Bike Trip to Valpara- Via Athirapally, Vazhachal and Malakkapara
Since I had a flight to catch on Sunday noon to Mumbai for an office purpose I couldn’t go home this Saturday. So I knew it is my chance and didn’t want to spend this whole day doing nothing. There were so many places in my mind but the Monsoon said not to almost all the places and I could also figure it out to be a bad idea to go trekking. The climate may turn it out to be a waste of time. It has been a while now since I have hit the road also. So the idea of going for a long drive came in popping out of the wits. I decided to materialize the much awaited monsoon ride of Athirapally – Vazhachal – Valpara – Pollachi route. Being heard about the beauty of the road I had earlier done some decent research on this trip and had well read about the route. I was little doubtful also whether to take this route as any mishaps, even a puncture, would turn out to be treacherous in this route. It passed through the dense forest covers of Athirapally Valpara forest range. But finally decided against all such odd thoughts and commenced the trip.
It was on Wednesday I got a message in my blog from an unknown friend Anish (A cool guy works at CTS in Info park) who visited the blog and sounded very eager to join for future trips. We exchanged some messages and called each other to start an acquaintance. When I suggested the trip Anish raised his willingness without a second thought and we planned the same for Saturday Morning. We planned to start early in the morning so that we can reach Vazhachal fast and get into the route before much intruders. I woke up by 4am and started from room by 4.30 am. In no time I reached Edapally and waited for Anish to join in front of the Lulu mall. In another 5 minuted Anish also joined and we started the trip. On the way we fueled as we know it would be something next to impossible to find a fueling station if we take the detour from Angamaly to Athirapally road.
It started raining from the very beginning and I was worried about it. We had to take comparatively good drizzling on the way and by day light we reached Ezhattumugham and entered into the PCK (Plantation Corporation of Kerala) Palm plantation estate. The road is still in the same bad condition. The last time I took this road was when I and Sayed paid a visit to Athirapally falls two years back. We could move very slowly due to this and frequent rain was sidetracking us. It was difficult to take photos due to rain but I managed to get a few clicks. It started raining heavily after this and there was nothing else to do than to get going rather to stop very frequently. Before reaching Athirapally itself we could hear the roar of the falls though water was comparatively less than my previous visit. We didn’t have any plans to visit the falls but was planning to have our breakfast from Athirapally. To add to our disappointment none of the hotels in Athirapally was functional by that time and hence we decided to move along. Still it was raining and it was almost dark after crossing Athirapally entering into the dense forest route.
Charpa falls (Second falls after Athirapally enroute ) was also promising due to occasional rain.We reached Vazhachal check post by 6.15 am and completed the formalities there. The rain doesn’t seem like getting subsided and I was very much disappointed that I couldn’t take photos enroute. I had to wear rain coat from Vazhachal. But thanks Mother Nature It was getting clear after sometime and soon after 20 minutes of our ride started from Vazhachal we reached Puliyilapara junction, a small midtown area with a few shops and two hotels. We had our breakfast from there. From Puliyilapara if we take a left we will reach Peringalkuthu Hydroelectric project and Dam.
The road from Vazhachal to Puliyilapara is mediocre forest covers and from Puliyilapara the real dense forest began.
There is literally nothing enroute other than one or two forest check post outlets and some abandoned buildings. The entire stretch from Vazhachal to Malakkapara is 44 km. The route was really wild and the wilderness grew as we moved inside. It was thick woods and Elephant dung was all over the road. We could take all the curves with a heavy heart fearing to encounter and elephant or some other mammal. The presence of wild animals was very much visible and some places we had the smell of elephant very close. I even thought of discontinuing or waiting for some more vehicles to come but later somehow gathered courage to continue. The road was luckily in superb condition. Apart from some fallen trees and shrubs in between there were no huddles enroute. The sunlight was still waiting to peep into the woods and the air was so fresh. The greenery was really heart soothening.
I was riding in front and taking a curve I saw a Wild dog. But as soon as he sniffed my presence he swifted into the woods before I could think of taking my camera. That was the first animal sighting of the day apart from the chirping birds and fluctuating butterflies. We came to an open space in between and I suppose this would be the reservoir of the Peringalkuthu Dam though I am not sure about that. Having a brief stop there we continued.
The zig zag road was very subtle and we could not take much speed. I stopped often to click on what all I could and believe me this route is a heaven for photographers. There were so many small streams and waterfalls enroute and it was very difficult to stop myself from stopping. We reached Mukkunnapra forest station in some time. The road from Mukkunnapara to Malakkapara is the wildest part of the entire stretch. Some places the canopy is so thick that we can’t even see the sky for some distance. We saw a two batches of nilgiri langurs. They were less scary and could get some pics.
Surprisingly couldn’t spot any birds during this stretch though we could hear the sounds of so many. We reached the lower Sholayar Dam and the view of the reservoir was beautiful. Water level was down and hence the forest covers of the banks were more visible. We saw the Private bus Don which does service from Chalakudy to Valpara when we were there. We reached Malakkapara Check post where we need to register our details and hand over the pass obtained from Vazhachal. This is the Kerala Tamilnadu border and the forest cover thins from this points. Malakkapara is a small town area with couple of provision stores and plenty of Home stays. Those who plan to stay can easily find a place here though we can only expect medium facilities. From Malakkapara the road is little more broad and clear.
The route is mainly through plantations like tea or Eucalyptus. We could see workers, their settlements and all. Moving forward we reached the Valve station of Upper Sholayar dam. The pipes which carried water from the dam to the power station were a good view. We were attaining some heights by now and we reached the upper Sholayar Dam. Sholayar Dam is literally huge and I haven’t seen such a big reservoir anywhere. The road goes through the banks of the Sholayar and it actually went in kms. The banks of the Sholayar Dam were so beautiful. There were some Islands inside the reservoir.
By 12 Pm we reached Valparai. Valparai is a town area. It was very crowded and littered. It was an eye sore to see something like after being in the wild for a long time. The greenery, forest, back waters, dams, Tea estates plantations etc suddenly gave way to the hurry burry of civilization. But at this point of time we didn’t know that we are going to witness the most beautiful sights of our life. I wanted to get out of the city very fast. Without any stop we crossed Valpara town and proceeded to Pollachi. I have read that there are 41 hairpin curves from Valpara to Pollachi. But it was against my logical thinking and geography that Pollachi being not a place in that height and Valparai being in comparative height how come there are 41 hair pin curves to reach Pollachi from Valpara. The answer was right in front of the road. The 41 hair pin bends includes an ascend from Valparai to Pollachi road and descend from the high hills to Pollachi. What awaited us on the road was astounding and stunning. The road went through the edges of a high hill. We could see the Aliyar Dam and reservoir beneath the hills. There were magnificent views at every hair pin bends. The view from the vantage points where like being in some foreign lands. I don’t understand the logic of people going outside India spending lacks of rupees for sightseeing when these places are right under their noses unexplored and unraveled. At all vantage points I stopped for photos. I didn’t want to come back from that place. I even thought of returning back the same way but it was past 2 pm by then and I was sure we are not gonna make it back to Vazhachal via same road before the allowed time.
Reaching Pollachi the climate was burning hot. We were also burning with hunger and the first thing we had to do was to eat something. There were not much hotels in the vicinity and after a round in the city we reached a vegetarian hotel and had our lunch from there. The meal was ok types. The return travel plan was like this. Nenmara > Mannuthy > Vadakkanchery > Chalakudy > Angamaly > Cochin. This stretch of 180 kms is going to be boring through the plains and highways. But the morning session was worth enough to keep our mind and heart cool enough to endure that. By 3 pm we started from Pollachi and by 7 we reached Cochin.
Anish took a deviation on the way to Kakkanad and I Reached room by 7.30 negotiating with a horrible traffic block in between Kalamassery and Edapally. I kissed my bike and thanked Mother Nature for keeping me safe for the entire day reaching the parking area. The first thing I did in the room was to take a look at the pics taken in the wider screen. With an over joyous heart and stress free mind I went to sleep.
The route was pretty filled with all essentials for a long ride. Water falls. Streams, curvy road, wilderness of the jungle, wild life, greenery, Dams and reservoirs, viewpoints , tea estates and plantation, hair pin bends, Plains and what more we could ask. I would recommend this route for the ones who want to test their courage and riding skills.( Please be careful those who endure to do this) I consider the initial drizzling as a blessing of Mother Nature to have a wonderful day out there in the wild.