred only by some Jiddu-babble from Anil. The beautiful
environs inspired Anil to give his unwilling audience a spontaneous
discourse on the universal mind and the self. The night was very cold.
So cold that Mohan couldn't do a Salman on this trip.

Day 2

The next day, the water was freezing. Anil and I entered into a pact to
not bathe over the next two days. Manjula walked off alone to the lake
early in the morning to get some great shots of the lake at dawn. At
this time no one realized the dangers of wandering about alone near the
lake. Though Panna had warned us about the bears and bisons that roam
the estate, we thought he was being overcautious. After breakfast, we
trekked along the estate boundaries to the adjoining hills. Panna
showed us the droppings of many animals including that of a tiger. The
path also had bushes trampled by elephants. At one point we could hear
a barking deer nearby but we couldn't spot it.

Wild Things

In the evening, we set out again to the sunset point. A little
downhill, we spotted a bear near a farm. Though it was at a good
distance away, the thrill of spotting an animal in the wild cannot be
matched by watching the same creature at close quarters in an
enclosure. Anil missed this sight since he had wandered off to the
lake. At this point we realized the dangers of venturing out alone. It
was very close to one of the trails to the sunset point. We hurried to
the lake since the bear was climbing as it foraged and it would soon be
near the path that we took. As we were returning, Chandru, our driver,
noticed some movement in the pine forest near the lake. A little later
Manjula noticed the pine tree tops swaying deep in the forest. This was
an amazing moment. Only an elephant coming towards the lake could push
the trees around like that. Mohan borrowed a jacket in panic to cover
his white t-shirt (elephants don't like white). As we waited, hiding at
the opposite end of the lake, we saw not one, but five elephants come
out and drink from the lake. It was quite dark and we couldn't
photograph them. This was the high point of the trip. After we
returned, all plans for a star gazing session from the viewpoint were
scrapped. Our star gazing guide Mohan was too shaken anyway.

Return

The next day we started our tiring trip back to Bangalore. This was
another adventure. The driver was speeding like a maniac to be on time
for another trip in the evening. We stopped at Mysore for lunch. Mysore
is beautiful and calm. I think I'll join the gang at Kodiak that is
planning to settle in Mysore.

12 comments:

Soumya said...

Went through your photo album and travel diary. Excellent photos of Bellikal !! It was a pleasure reading your Bellikal experience.

Anonymous said...

After reading the info we decided to visit Bellekal..
Its really a very nice peak of jungle..
But stay at the estate house is not at all value for money..

Note: Please dont go with high expectations regarding food..

Anonymous said...

Yeah..Bellikal place is good indeed..but please dont go with high expectations of good food or hospitality offered in that place.
Its cost 1200 bucks plus for a one night stand..for providing no gr8 facilities.So think twice before you decide on this place.

binux said...

Sorry to know you didn't enjoy the food and the hospitality.

Panna and his wife took very good care when we visited. The food was vegetarian, prepared by Panna's wife. All of us liked it. Accommodation was comfortable but not fancy.

Did Panna and his wife stay with you during your visit? Perhaps that makes a difference.

Anonymous said...

I think absence of Panna's wife made the difference. When we went one of male servent prepared the food.
We had to ask for each and everything needed. And yes, Panna did stay there with us.

Anonymous said...

Only Pannalal was there. We were fine with accomodation eventhough it was not fancy, but the food which was either bread or something offered was hardly enough for 2 people when there were a buch of guys present..sometimes it appears that Panna wants to cut down costs incurred on food..etc and earn more income....

Sumit said...

I visited bellikal last week. The views were stupendous. Nature at its untamed best. Food I dont think should be a problem, though Pannas wife was not there, it was cooked well. I object the cost. it should have been Rs800 or so. We got to spot a Bison(Gaur) at a distance, and got to see Kurinji which blooms once in 12 years. Every thing was great except the cost.

ashish said...

Silver Stone estate in Bellikal is an extremely unspoilt and undisturbed location barely 18 odd kms from the hustling bustling Ooty. It will be an ideal weekend getaway if what you are looking at is complete relaxation. The place has three rooms and can cater to a max of around 10-12 people at a time.
The rooms have a tin and clay tiled roof and have neat and clean toilettes and that is almost all that they have in terms of amenities ! There is no electricity either, but then you are provided with kerosene lanterns at night.

Mr Pannalaal, who hosts the guests most often at the estate is a well read and well behaved person and he knows the place well. However, most of the stories that he recounts about his encounters with wild animals seem just that..'stories' ! He does add a personal touch to your stay but does not offer you any privacy at all. You are not allowed to go on a treks or walks in the forest unless he accompanies you.
The views of the Mudumalai forest from the hilltop are beautiful although probabilities of spotting animals in the wild there are rare. However, you are bound to hear story of a bear/bison/barking dear coming right up to the stay place only the previous morning or the night before ! What you can see quite frequently in your treks, is elephant/dear droppings strewn all around to prove that the animals had visited the place sometime in the past.

I would recommend this Rs. 1250 per person per night place for a getaway only for people whose only exposure to nature is national geographic and who would feel excited, amused and challenged by the absence of city life comforts like electricity, fan, A.C,fridge, heater,TV,geyser etc.Food served is veg and Shanti Sagar mini meals type, but for the claim that most of the things used to prepare it are 'farm-fresh'. Alcohol is not served(of-course), and is also discouraged.

The place is completely an outdoor place as you would hardly want to spend time in the servant-quarter like rooms. The tragedy, however, is that there is nothing much you can do outdoors but for bonfire in the night and the treks in the 'wild' which get repetitive almost right after the first trek.

I would not recommend the trip at all if you are looking for even a bit of privacy as Mr Pannalaal is almost always with you.
While sitting atop the hill, and, with a beautiful view of the sprawl below and in front, you would have loved to have some idle or even serious chat with your beau/friend/family etc…but all that is rendered impossible with the presence of Mr Pannalaal around you !
Also, it’s a tad too heavy on the pocket and you are left with the feeling of being burdened by an over-expensive guide trying desperately to make things sound and seem exciting and interesting with his stories.

The surroundings and ecology of the place are eco-fragile and If the intention of your group is some boisterous merry making you are better off staying away from this place.

The access roads to the estate are pathetic to tackle with a small car and require a vehicle with decent ground clearance. If you are a good driver, you can manage with a small car as well, but you are almost sure to take a few blows on the under-side of the car. However, Mr Pannalal is helpful enough and can pick you up in his jeep while your car is parked safely somewhere in the village that you are required to pass to reach the estate.

To sum-up, I would say you can visit this place if :
1)You are looking at lazy-ing around doing nothing or maybe reading a book while sitting in the sun
2) You want to breathe some un-polluted air
3)Your want to give your 'city-bred' kids some first-hand experience of a 'forest' or closeness to nature.

Nik said...

Your totally right binu..BELLIKAL is the most amzing place to spend your weekend.
I had been to bellikal this january,as usual we(me,paras,rahul and shravan) were accompanied by Mr.Panalal ,a person totally devoted to his passion of enjoying nature and also keeping in mind that the people around him enjoy nature but in a way that they are away from danger(which i guess CITY BRED ashish calls lack of privacy)
This was the best eva trip i've had.Nature at its best and luck in our favour(but not as lucky as u binu,no bear in sight).We did see a herd of 7 elephants inclusive of 3 calves ,a deer giving birth to its fawn(still cant believe it we saw it happen)and also a herd of bisons(GAUR)with their offspring. (GUESS IT WAS REPRODUCTION period :P )

BACKFIRING ON ANTI BELLIKAL COMMENTS :
okie .. i've become a BELLIKAL FAN .. so i can justify any statement against the place as well as Mr.Panalal. So here it goes:

@ Ashish:

From ur comments i wonder if ur the "President of the Jungle". ur comments seem as if u were expecting a 5 star hotel and the statement confirms your expectations >>"servant like quarters".As mentioned earlier its a total rustic place.Guess you don't know the meaning of rustic :P

Privacy point:

If ur talkin about Mr. Panalal giving no privacy and if u wanted to venture into the jungle yourself you would have realised that you are wrong only if you had an encounter with a herd of elephant or a bear .. rite Binu??

And you don't have any right to term a person , specially whose well over your age. He's no GUIDE who is trying to DESPERATELY entertain you,infact he wants you to get the best of your stay, is what we all felt when we were with him.
NOTE :D
Ashish don't get annoyed by my comments.Its just that everybody has their own views and you did post positive points,but in a half hearted manner.I feel you have used a lot of harsh words. Its jus blogging,so i guess its chill ..No offence buddy ..Its jus that only Binu,You and i have given detailed description,so we can build up on a conversation :)

SOME IMPORTANT POINTS TO BE NOTED FOR PEOPLE INTERESTED TO VISIT BELLIKAL :

* NO luxuries are available.All basic amenities(place to hault,neat toilets,a clean kitchen and good food) required are provided.It makes us realise depended we are on machines in the machine era.ITS ALL WE NEED~~"BASIC AMENITIES".

* NO electricity hence no noise caused by TV and other tech based equipment and you can atleast hear some pleasent singing of the birds for a change, for all you hardworking techies on a holiday, you have a chance to stay away from work and can enjoy complete relaxation in the peaceful environment.

* Please avoid bringing CHILDREN who are below the age of 15.The place requires silence so that you can spot any animal,be it a rabbit or an elephant.The thrill of seeing an animal in the wild is just different from that of watching it on NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC channel or in the zoo.

*Be prepared mentally and physically to face any odds.Its a jungle out there :) and yeah about the estate house,its a perfect example of a rustic place.Its just a different experience and its worth it.


Well we had an amzing trip and i guess we'll be back again for more of BELLIKAL.Thanks to Mr.Panalal,an amazing person and ma pals for companying me and Raju anna (We were the only people involved in this adventure trip) :D

Anonymous said...

we went there in may and were chased by a bear, We ran our way out

Anonymous said...

can i choose bellikal for one day picnic with frinds? i am from mysore

Ashwin said...

Nice post about Bellikal! Thanks for sharing this wonderful post in this blog. Loved reading this blog. It is a wonderful place to visit. If you are planning for your trip then book your Bus Tickets in advance to enjoy your trip.