Today was the day we were all waiting for. The stretch going from Athirappilly to Valparai is perhaps one of the most amazing forest routes in India.
Obviously, we were all excited to say the least.
Route: Vattavada – Pampadum Shola National Park – Top Station – Kundala – Mattupatty Dam – Munnar – Adimali – Kothamangalam – Perumbavoor – Karakutty – Mookannoor – Vettilappara – Athirappilly Waterfalls – Vazhachal – Malakkappara – Upper Sholayar Dam – Uralikal – Valparai
Distance Covered: ~275km
Google Maps: http://goo.gl/cNuEPV
Our preparations for today’s ride started at 5 AM. The manager at Anand Resorts was kind enough to serve us all a hot cup of tea as soon as we woke up.
The sun was still crawling up in the sky. As we’d reached Vattavada late in the night, we hadn’t seen Anand Resorts or its surroundings. It was a pleasant surprise to witness the picturesque surroundings of Vattavada with Anand Resorts in the forefront.
It was very cold here. The water was just brisk warm and we had to make do with it. The room I took bath in didn’t even have a light (or there was a power cut; don’t remember it now). We took our own time in getting ready for the ride ahead.
Pramod was very eager to ride to Munnar without his upper clothes on. I guess that’s a good start for a guy who spent the previous night with his hairdryer for warmth 😀
We had a small photo session in the resort’s parking area. The background was quite scenic, and we sure didn’t want to miss out on capturing this moment.
It was 7:30 AM by the time we started on our journey. A bit late than what we’d planned for, but at least we knew what we’re up against this time around.
From Vattavada to Munnar we travelled the same way back which we’d traversed through the previous night.
While riding through this area we just realised what we’d missed out on.
The road going through Pampadum Shola National Park to Top Station was stunning. With tall trees surrounding us on both sides and not a single soul in sight, it was amazing to ride through this forest area.
Unfortunately, we didn’t come across any bison in the day time either.
Once we got out of Pampadum Shola forest area, the skies started to drizzle a bit. We continued on regardless.
The route from Top Station onward was full on greenery. Tea plantations surrounded us on all sides, and with the rain picking up its pace, our morning ride was turning out to be much better than we’d hoped for.
The sloping hills were a pleasure to ride on. Even though we’d come through this same route uphill the previous day, this was a different experience altogether.
We stopped at a place nearby Mattupatty Dam for our breakfast. I didn’t like the Idlis served here and passed them on to Bala after having just one. The Vada was good though. The tea was great as usual, and why not? Tea is literally being grown around this place.
The rain had almost stopped by the time we finished our breakfast, but it picked up pace once we started moving towards Munnar.
We reached Munnar at around 8:45 AM and fueled up at a BP petrol bunk (or was it HP?). The rain had stopped yet again, but it was still cloudy. Once we had our tanks full, we were on our way to Valparai.
Munnar-Adimali route was a great ride. There were a few buses plying through this area which made overtaking them frustrating, especially in the narrow ghat sections. The roads were smooth and pleasant though.
Once we’d left Munnar, the rain picked up its pace too. We didn’t stop though and kept surging ahead. I believe we rode for around half an hour or so in heavy rain without stopping anywhere. Thanks to the rain, we didn’t take any pictures here. There were a lot of waterfalls along the way; most of them very small.
We reached Adimali soon enough. The temperature had changed dramatically. It was also a lot more humid now, but the rain was still on. Adimali-Kothamangalam route was a breeze even with heavy rains on. There was virtually no traffic here, and the roads were in excellent condition.
We moved towards Perumbavoor after bypassing Kothamangalam. It is a busy town with quite a bit of traffic. The rain had stopped now and the climate was very hot and humid. We were just a few dozen or so kilometers from the Arabian Sea. I was wearing a rain liner inside my jacket and could really feel the warmth creeping in.
We stopped at a small roadside bakery just before Kalady for tea and snacks.
There were various routes we could take to reach the forest check post at Vettilappara, and this short break was a good idea to decide on which one we’d end up going through eventually.
We had tea and egg puff at this place. Pramod had veg puff and some sweet snack (I don’t remember what it was). This small break also made sure that our sore asses finally got a bit of rest. It was around noon now.
After crossing Chenkatti Bridge we took a deviation towards right at Karakutty. The roads here were small but easy enough to travel. There weren’t any vehicles plying through this area.
The rubber plantations nearby Mookannur caught our attention and we halted for a while to check them out. Apart from the fact that this route was quite scenic, it was also interesting to see how rubber sap was harvested.
We took the Mookannur-Ezhattumugham Road to go towards Chalakudy River. There were a lot of plantations here throughout the route. We even lost our way through here at one point of time. Thankfully, Martin sorted it out after a quick conversation with the locals there.
When in doubt, always ask the locals for directions. They are usually very helpful and will be glad to help a tourist.
We found our way soon and followed the road alongside Chalakudy River to reach a small forest checkpost (Adirappily Estate). We had to make an entry at this checkpost. There were only mud roads after here for a few kilometers.
We passed by Silver Storm Water Theme Park after crossing Vettilappara Bridge. I’m not sure how it’s inside, but didn’t see much crowd here either.
We passed by Athirappilly Waterfalls after riding for a few kilometers. We didn’t go towards the falls though because of time constraints (our late morning start plus rains were the main reasons). Still, it was good to see the falls from a distance.
Pramod was tasked with picking up a few water bottles here. We got rid of all the empty bottles we had and filled our bags with enough water to last through today’s ride.
Vazhachal Waterfalls was just around 7km from Athirappilly Wateralls. We didn’t linger around here either.
As we approached the Kerala Forest Department checkpost at Vazhachal Division, the crowd started to get dense. Just realized how big a tourist attraction this place is after passing through here. There were cars and motorbikes parked all over the place.
Finally, the Athirappilly-Valparai forest ride that we’d planned this ride for was just within our reach.
We had to enter all our vehicle details (and more) at this checkpost and get a verification slip. This slip was to be handled carefully and handed over to the checkpost at the other exit (i.e. Malakkappara).
We’re told that failure to show the slip at the other end would attract a hefty fine. The officials also warned us that the vehicular details on the slip should be kept recognizable (or be fined Rs. 1000/-).
This was a challenging task considering the fact that it was raining now and then; Bala kept it inside his jacket’s waterproof pocket.
The roads after the checkpost were still crowded with people and vehicles. I was worried that this might be the situation throughout the route, but my fears were unjustified.
After a few minutes of riding, the crowds vanished completely. It was just us and the forest, and the occasional fellow travelers.
It was a brilliant ride with beautiful roads.
According to Martin, aka The Forest Rider, of all the 59 forest routes he’s ridden through, he’d rate this one as the best. We’ll, even though I’m not as experienced a rider as him, I agree with him; this was the best forest stretch that I’ve ridden through as of yet.
Martin warned us to be careful of the lone bus plying through this area. Apparently, there are only two running through this route (Valparai-Chalakudy) per day; one runs in the morning and the other in noon.
Not surprisingly, we did come across the bus near Vazhachal.
As we were riding, we spotted a bunch of people gathered on the side of the road. Apparently, they’d spotted a wild elephant and were curious to have a look at it. We stopped here for a minute or two. Martin and I walked a few meters back to check it out.
While we did see an elephant far away, we decided it’s not worth risking ourselves out here. We were back on our saddles in a jiffy.
And that’s when it started to rain again. At first it was just a drizzle, but then it started pouring with increased intensity. We rode a few minutes through this, and it was kind of entertaining at first, but soon we realized that it’s not a good idea to continue with our visions blurred.
We decided to halt at an old abandoned shed by the side of the road. Arun wasn’t interested in getting down from his bike though; he’d decided to get drenched in the rain. While he was roaming around in his bike, we safeguarded all our valuables from rain by placing them in zipper storage bags.
We met a strange guy at the shed. He was probably a tribal, or someone living in a nearby village. We didn’t have any language in common to talk much about, but he seemed to be pretty high (or just excited to see us I guess) and continued with his story anyway.
He told us that an elephant had come by this shed just yesterday and damaged the footsteps, pointing towards it. There was also elephant shit lying around, so we didn’t bother questioning him. We didn’t stay here for long and left as soon as the rain slowed down a little.
There was elephant dung all over the road for the next 5 km or so. We had to be careful. Martin had instructed us not to honk or stop anywhere; we followed his orders diligently.
In our excitement we’d forgotten to have lunch. Time passes by very quickly without much realization when you’re riding through a forest route such as this. Naturally, our stomachs were grumbling. We stopped near Sholayar Power House to look at the surroundings nearby; it was fantastic. Arun had packed some biscuit packets in his luggage; he said they were for emergency. Well, this was an emergency of sorts too. We finished them all in an instant.
We stopped at an eatery inside the forest (which I guess was the only one inside). I think this was in Malakkappara. We didn’t feel like having food, so we settled for just coffee and cake. Arun had a plate of parota I think. We were so hungry that we hogged 4-5 pieces of cake (cue to ze Germans). A few bananas later our partial lunch was complete.
The rain had stopped completely by now. We continued on our ride and didn’t stop till we hit the checkpost on the other side (i.e. the Malakkappara Checkpost). It was a short ride from where we’d stopped for food earlier, but we did take a lot of time to cover the distance, thanks to bad roads with lots of turns.
We submitted the verification slip (which Bala had carefully tucked away in his jacket) to the forest guard at the checkpost. He asked Martin whether we spotted any elephants on our way here. Apparently, the people who went through the checkpost before us did see a lot of elephants. We might have just missed sighting them by only a few kilometers. Anyway, they let us through the checkpost. It was almost dark now.
We stopped at Upper Sholayar Dam for a few minutes. The lights at the dam were already switched on. The sun had almost set by now.
We passed through Uralikal Estate on our way towards Valparai. This tea estate is apparently owned by Tata Tea. According to Martin, most of the leopard attacks in this region happen in this specific area, especially when it is dark. Though the chances of it happening are very rare, we hurried on our way towards Valparai.
Pramod told us later that he might’ve sighted a leopard here. He was not sure of it, and the rest of us were not sure of him.
The sun had set by the time we reached the outskirts of Valparai. We reached Treat Hotel, our stay for tonight, at ~7 PM. We parked our bikes opposite to the hotel and dumped the entire luggage in our room. It was small room with two beds and an even smaller bathroom. Thankfully, there was hot water available here.
We removed our wet riding gear and clothes and changed into something dry. We let them dry under the fan while we headed out for dinner (which was also our lunch).
There are very few places to eat in Valparai. We had our dinner at a place called Lakshmi Mess, which is in fact not a mess at all; it was a full-fledged restaurant. I ate almost everything on the menu here. The non-veg dishes were not that great. Pramod was surprised when the Kothu Parota he ordered arrived with egg in it; apparently, that’s how they’re made here. Anyway, that meant more food for the rest of us.
Our bikes were still parked opposite to the hotel, out in the open. I was worried about their safety. The hotel owner assured us that nothing would happen to them while we were asleep. I was still a little apprehensive though. Anyway, we left our motorbikes there hoping that we would see them again come morning.
We retired soon to our room. Some of us had a bath. All of us slept thereafter.
Today’s ride was one of the best I’ve ever had. Athirappilly to Valparai route is the highlight of our entire journey and I’m glad we did it without much trouble.