At the outset, this travelogue is not essentially about the eventual destination: Valparai. Instead, the focus is on how all to reach the hill-station in west-central Tamil Nadu. Here are some tips about and information around the scenic locale along the Western Ghats.
In Coimbatore district. So not far from Kerala. In fact, one can reach there as a continuation of an eastward trip to the waterfalls of Athirapilly and Vazzhachal near Chalakudi of Thrissur district. You cross Malakkappara and get to the other side of the state border. Valparai, with its tea gardens, await you with its special charm.
On the way
There is Thumboormozhi. It has a butterfly garden and equally significantly a dam. Cross it and reach the serene Ezhattumukham village. Its residents serve excellent lunch as well. Overall, a great hour-long stopover.
Next you reach Athirappilly. Its waterfalls have, of late, become the face of Kerala’s tourism. The cascade is now widely seen in movies, thus making it a major film locale as well. One ticket is enough for the visitor to also view Vazhachal, the twin falls.
As you enter the gateway of Athirappilly, don’t leave your vehicle too off the right - it’s a no-parking zone. It’s another matter you get the best view of the falls from there. Do raise the window-glasses of the car once you park the four-wheeler comfortably; there are lot of monkeys around.
Also, avoid carrying eatables while enjoying the nature. The simians, again, can prove to be a menace. (In any case, best avoid packed food to the maximum possible extent.)
When it comes to water, do carry bottles. Authorities will place a sticker on to each one of them. Fine, just return the (empty) bottle on return, you even get token cash. It’s one way the spot has become less vulnerable to land pollution owing to plastic. The idea is working well.
No bikes allowed, to begin with.
As earlier mentioned, the forward journey, too, will have travellers in vehicles being checked for the number of water-bottles they carry. Each one of them would have a sticker. Their number, on crossing over to the other side, should have the total tallying. Else, you will be penalised.
Authorities also allot a definite time for the trip. Two hours is the standard time to cross the 45-km stretch.
Once into the jungle, best avoid getting out of the vehicle. You are in an evergreen forest renowned for its wild animals that can pose a threat to life if you try to move around freely.
Also to be taken care is the speed. Do press the accelerator too hard; it’s protected area. Also, there are sharp turns, and these are marked by neat rows of bamboo. Never slow down your vehicle to stop and eat food. This is to avoid the general habit of visitors chucking leftover and plates/cups in the open, making them an environmental hazard.
If you are in a bus (or any vehicle), the left seats would be ideal for sightseeing. Be it the Peringalkuthu dam or Sholayar catchment area, the spots are bewitching, but never get down. Even while it’s only the vehicle slowing down, watch out for the possible elephants around.
The stretch, just be reaching Malakkappara, gives sight to the famed lion-tailed macaques. At Malakkappara, you get the vehicle officially checked—first by the Kerala authorities and then by those in Tamil Nadu.
Malakkappara is a small town with arrangements for refreshment as well as stay. In pleasant cool amid the lazy mist, you can drive leisurely, but do bear in mind the area has wild buffaloes as well.
One can walk up to the Upper Sholayar dam. From there, evening is the best time to drive down to the plains of Tamil Nadu. It’s fun to take turns and bends while taking in the beautiful sight of the Aliyar dam downhill. You can also watch the Nilgiri tahr, but ensure that the vehicle is parked not in spots that can be accident-prone.
Want to see hornbills as well? There are expert guides at the resorts around.
How much time overall?
From Vazhachal check-post to the Kerala-TN border in Malakkappara is 45 km. The entire stretch is forest; so the vehicle has to be in good condition. (Even a flat tyre can bring in great trouble.) Carry enough food and water, but never throw out plates/cups or bottles. Liquor strictly not permitted.
Yes, there is a bus (private-owned) that starts for Malakkappara from Chalakkudi at the break of dawn. It takes two hours to cross the woods.
For 12 hours from 6 a.m. But avoid journeys after 3 p.m because the thickly-forested stretch goes dark earlier than it’s in the plains. Ideal to move in groups, on sort of a convoy basis.
Only BSNL functions, and that too will go off beyond 15 km from Vazhachal.
Forest office, Vazhachal: 8547601915.