With Athirappilly waterfalls officially reopening on December 11, travel lovers are in for a treat. A meeting point of several rivers along with its luminous waterfalls, it is a veritable refuge for those who want to be one with nature. Though one half of the tourist spots were open to the public from October, Athirappilly remained conspicuously closed. A lot of tourists who drove down all the way had to be turned away. It is after two fatal accidents near Vettilapara (where two boys braved security to dip in the river) that the authorities finally decided to reopen, as the residents felt that was the only solution.
First up, the tourists can view the waterfalls from the viewpoint. That is sure to bring in a lot of tourists, with hotels, roadside stalls and other small-time eateries getting ready for the improving footfall.
The sprucing plans have already begun, with the authorities leaving no stone unturned to keep it disinfected according to the safety rules. There is also the additional matter of clearing the weeds around the area and the pathway smooth for the tourists. Some of the cemented chairs and restrooms urgently need a facelift and that is also underway. Meanwhile the Thumboormuzhy dam and garden, which is enroute to Athirappilly, with its garden full of butterflies and hanging bridge will not open until the safety precautions are given the once-over.
While Athirappilly will be open only after they have thoroughly checked the COVID safety precautions, it might take a while for those who are planning to take a trip to Malakkappara, the beautiful hill station nestled near the Sholayar forest and Idamalayar Reserve forest. The route, passing a rain forest is a beautiful experience. Since it is near an Adivasi settlement, they have currently put a curfew to that direction.
Some of the other rules include, allowing only those between 10 and 60 years and not more than 100 people at a time. Their new website will give out tokens from next week and the area is open from 9 am to 4 pm. The visitors are required to strictly follow the timings allotted in the tokens and not stay for more than 60 minutes at the waterfalls.
1. Please follow the COVID protocols strictly.
2. Open only from 9 am to 4 pm.
3. It is not advisable for those who have heart ailments and other health issues to venture near the waterfalls.
4. Bathing in the river is prohibited.
5. It is punishable to carry alcohol and drugs.
6. Kindly deposit trash in the bins provided.
7. The visitors are advised to follow the instructions of the forest police officials.
Traders are hopeful
Ever since the lockdown, the traders from Chalakudy to Athirappilly had hit a rough patch as their income was solely depended on the tourism in the region. This time they even had to forego the main festive seasons, which usually see a surge in tourists. It was as bad for resort owners and with this reopening they are hopeful of things getting back to normal.
Relief for Adivasis
Adivasis in the Athirappilly and Vazhachal regions were the other casualties of this lockdown, with most of them finding themselves out of work. Some of them had gone back to their home-grown occupation like fishing and assembling forest produce. This move will also offer them an opportunity to sell their traditional artefacts.
Having said that, Athirappilly residents are wary of the pandemic though their region had relatively few cases. That is one reason why the Malakkapara route will remain closed.
Strict measures are being implemented at the entrance of the region along with making sure the forest officials and volunteers (and they won’t be employing anyone beyond 65 years of age) will always be equipped with masks, gloves, and sanitizers. Restrooms will be regularly sanitized, and weekends will have extra parking spaces. If the visitors and keepers adhere strictly to the social distancing rules, there should not be much to worry about.
And while at it, you can also try these corresponding areas near Athirappilly. Vazhachal waterfalls, which is 7 kms away, Charpa waterfalls (someone between Vazhachal and Athirappilly), Illithode (9.8 kilometers from Athirappilly) and Sholayar Dam (54 kms away but still worth a visit).