We decided to take a small break during the Christmas holiday period, pretty much at the last minute. As expected, decent places to stay without having to break the budget were hard to find. But as I started looking around places that can be reached in a comfortable day’s driving, the hill station of Valparai stood out.
Valparai is located on the Western Ghats in Tamil Nadu, close to the town of Pollachi. As I started reading more, I realised that Valparai is located adjacent to the Annamalai Tiger Reserve, which in turn is contiguous with Parambikulam Tiger Reserve in Kerala. While researching for suitable accommodation for the family in and around Valparai, I came across the Forest Rest Houses located within the Tiger Reserve.
While I have stayed inside or adjacent to forests previously, I realised that my kids had not. This, along with the suitability of the accommodation for this specific trip and the budget were the key factors that influenced us to consider this option. But the most important, and surprising, factor was that accommodation at any of these Forest Rest Houses could be booked online through a surprisingly good web-site.
Accommodation booked, I rented a car through Zoomcar for the duration of the trip. An important point that we had to keep in mind was that, as the place was located within a Forest, access was restricted after 4 pm. This was to minimise any wildlife encounters. As the place is a fair distance away from Bengaluru, we decided to break our journey at a friend’s farmhouse near Coimbatore.
The drive to the rest house (at Attakatty) was uneventful, except for the fact that the location of the rest house is not very well sign-posted from the main road. We ended up missing the turn-off and had to make some sharp U-turns to get back on the route. But once there, it was very nice. Accommodation is in the form of low-slung rooms, beneath tall green trees nestled on the side of the Western ghats. It is sufficiently far away from the main road to block off vehicular noise, but close enough that we could walk down to the tea stall at the junction for delicious snacks.
The room was spartan, but reasonably clean. Bed linen was provided, but one has to carry all toiletries, as well as soaps, towels, etc. There was running water in the very clean toilets, but ours was missing hot water. The staff were attentive and made arrangements for hot water, so it was not too much of an inconvenience.
Dinners and breakfasts were at the Rest House. Prior notice of a few hours has to be given to the caretaker so they can prepare the required quantity of food. The food was typical basic South Indian fare, but delicious.
We were only there for a couple of days. but the experience of staying inside the evergreen forests of the Western Ghats, one of the key ecological hot-spots of the World, was a very memorable one. On the first evening, we were visited by a small group of Lion-tailed Macaques, a species of monkey endemic to the Western Ghats.
I had high expectations of spotting endemic bird species, but this did not fructify. But I still managed to observe a good number of birds, some of which were lifers for me.
For a last-minute holiday, this surpassed expectations and made for a refreshing break.