Place: Athikadavu (50 Kms) & Pilloor (65 kms) from Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India.
Date: 05 April 2012
- Mohan Kumar
- Jai (myself)
Mode of transport: Motorcycle (Bajaj Pulsar 150cc – 2 nos.)
Pilloor is a known drinking water source for Coimbatore for its dam across river Bhavani, and Athikadavu is a small hamlet 17 kms before Pilloor. The place is a Nature’s Abode and a Birder’s Paradise.
The approach up to Velliangadu is good. From Velliangadu the road is not maintained properly as it is under the control of Electricity Board. One needs to take prior permission from the forest department to travel beyond Velliangadu, and in our case, Mr. Ganesh of OSAI – a Coimbatore based Environmental NGO helped us in getting permission.
We started around 8 a.m. in two bikes. As the day was hot, the travel was neither pleasant nor unpleasant till Velliangadu. From there the forest area started and the things were comparatively cool and pleasant. Though it was not the same lush green blanket as it is during the cooler days, the flora and fauna were abundant.
We reached Athikadavu at 9.30 after a slow drive and thought of having a tea in the small forest shop there. My original plan was to explore this area as it was a place where the rare Hornbill (Malabar Pied Hornbill – iruvaatchi in Tamil) is spotted often. Fortunately a local tribal came forward to guide us through a short walk along the river bed. We alighted there and jumped at the first opportunity to explore nature. To help us rid of our burden, we left the food packs in the tea shop.
The trek was beautiful along the thick green forest canopy along the river Bhavani. A variety of birds were there around and I was fascinated by a Racket Tailed Drongo that darted from our side to the opposite bank. Quite large varieties of tall trees almost succeeded in preventing the sun having access to the earth below. We had walked over half a kilometre when we heard a Barking Deer. A shy creature, and always on alert, it had moved out our way even before we had gone anywhere near. A short distance forward, the guide suddenly pointed out a tree on the opposite bank of the river, and asked us watch it. I was at the rear end, and couldn’t see anything. Just then something flew and I was able to get only the glimpse of the tail – Hornbill!
Mohan and Karthi on the front were fortunate enough to have a good look at it. It was a male and flew away as we approached. We also saw the nest of the hornbill in a hole in a big tree, into which the female had withdrawn. I cursed myself for losing the opportunity which presented itself, and the one which looked forward a lot.
As we slowly inched forward, Vivekanandh suddenly turned to me and asked what the difference between a dog and a jackal was! I was puzzled,and asked him what made him ask that. He said he saw few animals on the opposite bank that looked like dogs but with fluffy tails. They had moved into bushes and I was inquisitive, therefore waited. Slowly one after another four of them came revealed themselves – I was aghast – Red Dogs (Dholes or Indian Wild Dogs)… They are ferocious, merciless, and hunt in packs. We were talking loudly on the other bank, few meters from them, but they never seemed to be bothered. A little later Vivekanandh caught a sight of a Barking Deer (Kelaiyaadu or Kaattu aadu in Tamil, and Kakkar in Hindi). None of the others had a chance to see it.
Now that it was around 11.30 a.m., two hours since we started and we have reached Sirukinaru – a tribal hamlet, we thought we’ll end the trek there. Tired and sweating the river Bhavani which was a little deep and slow there proved to be wonderful place for our water acrobatics. We spent a little over 1 hour there and enjoyed the most. By the time we came out of water, we were very tired and hungry. We wished we had carried the lunch along. On the way back I saw a barking deer which had a good look at me for a few seconds and vanished in a fraction of a second. That was the longest time I had ever watched it in the wild.
We met around 30 people, mostly students, walking towards the same place and accompanied by Osai volunteers, on our way back. Some of them were fortunate to see the Hornbill and we rushed back to see whether it was still there. Alas, there was no clue about it. We waited for it for some time, but in vain. Meanwhile we sighted many birds including sunbirds, drongos, varieties of kingfishers, golden backed woodpecker and many unidentified species.
We had our lunch at 1.30 on the banks of the river and ENSURED THAT WE DID NOT POLLUTE the fertile land with our plastic bags – packed everything to be disposed safely at our hometowns. After a brief rest and photo session at the Athikadavu bridge – built in 1957 by Neelakantan Company, Chennai – the guide took leave of us (and managed to get Rs. 150/- from us without much of a fuss – for a trip worth it). We started for Pilloor at around 2.30 and reached Mulli check post after a few minutes. There the guard was reluctant to let in. I had to persuade him a lot, in spite of the permission we had obtained earlier, and had to assure him that we will not DEMAND entry (!!!) into the Pilloor Dam area – which is a restricted zone. From there we proceeded up to Baralikaadu Parisal Thurai (boat jetty), where boating facility used to be available. Now that water level had receded drastically (we even saw two girls, less then 10 years old, cross the dam without water reaching even their knees), the boating had been suspended. We played in the swings in big trees for some time and never had the mood to leave the place. As we knew that visiting Pilloor dam entrance was of no use, we decided to return straight from Baralikaadu saving a couple of kilometres of further ride.
The return was uneventful, and we reached home around 5.30 pm. On the whole, it was a memorable trip which would have been even more fantastic had we gone there after a couple of rains.