It all began with a WhatsApp message. The message was about a one-day ‘monsoon package’ that would take us to Athirappilly – Sholayar forest range. Being driven by the love for a trip in the rain, we bought our tickets.
And then the day arrived. A Thursday soaked in intermittent rains and sharp sprinkles from majestic cascades for me and my friend, along with nearly 100 others from various parts of the state who were united by the passion for exploring places.
We set off from the government rest house at Chalakkudy at sharp 8 in the morning, our first stop was Thumboormuzhy where the gentle flips of hundreds of butterflies, a thrilling walk through a long suspension bridge and a succulent breakfast awaited. But it's monsoon, and the butterflies in the park were not so keen to welcome us. However, the walk through the suspension bridge that connects Thumboormuzhy with Ezhttumugham eco-village in Ernakulam district offered us some moments of serenity watching the mighty flow of the Chalakkudy River with majestic scenes of the Western Ghats in a distance.
The canteen which is run by the descendants of World War II veterans has a number of special dishes for you, most of them made from jackfruit. And if you ever go there don't forget to take a mix of traditional medicines served with the breakfast.
Pit stop #1
Energized with an unusual breakfast, we head on to Athirappilly, our key location in the trip. It's the peak of the monsoon, so you must take a walk down to the feet of the mighty waterfalls. Climb down over 100 steps, which is an adventurous act, you reach what is called pure bliss. Sprinkles from the waterfall, which is aptly called the Niagara of India, will literally drench you. The slippery rocks look dangerous but they don't stop you from going as near the falls as possible.
Climbing the hill all the way to reach the top of the waterfalls is the most daring act of the trip. The zigzagging ways formed by those who went ahead of us are slippery and may leave you perplexed. But go ahead you reach the top of the largest waterfalls in the state - a place where you would wish to stay back all the day. Standing 80 feet above the valley, you see the other face of the waterfall - forming, falling and flowing.
The sight is sure to provoke the conservationist and travel enthusiast in you. On our way back, as the guide mentions the proposed hydel-electricity project at Athirappily, the fellow travelers form a chorus shouting "No, we don't want it".
Pit stop #2
Next destination is Charpa, a waterfall on the way to Vazhachal. Let me be frank, Charpa is not likely to amuse those who have just got drenched in the might of Athirappilly falls. Charpa is a monsoon-fall. As the rainy season bids adieu, the waterfall dries up and shows up the veins on the rocks.
Pit stop #3
Move ahead for five kilometers through the roads flanked by lush bamboo and other trees you reach the next stop -Vazhachal. Compared to Athirappilly, Vazhachal falls is a bit flat and it lets you keep looking at the flowing water for any amount of time. A quick walk through the banks of the river, passing by signs of danger, is also part of the program.
Pit stop #4
It's past noon and time for lunch. We head for Peringalkuthu where the Kerala State Electricity Board has built a dam. Atop the hill station, we have our delicious lunch from the KSEB's canteen and enjoy a bird's eye view of the calm waters of Peringlkuthu reservoir.
It's time for a break too. Before that, we go for a short trekking through the road along the forest. The trekking ended up as a post-lunch walk as no animal was in a mood to visit us.
Pit stop #5
We move ahead towards the final destination of the trip -- Sholayar dam. After a one-hour journey, we reach Sholayar dam which is a vital reservoir under the Parambikulam Aliyar Project. A part of the hydroelectric project of Tamil Nadu, special permission is required to visit the dam and photography is strictly banned there. Standing atop the dam, we enjoy the surrounding scenic forests and hills. Rain and the wind strengthen, making it a tough task to hold the huge colorful umbrellas gifted to us by the tourism department.
We return, recollecting the places visited and planning the next routes to explore. But before the journey ends, we stop at a local eatery near Thumboormuzhy where hot tapioca, spicy chutney and piping hot chukkukappi await us. It's getting darker and with stomach and mind full on the yummy rustic treat, we get back to the bus that will drop us at the rest house from where we started half a day ago.