Chasing Monsoons : Athirapally & Vachazhal

Monsoons for me are never experienced enough if I have not witnessed the rains rolling down the waterfalls or drenching the forests in prettiness. Each year I strive to sneak away an extended weekend into nature’s lap at some gushing waterfall or deep forest where Monsoons reside in unapologetic affluence and glory.This year just managed it somehow winding off down south again. By now the world agrees that the Gods have really been biased to Kerala when it comes to the soaking greens and the lazy blues generously mapping this linear state.So here I was once again in the lovely abundance of Kerala right in time to experience the misty,chilled,sensuously enveloping climate of the place.And on my mind, I had the very mighty ‘Athirapally’

My trip to Thrissur was with zero plans, baring just one, I had to savour the sight of the lustfully falling Chalakudy admist the rainforests.Athirapally lies very close to Thrissur and one should adequately combine a bunch of these amazing places in and around Thrissur to make most depending on the time and mode at hand.Winding off my work at Thrissur, which was a huge excuse to be down there,I take the bus to Chalakudy,the only place from where the buses originate for Valparai. Chalakudy lies at a distance of 25 kms from Thrissur on the Cochin – Thrissur route. From Chalakudy there are buses till Vazhazhal every 30mins or so. Athirapally lies 5kms before Vachazhal on this effortlessly beautiful route that snakes through the gorgeous forests.One has to just get on to one of these buses and he will fill himself at the destination,no fuss.DSC_0152

I hop onto one of the buses from the Chalakudy private bus stand off the highway, and happily seat myself on the single seat next to the driver.The arrangement gives ample space for  my haversack,a whole windshield for clicking my love, the jungle roads and the lovely company of the driver and conductor beside.I never miss out a chance to torture unassuming characters with my gibberish when on the roads, language no bar! I had read the route through the Vachazhal forest division is a treat to the senses,and with the rains it was just that, pure immersion. Athirappally lies on to the Chalakudy river deep within these abounding rainforests of the western ghats .Being a weekday there are no tourists in the bus and most seem to do the visit in their own vehicles.I have a heart rendering time lapping up the cool atmosphere through the route, with the lovely damp feel of the ongoing drizzle.The rainforests in this area are unique since they lie at a low altitude of 300mtrs, lowest in the western ghat range. These forests, comprise majorly of evergreens, and semi evergreens, moist deciduous riparian forest ranges.I lean out and feel the drizzle on my fingers as I glide down this wonderful paradise.It is  fortunately a lovely day with no heavy rains.After almost 45mins the bus halts next to the forest post,where the people bound for Athirapally bounce off. A ticketing center to the left and a tourist information center to the right of the road signify the arrival of the location.Although I prefer to start really early in the mornings,I had managed to reach at 9.45am at the place.I get my ticket 30/- and a still digital camera ticket 20/-, not before telling the personnel that its highly inappropriate in the digital age to take money for cameras.

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The road rolls away in front of me, secluded, inviting me to accompany it deeper into the forests, which is what I ended up doing precisely in the following days. A group of 4 clueless guys follow me for visiting the falls,intrigued about my huge sack and my excited stupor which is quite evident.As I walk on guided by the roaring of the waterfalls,I can sense the freshness already buzzing my senses.A clearing in the dense foliage of the trees lining the route gives me my first precious glimpse of the beautiful falls of foaming waters.Stopping for a distant click, I cant help but appreciate, how lovingly the forest seems to be precariously cupping the waterfalls into its being.Viewing the falls through the dense foliage admists the rainforest around is a sight to behold.

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Walking on ,I come across  the luxury stay of Rainforest resort.The location of the stay I imagine can be perfect for newly weds, wanting to roll away couple of days just drinking into the view of the generously falling waters across their beds. The place also has a restaurant , which I had to reluctantly drop out of the plan ahead.Keeping my sack at the provision of the entrance I enter the gates to the falls. A lovely rustic stone paved walkway, with cheerfully painted handrails, guides me for a stretch of about half km to the Falls. The lovely lush green walk, nudges at my desires,urging me to slow down and I tread slowly along, dunking into the wetness of the forest around.Lush green moss eagerly envelopes the benches and boulders, adding to the vividness of the greens along.As I approach the river, I am greeted by gangs of monkeys bouncing around the place.There in front of me, flows the Chalakudy river, a smooth sheet of silken blues intermittently rolling over small boulders in its way.The Chalakudy river originates in the Anamalai region and flows across Palakkad, Thrissur and Cochin for a stretch of 145km before it meets the Arabian Sea.

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The banks of the river are characterized by huge stone boulders vanishing into almost placid waters.I move ahead not to the river but drawn by the magnificence to my right, the glorious , powerful display of nature’s force, the Athirapally Falls. The first view of the falls leaves me too stunned to feel anything other than surprise. The view point here let’s you go very close to the beautiful force.The sight is awesomely breathtaking and magnanimous by any measure.Having seen Jog Falls in their glory last year, I was not sure if there can be anything more ravishing.But yes, there is, Athirapally is a ravishing beauty, wildly throwing herself into the arms of the  waiting rainforests. The waters of the Chalakudy flow smoothly,rushing forward through the many boulders between,gathering momentum as they  reach the edge and falling over as powerful frothing segments,which plunge wildly, disappearing into the gorge 80 feet below , leaving a phantom of mists spraying above.Ola!The crescent shape of the edge further accentuates this beautiful sight. The gushing sounds and the visual of the falling waters, with the emerald greens  and the clear blue skies in the backdrop are a picture worth painting.I watch on transfixed,not ready to lose them from my sight, its absolute throbbing brilliance drawing me closer.

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Athirapally was also originally called as Ayyanpally , literally translating into ‘Resting place of Gods’, so aptly befitting the place that it is. The transition of the sedate Chalakudy river to a frothy majestic roaring phenomenon within meters of stretch , is something uniquely surreal and mindblowing.I stand there gaping at the falls from various points along the same 40mtrs of bamboo barricaded edge, wishing there was a viewpoint on a higher altitude to peep down the plunge of the waters. On a full force day the falls look like a single sheet of water but in actual they say it breaks down into 3 different segments.Directly opposite to the falls the rainforest rises up till the roads above, densely covered with vegetation.Right in the midst of this green thicket I see the Rainforest resorts,beautifully tucked into the wilderness, enviously secluded,and aptly perched to ogle at the Athirapally from the front.

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The area of the falls is off limits for any swimming or bathing activities, since the currents are very strong and not to mention the falls extremely dangerous. One can walk down to the foot of the waterfalls for a better view to see how it hits the bounders and flows off haughtily away. The route is a 10-15min walk down the sloping terrain, and one needs to mind the slippery boulders and the leeches in rains. Although I give it a skip being on a run,I am sure it would be worth the little hike. By now  a bunch of tourists are spawning around,tirelessly clicking selfies with the backdrop.Irked I reluctantly decide to start back.I read later that the restaurant at Rainforest, allows non residing guests to experience their food as well,missed it this time. Reaching the gate I gather my sack and hop on to the next bus ,only to get down 5 km ahead to the Vachazhal falls. The same ticket of Athirapally covers up for this spot as well. Vachazhal falls has a more welcoming expanse shaded with benches set within the forest woods.I sit here for a while just peacefully listening to the gushing waters of this comparatively subdued but equally enchanting falls. Vachazhal falls are in stark contrast to the Athirapally with no deep plunges , but a wide ribbon of bouncing waters frothing over the boulders along. I walk along the barricaded edge ,which extends all along, letting one experience the moods of the river at different spots before the falls.Though there are no eateries within the Athirapaly premises , here there is a small makeshift eatery serving meals at the edge of the flowing Chalakudy.

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Not wanting to lose sight of the road, fearing I would miss my last bus to Valparai , I walk back to the entrance and get myself a cup of coffee as I wait.As I sit staring at the lovely woods, my mind keeps going back to the amazing sight I had just witnessed before Vachazhal…Athirapally Falls, and I fight the urge to go have a peep again before moving on.

The star backdrop of many a blockbuster movies, Athirapally is currently caught into the political whirlwinds,with there being a proposal to make a dam on the upper area, before the falls. This will no doubt dampen the force of this wild child.Wish it never gets through and the mindless beauty of  Athirapally is retained forever. While it is lauded by some as the Niagara of India,I found Athirapally to be more humble,wildly exotic, set within rich bio diverse surroundings of the rainforests , like a jewel in a tiara.

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