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Fall in love with Falls


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Kerela Falls AthirippillyFor the third time this season fate is taking a hand in deciding the locale for the travelogues for bharatmatrimony. On a visit to Kerala, a trip to Vaikom and Thripunathara took a detour to Thiruvanthapuram and from there unexpectedly a trip back north-east to Guruvayur by road in a brand new Tata Indica. It was just before Thrissur that we saw the board on the highway indicating the turnoff to Athirippilly falls. Since we were ahead of schedule we decided to check out the falls.

I actually planned to write about the beautiful Neyyar dam just an hours drive from the Kerala capital, nestling among the hills, with beautiful botanical parks, a yoga ashram and even a lion safari, with no visitors! The only handful of people that could be spotted here was tourists from Pollachi in Tamil Nadu (the water body was obviously a rare sight and an attraction).

But, the moment I arrived back in Chennai an e-mail was waiting for me with three beautiful pictures of the falls. Looking up Kerala Tourism and even Google search did not yield more than two lines about this scenic beauty; with the rains in Kerala the falls are at their splendid best. I frantically traced back the forward to the original sender to get the permission to use the photographs, while my third search finally threw up the information that the postal department has done a series on waterfalls of Kerala, and Athirippilly was
interestingly one of them.

Situated in Thrissur District near the entrance of the Sholayar Forest Range the falls are an offshoot of the Chalakudy River. Going up from Kochi about 90 kilometers north-east one has to turn right off NH 47 on to State Hihway SH21 between Aluva and Angamaly. While approaching from Coimbatore, Pallakkad side, look out for the turning after Angamaly. Most of the year around this is a sleepy village with only the sound of the birds and the less seen or heard animals that share this retreat. In winter and during the monsoon the water tumbles down through the rocks cascading below in a canopy of white spray that freezes the air and also forms a perfect picture to freeze on the camera. Another 1.56 kilometres way is the smaller less know Charpa falls. Actually the Chalakudy River seems almost to flow in slow motion before taking the surprising free fall to enchant the visitors. In summer it slows to a trickle.

The motels and restaurants in Kerala need some getting used to. The ones at Neyyar Dam and Athirippilly Falls do not inspire much confidence. Some of the highway inns we preferred to use had bearers in black flannels, white full sleeves and even bow ties; the appearances are deceptive – you could get chicken fried rice instead of vegetable fried rice and they will even convince you that it is cauliflower. Arrogance and indifference often hide behind the pompous uniforms. If you want to play it safe eat at a vegetarian joint, or
wait till you reach a bigger town.

Following the Chalakudy River for another five kilmetres one will hit the Peringalkathu Dam and east of this is the Anakkayam Falls and beyond are tea gardens. Following this roué east will bring one to the famous Valparai range and on to Pollachi. At its peak the waterfall can gross over 5000 visitors; the falls are best witnessed with less crowds around, but that depends on luck. Situated nearby (24 kms) is the Dream World Water Park and the Silver storm Water Theme Park.

As you bid adieu to the Athirippilly Falls all 80 feet of splendour you already long to return again. The entire region is a plastic-free zone so avoid taking any with you. An entry fee of Rs.15 and parking charges of Rs. 15 for vans and Rs.10 for cars is in vogue. The
visiting times are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Swimming, drinking and smoking is forbidden – an only in Kerala can you actually get fined so beware. At Vazhachal the timings are 7.00 a.m. to 6.30 p.m.

The eating places include Sangam Restaurant, Green Valley Motels and
Richmond Cascade. There is even a resort – the Rainfall Resort has
some rooms with a view of the falls while the Riverok Villa is less
expensive but offers only a riverside spot a bit away from the falls
and nearer to the road.

Shopping: Honey of wild bees, bamboo mats and wall hangings and hats.
The Vanitha Samithi office here sells herbal soap an herbs.

At Muringoor is located a Divine Retreat Centre that deals with
alcoholism and smoking and handles up to 10,000 people. At less than
Rs.200 a day for food and accommodation the retreat lasts for 5 days.
On Fridays only visitors can visit the famous Mother Mary Grotto for
solace and dine at the Divine Restaurant.

How to get there:
Nearest airport: Kochi International (actually at Nedumebassery) 48 kms.
Taxi charges range from 700-900 autoricks may probably charge only 250.
Nearest Rail station: Chalakudy 32 kms. Or Thrissur 61 kms. Strangely
the journey from the bigger town (where more train stop) is almost as
quick by road (1 hour 15 mins) as from Chalakudy (1 hour).

Road: NH47 Chalakudy turn off. KSRTC has nice buses from Thrissur and
Chalakudy.

Best time to visit July-September, but can be viewed with moderate
falls in winter –October to January. Remember to carry umbrellas
during Kerala Monsoons – especially mid June and July.

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