Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Athirapilly, Vazhachal and Valparai – The music of water and Hills – Part I

Athirapilly and Vazhachal are one of the most common destinations for annual school tours, atleast in central Kerala. Even though we – me and my friend Gokul – were no longer in school there was no reduction in excitement. After all, the extended monsoon finished her Kerala visit only a couple of weeks back. Heavy monsoon means more water in Chalakudy River which forms a gorgeous water fall at Athirapilly.

We left Bangalore around nine in the night; crossed Kerala – Tamilnadu border and reached Palakkad before sunrise, as it was in the early morning there was not much traffic and we reached Thrissur quickly. Another bus took as to Chalakudy, from there another one more to Gokul’s home. We reached home at breakfast time.

Buses are not frequent in Athirapilly and Vazhachal route. Around 11 in the morning we got one from Chalakudy private bus terminal and reached Vazhachal around 12.15am, of course late for seeing a water fall. After buying the passes (separate passes for camera) we went in (same pass is valid for Athirapilly too). Contrary to the expectations water level was low. Alas!!! The beautiful falls I saw in the pictures remained in the pictures only – atleast for this time.

Still the stepped falls of Vazhachal looked nice – water was getting down through a number of steps to see as if to welcome the visitor. Fences were erected to keep the people from going close to the middle section – everyone warned us about the strong undercurrents. The other side of the river is guarded by hills wearing a green uniform. If I can borrow the words of Gokul, in Vazhachal river is trying to spread her hair as long as possible. Even though, we were in a forest area and close to water there was no escape from sweating.

A short and zigzag side walk, constructed by the department, ends close to a small hotel which serves the fresh fishes from the river – a claim by the owner. We roamed around the area for some time and finally decided to leave Vazhachal and went to Athirapilly. Well, the guard informed us that 'next bus would come at 2.30 only' – an unavoidable fallout for depending on bus. We spent the rest of the time by sitting, standing, walking, watching the various acts of monkeys jumping over the vehicles parked at one side of the road. Finally the bus came and we reached Athirapilly around 3.00 pm.

Athirapilly was crowded with vehicles and people, ranging from school kids to foreign citizens. After showing the passes at the entrance we walked straight to the river. Here a calm river is flowing without knowing that it need to take a deep dive to continue their journey. I suddenly remembered the last seen from Mel Gibson's Apocalypto were the hero will jump from the top of a waterfall.

The advantage in Athirapilly is both sections – before and after the falls are easily accessible for the people. We went to the upper section, were a calm river is flowing without knowing the dangers laying ahead. After spending some time there we climb down to reach the bottom of the falls – where the water actually hitting the rocks. Getting down- through the zigzag path was not so easy; we almost tired by the time we reached the bottom. But the falls were there to refresh and encourage us; the water was hitting the rocks in the bottom and split to hundreds of pieces. Due to the difference in the elevation of riverbed in the top water split in to three streams before coming down with her full power. Gokul told me that if there was enough water instead of three there will be five streams – unfortunately there was not!!!

I spend a good amount of afternoon near to the falls; the high level of water content almost drenched me. As it was getting late, we decided to go back. The zigzag path through which we came down almost looks insurmountable. As always happen in the return journeys hunger and fatigue set in. Finally we reached top and slowly walked towards the road. Gokul was silent for some time – maybe he was thinking about the school days. I simply turned towards the river one more time.

By the time we reached the bus stop, rain slowly started her music. By the time bus came around 5.45 she gained strength and forced us to pull down the shutters. It was a long journey, but the road sides looked more interesting in that evening river appeared and disappeared in one side of the road. We reached Chalakudy by 7pm. By that time the faint sun light giver his way to night. After getting down at Chalakudy private bus terminus we walked towards government run KSRTC stand. By this time Gokul’s brother also joined the company. We went to KSRTC station, after saying bye to Gokul and his brother; I boarded a bus to Thrissur.

I reached Thrissur around 8.30 pm - too early for my plans as I need to reach Coimbatore by 6.30am only. I spend around four hours in the bus stand –looking towards the busses coming in and going out of the station – all seemed to be in a hurry to reach home. Finally around 12.30 I boarded another bus to Palakkad, which reached Palakkad by 1.30 in the morning. Another three and half hours spend on the not so comfortable plastic chair in the stand. Finally around 5am boarded another bus to Coimbatore to see another reserve – Indira Gandhi National Park.

Athirapilly, Vazhachal and Valparai – The music of water and Hills – Part II


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