Updated in 2010: I don’t know which is the right time to visit Valparai. I don’t have contact information of any travel agents there. Please do not comment here asking for any information about those.
Warning: This is quite a lengthy post. Read it when you find time. 🙂
I had been to Vaalpaarai and Topslip during the September 20th and 21st weekend with my team. This was a trip that I had been looking forward to for the past couple of months.
We left for Coimbatore from here by Nilagiri Express on Friday night. Reaching the ever-busy Central Station, meeting up with friends, choosing seats on the then empty train, thus began our tour.
No excursion/tour is complete without playing Dumb C or Antakshari in train. So Dumb C it was that we played till midnight. It was so much fun. Being someone who always sticks to guessing the movie names, for the first time, I too enacted the movie names. I will refrain from writing about how good my enacting was. 😛
The train reached Coimbatore at around 4:35 am. Vaalpaarai is 64 km away from Coimbatore. Tempo travelers had been arranged and we started for Vaalpaarai right away. A beautiful sunrise gave us company en route. 🙂 We stopped in between at Pollachi for breakfast. I was glad to see Pure Veg. written near the name of the hotel. 😉 (For all those new readers who are wondering why I was glad to see pure veg. written, check out this post)
Post breakfast, the journey continued and we were greeted by nature’s beauty in the form of Aliyar (Azhiyar) Dam at the foothills of Vaalpaarai. We didn’t visit the dam though.
Beautiful view! When clouds & hills caress? 😉 :
And from that moment on, the route became so scenic and it continued to be so till we reached the top of the hill! I just loved the place.
Our first stop was at Monkey Falls, where we were greeted by a lot of monkeys on both sides of the road. Here’s a shaken photo of the monkeys taken in a hurry: (With so many monkeys around, I was scared to take out my camera 😛 )
But the monkeys were there only on the roads and nowhere near the falls. One has to walk a few minutes from the road to reach the waterfalls. I like these kinds of places where you have no clue about what is in store for you 🙂 Wondering if there will be much water in the fall or not, how forceful the falling water will be, whether the water will be cold, etc., off I went with a firm grip on my bag lest the monkeys snatch it away. 😉
First glimpse of the waterfall:
It felt great going near the waterfall, feeling the cold water fall on my hands ;), walking down the rocks and standing barefoot in the water.
The path leading to the road from Monkey Falls and some temple near the entrance to the Monkey Falls from the road:
As we waited in the tempo traveler, the monkeys started jumping on top of the tempo traveler!
As we started from Monkey Falls, the view from up the hill was becoming more and more beautiful with each passing minute! I started taking photos, without caring the least about how good those might turn out to be. 😛
I just wished I could get down and walk on the road at a leisurely pace taking in the beautiful scenery all around. 😉 I wanted to at least get down and enjoy the scenery for a few moments. My wish soon came true when we stopped at Lomes View, a view point. The view from there was breathtaking!
The amazing view continued for some more time before the scenery around completely switched to endless tea plantations all around. The lush green of the tea plantations looked so beautiful!
There are 40 hairpin bends totally and I loved watching the scenery change with each passing bend. 🙂 Thank God climbing hills generally doesn’t affect me and hence I always get to enjoy nature’s beauty without any worries. 😉
It soon started raining and we stopped at some place for tea.
Foggy rains, beautiful greenery all around and me getting wet in the rain – I can’t tell you how happy the nature-lover in me felt. 😉 The only thing missing was the song ‘Barso Re’. 😛 Sipping a hot cup of tea while getting wet in the rain was bliss. 😉 Even though others were finding the weather to be quite cold, I didn’t feel so at all. I am someone who feels even Madras to be very cold during the months of November-February. But here I was in a hill station, not feeling cold at all. In fact, I was enjoying the pleasant weather. 🙂 I think something is really wrong with me. 😛
By the time we reached the hotel it was around 11:30 am. Hotel Treat was where we stayed. Once we reached the hotel, with stinking bath rooms and everything from the walls to the floor to the bed spreads and pillow covers being so unclean and few small cockroaches in the corner of our room, all we wanted was to leave the hotel right away. 😐 I just couldn’t stand the place. 😐 A hotel like this in a place where nature’s pristine beauty is all around – what a contrast! Those people didn’t even give us hot water saying it’s available only till 9 o’ clock or so in the morning.
There was a mess called Sri Lakshmi Chettinadu mess and that was where we went for lunch. As expected, the place had both vegetarian and non-vegetarian and so I opened my bread packet and had a few slices of bread. From what my friends told me, the food served in that mess tasted quite ok. But the place didn’t look that clean though.
Post lunch, we left for Nallamudi Valley. We had to climb further up the hill to reach the place (or so I remember it was) and there were again tea plantations all through the route.
Tea plantations en route:
It took us a little more than half an hour to reach Nallamudi Valley. With endless tea plantations stretching to the horizon, the place looked so beautiful!
We had to walk through this path amidst tea plantations to reach the Nallamudi Valley view point:
This is my favourite pic, my current wallpaper 🙂 :
Pacchai nirame pacchai nirame 😉 Tea plantations on both side of the path:
The view from the view point:
Mist soon started spreading and within minutes nothing at all was visible from there:
There was a path leading to the other side and after a few minutes of walking through that path, there were some idols of God. I wonder if that was the temple that was referred to in the board in the photo above. Not sure though. The guide said that bisons come there sometime. He also showed us a few tribal houses on the other side of the valley.
Sholayar Dam was where we went to next. The place was very nice. We were not allowed beyond that gate in the photo below.
It had already started raining by then. So the photos haven’t come out well since the light wasn’t that good either. 🙁
We had to travel for some more distance from the dam to reach the bridge from where we could see the other side of the dam where the water was pouring down. It was very dark and it was raining too when we went there.
After visiting Sholayar Dam, it was time for dinner. We went to Hotel Green Hills, supposedly the only other hotel apart from Hotel Treat in Vaalpaarai where one can stay. The moment we stepped out of the comfort of the tempo traveler, we realized how cold it was outside. Oh yeah I too was finding the weather to be cold. 😉 From outside, this hotel did look much better than Hotel Treat. No idea how the rooms there will be though. I again turned to my bread & biscuit packets since this too was not a pure vegetarian restaurant. Bread and biscuits were what I had for breakfast, lunch and dinner the next day too.
I was dreading going back to our rooms and wished we could go somewhere else too after dinner since I couldn’t stand the very thought of having to go back to that room of ours. 😐 But we anyway had to go back to our rooms after dinner. Glass of some of the windows of our room was broken too and I didn’t feel safe enough to have a good sleep at all that unclean place. 😐 With net browsing enabled in my mobile now, I was looking forward to doing some live blogging from there but since there was no signal at all at Vaalpaarai, I couldn’t even turn to that to keep me occupied. Talking about mobile signal, guess BSNL was the only one that had signal there.
The next morning, we started from Vaalpaarai at around 9. The plan was to reach Topslip as early as possible since there was a restriction on the number of vehicles allowed inside Topslip. But we ended up reaching there only by 2 o’ clock, thanks to the frequent breaks in between.
The first place where we thought we had just stopped for a break actually turned out to be a place with a nice view and a canal called Contour Canal.
We finally got the signal in our mobile at this place. But by then, my mobile had very less charge. 🙁
We again stopped for tea at a place called Kottur, from where one has to take the road on the left to go to Topslip or go straight to go to Pollachi. Many Govt. buses to Pollachi passed by that place. The next break was at Anaimalai, where they got food parceled for lunch, since we were told that nothing would be available at Topslip.
By the time we finally started for Topslip, I started wondering if we would get to see anything at all. The entire day seemed to have gone waste in breaks and travelling. Besides, the weather wasn’t that great either on that day. In fact, the weather was bad. It was so hot!
Topslip had just 10 hairpin bends but those bends seemed to be steeper than the ones in Vaalpaarai. Unlike Vaalpaarai where the roads were amidst tea plantations and beautiful scenery all around, Topslip roads were through forest with thick cover of trees everywhere. We saw a spotted deer on the way. 🙂
We finally reached Topslip and saw two elephants on which one can go for ride.
One has to pay 100 bucks for going on an elephant ride. Just as we were about to pay, we were told that it was lunch time for them – no idea if it was lunch time for the elephants or for the mahout. 😉 A little disappointed at not being able to go for elephant ride, we started for Parambikulam Dam.
Travelling through Topslip, you will soon reach the Kerala border. Parambikulam Dam is on the other side of the border, i.e., in Kerala.
We crossed the border and first had our lunch there.
The pit dug to prevent the elephants from crossing over:
The water on the other side of the pit:
When we started for Dam after lunch, the officials there didn’t allow us giving the reason that visitors were allowed only till 3. Total disappointment 🙁 We seemed to have gone all way to Kerala just to have lunch. 😛
We crossed over the border again and then came the best part of the day – trekking through the forest of Topslip for about an hour. 🙂 Before starting the trekking, we saw a pig. We started wondering if a pig was all that we were going to see there. 😉
We started our trekking through this path:
Some small temple that was there in the beginning of the trekking path:
The pathway and the bamboos and trees on both sides of the path:
One of the many pits that were there in the edge of the pathway:
These were supposedly dug by the British to trap the elephants.
Soon the many trees and bamboos on both sides started becoming dense and it started raining heavily too. That was when we left the comfort of this path and started walking through a path with even more dense covers of trees all around, giving us a feel of walking through the real forest. And that’s when the leeches made a grand appearance! There were leeches everywhere, many were bitten by leeches and some were getting scared of it. But surprisingly, I didn’t get scared at all! Maybe I would have, had it bitten me too.
The guide told us that there are all animals except lions in that forest and often kept asking us to maintain silence saying he could hear some animal nearby. We too kept saying sssshhhhhh to everyone who was talking. We walked each step eagerly hoping to see some animal, only to see no animals at all. 😐 Despite that, it was an amazing experience walking through the forest. 🙂 To be very frank, though a part of me wished to see some wild animal, another part of me did get a bit scared at the thought of some wild animal making a sudden appearance right in front of me. 😛
I was enjoying walking through the forest in heavy rain when the path suddenly had some slippery rocks. Despite keeping each step carefully, I slipped and fell not once, but twice! I fell the first time and got up immediately. And again fell right away! 😐 That got me a little scared and I started walking more slowly. The path soon became devoid of slippery rocks and I forgot all my fear. 🙂 And our trekking too came to an end soon.
End of trekking & back to the road:
Our vans came to pick us up from there and we came back to the place from where we started our trekking. We saw a monkey there and also an elephant, with a mahout but, on the way. Some compensation for not having seen any animal while trekking. 😉
There are some guest houses inside the forest. The guide said that there are good chances of seeing animals during the night if one stays there. I guess staying there must be exciting. The forest, the guest house right amidst the forest surrounded by trees reminded me of the place shown in Mr. & Mrs. Iyer, one of my favourite movies. 🙂
Almost everybody who came for trekking except me had been bitten by leeches by then. A couple of leeches were found in the vans as we started our downhill journey too. 😐 I was happy that I was not bitten by leech only to find the mark of a leech bite on my leg next morning after reaching home!
The journey down the hill had all of us talking about the leeches, the trekking experience and of course, about our not seeing any animals while trekking. But the return journey had a surprise for us in the form of two bisons that we saw. 🙂 It was a bit dark by then and at first, we couldn’t even see where amidst the trees the bisons were. Besides, we didn’t even get down from our vans. We finally managed to see those. See if you are able to spot the bison in the photo: 😛 (This was the best that I could manage!)
Since you surely would not be able to spot it, this might be of some help:
The return journey to Pollachi had me admiring a beautiful evening sky during sunset. 🙂
After a very short break at Pollachi, we reached Coimbatore station some 45 minutes before the departure time of our train. Boarding Nilagiri Express, the same train again, getting into our berths soon after dinner, a good night’s sleep after the disturbed sleep at the hotel room the previous night, reaching Chennai on Monday morning, thus ended a great, fun-filled and one of my most memorable weekends in the recent times. 🙂
P.S.: Click on the photos for larger size image. Entire set of photos here.