It takes just 10 minutes to break free from the hustle and bustle of Kochi city and be in the lap of nature. Hop into your car and drive out of the city to enjoy the alluring charm of backwaters, mangroves, and 'chemmeen' kettu (prawns farming), which can give you a new lease of life.
The highway with a view is the Vallarpadam Highway–NH 966A. This four-lane highway is dotted with picturesque sceneries and touches five isles, including Mulavukadu. The backwaters on the either side of the road, which can be reached in 10 to 15 minutes from the heart of the city, can have a soothing effect on the visitors.
Small is beautiful
The 17-km long Vallarpadam highway is close to Ernakulam (Kochi) city. But throughout this short stretch, from Kalamassery to Vallarpadam, nature's beauty is at its best, and the scenic view is a feast to the eyes.
The journey begins from Kalamassery, and the enchanting beauty of the region could be gauged from the fact that there are 11 bridges on this route. The four-lane road is laid above the group of isles situated near Kochi. Different hues of flowering plants, maintained by the Kochi Metro, on the road dividers add to the appeal. Mangroves, the green lungs of the Kochi city, and 'chemmen kettu' are on the left side of the stretch. Birds flock in search of food, and the place is a paradise for photographers. These are some of the vistas of the Moolampilly and Mulavukadu islands.
The thick mangrove forest, which infuses fresh air into the nearby city, will take your breath away. There are narrow pathways cutting across the thick vegetation and small rafts meander through the water body. Bigger boats are tied near the mangrove trees.
The Chinese fishing nets are another attraction along with the 'chemmeen kettu.' Many birds, including crows, kites and eagles, are flying low with an eye on the Chinese fishing nets. The city skyline, which could be seen in the distance, doesn’t take anything away from the unspoiled countryside. These mesmerizing spots can be enjoyed without stepping out of the car, and that's the high point of this stretch. Evening is the best time to drive through the highway. During that time of the day, one can behold the crimson rays of the setting sun grazing the Chinese fishing nets on the right side of the national highway. And on the opposite side of the road, the lush green flora takes a darker tinge as the sun goes down.
The beauty of the other side
The highway connects to one of the Goshree bridges, but take a U-turn and re-enter the stretch, and the focus of attention shifts to the left side of the road.
Now, the sun is just a speck nestling inside the Chinese fishing nets. The lake is part of the Kollam-Kottappuram national waterway.
There are many wayside shops and mobile ice-cream parlours on this side of the highway. For safety reasons, don't park cars behind the lorries that are stationed on the road side. And don't litter as this place should continue as an unspoiled one for years to come.
At the onset of night, the Vallarpadam Container Terminal starts shining with sparkling lights. The highway is an ideal stretch for someone who loves night drive. The return journey to Kalamassery begins as it is getting darker.
Residents, mainly women, of the islands sell fish on the road side. Each woman is waiting with a LED light and two baskets of fresh fish to sell the catch of the day to the passing motorists. My friend said that fish could be bought from here at a cheap rate compared to city markets.
"My husband goes out to catch fish and I sell them. He is sitting on the opposite side of the road," an elderly woman said. A bagful of fish will also find place in your car.
If you want to see the green and real Kochi without any traffic hassles, head to Valarpadam highway and spent some quality time on the stretch.