A Frosty, Dry Winter in the Palani Hills
Few people associate southern India with freezing temperatures and a cold, frosty climate. With a polar vortex and other unusually arctic conditions keeping parts of north American in a frozen slump it is easy to see why a slight chill in the tropics would not make the news. Yet, for a few weeks –and sometime longer- of the year, the Western Ghats as well as Sri Lanka’s Central Highlands experience chilly, winter weather that is in sharp contrast to the heat, dust and humidity of the lower plains. These hill ranges, be they in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka or Sri Lanka, all host plateau areas averaging 2,000 meters and extending up to 2,695 meters at the highest (in Kerala’s High Range). This year, after what is apparently a failed North East monsoon, there were waves of cold weather experienced in the hill stations of Ooty, Kodaikanal and Nuwara Eliya. The cold weather was covered by the Hindu (Kodaikanal and Ooty) and Sunday Times (Sri Lanka).
I’ve always liked winter weather because of the clean views that one is rewarded with in the upper reaches of the Western Ghats and Central Highlands. This time, my sojourn in Kodai was timed with the visit of my KIS classmate John Miller, his wife Val and their two boys. On our side, Lenny accompanied me on this short visit to Kodai and the Palanis. We joined our other friends in Kodai and were able to take several hikes out to several special places in the hills. We experienced frost on the way to Kukkal and it coated the lawn of our home just before New Years! I got a very painful lesson in the chilliness factor trying to ride a motorcycle without gloves on one of those mornings when the temperature had dipped below zero.
The images in this post are taken from this week and also include two Landsat views of the area that were collected in the week before we arrived. The data is courtesy NASA and the USGS through the Eathexplorer service. I have spent several hours downloading, stacking, clipping and then editing the images to emphasize areas that are featured in the attached photographs. The Nilgiri Hills view was so sharp and clear that I thought I would include it. I’m looking forward to a visit back to both Eravikulam and Mukkurthy in the near future. It has been far too long since I’ve walked their magical grasslands…
The hike to Kukkal of course is a pilgrimage that I make as often as possible and it has featured prominently in past posts. This series of images highlights the landscape that one encounters on its exposed ridge.
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