Unlike places like Ooty or Kodai where the commercialisation is at its peak and ever-flocking crowd, Vaalparai is quite a virgin location. Its a place which is still not in the radar of tourism. The town is situated in the middle of a Wildlife sanctuary. Most of the area is covered by Tea Estates dotted by wonderful bungalows. The best thing about Vaalparai is that we have too many options in and around the prime location. Dense forest, wonderful waterfalls, dams, rivers. To list a few notable places in and around Vaalparai are
a) Aazhiyar Dam
b) Monkey falls
c) Sholayar dam (second deepest dam of Asia)
d) Chinnakallar falls (considered the second highest rainfall area in India. Reachable only by trekking)
f) Grass hills
g) Athirampally falls
h) Pooncholai Valley view
i) Iraichal parai falls
j) Panchalingam Waterfalls
k) Parambikulam dam and Forest
The above are just a few prominent places. Other than these there are quite a few dams, waterfalls and viewpoints around Vaalparai.
When I visited the place an year back, we managed to find a home-stay for an amount of Rs4000 per day (13 of us stayed there). It was located in a remote place, far away from the main town, in the middle of the estate. The location was divinely with no soul in sight, fully surrounded by tea estate and forest. Imagine our reaction when, on our way back to our cottage we found a couple of Leopards crossing our way !!! No exaggeration. The locals had advised us that once it is dark, few leopards and elephants can be found loitering around. We never took it seriously until we witnessed it ourselves. Thankfully we were inside the van.
Our Cottage in the middle of the Tea Estate
We had three unforgettable days of travel filled with some exciting moments of trekking, walk into dense forests, dip in some of the refreshing waterfalls and rivulets. Our travel included visits to Aazhiyar dam, Monkey falls, Sholayar dam, Pooncholai valley view, Athirampally falls and Grass hills. The Azhiyar dam and Monkey falls are located in the foothills of Vaalparai. Our first visit was to the Aazhiyar dam, which has a garden and boating facilities. A boat-ride across the lake, around the island proved to be a good starter for our trip.
Our next halt was in the Monkey falls. True to its name, the place was infested with monkeys. Even after soaking ourselves for more than an hour, we could never feel like coming out of it. The enormous thumping force of the falls proved to be nature's massage on our body.
After the refreshing bath, we finished visiting the rest of the local areas of interest inside Vaalparai.
With that we ended the first day. The next day we set off to Athirampally falls. On the way we had a glimpse of the picturesque Sholayar Dam. The route was through a dense forest which made the drive an exciting one.
Sholayar Dam Lake
Vaalparai to Athirampally
Upon reaching the Athirampally falls we were greeted by the news that the shooting of 'Raavanan' is on. The entire crew had camped up in the base of the falls. We could catch a glimpse of Mani Ratnam, Vikram, Abishek Bachan and Aiswarya Rai. We managed to click only Abishek. Ignoring the film crew, we proceeded to have a dip at the falls.
We ended the day with a campfire......
The icing on the cake was due for the next day, our trek to Grass Hills. Generally tourists are not allowed to venture into Grass hills. Thanks to our driver, we managed to find a couple of forest officers (to whom we had bribed Rs. 2000) who would lead us into the forest area and further onto the hills. Initially we thought Rs2000.00 was too costly a bribe to visit that place. We had to walk through a dense forest wherein the path was infested with leeches. Every minute we had one person or the other suffering blood loss to the leeches that had stuck onto their legs. Everyone had to pull-up their pants, so as to catch the leech before it found its ways further top. However the moment we reached Grass Hills we realized what nature had in store for us. 15 of us started climbing the hills and finally only 6 of us could make it to the half-way top (we couldn't climb the entire stretch since it was getting dark). It was a lifetime experience which could probably be explained only by showcasing a few snaps from what we saw. The view was breathtaking. It was well worth the tiresome climb of a few kms uphill.
Path leading to the Grass Hills
Grass Hills !!!!!!!!
RDB style jump attempt
I know that by now you all would have got fed up with the number of photos that have been uploaded. Just in case, anyone wishes to peek further, the entire album can be seen in http://picasaweb.google.com/VettyMe/VaalparaiWithSchoolmates#
If anyone plans to make it to Vaalparai for a weekend, I have the details of the transportation booking, tea estate cottage accommodation etc.
Sri Kumar J