Monday, September 21, 2009

Pulicat Lake

Placid Pulicat experience

Pulicat lake — which lies close to Chennai city — is about a million years old. Traditional punting or sailing in a flat-bottom boat is environment-friendly, and an example of `nature-tourism' at its best.

A pleasant ride along the course of history.

PULICAT lake, with an average waterspread area of 350 square kilometres, is the second largest lagoon (bay) in India. Pulicat town, at its southern end, lies 55 km north of Chennai.

A 30-kilometre drive from Chennai on the Nellore road (National Highway 5), a right turn by seven kilometres to Ponneri and then another 18 km through rice-fields and agricultural villages will see you at this 600-year-old Pazhaverkaadu or the Pulicat town. Pulicat lake itself is about a million years old! It is shallow, with an average depth of less than one metre, except the spot opposite the lake-mouth into the Bay of Bengal, where it may be about 10 metres deep. Eco-tourism on this lake by traditional punting or sailing in a flat-bottom boat (thoni) rather than by a motorised boat, is environment-friendly, and "nature-tourism" at its best.

The road from Chennai to Pulicat ends at the boat-jetty on the water front of the Buckingham Canal with a vast spread of overflown tidal waters from the lake, in the north. Across these waters is the beautiful landmark — the lighthouse. Over-loaded ferry boats transporting fisherfolk to the 15 villages on the seaside, boats landing fish-catches, tribal women hand-picking prawns, bullock-carts traversing these waters and tourists bargaining, are some to the rare and fascinating backwater scenes at Pulicat.

Punting or sailing slowly northwards around Munaijelly, "adventure tourists" can head towards the lake-mouth, about four or five kilometres northeast, across the deep and bumpy waters. Trekking amidst low sand-dunes, one can appreciate this idyllic camping site.

The Dutch mausoleum

Karimanal village, just opposite the lake-mouth, where the Dutch and the British berthed their ships, and after which the name "Coramandel" might have been coined, is a historical site. As an option, at Munaijelly, one can turn left, or west, to enter the vast ocean-like lake proper. One can sail north, even for 35 kilometres, flanked by the densely wooded and heavily guarded Sriharikota Island, all along the right, where the space-centre is located. The thousands of large water-birds that sojourn during winter in the shallower northern parts of Pulicat lake do not come to the deeper waters, down south, around Pulicat, except to Annamalaicheri village which takes about three hours by a non-motorised boat to reach.

Game-fishing on the lake is a catch-or-miss fun. Dancing male fiddler crabs, along the muddy shores at low tide, have a language of their own. Beware of the razor-edged oyster-shells or the stinging fish (theli meen) in the muddy marginal waters.

At the southern end of the lake is Jamilabad, a Muslim village, totally devoted to boat-building for all the 37 fishing villages on the lake. They were twice displaced from the Sriharikota island. To their east, is one of the five tribal hamlets, Senjiamman Nagar. These were originally called yanadies on the Sriharikota island. But after settling in Tamil Nadu they are called irulas. Just south of them is the cluster of the three most ancient fishing villages on the lake, particularly the Nadur Maadha Kuppam where the Portuguese seem to have landed in about 1510 A.D. They founded a catholic shrine in this village for the deity of Mother Mary which has a mythology behind it. The shrine today has grown into the Church of Our Lady of Glory, said to be the earliest church in the current Madras-Mylapore Diocese.

About 100 metres west of this church, close to Ambedkar Nagar, is the first Dutch cemetery with about 22 protected tombs, dating back to 1631 to 1655 A.D. Closer to the market place is the impressive landmark Dutch cemetery with 76 tombs and mausoleums, protected by the Archaeological Survey of India. The beautifully carved tombstones, with inscriptions in the Dutch language, could have been carved in Holland and sent to India. The tombstones in both cemeteries tell us the story of the Dutch at Pulicat, from 1606 to 1690 A.D. History tells us that the Dutch had a fort called "Geldria" at Pulicat from where they were trading with the East Indies. Locally woven and the famous "Pulicat textiles", which were coloured (check-pattern) handkerchiefs and lungies were the chief items of trade, apart from medicinal herbs, silk, diamonds, spices and even donkeys, procured from the hinterland.

Behind the market place, there are streets with dilapidated masonry houses once occupied by ethnic Arabian Muslims. A few families are still left over and they possess a document with them in Arabic which says that during the 13th Century, they were banished from Mecca, in four boats, for refusing to pay tributes to a new calif.

One of those four boats drifted towards Pulicat. In 1606 A.D. when a Dutch ship ran aground on the Pulicat shores these Muslims offered food and help to the Dutch and struck a trade partnership with them, to procure and supply local merchandise for the Dutch to trade with the East Indies.

Creations with the palmyra-leaf.

A cottage craft with tender palmyra leaves by women, particularly Muslim women, flourishes at Pulicat. Utility and fancy articles out of Palmyra leaves are exported by the local Palmyra Leaf Co-operative Society.

Pulicat is also an important seafood export centre for white and Tiger prawns, jellyfish, finfish and live lagoon (Green crabs).

Food and water are preferably carried from Chennai and enjoyed on the boat, and the refuse should be put into public bins at Pulicat, and not disposed of in the lake.

Rest rooms (toilets) are unfortunately not available. If time permits, boating towards the south, by the Buckingham Canal, beyond the Vairavan Kuppam village, to land in the causarina groves with a children's play-ground and toilets, and then walking across to the clean and beautiful beach is ideal.

Today, Pulicat lake faces several anthropogenic, developmental and environmental issues threatening not only the livelihoods of these impoverished fisherfolk but also the very survival of this ancient lake itself. Ecotourists should take care to save this beautiful "environmental heritage" of the Pulicat lake for posterity.

Text and pictures by P.J. SANJEEVA RAJ

Nelapattu and Pulicat Bird Sanctuary

Nelapattu bird sanctuary near Sullurpet is one of the largest pelican resting place with more than 1,500 pelicans visiting it annually. The sanctuary is also a breeding ground for rare and endangered species like grey pelicans, little cormorants, open bill storks and spoon bills.
The sanctuary is located near Nelapattu village in Doravarisatram mandal, between Sullurpet and Naidupet.
It has obtained legal status in 1972 and is maintained by the Wild Life Division of the Forest Department, Sullurpet.

The main destination is the twin bird sanctuaries - Pulicat and Nelapattu, where one can sight flamingos, grey pelicans, open billed storks, painted storks, white ibis, coots, black winged stilts, cormorants, egrets, herons, garganey teals, pin-tailed ducks, dabchicks and Indian moorhen.
While pelicans, painted and open-billed storks, egrets and herons are breeding at the place, other birds are only winter visitors, say the members of the Madras Naturalists Society (MNS), who visit the annual fete without fail. Moreover, the Nelapattu Sanctuary is one of the most important `Pelicanry' in the West Coast, where the gorgeous birds carry on the roosting and breeding activities, they say. The MNS members sighted more than 500 pelicans during the first week of this month.
Spread over an area of over 450 hectares, the Pulicat sanctuary extends upto Tiruvallur district in Tamil Nadu and is located off the Chennai - Vijayawada Highway. This is also an important lake with brackish water, where annually the flamingos congregate in thousands during winter.
Ideal season

The ideal season for visiting Nelapattu sanctuary is from October to March. The State Government has provided a number of facilities for visitors like an environmental education centre, a museum, a library and also an auditorium. To enable visitors to observe the movements of birds from a closer point, binoculars and brochures have been provided.
The location of the sanctuary is just adjacent to the villages of Nelapattu with its hamlets of Mylangam and Mutchalagunta, whose villagers always treat the birds with celestial respect.
Pulicat lake

Another interesting location is the Pulicat lake, which is said to be the second largest brackish water lagoon in India and spread over Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu States. A large number of migratory birds visit the place every year. The lake has got 16 island villages inside and about 30 villages adjacent to the lake. The lake supports rich bio-diversity and high bio-mass of fish, prawn, crustaceans and planktons.
The lake covers five mandals of the district, whereas the sanctuary can be reached from National Highway No. 5.
A number of facilities on par with Nelapattu has been provided at Pulicat lake and sanctuary. For better viewing of birds, a watch tower exists at Attakantithippa on the SHAR road.

Where the birds come home
R. Balaji

Grey pelicans at the Nelapattu Bird Sanctuary in Nellore district, Andhra Pradesh.

Located in Nellore district, about 100 km from Chennai, Nelapattu is an ideal destination for those planning a short getaway, even for a day. According to naturalists, the whole area abounds in bird life at this time of the year. The Pulicat Lake Sanctuary, about 20 km away, offers an extended area of bird watching, including the road leading to the Sriharikota; flamingos can be sighted regularly, they said. Despite the drought this season, Nelapattu has attracted between 350 and 500 grey pelicans, according to Bujjaiah Naidu, Divisional Forest Officer. Official estimates indicate that over 750 grey pelican chicks have hatched this season. There are also numerous other species including the open billed storks, painted storks, cormorants, white ibises, night herons and egrets. In addition, one can spot blue jays, the Andhra Pradesh State bird, and some predatory birds.
The arrival of such large numbers of migratory birds has gladdened the heart of naturalists who had faced disappointment at other bird sanctuaries where the dry spell has put off large arrivals.
The sanctuary is basically a fresh water tank with Barringtonia trees, whose tops offer a nesting spot.
One can either choose to walk along the lake bund that borders the patch of water body or take in the view from a watchtower. The well-cleared bund, fenced in on both sides and tree lined, offers a pleasant walk even on sunny days. The visitor gets a view of the bird sanctuary on one side and green fields extending up to the horizon on the other. A watchtower with a telescope offers a clear view of the Barringtonia treetops.
At the office-cum-visitors' centre near the entrance, there is a display providing information about the sanctuary. If intimated in advance a slide show can be arranged, the officials said.
The best time of the day to watch the birds is early in the morning up to about 10.30 when the birds fetch food and water for the young ones. Late in the morning and afternoon, they stick close to the nest.
From Chennai, the sanctuary can be reached in about two hours by rail. A direct train leaves Central railway station at 5.30 a.m. for Nellore. A polite request to the train driver and he obliges with an unscheduled stop at Doravarichatram, right on the sanctuary's doorstep. On the return journey, visitors can take a bus up to Sullurpet, a 20-minute drive away. From here, one can reach Chennai by rail or road.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Kurnool Trip info (Sept 19-21) , 09

Trip to Kurnool, ( 3 day Itenary )

Day 0 :

Book a Bus to Allagadda ;
[ APSRTC Service Code:
6198/6036/6102/6104 ] [ From Hyd]
[ APSRTC Service Code:
6295/6443/6299/6445] [ From Chennai]
Overnight Journey to Allagadda. (reach by 6:30am)

Day 1 :

7am : Meet/Refresh/Breakfast. in Allagadda
9am : Allagadda to Lower Ahobilam [ 25Km By Bus or Taxi ]
[ Prahalada / Chatravata / Bargava/ Yogananda] Narasimha Temples
11am : Lower Ahobilam to Upper Ahobilam [ Karunja Narasimha Temple on the way ] 5Km
12am : Upper Ahobilam [
Ahobilam / Varaha/Malola/Jwala/Pavana ] Narasimha Temples
[ Lunch ] [ Prahlada Padi/ Urga Stambam ]
4pm : Upper Ahobilam to Allagadda [ 30 Km ]
5pm : Allagadda to
Mahanandi [50 Km ] via Nandyal
7pm : Mahanandi to Nandyal [17km]
Check in Prebooked Hotel in Nandyal
9pm : Dinner

Day 2 :

Book a Vehicle in Nandyal ( Roam Belum/Yaganti Caves/Rollapadu Bird Scantuary)
Reach Kurnool by 7pm
Nandyal to Kurnool (77Km)

Day 3 :

7am : Start to Mantralayam ( Kurnool to Mantralayam [ 100Km] ) ;
12pm : Lunch in Kurnool ;
2-4pm : Orvakallu [ Kurnool to Orvakallu 25Km ]
5-7pm : Visit Kurnool Local Places
Dinner and Travel Back ;
Book Ticket from Kurnool

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Water Falls in Andhra Pradesh

Kuntala Falls
, Kuntala, Adilabad

Plunge Water Falls in AP

Height : 148 ft
Location: 12 Km East of Neeridikonda, 32Km North of Nirmal, Adilabad
River : Godavari
Places Nearby : Pochera Falls ,Nirmal , Basara, Sriram Sagar, Kawal/Pranahita Wild life
Pochera Falls, Boadh, Adilabad

Near to Kuntala Falls

Height : 66ft.
Location: 8 Km West of Boadh,
70Km North of Nirmal ,
50Km South of Adilabad.
River : Godavari
Places Nearby : Kuntala Falls ,Nirmal , Basara, Sriram Sagar, Kawal/Pranahita Wild life
Ethopothala Falls, Nagarjuna Sagar, Nalgonda

Cascade Falls

Height : 70 ft
: 10 Km South to Nagarjuna Sagar Dam,
160Km South East of Hyderabad
River: Krishna.
Places Nearby : Nagarjuna Sagar Dam, Nagarjuna Konda.

Gunjana Falls, Talakona, Cuddapah

Highest Water Falls in AP

Height : 270 ft
: 23 Km North West of Bhakarapeta, 50Km North of Tirupathi.
Places Nearby : Tirupathi, Tirumala, Horsely Hills, Srikalahasti, Chandragiri Fort, Kailasakona Falls, Kaanipakam

Falls in Sheshchalam Hills

[Popular of Talakona Falls]

Etikoppaka Falls, Talakona, Cuddapah

One of Talakona Falls

Height : 70 ft
: 11km from Kodur, 50Km North of Tirupathi.
River: Gujana.
Places Nearby : Tirupathi, Tirumala, Horsely Hills, Srikalahasti, Chandragiri Fort,Kaanipakam.

Falls in Sheshchalam Hills.

Rampachodavaram Falls
, Rampachodavaram ,East Godavari

Only Water Falls in Coastal Andhra

Height : 50 ft
Location: 50Km North of Rajamundry.
River : Godavari Tributary
Places Nearby : Velu,Kommu Tribal Dances,Marademalli(maredumilli) Wild Life and Nature Camp.

Can also be reached by awesome boat ride from Rajamundry

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Caves in Andhra Pradesh

Borra Caves
, Ananthagiri Hills,Vishakapatnam
Deepest Caves in India

Depth : 263 ft
Location: Ananthagri Hills,
90Km North to Vishakapatnam
Type: Limestone
Borra(Telugu) : Skull (English)
Places Nearby :Araku Valley,Vishakapatnam.

Belum Caves, Kolimigundla Mandal,Kurnool
2nd Largest Caves in India

Length : 3Km.
Depth : 120 ft
Location: Belum Village,
120Km South to Kurnool,
20Km South of Banganapalli.
Type: Limestone
Belum(Sanskrit) : Caves(Eng)
Places Nearby : Kurnool, Ahobilam, Yaganti Caves, Oravakallu.

Yaganti Caves, YagantiPalle,Banganapalli,Kurnool
Caves close to Belum Caves

Location: Yagantipalle,
100Km South to Kurnool,
10Km west of Banganapalli.
Caves: Agastya,Venkateswara,
verebrahmendra swamy caves.
Places Nearby : Yaganti Umamaheswara Swami temple,
Kurnool,Ahobilam, Belum Caves, Oravakallu.
Type: Rocks, Climb up the steps for Caves.
Used for Meditation.

Undavalli Caves, Undavalli,Guntur Dist.
Small Hindu Caves

Height : 3 Floors
Location: Undavalli,
10Km South to Vijayawada
Type: Rocks
Places Nearby: Vijayawada, Amravathi, Mangalagiri.
Attraction: Sleeping Vishnu Statue
Rumor: Underground tunnel to
Mallikarjuna Swamy Temple, Mangalagiri.
Rishis Used for Meditation after taking bath in River Krishna

Mogulrajpuram Caves,Vijayawada
Unnoticed Caves [small]

Location: Mogalrajpuram, Vijayawada City
Type: Rocks.
Rishis Used for Meditation after taking bath in River Krishna

GuthiKonda Caves, GuthiKonda, Guntur
Hideouts for Naxalites

Location: Guthikonda,
Near Karampudi,
38Km from Narsaraopet,
Type: Rocks
Places Nearby :Vijayawada.
Famous for Bilam (meeting of

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Monday, September 07, 2009

Kurnool Trip info (Sept 19-21) , 09 , Map

All the Red Dots indicate the places to be seen ... 

Ahobilam is near Allagadda 
Mhanandi is near Nandyal
Belum/Yaganti Caves are near Banganapalli

We cannot command Nature except by obeying her

Note: Most of us may not be serious trekkers but all of us have equal responsibility in protecting our beloved earth. I earnestly request you to be socially responsible whilst the treks and avoid any littering, shouting when in wild or causing anything that would disturb the normal ecology. Try to avoid plastics as much as possible.

Information provided in my posts may not be always
enough to replicate the trek. I request you not go to any place on your own if you are first timers, they can be very dangerous at-times without proper preparations and equipment.

Treks in jungles and remote hill areas are done with lot of preparations. Preparations start with search on internet/blogs , meeting people who visited the places earlier , getting in touch with locals by phone, making trek routes/maps, marking GPS coordinates and also having a good team with proper equipments and First Aid kits [Also with people who have attended First Aid Course].

Happy and Safe Trekking