A trip to Valparai had been on my mind for a long time. Set in the cradle of Anaimalai Hills in the Western Ghats, Valparai is a paradise for nature-lovers. My family and I belong to that same lot. Hence, I knew that a road trip from Kochi to Valparai was a must. Within a month after my exams, we decided it was time to make use of the weekend.
Valparai is 162 km from Kochi via Athirapally-Chalakkudy road. But it had some worthy attractions en-route as well. Therefore, this was going to be a long journey with quite a few pit stops. The roads of this enticing trip are narrow and shadowed by thick, luscious forests on both sides. It has a lot of hairpin bends on the way too, which meant self-driving through the entire weekend was going to be exhausting. Dad inferred that we should rent a car in Kochi with an experienced driver so everyone could bond with nature well. They were no better reliable options than Savaari with their chauffeur-driven cars. So I was beyond happy to be relieved of the designated driver’s duty!
We started our journey early in the morning. We didn’t want to miss out on our chance to spot wildlife on the way. The cool breeze from the car window suffused all over as we sat comfortably in our seats. The drive through the picturesque countryside of Kerala left us awestruck. The trail meandered through lush flora of palm, coconut, and areca nut trees as we inched towards our destination a kilometer by kilometer, we encountered a tempting water torso, covered with lush green bushy gardens, it felt like a heavenly hearth on earth. The villages we left behind intertwined with the environment around them, in perfect harmony with nature. Our next stop was Athirapally Waterfalls. As we trekked to the base of the waterfall, ubiquitous monkeys greeted us. Once we reached the fall, the site of milky-white water cascading down had us thrilled. After this exhilarating experience, our Savaari driver suggested we savor fresh fish from the Vazhachal river.
Back on the road, our journey forward was through the forest. The beautiful, thick jungle on either side of the road with birds chirping around was very relaxing. As we drove further, the route became narrower, curvier, and bendy. At one time, our Savaari driver pulled over to one side and pointed a group of majestic elephants passing nearby. Spotting them was a real boost of adrenaline. This tour felt like we reached our destination that we craved for so long. To book a cab from Kochi to Valparai was the best decision we had made. I could not imagine driving on these dense roads and halting at the right time. Our courteous chauffeur had caused our trip to be hassle-free.
As our Savaari drove further the trees on our way carved a beautiful canopy adorning our roads as well as our journey. The scenery seemed straight out of a tropical postcard. The forest gave way to tea/coffee plantations. It laid over vast stretches of land, as far the eye could see. Within a few minutes, we were in the hilly town of Valparai. We reached our tea-estate bungalow, which was surrounded by thick trees. For the night, we decided to rest in a wooden chalet that was overlooked by hazy mountains.
The next morning was a mist-covered divinity. As we took a stroll around the plantation, not interrupting nature, we saw several birds, including the Great Indian Hornbill. Soon, we boarded our Savaari to explore the famed Parambikulam – Anaimalai Tiger Reserve. We took an eco trip van safari to Kozhikamuthi Elephant Camp. On our way, we checked out the Kannaimara Teak Tree, which is a 460-year-old tree worshipped by the tribals. The rainforest was oozing life, but we knew we had struck lucky when we finally spotted a tiger in the depths of the jungle. This exhilarating experience proved why this place is called a hidden wildlife jewel of South India.
This “7th Heaven” had more scenic beauty in the store, though. We visited Aliyar dam next. The calm Aliyar river, against the backdrop of foggy mountains, took our breath away. We relished fresh fish for lunch at a local eatery after having plunged in the natural beauty of Valparai the whole day.
As the evening drew, so did our time to head back home. Soon, we were back on the roads again, and a familiar tune greeted us. Having rented a comfortable car with a competent driver had assured we could enjoy this trail again and will be home safely. As I devoured my eyes with a magnificent Valparai sunset, it reminded me how the end of a journey could be so beautiful.