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Wednesday, Mar 20, 2002

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Save Nilgiris Campaign to organise summer treks

Nina Varghese

A trekkers' trail in a National Park in the Nilgiris.

CHENNAI, March 19

HILL stations all over the country have gone the same way. Downhill. But for those on the plains, the fascination with the mountains still remains. The blue mountains of Tamil Nadu have their own allure, despite the total degeneration of Udhagamandalam, and to a lesser extent of Coonoor and Kotagiri.

While the official machinery seems to have given the International Year of the Mountains a go by, the Save Nilgiris Campaign (SNC), a non-governmental organisation working for the conservation and preservation of the Nilgiris, is planning a number of treks in these parts.

The Co-Ordinator, SNC, Mr D. Venogopal, said the response to the treks was overwhelming. The treks would kindle interest among the people about the unique eco-system of this region and what it offered, he said.

The treks, which will be organised in association with the Forest Department, will have groups of 15 to 20 people.

The treks will cover the eastern ranges of the Nilgiris, and vend their way through a range of scenic landscapes — dense forests, sholas, mountain streams, endless tea gardens, tribal habitations, and so on.

Mr Venugopal said that there could be some sightings of wildlife and birds on the treks.

The participants should have some prior experience in trekking or the ability to walk long distances.

The base camp on the treks will be in Kotagiri, which is also the oldest hill station in the Nilgiris. Set on a plateau, Kotagiri has a bracing climate. Some of the finest teas are manufactured here.

Sullivan's Trail, which follows the original route taken by John Sullivan, who was the earliest to recognise the potential of Udhagamandalam as a hill station, is a package for two nights and three days. The cost per head for the trek will be Rs 2,000.

It would include a night stay at Longwood Shola — one of the best-preserved reserve sholas in the district.

The trail would include a visit to Banagudi Shola, which has a sacred grove, and the Catherine Falls.

The second package, which will cover the Eastern low country, will also cost Rs 2,000 per head.

This trek will pass through natural scrub forests, and elephant, black buck, cheetal and bear territory. The trek will start at Eelada near Kotagiri.

The longest of the Nilgiri treks will pass along the length of the western escarpment, with views of unspoiled country and the Silent Valley.

The trek will cut across the home of the Nilgiri Tahr and Sambhar.

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