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On the Neelakurinji trail at Eravikulam National Park

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It was heartening to see the long queues even if it meant long waiting for us to board the bus that takes you inside the Eravikulam National Park. It was after all good to witness tourists returning in large numbers to Kerala  just weeks after devastating floods, said to be most fierce in last almost hundred years. Indeed, most of the tourists might be locals or from nearby places as that was the long weekend because of Dussehra falling on Friday.

View of surrounding hills at the Eravikulam National Park. You can see the tea plantations spread out.

Initially, I had planned this visit for August. As, the only motive was to document the blooming of Neelakurinji flowers, hence the visit was timed as per their expected blooming. Strobilanthus kunthiana, commonly known as Neelakkurinji (Blue Kurinji), grows in colonies stretching to acres and acres across the Neelgiris – a name ascribed to them due to the blue haze of the Neelakkurinji blooms. It blooms once in twelve years with purplish blue flowers. The habitat of Neelakkurinji is the high altitude Shola Grass lands, above 1400 meters, generally called Kurinji lands. During the season, this flower is seen in abundance in the high altitude grasslands in the Anamalai Hills, the Palani Hills and the Brahmagiri Hills of Western Ghats and the Yerkkad Hills of the Eastern Ghats under the Nilgiri biosphere in South India.

Post monsoon, you will find waterfalls everywhere in the Neelgiris

Neelakkurinji belongs to Acanthaceae family. The genus has several species, of which 56 occur in India; atleast 46 in the Western Ghats, of which, 41 species are confined to the southern part alone. As per the “Indian Forester”, the Journal published in 1887 (J.S.Gable), some species of kurinji are found in Darjeeling, Shimla and in the high altitude areas of Assam.

Closer look of the waterfall located very close to the walking trail inside the park

Topography of Eravikulam National Park is a mix of huge rocks amidst grasslands

So, as it was, August was supposed to be the time of blooming of flowers. But, nature probably had other ideas. Heavy downpour resulted in large scale demolition of the flower buds and the saplings. Then, floods damaged all the link roads. Prolonged rains also meant that there was no sunlight for weeks together, which would have been necessary for blooming of new flowers.

Another view of surrounding hills in the park

Though floods did cause much damage but Kerala sprung back very quickly, and in good measure. Weather too lent a helping hand. Flowers bloomed again, may not be in that number but still good enough to let people have an idea of what a magic it would have created, had it not been disrupted. This late blooming paved the way for this October visit to Neelgiris near Munnar.

Neelakurinji flowers blooming at Eravikulam National Park in month of October

There was no mass blooming in this phase, as everyone was expecting this year, at least not in the accessible areas. But watching Neelakurinji bloom was indeed a delight. What also warmed the heart was the number of people tuning up to see the flowers. There were long queues at the park gates. 
Blooming in this phase was limited only to some areas of Eravikulam National Park. We came to know at KTDC’s Tea County resort that there might be a chance of some viewing at Kolukkumalai. But there had been no confirmed visits to see the flowers and the journey to the place was quite time taking and tough. Hence we dropped the idea and kept our focus to Eravikulam National Park.

Eravikulam National Park is just ten kilometres from the town of Munnar. Park is huge, but not all of it is accessible and permitted. It is very rich in flora and fauna. It has got lot to be talked about, but here our singular motive was to see the Neelakurinji blooming, as was perhaps for most of the visitors to the park at that time.And, we were not disappointed. We were also not to measure it with anything else. We felt extremely fortunate to have actually been able to make it to see this magical flower.

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A 12 year wonder! Neelakurinji flowers blooming at Eravikulam National Park near Munnar in Idukki district of Kerala. Unprecedented floods in August had almost ruined the whole blooming of Neelakurinji flowers in Neelgiri hills. They did bloom again, not that much but still good enough to quench the thirst of the nature lovers who had waited impatiently all these 12 years to seee these hills turn blue! You still have few days to see them, before they go into hibernation for another 12 years. #travel #travelgram #travelstories #travelblog #travelblogger #travelphotography #Kerala #Munnar #KeralaTourism #Idukki #EravikulamNationalPark #KTDC #photography #photooftheday #picoftheday #pictureoftheday #Flowers #Neelakurinji #Kurinji #Neelgiris #Nature #blooming #Teacounty #nationalpark

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We were also fortunate to have a pleasant weather during our visit. There was a continuous hide and seek between sun and the clouds, but without any serious threat of rain. It started raining only when we were back in queue for the bus to take the return journey.

Clouds covering the peaks of the park

A temple under a tree inside the park

Though we could not see the mass blooming close to us, but far on the higher reaches of the park there were some mass blooming to be seen. A tele lens came handy in capturing few shots to remain as a testimony for another 12 years to what it could have been. The purple in all three images below is Neelakurinji blooming. But the story of Eravikulam park can’t be complete without mentioning Nilgiri Tahr (image below). Two reasons for it, firstly this animal can be seen only in these hills of the park, and secondly, this is an endangered animal under the IUCN red list. There are estimated 700 to 800 Nilgiri Tahrs in the park. As our last visit, we had expected to see a fairly good number of Tahrs this time as well. But unfortunately, we could see just one (below). Still satisfying.

The last point upto which the tourists are allowed inside the park

Have you watched this 12 year wonder blooming this year? Please share your experiences in the comments section below.

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