My back was beginning to ache.
I had expected the 70 KM ride from Mahe to Vayalada to be relatively easy, given that I am used to much longer rides. And it was indeed easy, up until Balussery in Kozhikode district. But nobody warned me about the uphill and rocky climb to reach Vayalada. From Balussery, the road gradually kept winding upwards. A few kilometres before the Vayalada point, the paved roads gave way to potholed roads. As I got even closer to Vayalada, the potholed roads gave away to rocky strips. With rocks not for the faint hearted.
There was a point where I did see some cars parked at a makeshift parking lot by a turn on the steep road. I should have taken the cue and parked my motorbike there and walked the remaining 1.5 km. But I didn’t. The stupid me chose to keep riding on a narrow piece of strip that was surrounded on both sides by shrubs and a moderately dense forest, going through bumps from a million small rocks.
Soon, my bike came to a halt at a small gate, accompanied by a little sign-board, that I actually missed the first time. ‘Vayalada Islands View Mullanpara’, it said, leading to a narrow cleared path along the forest. At this point, I finally dismounted from the bike and started walking along the clearing. It was rainy season, so I had to ensure that I don’t stop anywhere long, as the chances of getting a wayward leech to climb up your pants, was quite high.
To read: The other time when I had to deal with leeches, at Top slip in Pollachi.
The path went on for a while, presenting some rocky steps that I had to navigate tactfully. Note that these steps are quite slippery during the rainy season, so it would be useful if you have the right shoes. I didnt. So, I walked very carefully.
After 5 to 10 minutes of walking, the forest finally cleared. And I was suddenly exposed to the beautiful blue shades of a clear sky. Vayalada is a small hill-top – about 500 metres height from sea level – with a beautiful view of the Kakkayam dam and some of the islands ahead. I figured out that there were 2 paths to reach the viewpoint: one for motorbikes and another for people walking. The amazingly lucky guy that I am, I had picked the one for the walkers!
Ignore my sarcasm, as there was nothing to complain. The view was splendid – a verdant canopy covered the horizon as far as my eye could see. One could see both the Kakkayam dam, and the Peruvannamuzhi dam from this rocky abode. And the landscape was dotted with small islands that were part of the Peruvannamuzhi dam.
From Vayalada, I continued my ride. Towards Kakkayam dam, which I had just seen from the viewpoint a few minutes ago.
The first few kilometres were painful, as the downhill roads were in quite bad shape. But after Thalayad, the roads became much more decent. It was still narrow, and there still were some potholes – but nothing apocalyptic. I had to follow just one road all the way from Thalayad to Kakkayam, but the road wound through some of the most twisting, turning routes you can imagine. Mind you, this route is not for a newbie ride/drive. At some points, you will be riding along the kakkayam hills, and there are no barriers on the side.
The risk is compounded when you are riding during monsoons. There are plenty of small waterfalls along the way where you could stop and take a quick picture. But please be generous to other drivers, and park your car/bike in a spot that doesn’t take too much of the already narrow road. Much better if you just rode along, enjoying the view of the wild peas along the way.
After a while of the scenic ride, I reached a spot where the signboard proclaimed that tourists needed to buy a ticket. I think the ticket was 30 bucks, but I could be wrong. Yeah, I am a travel blogger who doesn’t remember all the details!
After purchasing the tickets, I rode a few minutes further to the checkpost. The checkpost being a place with a small café and a 4D movie house (which was not working when I visited). I had to pay another 40 bucks here, which I am guessing was the parking fee. After parking my bike, I walked through the neatly paved pathway, which would lead me all the way to the Urakkuzhi waterfalls.
But first, I had to stop to admire the catchment area. I had seen this scene before. In countless movie scenes and songs. But had always thought that it was somewhere in Ooty or Munnar. Never did I imagine that it was just 60 kms from my own home! The monsoon season was slowly ending, and one could see the water had receded quite a bit. I could see a depth gauge, and was told that the depth gauge was completely covered during the monsoon season; barely a few of the steps leading to the catchment area were visible. But even with the low water in the catchment, the boating activity still went on.
I passed by the dam itself. Before I had left home in the morning, my father had warned me that it was prohibited to take pictures of the dam. So, I hadn’t planned on doing that. However, at the dam, there was absolutely no board anywhere signifying that picture-taking was prohibited. And there was an army of teenage kids taking away pictures, selfies, wefies, groupfies – whatever you can think of. So, I didn’t hesitate. I took one too. I mean, why on earth would you prohibit picture-taking at such a beautiful place, yet allow plastic to be brought into the forest by visitors and have them thrown around everywhere? Priorities, people.
To read: To visit another famous dam in India, click here for when I passed through the Tungabhadra Dam.
The monkeys came out to see me along the way. I was told that there were plenty of king cobras and elephants in this region, so I was happy to deal with these pesky primates with a reddish face. And these guys were quite civilised: must be the interaction with humans before.
Note: It is not cool to feed the monkeys! Especially if your idea of food is a bag of lay’s potato chips!
I heard the Urakkuzhi waterfalls even before I saw it.
And to be frank, I don’t think I saw it properly at all. What I ended up seeing was the opening of the waterfall, surrounded by mighty huge rocks. There was a hanging bridge too, but the bridge was closed for entry. The notice said something like ‘not yet marked safe for usage’. Ok, that was good enough reason not to use it.
To the right of the hanging bridge, there was a huge rock, perched quite higher than the other rocks, which you could climb for a better view. There were a couple of security guards along the way, and the only thing that separated you from a fall of countless meters, was these guys. I wanted to climb up the rock to get a better picture, but I saw an army of families – with toddlers included – already stationed on the rock. And more were climbing up. It was one of the most dangerous scenes that I have seen. The security guys were trying to keep everybody to the safe part of the rock, but every once in a while, one of the guys would lean forward to take a clearer picture of the opening of this massive waterfall. And he did that on a monsoon rock where the moss was running amok, and slipping was quite easy.
I am not scared of heights, but I was positive that if I climbed up that rock – along with that army – I would be. So, I stayed put where I stood.
On the way back, we stopped at the little café at the checkpost. It was pretty small, but had enough for a decent Kerala lunch. The Mallu that I am, I had to try some Porotta with beef curry. That is a taste which is unique to Kerala, and can never be explained through words. However beautifully I may try to write them.
There was one last place to stop by on the way back.
Kariyathan Para (‘Para’ is rock in Malayalam) is actually a small village that borders the catchment area of the Peruvannamuzhi dam. It’s ironic when a place is named after a rock, but people come here to see the water at the catchment instead. But dear god! Were those waters beautiful?!
In the last few years, Kariyathan Para has become quite popular among the locals. So, you would see a road with vehicles parked along the way, and entire families picnicking along the road. I rode right past them. I wasn’t planning to enjoy this scenic spot in the company of a large crowd that resembled Thrissur Pooram. I knew there were several entrances to the catchment area in Kariyathan Para, so ended up going through some small alleys. I don’t want to share the details here, lest this area of the place also become crowded. But eventually, I found a path that led me to a clearing, with one of the most beautiful views that I have come across.
Take a look for yourself.
. As much as it looks like New Zealand or Bali, it isn't. . . This is Kariyathumpara, a scenic spot near Kakkayam dam in Kerala. It’s so off the tourist trail that this section which I visited had no other tourists in the vicinity. Total win. . . . . . . . . . #kariyathumpara #kakkayam #kozhikode #kerala #lake
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