Thursday, July 21, 2022

Pristine Vazhachal Rainforest Highway: A special road trip hot spot

The dense Vazhachal forest between Athirampally Waterfalls and Valparai

It is one of India’s most pristine rainforests. It is a fresh lease of oxygen in Kerala. It is one of the top tropical motorcycle routes in India. I am talking about Vazhachal forest that connects Valparai, the unsung hill station of India with Athirapally Falls, the Niagara falls of Kerala.

This forest highway, a plastic free zone, offers a beautiful mix of cloud rainforests, tropical rainforests, waterfalls, many reservoirs, mountain streams, tea estates, coffee estates, curvy ghat roads and oodles of greenery. It is also an important wildlife corridor as it connects the Anaimalai tiger reserve and Parambikulam tiger reserve with the Sholayar reserve forest, Vazhachal forest and Chimmony wildlife sanctuary. This highway is an integral part of the elephant migration corridor and that is why vehicles are not allowed to ply here between 8 pm and 6 am to prevent any elephant – human conflict. While you might spot wild elephants and wild gaurs on this route from time to time, you will almost always spot lion tailed macaques, bonnet macaques, malabar giant squirrels, nilgiri langurs and tropical birds of paradise if you drive slowly and keep a keen eye out for any movement amidst the dense forest cover.

For most people, the Vazhachal rainforest highway is just a means to connect to Athirapally falls, Vazhachal falls, Poringalkuthu reservoir, Sholayar dam, the vast tea estates and hill station of Valparai and/or the other tourist attractions in and around Valparai. But, for me, this rainforest highway is a destination in itself.

The Vazhachal forest highway between Valparai and Athirampally Waterfalls

For a few years during and prior to covid, this forest highway was open only to four wheelers. However, now, it is open for all vehicles. Four wheelers can ply between 6 am and 8 pm while two wheelers can ply between 6 am and 6 pm. Be prepared for forest checks at either ends of the Vazhachal forest highway. Plastics of any kind is banned inside the forest and loud silencers are also banned.

Monsoons are the best time to visit this rainforest highway, though you need to ensure that your vehicle tyres and brakes are in top condition and that you are fresh and confident enough to negate poor visibility, heavy downpours and slippery roads. Landslides are quite common on this highway during the monsoons and this might cause a few delays.

I highly recommend this route to all motorcycling and road trip enthusiasts. However, do ensure to carry all your trash back with you. This rainforest is a nature and wildlife hot spot and it is our responsibility to ensure that it thrives in the years to come. Do visit on your next trip to Valparai or Athirapally falls and let me know what you think of this absolutely gorgeous and dense jungle.

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