Thursday, February 13, 2014

Birds of Thattekad - Birds of Munnar - Drive from Hyderabad to Munnar

Birds of Thattekad - Birds of Munnar - Drive from Hyderabad to Munnar


How do you split your heart in two and love two different things equally? That’s the beauty of human heart, it will let you keep your first love intact and still can make space for more love to accommodate. Indeed, that’s what has happened to me. Driving has always been my passion; however since last 1 year birding has taken that sweet spot in my heart and created a place of its own.

This long drive was not just any long drive; it was a dream to satiate my latest passion of birding and obviously complimenting my biggest passion of driving.


Summary:

Total kms driven: 2450 km from door to door
Total Bird Spotted: 90 different types
Route: Hyderabad – Bangalore (1 Night Halt) – Salem – Erode – Thrissur – Kothamangalam – Thattekad (4 Night Halt) – Munnar (2 Night Halt) – Udumalaipettai – Dharapuram – Erode – Salem – Bangalore (1 Night Halt) – Hyderabad 

Click Here for Map
Car: Ford Fiesta Petrol (2006)
Passengers: 2 (My wife Supriya and myself)
Conditions: Warm weather with car AC on for 95% length of the trip
Average Mileage: 11+ km/lit
Total Cost of Fuel: Approx Rs. 17500
Total Toll: Approx Rs. 1500 (Round Trip)
Driving Objective: Fast Driving (motive to reach as soon as possible) with pit stops for Breakfast, Lunch and Re-fuelling
Maximum Driving Speed: 170 km/hr (occasionally on highways when the roads were too inviting)

1st February (Saturday): Hyderabad to Bangalore
Distance: 550 KM Time: 7.5 hours Toll: Rs. 450
 

I’m now losing count of the number of times I have done this lap. Still, as always this road is a beauty to drive. Started from Hyderabad around 11 AM with full tank and reached Bangalore (Jayamahal Palace Hotel) at 6-30 PM. 100 km before Bangalore got my tank full again at BP-Ghar, so that tomorrow morning I don’t have to bother about refuelling.  The reason why I booked Jayamahal Palace Hotel was because it was on the northern side of Bangalore where I can easily reach even in traffic.  Besides, next morning when I leave from there and go past the entire city of Bangalore, I will not encounter the city traffic because of the morning hours. A few quick words about Jayamahal Palace Hotel – it is just average although makemytrip rates it as 4 star. There are a lot of events that happen in their lawns so don’t expect a quiet and serene environment. Service is just average, cleanliness is average, food is pathetic. Just ok to spend one night and move on. Honestly not worth 2500 per night.

2nd Feb (Sunday): Bangalore to Thattekad (via Salem, Erode, Thrissur, Kothamangalam)
Distance: 555 KM Time: 11 hours Toll: Rs. 440
 

We had breakfast in our hotel in Bangalore and left at 8 AM. Exiting Bangalore was smooth as expected, with proper double lane roads till Erode. After that it’s 2-way traffic till Thrissur. Later again you will get double lane roads till Kothamangalam. Most of the people use this road from Kochi airport to Munnar. Thattekad is a lesser known destination. From Bangalore people usually drive to Munnar. Only a few lesser known birding enthusiasts drive to Thattekad. For reaching Munnar, the route will be entirely different - the one which I took on the way back. Roads till thattekad are smooth and without any potholes. We had our usual pit stops for breakfast and lunch. Finding eateries is not a big problem on this road, there are quite a few decent ones. Toilet breaks can be taken at any major petrol pump or any of these eateries as well. Reached Thattekad at 7 PM where our Bird guide Mr. Vinod Narayan was waiting for us in front of Dr. Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary. We booked Homestay Birds Song and Vinod was too good in his bird watching experience. No surprise that by the end of the trip we tracked 90+ different types of birds and could capture 82 in my camera.

3rd Feb (Monday): Driving around Kuttampuzha for Bird Watching

4th Feb (Tuesday): Driving around Inchathotty for Bird Watching


5th Feb (Wednesday): Driving around Idamalayar for Bird Watching



6th Feb (Thursday): Drive from Thattekad to Munnar
Distance: 85 KM Time: 2 hours
 

We had our breakfast and left Thattekad around 8-30 AM and reached Munnar around 10-30 AM. The road from Thattekad to Munnar is beautiful. The ghat driving was really one of its kinds. I noticed local people usually drive very fast, so it’s good to take caution. If co-passengers have motion sickness the they should concentrate on the road (refer my ghat driving post). After reaching Munnar, the Nature Zone resort vehicle took us to the top of the hills of tea plantation where they have their private property inside the jungle. (A delight for bird watchers) I parked my car in Munnar City where the resort people asked me to.
Reached the resort around 11-30 AM and took their bird guide at 4-30 PM. He charged Rs. 1000 for 1.5 hours and he knew nothing. Instead he was asking me about the bird types. Finding a good bird guide in Munnar is extremely difficult. However if you stay in Nature Zone you don't need any guide, just roam around the property and you can easily track 20 different species very easily. 



7th Feb (Friday): Whole day bird watching



8th Feb (Saturday): Drive from Munnar to Bangalore (via Udumalaipettai – Dharapuram – Erode – Salem)
Distance: 470 KM Time: 8.5 hours Toll: Rs. 300

After an early morning bird watching session had breakfast and checked out of the resort. Enroute Bangalore did some photography of the Tea Plantation, also bought some authentic Munnar Tea from a tea factory. The road from Munnar to Bangalore was breath-taking. After crossing the tea-plantations one enters into the forest ghat area of Eravikulam National Park, followed by the Marayoor Sandalwood Forests. The landscape changes so smoothly that you wouldn’t even notice that you actually entered into the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary Area. Before Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary ends, the Anamalai Forest Reserve starts. From the tea plantation ghat roads which are brightly green, the landscape soon changes to dark green, of Marayoor, green and dry mix shrubs of Chinnar and stony dry deciduous landscape of anamalai reserve. But the road through these forests and ghat areas is a life-time experience and as a driving enthusiast I can say it was one of the most dangerous curves I have seen in all my hill driving experience. Before entering into the Annamalai Forest Reserve there are a lot of checkposts where one has to enter the personal details. It is advisable to keep your car windows rolled-up in these check posts because of the monkey menace. In one checkpost I even encountered a corrupt police officer who took Rs. 20 from me to pass through although nobody else was paying. To avoid any confrontation i just paid and went through. Sometimes you do encounter these kind of people, can't help. After that the beautiful dusky stretch through the Anamalai Forest is worth every moment you spend there.
The entire road through these forests has very low traffic and we could easily reach Bangalore Hotel before 7 PM with relaxed driving and pit stops. Booked at IBIS Hotel hence didn't have to cross the city limits of Bangalore to reach there.



9th Feb (Sunday): Bangalore to Hyderabad
Distance: 600 KM Time: 7 hours Toll: Rs. 450

Once again the journey ended through this beautiful road with no major hiccups and my 8 year old car completed the journey without much trouble except that the AC stopped working in the last 150 KM journey and a slight nagging noise from the front wheel.

In retrospect I feel, this was more of a birding experience than a driving one. I think my passions are taking a tectonic shift here with the love of birds overpowering the love of driving.



White-cheeked Barbet

Common Rosefinch

Heart spotted Woodpecker

Orange Minivet Female

Orange headed Thrush

Oriental White Eye

Kerala Laughingthrush

Malabar Grey Hornbill

Long-tailed Shrike

Blue-faced Malcoha

Emerald Dove

Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher

Nilgiri Flycatcher

Common Tailorbird

Ceylon Frogmouth Female

Ceylon Frogmouth Male

Malabar Trogon Male

Malabar Trogon Female


Greater Racket Tailed Drongo

Chestnut-headed Bee-eater

Indian Blackbird

Black Bulbul

Red Whiskered Bulbul

Brahminy Kite

Pied Bushchat

Crested Goshawk

Mottled Wood Owl

Jungle Owlet

Brown capped Pygmy Woodpecker

Brown Breasted Flycatcher

Dollarbird

Black Hooded Oriole

Common Rosefinch Male

Black and Orange Flycatcher

Orange Minivet Male

Common Rosefinch Female


Nilgiri Flowerpecker

White Throated Kingfisher

Malabar Squirrel

Streak-throated Woodpecker Male

Plum-headed Parakeet Female

Blue-tailed Bee-eater

Flame-throated Bulbul

Grey-headed Bulbul

Flame-throated Bulbul

Indian Golden Oriole

Plum-headed Parakeet Male

Lesser Coucal

Lesser Cuckoo

Yellow Browed Bulbul

Little Cormorant

Fork Tailed Drongo Cuckoo

Large Hawk Cuckoo

Ashy Drongo


Bronzed Drongo

Paradise Flycatcher Female

Blue Throated Blue Flycatcher Female

Blue Throated Blue Flycatcher Male

Verditer Flycatcher

White-bellied Blue Flycatcher

Grey Junglefowl

White-breasted Waterhen

Asian Koel Female

Lesser Hill Myna

Common Myna

Vernal Hanging Parrot

Malabar Parakeet Male

Green Imperial Pigeon

Nilgiri Wood Pigeon

Black-headed Cuckoo Shrike Female

Black-headed Cuckoo Shrike Male

Blyth's Starling


Purple-rumped Sunbird Female

Whiskered Tern

Malabar Whistling Thrush

Ashy Woodswallow

Greater Goldenback

Lesser Goldenback

Lesser Yellownape

Malabar Woodshrike

Common Iora

Rufous Treepie

White-bellied Treepie



Munnar