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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Valparai & Athirapalli fals: Weekend RoadTrip from Coimbatore

I had first visited Valparai way back in 2011- with friends. While the trip was great, I had missed two things- One- visiting Athirapally waterfalls and second driving on the curvy roads of Valparai. Thus I was contemplating a second visit to Valparai and fulfilled it this Aug 13-15 weekend.
Thankfully Myles is offering cars for rental from Coimbatore, so I could take a train to Coimbatore and from there pickup the car and drive to Valparai. (Myles Mangaluru location seems to have been closed now) This way instead of driving all night from Chennai and spending a lot on toll and fuel, I could sleep well on the train and start fresh in the morning. While my onward ticket was RAC, return ticket was RLWL (Remote location waitlist, when I booked it 4 months ago on April 17th, for a journey on Aug 15th. Just about a week before travel it shifted to RAC and just a day before travel it even got confirmed, to my relief.

Reached Coimbatore on time, Myles fellows offered a delivery/collection at the railway station for Rs 350 extra, but I wanted to visit their garage, so took Ola and reached there in Rs 190. But the Coimbatore unit of Myles seems to be managed by a local family and was a different experience. Instead of marking existing damages on a sheet I was told to take photos of damage. Eventually I drove out, picked up friends from Railway station and we were on our way to Valparai.

On the way I realized that vehicle documents are not available inside the car-when called I was told "no problem, carry on, no one will ask", but I was skeptical- asked them to email me a copy of documents. After couple of follow-ups, got the document mailed by evening, which I got printed at Valparai. Thankfully no one asked for it, throughout the trip.

We stopped at this Ashram- Vethathri Maharishi Research Foundation on the way, after paying Rs 50 per head entry fee.  
I was interested in checking if their campus has anything interesting worth photographing but the staff who escorted us ate our brains trying to convince me to sign up for their residential spiritual programs. The campus was decently maintained and located below the hill, was calm and beautiful. Apparently next day was the Maharishi's birthday. We were shown a spot where he used to work and sleep, a small museum is also open to visitors after 10.30 but we weren't keen to wait. Campus has restroom facilities and is located opposite the entry to Aliyar Dam, so is probably worth a quick stop.

After spending a few moments we continued. At the forest check post paid Rs 20 per head fee and proceeded. A few viewpoints give good view of the Aliyar dam below.

Monkey falls was the first stop, already overcrowded with tourists. After a photo moved on- there were many smaller falls all along for quick stop. 

Of course monkey menace is prominent in the area, few surrounded our car in an attempt to infiltrate and find some food.

And this person was selling honey directly from the bee nest- sort of live counter...
Stopped at waterfall estate for tea and the bajjis they were cooking were getting sold superfast. Eventually we reached the statue of C A Caver Marsh. He is believed to have introduced tea in the area and revive the economy of the region.
At an intersection took left and we reached Velankani shrine, next to which was a small stream. Few photos were clicked here while battling light rains.




Reached our accommodation next- River View Homestay for quick fresh up before proceeding to see rest of the places in Valparai. Valparai is full of view-points, rivers, dams and tea estates. On the second half, our first destination was Nallamudi view point. I had seen it on my last visit but wanted to take my friends there. But the road shown by Google maps proved to be too harsh for our Toyota Etios, so after some considerations aborted Nallamudi falls, decided to head to Nirar Dam. The roads were pathetic for most part. Looks like only main roads in Valparai are well maintained (one that connects Pollachi to Cochin) and rest of the roads are left unattended for years. Nirar Dam again was second visit for me, nothing great but without too many things to explore, it will qualify for top 10 places to visit in Valparai I guess.
Shrivatsa spotted this mongoose near Nirar Dam and alerted me. It stayed in this position for long time with its eyes open
Next we drove to upper Nirar dam, reportedly because the sign board said there is a waterfalls and few local kids confirmed the same. However after reaching the Upper Nirar dam we were told that reaching the falls can be done only with help from forest department- who operate a jeep in the area and we need to wait till the jeep arrives. Few villagers reside here and road was no longer paved. It was 6 PM and we didn’t feel like waiting for the department jeep. For me drive was the primary purpose, so destinations didn't matter. Our visit didn’t go waste because I could click this beautiful photograph of stairs with 100s of steps.

Few years ago, Valparai didn’t have many accommodation options or restaurants. Krishna Lodge was the only option or one had to book in few expensive tea bungalows or do day visit from Coimbatore. This time, we could see at least two dozen hotels/homestays around Valparai town. There are more around Sholayar dam. In the evening, we went to Saravana Lodge in the Valparai town for dinner. The name Saravana is usually associated with high quality veg only food. But this Saravana Lodge in Valparai is NOT pure vegetarian and obviously not part of popular Saravana Bhavan group. There was hardly any pure vegetarian restaurants in Valparai, thus we managed with tender coconut, fruits and snacks for the night.

Day 2 we headed to Athirapally, with a quick stop at Sholayar dam. One of the tyres had low pressure but no shops were open at 7 AM, so decided to press on. A road site eatery served good idlies and I also feasted on jackfruit. Drive to Athirapally from Valparai took about 60 kms and couple of hours. The roads are a bit narrow but extremely fun to drive. Middle of monsoon season, occasional rains, road side waterfalls make it lot more enjoyable. Kerala police check post gives a slip with a timing. One should cross the check post on the other side within 2 hours. This is to ensure that people don’t stop for too long inside the reserve forest area.
Athirapalli falls is covered in a separate post here. We reached there by 10.30 but instead of parking at first slot that was available, I drove further horeping to park closer, only to lose 30 minutes in an attempt to find parking spot. After exploring it we took same way back managed to reach Coimbatore by about 8 PM, marking end of Valparai-Athirapalli visit.

9 comments :

The Untourists said...

So beautiful. Would love to visit this place sometime. Have to add this to my Valparaiso itinerary.

(Though the way entire honey colonies are destroyed to get the honey saddens me, since there are now modern ways of farming honey...)

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Valparaiso is in Chile..

http://www.enidhi.net/2011/06/valparaiso-beach-area-pics.html
http://www.enidhi.net/2011/06/public-transport-in-valparaiso.html

Nandhini Chandrasekaran said...

Thanks for writing this article. Not many in India know that a scenic place exists in this region. The bee-honey thing seems weird. How does he manage his business without the need disturbing others and vice versa?

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@Nandhini - Bees are smoked to run away I guess... It was only nest, not live bees.. I stand corrected

Indrani said...

Lots to see! Definitely worth a tour. I plan to visit some time.

R Niranjan Das said...

Valparai is on my cards. Hope to visit soon. It would have been a pleasure to drive through those tea estates and hair pin bends.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Indrani and Niranjan. Yes, it was fun

divsi said...

Valparai is one of my fav tea gardens :) loved the natural beauty of the place. The hair pin bends are thrilling! And views from each bend are gorgeous :) I couldn't visit the falls. Maybe next time!

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@Divsi- Sure. Thanks