Monday, March 22, 2010

Vazhachal Forest (Tamil Nadu - Kerala Border)

Vazhachal Forest (Tamil Nadu - Kerala Border)
It was an official trip and I had to catch my flight from Kochi Airport in Kerala. It was a trip of me accompanied by my boss. I was quite a bit relaxed this time unlike my China trip where I went alone and was a bit jittery as I had to clear all immigration thingy myself. I heaved a sigh of relief to be accompanied by my boss.

While deciding the route to reach Kochi, I had 2 options. One was the regular route via Coimbatore and reach the airport in 5 hrs and then THE option two, an unknown forest route and reach the airport in 7 to 7.5 hrs. When have I taken the usual route, to take it up when I have such a great alternative? I said “Forest route, Ofcourse”, with a big grin.

The day came and we were off in his car with his driver. Enroute, near Pollachi were the several windmills. We need them, don’t we.? An alternative and eco-friendly source of energy apart from the regular fossil fuels that might get over any time now. I loved their magnificence completely.

After crossing Pollachi was this fantastic place, or rather should I say, a paradise, which I’ve never seen earlier. I thought Horsley was the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen until my boss showed me this thick, dense forest. Comparing to this place, even the sparsely populated Horsley seemed a bit too populated. This was a thick, dense stretch of forest with hardly any human interference.

Yes it was THE undisturbed forest area was Vazhachal Forest located near Parambikkulam Wildlife sanctuary. The SH21 of Kerala Roadways runs through this forest. Yes, the road is pathetic. But that’s definitely a blessing in disguise. This makes the road unfavorable for many, but very much favored by the nature enthusiasts like me and my boss.

Post Pollachi at a point the road gets into Kerala from TamilNadu. I could rather see a stark difference between the two states. The whole Tamil Nadu part of this hilly region rich with vegetation is converted into a big business. Yup, its filled with several tea estates one after another, including that of Tata. Also seen with Tea is the vegetation of Pepper as well.

It had quite a deal of population who are the workers of the estate. The state government and the estate owners have done their bit to help the workers. There are quite a number of decent schools and hospitals o’er here, so that the local population stays here comfortably.

On our return journey via the same route, I got to see the women plucking the tea leaves in a very typical way which I didn’t get to see during the onward journey. The tea leaves were plucked and packed in huge net sacks and transported on little trucks.

As we reached higher altitudes the view was breathtaking. With the mist covered hill tops and rich vegetation as far as the vision could take me. I wouldn’t say it was exquisite, it was more than that. The climate became cooler and cooler and I became enthralled. I’d definitely say, it’s a romantic getaway.

The onward journey was made more pleasant with an onset on a slight drizzle. The dark clouds and whiff of cool breeze, was just heavenly. The road was exquisite with just(!) 40 hairpin bends to reach the top. Yes at this point, I came to know my boss is an excellent driver as well!!! He asked the driver to sit peacefully at the backseat and took control of the stearing!!!

Enroute I reached the beautiful Aliyar Dam. From there we just crossed Valparai and then Sholayar Dam. On the return journey, I just stopped at the Parambikkulam Dam. The dam was so huuuuuuuuuuuuuuge and was a beautiful and scenic and simply, out of the world. I also came across a Contour Canal built by the British. Near it, in a stream water was gushing like Hogenakkal. With some playful monkeys the scene was utterly enjoyable.

As we entered the Kerala border, the whole feel changed. From then on it was the thick forest. The climate was not as cool as the other side. But the best part was the undisturbed forest. It was not a mere used up or cultivated land but almost a virgin forest.

Kudos to them for leaving this forest as it is. Yes, the forest has its own deal of wild animals as well. That’s why taking up this route is prohibited post afternoon. You see, most of these animals are nocturnal. During one of his earlier trips my boss had witnessed a herd of elephant too!!! I couldn’t help but think, how good it would have been if the Tamil Nadu part of the hills was also left untouched. It would have been a huuuuge several hectares of virgin forest filled with absolute wild animals too!!! Perfect, isn’t it?

We were just crossed by some 3 to 4 vehicles on the entire stretch. So secluded and so peaceful the place was, with some little streams here and there.

And on the other end of the forest, there is the Athirappilly Falls. It was this waterfall which was filmed in the legendary Tamil movie – Punnagai Mannan, of Kamal Hassan. Remember, we were actually going to the airport? So we didn’t have time to get down to the falls. I just had a look of it from the road.

I can give a tip or two. There is no other mode of transport that your own car. Yes, car. No bikes. If at all you come face to face with an elephant, atleast your vehicle should protect you. The route has several thorny, jumpy, bumpy areas, so have a spare tire, or make that two. Then better to take a BSNL mobile sim. None of the other cellulars pick signal here. Once in a while in those little villages that come in between BSNL has tower. Next thing - The hairpin bends + oily food = Upset Stomach. It’s better to travel hungry than travel with an upset stomach!!!

Ha. That was a long post. But, guess am not yet done posting the pics of this marvelous place!!! I’ll take that into my next posting which would just be a picture & video album of this serene paradise on earth.

On reaching the airport my boss said, “No one would have ever taken such a route for airport transit!!!”. I nodded my head in positive, ofcourse. Ok, once I reached the airport where did I catch the flight to.???!!!!! Na. Not now. Wait a while. That’s coming soon….


To Anaimalai - In Tamil Nadu, India

From Pollachi: 15 km

From Salem: 200 km via Bhavani, Thiruppur, Pollachi

From Trichy: 225 km via Karur, Dharapuram, Pollachi

From Madurai: 205 km via Periyakulam, Palani, Pollachi

To Athirapilly - In Kerala, India

From Chalakudy: 30 km

From Kochi: 82 km via Ernakulam, Chalakudy

From Thrissur: 60 km via Chalakudy

Vazhachal Forest Stretch:

From Anaimalai to Athirapilli Falls: 60 km

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