Monday, March 4, 2013

The Aura of Athirapilly!

Being a South Indian, I’ve grown up to watching Maniratnam’s movies. Those who are wondering who he is can read up about him here.  To cut it short, he is one of India’s finest film makers. Before I digress further or you nod your head in disapproval, let me tell you this – quite a few of his romantic songs have one freaking awesome backdrop – A gorgeous river and a wet, wild waterfall.  And that was where my husband and I were headed to, that weekend.

Maniratnam's magic wand - the milky misty Athirapilly!

Athirapilly. Yay! It was almost like a dream come true. But wait…! What about the tickets? Every Friday, a major chunk of Bangalore’s population migrates to rest of India, with the keralite group forming a big part of it. If you chance upon a confirmed ticket at the last minute, it has to be called Will of Providence (or whatever you deem fit). We weren’t so blessed or lucky but we had OUR will; we found OUR way. First of all, no ticket, so no child. Yes, I had to leave my 5 year old son behind (with his grandparents, of course). Second, our way was neither via Ernakulam nor Thrissur, it was via Calicut and that too, travelling by the most uncomfortable means – last row of a rattling government bus! Strong-willed, ain’t I?

We boarded our bus to Calicut at Mysore road bus station. We were supposed to reach Calicut early the next morning, so that we could catch our connecting train to Chalakkudi. But Mr. Murphy was working overtime plotting against us; hence it so happened that our bus was delayed by over 3 hours. Add to it, the check post delays, the extremely bumpy ghat roads etc., which sealed our fate. We missed our train and arrived in Calicut by noon.

Feeling itchy and sweaty (blame the humid weather in Calicut), we chalked out a plan B. Take a train to Chalakkudi and then a cab to Athirapilly. Sounded perfect, but was impossible. There wasn’t any train to Chalakkudi at that time of the day. Okay, no problem, plan C!  Calicut to Shoranur, Shoranur to Chalakkudi. Phew! This plan didn’t fail us. We reached Chalakkudi by 4 30 PM.

By the time we reached Chalakkudi, we were almost drained out, both physically and mentally. To our surprise and relief, my husband’s friend, who lives in Chalakkudi, had come to receive us. As the entry gate to Athirapilly closed by 5 30 PM, he directly took us to the Athirapilly falls. His two little children had tagged along with him, in anticipation of meeting my son and that I was feeling guiltier than ever needs no mention.

The trek from the main gate to the head of the falls was a short yet sweet one. Soaking in the sights sounds and smells of the forest around us, we treaded towards the falls.  It was the month of November and the falls had a good volume of water. One may choose to go down further, to watch the mighty descent at a closer angle and we did just that. And we definitely weren’t disappointed. The colossal rocks at the point of plunge turn the silvery, docile Chalakkudi river into a frothy, milky maniac, roaring and trumpeting as she plummets, only to be tamed again by the boulders silently resting on the river bed. The glorious panorama, with the sun setting in the background, along with the spray of fresh, herb-scented mist is sure to remain etched in my brain cells forever. I knew it the very moment I beheld it.

The plunge

The rest of story isn’t as dramatic, or I should say, I didn’t attach that much drama to that part. I had traveled all the way to see where the noteworthy director’s celluloid figures had actually danced and that mission had been accomplished. I was satisfied. The next morning, we visited the relatively meek Vazhachal falls, Kodanad elephant sanctuary, Kaladi Adi Shankara temple etc. and then boarded our train to Bangalore from Alwaye(Aluva) station. As the train took me farther and farther away from Athirapilly, I realized that a tiny portion of my soul had permanently been  left behind – lurking around the place.
The portion of map inside the rectangle roughly indicates where we had been to.
Image courstesy: Nivalink and google image search. I DO NOT OWN THIS IMAGE.

Now for the FACTS:
Athirapilly, almost always mispronounced as Athirapally, famed along with its mellower twin, Vazhachal, is easily the most popular tourist destination in northern Kerala, in the dense forests of Western Ghats. It is midway between Ernakulam and Thrissur and can be easily reached from both places by train. Believe me,taking a train is more comfortable than a bumpy bus ride. You may also choose to rent a cab from Thrissur or Ernakulam. As of this date, the cab guys charge anywhere between 10 and 12 rupees per km for a non a/c car. If you are coming to Ernakulam by train and planning to take a cab to Athirapilly, then it is advisable to alight at Angamali station. It is a much shorter drive from here and you will save on the cab fare. 

There are quite a few hotel options in Athirapilly but most of them are luxury ones, the more notable ones being The Rainforest and Ayursoukhyam. We stayed in a rather humble resort known as Kanova Resort(formerly known as Richmond resort), which offered us an a/c room for Rs. 2500/night with complimentary breakfast,  quite cheap by Athirapilly standards. Any place devoid of too much luxury works for me and this one, by the river side with a spacious room and simple, tasty breakfast provided good value for the money spent.

Hope this helps and do let me know if this post inspired you to visit Athirapilly!


  1. I've already decided my first vacation spot in India post my return from the US. The narration of your experiences in such an excruciating detail is definitely something that anyone who plans to visit Athirapilly could benefit a lot from!

  2. Replies
    1. Oh yes it is! Thanks for stopping by, Indrani!

  3. I have sent the link to my son! Our next trip, hopefully, to this place! Enjoyed reading your bumpy experience, Malini!

  4. beautifully written! and a superb picture as well!

    1. Thanks trippinonlife! I just visited your blog and what I saw made my day! The pic of Dudhsagar, a place that I've been yearning to visit for some time now! Bookmarking it!