Saturday, 17 October 2015

Travellers’ Account of Journey Through the Forests of Athirapally and Vazhachal

Introduction

Dubbed as the Niagara of India, the Vazhachal and Athirapally Waterfalls are the most important tourist attraction in the God’s Own Country. The journey by road to the destination takes one initially through a montage of villages and later through the pristine cover of forests that offer a very cool and pleasant climate. The moment the vehicle passes from the area of habitation to the beautiful forest cover, one can hear the rain gently slapping the leaves of trees that hang out towards the road. The sudden change of climate from a hotter to a cooler one in the forest area is a welcome development for a visitor who wants to escape from the incessant heat of the summer.

athirapally waterfall

Beautiful Rainy Season

When we entered the forest zone from Chalakudy side, there was drizzling, bringing the temperature further down. It seemed as if the birds were silent, retiring to their homes on trees for the much needed rest. One could easily imagine that they were anticipating an impending downpour. As we moved more towards our destination, the speed and intensity of the rain picked up and the rain drops tumbled down thick and fast, making the soil wet and marshy. The smell of the rain was everywhere there to feel. As the rain became heavier, the greenery surrounding the winding road through the hills picked up the grey. Soon the darkness seemed to engulf the path through which we were travelling due to dimmed lighting.

vazhachaal waterfall

First-hand Account of Athirapally Waterfalls

Sooner we reached the destination in time for a good view. However, there was a sea of humanity near the waterfalls. Hence, we decided to tread a path seeking a secluded place far away from the loud noise which seemed to mask the melodic sound of the roaring cascades. Soon, we found ourselves walking along a path lined with trees and monkeys in search of a cool and calm place near the waterfalls. After some efforts, we managed to find a silent corner from where the Chalakudy River seems to flow down a height of 80 feet into a small valley below it. This mysterious valley was fully covered with the spray and the haze of the dazzling white of the body of water falling down. While watching the white lather and experiencing the cool spray of water, we wondered about the course of the river after this fall and the many moods it would take in tune with the change of seasons. Sometimes, it remained a gentle stream caressing through the rocks on its banks and at other times it roared and thundered past these rock formations on its way to the sea, passing through cliffs and crevices.

chalakuzhy waterfall

First-hand Account of Vazhachal Waterfalls

After we had wound up the sightseeing, the locals and the small shop owners dotting the parking area near the Athirapally Waterfalls told us about the existence of a bigger cascading falls uphill. From them, we also had learned that Vazhachal Falls is located some 5 kilometres away from the first one. When we reached there, it was an afternoon with lesser crowds dotting the places near it. It looked a lot quieter and gentle from far off when compared to the first one. However, the locals warned us not to venture near it as its still waters run much deeper than what we could imagine. At this location, the Chalakudi River seemed to slope against a rocky path and winding past the banks of the forest taking the hues from it. When we climbed a little further from the usual approach area, we saw the boards showing the presence of the Great Indian Hornbill.  The tropical green forest surrounding the waterfalls provided the ideal habitat for this colourfully winged creature. However, we could not see any one of them there.

steep waterfalls

A Memorable Journey from Vazhachal to Pollachi

As we moved away from the Vazhachal by road, we came across verdant jungles and encountered some of the wildlife inhabiting the region. En route to Pollachi, the forest cover became thicker and the rains heavier.  As we were nearing the Anaimalai Hills, we could see the patches of tropical evergreen forests and rolling tea estates coming intermittently before our eyesight. While passing through this tough terrain, we came across 40 hairpin bends that curved through the mountains taking us closer to our destination. All throughout the journey, the river and the reservoir seemed to follow us on one side and deep valleys on the other. The region is known for the Nilgiri Tahr. While we were negotiating one of the hairpin curves, we came across one of them crossing the road. We stopped at some of the hairpins overlooking the valley below to visually grasp its beauty and inhale fresh and cool air. At one of the assigned points, we were instructed by the accompanying guide to step out and walk in the forest for some time.  When we were trekking up the gradient, we came across the lion-tailed macaques, which are considered as the endangered species, in open area. As we ventured further deep into the forest, we came across a herd of Nilgiri Tahr raising their heads through the thickets. Since it was evening time, we also saw the flying squirrels. They could be seen jumping and gliding from one tree to another. As we were enjoying the sight of flying squirrels, our eyes happened to accidently fall on parched Great Indian Hornbills. A couple of them were seen sitting comfortably on the branches of the trees, basking in the evening sunlight. We came down quickly and got into our vehicle as it was raining heavily in the evening. A quick drive past a misty, marshy land of ferns and orchids lead us to the first halting point in the journey Valparai. This place is not only known for its hill station but also for the tea plantations. This place is known as the bio-diversity hotspot of our country. It has a lot of endemic and endangered species. After a brief stay, we moved further away from Kerala and proceeded towards the Anaimalai Hills that were more attractive and cool.

road to waterfalls
Thuruvananthapuram Thrissur, Kerala, India