A visit to the mesmerising falls of Athirapalli and Vazhachal, Kerala.
By Sudha Chandrasekaran
A refreshing trip of three days to Cochin where you find the modern world in a traditional format, it is time to leave for Coimbatore, our home town. We plan on visiting the Athirapally and Vazhachal waterfalls, on our way home, as they are situated en route to Coimbatore.
The spectacular Athirapally falls, a symbol of raw beauty and power, is 70 kilometres from Cochin and within the Sholayar ranges. It merges with the Chalakudy River and is located in the thick, lush green rainforest of the Western Ghats. As you embark on the journey to Athirapally Falls, you realise that the road to the falls is breathtaking. Snaky roads filled with an amazing range of flora and fauna; trees – rubber, palm and coconut, and small streams running amidst them – are what make almost all roads in Kerala very scenic and the drive through the state even more interesting.
The way to the falls was turning hilly and the scenery was getting better too. The
drive through the forest itself is a refreshing one and the area is an eco-friendly zone, where there is a complete ban on plastics. The journey from Chalakudy to Athirappilly Falls passes through a landscape of winding roads, small villages and lush green trees. I see and hear the roar of the gushing waters full of life and vibrance from a distance. Yeah, we are entering the Athirapally Falls. You need to pay a nominal fee at this initial check point for entries to both the falls as they are close to each other.
Approximately 80 feet high and being a part of the Chalakudy River, the entrance to the fall is steep and it is a two-kilometre trek to the falls. As you walk higher and higher, the forest area is quiet and you can hear different types of birds singing happily.
There are many treks around the hilly area to explore the falls. Nicknamed the Niagara of India, the bewitching beauty of nature, the Athirapally waterfalls is an example of segmented waterfalls. The water surges around big rocks and cascades into three separate plumes. The path leading to the waterfall is protected with a big gate that gives you the feeling of entering a park. A paved path, passing through thick bamboo clusters leads to the top of the fall.
We see a steep narrow path leading to the bottom of the fall where the air is loaded with moisture and the force with which the falls come down is stunning. It is just an amazing feeling. Also popularly known as “Punnagai Mannan falls’’ (a famous Kamala Hassan starrer Tamil movie by this name has been shot here), and it continues to be the backdrop of many Indian movies. The beauty of the falls is just unexplainable….
Water falls from a height of 80 feet splashing over the rocks below and creating a mist. Wow! I get that cool feeling of the water droplets splashing from all over the falls on my face! The view is just awesome and there is a positive energy all around. The river is full of rocks and there is a small area where you can take a dip. Below the falls, the river remains turbulent for about a kilometre until it reaches Kannamkuzhi. Further on, it calms down and flows smoothly until it reaches the dam at Thumburmuzhi. We see forest guards pabolling around keeping watch over the falls and its surroundings and advising the tourists about the safety measures to be taken here. A visit to the Athirapally Falls is a must-see experience for Kerala visitors as it is a favourite destination for all those who love the magnificence of nature and beauty.
Now, it is time to move on to Vazhachal waterfalls, located at the entrance to the forest area, at a distance of eight kilometres from Athirappally-. The entrance here is also made of bamboos similar to that of the Athirapally Falls. On entering we find a herbal garden which is quite interesting.
The magnificent sight of the cascading fall welcomes us and we see water descending the steps beautifully. Although this spot is called ‘Vazhachal waterfalls’, it is not a waterfall in the true sense. The river here flows powerfully down a slope which has several rocks, thus creating a waterfall-like impact and emitting foam all over, which is a real treat to the eyes. The viewpoint is within a park where we spend some quality time with nature. The flora and fauna of this region is quite amazing and we are lucky enough to spot a hornbill too here.
Not a waterfall
Thumburmuzhi is the garden where the water from the river is re-directed to deep tanks creating a semblance of a waterfall. The deep tanks are in the form of a semicircle and the view of water flowing down smoothly from the semicircle is a visual treat. The cool, misty waters cascading down the rocky terrain makes you stand transfixed for a moment. You go down through a rocky path to reach the foot of the falls where you are fully surrounded by refreshing and eye-soothing greenery.
Returning from our rejuvenating three-day trip to Cochin and the mesmerising waterfalls we feel totally relaxed and recharged to attend to the mundane daily tasks of life, back in Coimbatore. Even the drive proved to be a great stress-buster.