Driving through the woods

An exhilarating journey in God’s Own Country

Verdant rainforest drenched by recent rains, lush and thick greenery all around, streaks of sunlight through the dense foliage playing hide and seek, well-laid roads (yes, no potholes) washed and clean by the recent showers, misty mountains at a distance keeping you company along the way with occasional drizzles of the remaining monsoon – the scenario immediately reminded me of Robert Frost’s “The woods are lovely, dark and deep” when we drove through Western Ghats to see Athirappally Falls on Chalakudy River, nicknamed as the Niagara of India.

 

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The winding, narrow road gets darker with thick foliage of tall bamboo trees forming a canopy virtually covering up the sky, as you get nearer to the Falls. Long before we rolled down the windows of our car to enjoy the fog and the refreshing breeze loaded with mist and yes, the accompanying birdcalls of all kinds.

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Just about to reach our destination, our driver Fahad stopped the car on the roadside to let us get the first sight of the mighty Athirappally waterfalls from a vantage point. Three huge plumes of roaring water surging down over massive rocks in the middle of pristine forest surrounded by mountains. It was simply awesome! Picture perfect!

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When we reached our destination, the first feeling was an amazement of the mighty force of water as it touches down the rocky bottom. As we got closer to the falls (up until the barricade), we were stunned by the sheer volume of water thundering down, creating clouds of mist -a jaw dropping sight! It was indeed an overwhelming, overpowering experience reminding us, the humans, of the serene beauty and the raw power of nature at once.

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We spent around an hour or so splashing on the placid, cool, pure mountain waters of the river (earmarked by the forest department for visitors) and returned. A number of monkeys along the way greeted us …rather staring at our belongings to check for eatables or drinks! We could see one of them literally pouncing upon a girl and snatching away the ice cream she was holding!

We continued our journey to view Vazachhal Falls …a gentle cascade down a slope of a massive rock-bed. Less visited by tourists (most return from Athirappally), Vazachhal has a well-maintained herbal/medicinal garden along with a stunningly located forest guesthouse (inspection bungalow as they call it) built by the British over decades ago.

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Here we could spot a few Giant Malabar Squirrels, aptly named, hopping around treetops. Not to miss the idyllic surroundings, we enjoyed our picnic lunch on the terrace of the bungalow overlooking the falls and finished it with Kerala black tea from the Forest Department’s small canteen.

Life’s a water

Back from a short exhilarating, rejuvenating but sweaty and sultry trip from God’s own country.

The God’s own country had just taken a break from the monsoon – the trees, roads and buildings seemed to have had a clean wash leaving everything in absolute freshness.

Took a day off from the busy schedule to take a tour of the countryside from Guruvayur.

Stopped on the way at Chettuva backwaters – a lesser-known location than the over promoted Alleppy backwaters popular among foreign tourists. No tourists traps, no crowds… just a few visitors and also very few boats to take you around. The only traditional and elaborate houseboat with all its paraphernalia has already been hired so we had to settle down with a stripped down version.

An hour of tour of the serene and calm backwaters took us through some verdant mangroves, government farms and a few islets.

While the mangroves are home to several seasonal migratory birds, some of the islets are owned by some wealthy NRIs and local business houses, who have either built resorts or lavish homes.

But the backwaters is also home to several fishermen for whom it is their livelihood. Sailing close to a couple of mangroves gave an up-and-close look of the breathing roots and last remaining birds.

Done with the boat tour we completed the first leg with a cup of Kerala chai and plantain chips.