Call it the ride of a lifetime to Bengaluru through the verdant roads and woods of Athirappilly, Valparai and Pollachi. It's a trip offering a lot of freshness to the mind and the body. For one, as you leave the busy roads of Chalakudy and head towards the Ghats, the air itself changes. It turns cool and a few kilometers up, the roar of waterfalls and the majesty of the Athirappilly falls open up.
The drive from Aluva itself takes on a different hue and as your vehicle crosses Angamaly and heads straight for Chalakudy, the mighty mountains appear far in the distance preparing you for one memorable joyride. There are small shops all along the way where you can bite into a few snacks and enjoy a glass of piping hot tea or coffee. As you wind your way up, there are oil palm plantations all along till you touch Thumboormuzhi, the place where the Ezhattumugham nature tourism village has been set up. The stop-over is one swell place to chill out before you take the long journey up.
The small check dam, the hanging bridge, the man-made waterfall, Nature’s bounty around and the serene flow of the Chalakudy River below make the place an ideal getaway from the madding crowd. The place is open to sight-seers from 9 am to 5 pm at a nominal rate.
The spectacle that unfolds next is the sprawling beauty of the Athirappilly falls. The place is crowded always with spectators drinking in the splendour of the falls. The less said about holidays and Sundays, the better. You will find yourself elbowing for leg room as you make your way down where you can dip your feet in the cold waters of the falls.
There's always a crowd of foreign as well as desi tourists here. The young and old, kids, lovers et al, make sure they don't leave Athirappilly without feeling its soothing waters around their feet. There are others who jump in for a dip. But the waterfall itself is mesmerizing. You can keep staring at it for hours. There's a novelty in it each time you stop by to view it. View it from any angle and Athirappilly brings on the awe factor. When you gaze upon it from above, you feel that's the best way to enjoy its majesty; but move down and watch the waters flowing down rocks and boulders and you’ll end up saying there’s nothing as beautiful as the falls as seen from down below. Suffice to say that Athirappilly is a feast for the eye.
Climb up and there are small eateries and modest hotels that serve anything from snacks, to meals and biryani. There are sights to savour as you sit down to a meal. The falls are visible from anywhere you sit and as the greens part you can seen the water coming down like a sheet of molten silver. Huge birds go flitting by, apparently, the Buceros Indian hornbill. The birds are shy and hide deep inside the foliage.
When you are done with savouring Athirappilly's joys, the ride ahead looms large along smooth and winding roads through dense forests. This could perhaps be one of the finest forest roads in India. Close to the roads lie thick bamboo forests and the tell-tale marks of elephant presence can be seen from the fresh dung splattered all around. If you love silence and are a keen listener of nature's sounds, you can hear the sound of bamboo being broken and trampled upon, apparently by elephant clans. The silence around is impregnable most of the time.
The road next curves out to the Charpa and Vazhachal waterfalls and a stop here is a must, once again for the refreshing feel of the water that comes splashing down in sprays. The next stop evidently is the Thottapura viewpoint, the focal point on the Vazhachal-Valparai route. The place offers a spectacular view of the Sholayar reservoir and is a wonder spot for shutter-bugs.
The road now reaches Malakkaparai, the Kerala border which lets you into Tamil Nadu. The place is a safe habitat for deer and other animals that choose to jump across the forests at random. Welcome to Bismilla Hotel in Malakkaparai where tea is always ready. If you are in the mood for yummy porottas and spicy beef curry, then stay back and enjoy a plate at Bismilla's. Dining over, the next stop is the Kerala-Tamil Nadu check-post. Come night and travellers are not allowed to move further.
The next stop you are heading to is Valparai and by evening, the place gets covered in swirls of mist. Vehicles move along only at a snail’s pace here. A solid 40 hairpin bends later, you can touch base at Pollachi and from then on straight to the Garden City. The sights and picture postcard views along the route are for keeps.