My first memory of The Pollachi Papyrus, a magazine started to promote bio-diversity, culture and tradition of Pollachi, is when I saw a newspaper article titled “Taking Pollachi to the people” in The Hindu on 08 July, 2014. It had a picture of Pravin Shanmugananthan and Keerthana Balaji mentioning them as co-founders. I said to my dad—there, finally someone is going to show the world what our place has to offer. It was after a year that I learnt about Thadam, an eco-tourism initiative also by the team of The Pollachi Papyrus, partnering with friends Lingesh and Ms.Pramodhini.
During one of my visits to Coimbatore, my plan to rediscover Pollachi and its surrounding areas through Thadam experiences got materialized by a plan put forth by Pravin.
En route to Negamam, our first village tour, Pravin spoke about how listening to a nature conservationist friend while camping in the forest one night ignited his passion for nature conservation and quoted Bittu Sahgal, Editor of Sanctuary Asia magazine, for his motivation behind starting Thadam experiences,”How will people be inspired by wilderness if they don’t experience wildlife?”
Talking about other team members of Thadam, Praveen continued,”Keerthana Balaji is the creative head and wildlife photography is her passion; Lingesh Kalingarayar is our chief naturalist—he had managed operations at Woodbriar properties, Valparai; interned at Red Earth resort in Kabini and wildlife is his passion; Ms. Pramodini is an excellent chef who does catering to our guests staying at various resorts.”
After visiting Negamam, the next day and a half was filled with surprises, serene view points, intense conversations and delicious food. Below are highlights from my trip:
Bird watching at Kaliapuram Lake
I spotted a Black Ibis first, then a purple heron followed by darters, egrets, cormorants, and much more. The lake (name unknown) in Kaliapuram set against the backdrop of mighty Anamalai hill ranges is a hidden treasure for nature lovers and bird watchers. The lake is neither conveniently accessible nor well-known for tourists. But keeping in mind responsible tourism Praveen feels that the lesser footfall this place receives, the better.
Home cooked meals at a Farm house
True to Praveen’s introduction, food that was served for dinner and lunch the next day at Ms. Pramodini’s residence was delicious—egg curry and curd seviya in particular. I couldn’t stop drooling at the thought of those dishes even long after I reached Pune. A movie projected on mammoth screens at their residence after meal time was a bonus! :-p
Stay at Eco-serenity resort, Sethumadai
The resort is located at the foothills of Anamalai hill ranges in Sethumadai. To spend a few hours at the central courtyard of resort’s main building is what every book lover would yearn for— comfortable couch, pleasant weather, scenic view of paddy fields, birds for company and strong coffee. Specialty of this place as Rohit Kalingarayar (wildlife photographer for The Pollachi Papyrus) puts it is a chance to spend a night at Kaval salai—an elevated platform built from tree logs with a thatched roof open to all sides. It is a watch tower to keep tab on animals that might rampage the paddy fields at night. In his words, to spend a night at Kaval salai gazing at stars is only for the bravehearts and a night spent such as that would be magical.
Watching wild elephants
Rohit slowed down the vehicle on hearing rustles. All of us watched the branches move. Out of nowhere, a family of three elephants emerged amidst trees munching branches along the way. Lingesh pointed out that the elephants have to cross the road where we were parked and proceed to the catchment area below for water. Switching off the engine and a few meters away, in silence we waited for the elephants to do so. But as though the elephants were waiting for us to move in turn, they did not budge. We stayed there for what seemed like a long time and then drove away. That was to be my first sighting of elephants in the wild!
Visit to an organic farm
Around mid-day on day two, I visited Thenarasu farm, an organic farm with Lingesh as my guide. The farm is one among a few that is certified organic. For almost an hour Raja, owner of the farm engaged us in conversations related to organic farming concepts, crop types, and product marketing difficulties. He took pride in his products reaching the end consumers directly, without any middlemen.
Visit to Zero point
Zero point is a walkway from where Aliyar catchment can be seen in full view with Anamalai hill ranges as backdrop. The location was serene.
At the end of the tour, I visited Praveen at his office in Pollachi. He shared his plans for Thadam and concluded,” I was probably one of those who blasted loud music inside the forest years ago but, that one night camping among wilderness changed my thinking altogether. Similarly, we want to create experiences that will lead to awareness towards nature conservation. That is what we are aiming at.”
Thadam organizes various tours primarily in and around Pollachi. Details on Thadam experiences can be found at http://thepapyrus.in/index.php/thadam/.