Tea estates, coffee estates, umpteen curves, dams, reservoirs, rivers, streams, tropical rainforests, waterfalls, wildlife and oodles of greenery will ensure your eyes and mind always stay fresh when you ride from Valparai in Tamil Nadu to Athirapally Falls in Kerala. Having ridden all the roads of tropical India and the Western Ghats in particular, I can easily say that this route through the Vazhachal forest is one of the best tropical motorcycle routes in India and that too especially in the rains.
In terms of distance, the destinations are only 85 kms apart. But, the meandering roads in the middle of dense greenery make you want to stay here forever. The journey in my mind is a natural wonder in itself. The scenic spots like the Sholayar dam, the Poringalputhu reservoir, the Vazhachal falls and the ‘Niagara of Kerala – the Athirapally Falls’ are the icing on the cake.
The route is simply unbelievable, but it does come with some restrictions owing to forest department regulations. This Vazhachal forest route is a part of the elephant migration corridor where the pachyderms move from the Anaimalai and Parambikulam Tiger Reserve to the Chimmony Wildlife sanctuary and the Idukki district of Kerala. In fact, this belt has one of the highest elephant and tiger populations in the country. Hence, this route is open only from sunrise to sunset and that too one has to enter vehicle and personal details at each forest check post. This is only for keeping track of visitors and to launch a search and rescue mission if required.
The entire route is a ‘plastic free’ zone. The forest department takes a count of all the plastic belongings that you carry inside and that count will be matched at the other end of the forest. But over and above these forest department best practices, I think we ourselves should be good Samaritans to ensure that the forest remains pure and pristine forever. To ensure that you have a hassle free journey, ensure you carry enough fuel on you. The nearest fuel stations are either Valparai or Chalakudy in Kerala. A good 105 kms separate both these destinations. Also, a good motorcycle maintenance kit and a first aid kit is recommended to ensure you don’t get stuck in the middle of nowhere for long. Do give this place a visit if you wish to be one with nature even though you are on a motorcycle!