Happy New Year 2017 (belated)! I hope this year fills up your life with colors of joy and peace.
-From a dying blog
Last new year day was also well spent with a trip, this year as well. Next year, let’s see. Moving on…
A bit of retrospect…
10 years ago, my family (minus me) staying in Tirupur decided to visit Kerala. I joined them, my brother dropped out and after a lot of chaos we decided to go to Kerala. My brother took a train and we (‘me’ included) were left with his car. I was strictly banned from driving, we all know how our parents trusted us back in those days, so we had someone driving us.
Kerala, as we all know, celebrates hartal/strike/bandh every other day. Things were worse then than it is now. Palghat (Palakkad) which is the passage from TN to Kerala was celebrating bandh that day. Long story short, my family that evening took Valparai route to enter Trichur (Trissur) and then continue on the NH47 to our place.
If it were today, we would have never been allowed. But then, there was not much emphasis on safety and we were allowed to pass an unpaved forest road with wildlife and more than 60 kms to cross, after 7 pm. We saw porcupine, wild boar and so on in our lonely drive, no vehicles to keep up with and no vehicles to overtake.
Will that place be any different now? This question would always pop up. 10 years down the line, I drive to find out…
A little about Valparai (my humble opinion)
‘Drive is the reason, destination is just an excuse’ sums up Valparai.
I stayed a night at Valparai in a small hotel, the place is nothing more than a small junction where three roads meet. One of them takes you to Sirukundra, the opposite of which takes you to Aliyar dam and subsequently to Pollachi in TN, the third route which intersects them in the centre takes you to Sholayar, a high range forest road and Kerala. Valparai is smaller than the main junction in my village and there is nothing fascinating about spending a night.
Sirukundra road leads to Nirar dam. The road by itself is very gorgeous with twisties, tea plantations and well-paved tarmac as a cherry on the top. The Sirukundra bungalow is a famous romantic getaway, with tents/wood houses and bungalows to choose from. But good luck finding a sign board which points you towards this bungalow. I found it though, hence such a sign board exist.
And you may avoid Nirar dam, unless you want to drive those well-paved roads because the roads after forest check post (towards the dam) is damn. 4 kms (one way) of hell for
Aliyar Dam has 43 tight hairpin bends from Valparai. Due to time constraints, I could not explore this region but I pretty much remember the long snake like roads. Lot about these roads have been shared in other blogs.
The final mention is the sholayar- forest roads-Kerala. Let me expand this further.
Exit Valparai towards sholayar and you will find forest check-posts of both TN and Kerala. This is after 18-20 kms. Once you are done with the formalities, you are treated with 60 kms of forest roads out of which 10-15 kms are good (not great), rest of it is wonderfully paved. The roads are narrow which makes it highly risky as it is two way traffic. (pic attached)
In Kerala, you can either choose to visit Vazhachal waterfalls, Athirapally waterfalls and few others. For me the best part of this trip were those roads, I drove to and fro. Mission accomplished!
Travel tips through the forest road: (Red shows the start of forest roads)
- The allowed passage time is between 6 am- 6 pm. The officials wont allow you passage to either side after 4 pm (Kerala check post). For people who want to enjoy these roads all by yourselves, go early. 7 am in the morning must be a good time (especially on a weekday).
- Carry your car docs, license and make sure you have enough supplies of you are travelling with a toddler. ‘Good’ shops or hotels just doesn’t exist there.
- As you can see from the pictures, the roads are narrow. Imagine confronting an SUV on a blind corner. Drive within your and the vehicles limit. Trust me, this is quite hard. Especially with a lot of bikers and some coming at you. Also there are old KSRTC buses on this route. Hence beware.
- Plastic is strictly banned. Please do not carry plastics and do not litter the area. Also you will not be allowed to carry inflammable materials (fuel in small bottles included) into the forest. This is to prevent forest fire.
- Finally, have fun…take loads of pics, make sure you take plenty of stops and enjoy the nature. Also a few view points enroute, those will make your trip worth.
So the answer to my question: Will that place be any different now?, is simply yes. It has underwent a lot of changes, much to my liking. The Kerala side of changes (aka roads) look better than the TN side. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it’s true for once. For once Kerala proved me wrong. *slow claps*
I hope you all enjoyed the pictures like I did clicking them. Let’s see where the wind takes me next 😉
Again wishing everyone a wonderful year ahead filled with lot of road trips, adventures and fun.