A Royal Enfield road trip on was always there in my checklist, but never really managed to go for one. Finally after a long wait on one fine morning, me and my friend, hit the road. Our plan was to head to Marayoor via Munnar and stay at Marayoor on the first day and then head to valpari via chinnar, amaravathy, dalli, and aliyar. We started the trip by midday, the weather was very much favorable and the trip was pretty enjoyable in its starting phase. We stopped by Neriamangalam bridge, a narrow bridge built 80 years ago by the British. The bridge is a gateway entry to the high ranges of Idukki. By 1 pm we reached Adimaly, the valley of Munnar. We stopped for a lunch break , took cash from the ATM, and reloaded the tank. The motorcycle was very finely tuned for a long trip. We had two cameras, a Canon EOS D350 and an Olympus D33235. On the way we stopped at Cheyappara waterfalls. It is the first tourist halting point when travelling to Munnar. We could see a lot of tourists and shops for the tourists selling eatables. When heading to Munnar the second waterfalls might grab your attention more than the first waterfalls at Cheyappara. The first waterfall would be on the left side and the second one would be on the right. The road to Munnar is pretty good. But God save you when it’s a ride after the monsoons,it’s almost like riding on a horseback !
We reached Munnar town center by 3 pm. We could see a lot of tourists and tourist vehicles moving here and there. We met a Taxi driver Vishnunath who helped us by giving directions on how to reach Marayoor. It was just 40 Kilometers from Munnar and he said it will take just 1 hour to reach there. After a glass of strong hot tea, we started for Marayoor. We knew that Marayoor was famous for Sandalwood and hoped to see a lot of them on the way.We took our own time and slowly moved on. We stopped at many scenic spots and took some good photographs. Time passed on so quickly that it was evening and the air started becoming crisp and cold. The clouds started getting more darker and gave us a strong hint that its gonna rain anytime. The road went zig-zag with tea plantation on both the sides and it was predominantly a downhill ride. The roads were not that impressive and went very narrow at times. It got darker and we moved ahead with the headlights on. All of a sudden, it started drizzling and since we could not find any place to halt we decided to go ahead. We saw no men, no vehicles, it was just a tarred road with lush green on either sides. It started raining heavily and by that time it was almost 7:30 pm. Later on the rain ceased and we could spot some sparsely located houses on the way. Thank God we found a township at last and a local man told that Marayoor was just 5 Kms and we resumed the ride. We saw huge fences on the left side of the road and I assume those were Sandalwood trees in there. Finally we reached the destination for the day. We got to meet a fruit seller and asked him where we could find a decent inexpensive stay and he directed us to Marayoor Holidays (Aruna Lodge). The rooms out there came with an attached bathroom and it was all maintained pretty well. They charged us Rs 350/- for a night (definitely a good deal ). For dinner we went to the local “Thattukada”, had some dosas and an omelette.
Next day (day 2)
Mr. Sreejith, the owner of Marayoor holidays suggested that we visit the dolmens of Marayoor. We reached the town and met a local named Sreenivasan, a tamilian who promised to take us to the dolmens and assured us some beautiful views further uphill from the dolmens. We hired Ayyappan’s Auto rickshaw and moved towards the dolmens (Muniyara, in local language). We didn’t feel that excited when we saw the dolmens from far. Srinivasan kept on speaking and took us to the top of the hill where the dolmens resided.
Dolemens of Marayoor. We got to know how important a role the dolmens served as a protective shelter to the early man. There we also found a lot of hills surrounding the place with waterfalls and small streams and rivers. We came back and visited a local jaggery factory run by nuns. They have their own machinery and sugar cane farms. The canes cut the previous day were used for jaggary making. We got a detailed understanding
of how it all works. The canes are squeezed in a machine and the juice is collected and later on heated in a big vessel. The substance you get after the heating is rolled and made into jaggary balls. After that we headed to chinnar, the road is through the forest and it’s a curvy road with steep cuts at the sides. One could see a lot of streams and water falls. There are hiking and trekking facilities at Chinnar organized by the forest department of Kerala. There is also an interpretation center at Chinnar, where you can hear the original sounds of animals and get a lot of information about animals and their life cycles. It is run by the department of forest and the entry fee is Rs 10. One named Shivadas from Coimbatore has sponsored a lot of information and equipments for the Interpretation center. We headed on and crossed the Kerala border, now we were in Tamil Nadu. The environment, weather and geography changed in a short period of time. The road became better and more smooth. You can see a lot of farmlands, many domestic animals loitering around here. It was lunch time, we went to a small mess (canteen) at the border. The tamilian style Sambar and Rasam were really delicious with the thin long white rice. From there we went to Amaravathy where there is a Sainic (Indian military-run) school, a dam and a crocodile farm – surprisingly the cost to enter the crocodile farm was just 50 paisa! Once inside, we saw crocodiles of all sizes. I used to always think that crocs were very active reptiles, but this trip changed my perception. We even thought that these were animals made out of concrete. But then we learnt that crocodiles are like that. Not even a slight movement and ya maybe it’s their afternoon nap time.
Next stop was the Amaravathy Dam.The view from the Amaravathy Dam was good. The reservoir of the dam is a beautiful spot with lot of hills in the background. We continued our journey towards Valpari via Dalli. The road was good and we could see farmlands on both sides of the road. We reached Aliyar Dam which is at the downhill of Valparai. It was tea break and we had some tea at a local shop. We didn’t enter the dam as we had to reach Valpari before sunset. From Aliyar dam we had to drive uphill to reach Valparai. Valparai is a hill station, there are around 45 hairpin curves on the way to Valparai. While driving uphill you can see the beautiful reservoir of the Aliyar dam. It was getting late and the sun set very early I suppose and it got dark very fast. By the time we reached the tea plantations of Valparai it was very dark. It was getting cooler and foggier and we could hardly see the road. We followed a bus to get the road right. At last we reached Valparai, the plantation hill station of Tamil Nadu. We got information about a good accommodation from an Auto Rickshaw driver and we checked in at a hotel called Ravi’s inn. Valparai was cold and it was drizzling all the time. It was a very interesting and a tiring journey and later after dinner we dozed off to sleep.
The last day (3rd Day)
we woke up late and started the journey by 10 in the morning heading to Chalakudi via Sholayar Dam. Lot of tea plantations, lakes, rivers and scenic sports. It was sunny and cool. We had our breakfast from a small restaurant in a town. We checked the tires and we had very less fuel. When asked, someone told that for the next 90 kilometers there is no fuel station. But we had the option to buy 2 liters of petrol from a local town (sold in black :-). We bought 2 liters, there we met two people from Thodupuzha who were going to Valparai. They said they read about Valparai in some auto magazine and was on a one day trip. We adviced
them that they will not be able to make it back to Thodupuzha, if they had no intention to stay a night. They continued to Valparai and we headed to Chalakudi. We crossed the Kerala border and got a pass from the forest officials to go to Chalakudi through the forest. There is only one road to Chalakudi and that is through the forest. We got ourselves prepared and moved on. It was thick forest everywhere and the roads were horrible. Suddenly it started raining, no option other than to continue the journey. We could not take pictures on the way through the forest since it was raining. But it’s an awesome experience to ride a bullet through the forest when its raining and the conditions are harsh. We crossed the forest in a single stretch. The hills were foggy and odor of the forest was looming around. We reached Vazhachal waterfalls, took a ticket of Rs 15 and went in, since it was almost like monsoon, there was plenty of water and the waterfall was pounding on the base with enormous power and velocity. We spent some time there and headed to Athirapally waterfalls. If Vazhachal was a slanting waterfall, Athirapally is steeper and louder, it’s a right angle waterfall, that too from a higher point. There are a lot of guards around; I’ve heard that Athirapally waterfalls have taken the life of many. There is an option to go to the bottom of the waterfall. There are steps to take you there. The best view of the waterfall was from the base. We took some awesome photos and came back to the parking area. Now the trip was almost over as Chalakudi was just 15 Kilometers away and Aluva is almost say 30 Kilometers. We came to Chalakudi, refueled and headed back to Aluva on national highway 47. Back home it was exciting to see the photos and to look back on those 3 days. It was altogether a very informative and thrilling experience.
Written by Benjamin John