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The Vaishnodevi Experience 2023

My first trip to Vaishnodevi was unimpressive. Climbing was hard, and it only served to highlight how badly out of shape I was, while my in-laws managed to cope so much better. Further, I hadn’t quite realized that the cave experience wouldn’t be the same as I had imagined, since the original cave was only opened at certain times a year, and that we only entered a newly created tunnel, one far easier to access, and hence more manageable with the crowds that thronged the mountain shrine. The resulting experience at the shrine, for barely a fraction of a second, hardly compared to what I had expected / imagined / heard about. So, for me, Vaishnodevi was like any other temple, nothing to write home about, something that was reflected (though not explicitly mentioned) in the blog post I wrote then.

A truly eco-friendly experience at Avalanche, Ooty

This is the story of a man who impressed us for the dedication he showed to his work. I wrote this article for The Alternative, an online magazine which strives to make sustainability a way of life. I am re-posting it here for those of you who haven't already seen it on Facebook or Twitter. Please click the link below to read the original article...

The bus was full, and we looked forward to our jaunt into the Nilgiris. The driver was ready too, but it looked like we were waiting for someone else. Finally, the guide arrived, armed with a scythe in one hand and a jute sack in the other. My 10 year old son voiced aloud, the thought that was in most people’s minds –“What does he need the scythe for?”  

We were at Avalanche near Ooty, all set to be taken into the jungle by the forest authorities, to see the vast Shola forests and grasslands that are a special feature of this region, but threatened by rampant deforestation, poaching and industrialization. It is this threat, and the attempt to safeguard the forest and its resources, which has led to the eco-tourism initiatives at Avalanche. Visitors’ vehicles are only allowed till the forest guest house, and we had arrived early in the morning, ready to find a place in the first bus to take us deeper into the forest. 

Barely a few minutes’ drive later, it was quite clear why the guide needed a scythe. It had been raining heavily all night, and the path was strewn with fallen branches. A few old trees had succumbed too, and they had to be cut through before we could pass on. A little further, we came across a truck collecting all the dead wood – authorized logging efforts, to keep the forest safe.

The drive took us along winding paths, giving us a glimpse of the dense Shola (evergreen) forest. The bright green cauliflower-like canopy was a welcome sight, though faded brown patches reminded us that these were indeed in danger, mostly from human factors.

The Bhavani River flows from these forests, her tiny trickle growing to a lush river, which has two dams constructed over her path, in these forests alone. The backwaters of the Upper Bhavani dam were a picturesque sight, though she was just a shadow of her usual self.

It was as we were turning back, having clicked photographs to our hearts’ content, that we realized what our guide’s jute sack was for. While we had been admiring the beautiful landscape, he had been busy – collecting the wrappers and assorted plastic items strewn around, mostly by tourists just like us.

The bag was almost half full, which came as a big surprise, considering that this was an eco-tourism zone, where, presumably, those who came, knew not to throw wrappers and the like! While the adults simply watched, the kids, I was glad to see, lent him a hand, eagerly looking for wrappers, discarded bags of chips, and cigarette butts to add to the fast filling sack! Stunned by this sight, to me, more beautiful than the natural beauty around, I chipped in too, unfortunately forgetting in the moment to click a photograph!

As we made our way back in the bus, we stopped often, not for hacking away at the foliage this time, but for our guide to continue filling his sack. By the time we got back to the guest house, needless to say, it was full.

Eco tourism initiatives like at Avalanche are a great effort to preserve our natural habitats. However, it is people like these who are the need of the hour! I wasn’t able to talk to him, since, by the time we had alighted; he had disappeared, probably to continue his work. However, along with the beautiful sights we saw that day, it is him I shall remember, always, silently doing his bit to keep these forests intact!

  • Avalanche is located about 25 Km from Ooty. The name comes from an avalanche which occurred here in the 1800s.
  •  Avalanche Lake is the main tourist attraction here, and there are boards directing us to both, the lake, as well as the forest rest house.
  •  It is easiest to hire a vehicle from Ooty, and use the entire day for sightseeing in and around the area. Apart from the lake, there is also a Tribal Museum nearby, and also some beautiful stretches of tea estates.
  • There are three jaunts into the jungle – at 10:30 AM, 12:00 Noon, and 3:00 PM. There are 2 buses and one jeep available for tourists, and overall, about 25 to 30 visitors are accommodated in one trip. It is therefore best to arrive early and get the tickets, especially during peak season and holidays.
  • Please co-operate with the forest authorities and help them preserve the environment. Carrying plastic is prohibited, as is littering, and disturbing the peace. 


  1. nice job indeed unnoticed bu all the same useful to the society at large we have a saying in tamil which roughly translated will be - nallar oruvar ularel avar porutta ellarkkum peyyum mazhai - it is indeed because for such persons it rains and shines and we happen to be the beneficieries


    1. you are absolutely right, Mr. Radhakrishnan! It is because of such people that we prosper!

  2. I enjoyed the information and photos in your post! The canopy certainly does look like cauliflower/broccoli from a distance! Now I'm hungry for veggies... :)

    I too am a trash collector, but in my own neighborhood. When I walk my dog, I sometimes carry an extra bag to pick up litter that has been thrown along the roads where I live. It is sad to see it, as it would not take much effort for people to put it in a trash bin instead of throw it out of their cars. Besides looking bad, a lot of wildlife will consume plastic bits and other trash if its around, or get tangled up in it.

    Thanks for highlighting the guides' effort to help keep the wilderness pristine for everyone and every creature.

    1. Its so sad that people dont seem to see a problem littering the streets. Here, its really bad, which is why the place looks so dirty... which is why I appreciated this guy doing his work so well... even that is a rarity these days!

  3. Wow! That was some trip I see! And I do hope the generation which is growing up continues to carry a healthy suspicion of the scythe into adulthood!

    1. Absolutely, Usha! But i think the suspicion will continue.. even if they dont know its name!

  4. Very useful for new people who are making a plan to visit Ooty or around Ooty. I leaned so many things after read entire content as you've presented it nicely.. The picturesque sight of the Upper Bhavani dam is beautiful as It is captured the best way!! Thanks for share!!

  5. Wow! I'd been to Ooty, as a kid, twice or thrice, with parents. But I never felt it was pretty. Hadn't seen this part of the place ever. My feet are tingling... :D Looks like Ooty is calling. By the way... Great snaps, Anuradha. :)


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