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Old 25th May 2017, 10:32   #1
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Default Valparai: Driving into nature's pride

The past:

Flashback to 10 years back when my friends and i stumbled upon this place called Valparai with it's greenery and 40 consecutive hair pin bends. That was a time when i was hooked onto watching Initial D!

Reservations were done and booking amount was sent as DD to the hotel. A party of 9 and we were all set to bask in nature's bounty.

But it would seem fate had other plans as one of us decided it was time to get engaged

So the plan was dropped and as plans among us tend to unravel, it never really took shape after that, though i kept talking about at every other meet-up we have had over the last 10 years.

It took 10 years of constant reminders to get my friends to finally agree on a date for the long overdue trip

The present:
The date was fixed. May 20-21. Final list of confirmed came down to 6. Vehicle was decided. An Innova belonging to a friend. Then came the crucial part. Accommodation! It took 2 weeks of endless chats in the whatsapp group for people to confirm and by that time all the prime properties in Valparai had been sold out. But there was one rather vague property which was available on www.booking.com and lest we lose out on that too, we booked it.

So,
Place of departure: Kochi, Kerala
Number of middle aged dudes: 6 [High school friends, Class of 1996-1998]
Mode of transport: Innova
ETD: 0700AM
ATD: 0830AM
Destination: Valparai
Route: Kochi-Athirapilly-Vazhachal-Malakkapara-Sholayar-Valparai

We started off from Kochi and after some confusion about hotels to have breakfast in [Thanks to an all knowing friend], we stopped at Indian Coffee House for Ghee Dosas and Caffeine. Onwards we went and ended up being so caught up in joking around we realized that we had missed our exit and ended up taking a long and unnecessary u-turn. Finally after getting back on track, we reached Athirapilly water falls and thanks to luck, we found a parking spot very near the entrance itself. Middle aged legs and long walks seldom go hand in hand.

And riding on our good luck a counter opened up just as we joined in the main line for tickets. New ticket giver bestowed upon us the chance to skip the queue! Yay!

At the lucky counter beating the queue
Valparai: Driving into nature's pride-20170520_101600-large.jpg

It was only after we entered did we realize we did have to walk quite a bit to see the falls from up close. The view was worth the sweat and curses. Humidity was easily blamed for our sweat and tiredness. After multiple photos of the trickling water falls we climbed back up, loaded up on snacks for the drive ahead and went forth to our next stop, Vazhachal falls.

The spiraling walk down to the base of Athirapilly falls. Not for the aged and unfit like most of us were!
Valparai: Driving into nature's pride-20170520_104001-large.jpg

The Falls before the monsoon. Now i guess it would be roaring.Valparai: Driving into nature's pride-20170520_105649_hdr-large.jpg

A mandatory panoramic shot:
Valparai: Driving into nature's pride-20170520_105753-large.jpg

Next stop at Vazhachal, which was a disappointment as well:Valparai: Driving into nature's pride-20170520_115019_hdr-large.jpg

After the mandatory photos we signed the register at the forest check post and started to drive towards Sholayar Dam.

Nice scenic roads. Roads were narrow but smooth so not much to complain. Saw a lot of boards warning about different animal crossings but fortunately or unfortunately we didn't get to see any.

There were even boards warning people about crocodiles in the waters nearby.

A funny warning:
Valparai: Driving into nature's pride-20170520_123325_hdr1-custom.jpg

A random scenic stop:
Valparai: Driving into nature's pride-20170520_123311_hdr-large.jpg

At Thottapura View Point on the way: [Note the caveman drawings on the board]
Valparai: Driving into nature's pride-20170520_131039_hdr-large.jpg
Valparai: Driving into nature's pride-20170520_131358_hdr-large.jpg

Quick photos later, we stopped for lunch at a nondescript hotel and were treated to sumptuous hot home cooked meals and biriyanis.

When hunger calls:
Valparai: Driving into nature's pride-20170520_142657_hdr-large.jpg

Nice hot lunch and black tea later, we continued the journey and had to stop at this place in Malakkapara:
Valparai: Driving into nature's pride-20170520_144251_hdr-large.jpg

And of course, a panoramic shot as well:
Valparai: Driving into nature's pride-20170520_144332-large.jpg

Finally reached the foothill of Sholayar Dam. It was a mighty sight to behold.

A concrete behemoth thirsting for water:
Valparai: Driving into nature's pride-20170520_145550_hdr-large.jpg

Parked the car upfront and climbed up the park to reach the top of the dam. Only then did we realize we could have driven up further ahead to reach the top of the dam!

Good green view on one side and a receding water level on the other side. We could only imagine just how amazing it would have been had the reservoir been full. Spent some time sitting on top of the dam taking in the view and we pushed on to Valparai.

The view from the climb:
Valparai: Driving into nature's pride-20170520_151206_hdr-large.jpg

The view of the valley side from the top of the dam:Valparai: Driving into nature's pride-20170520_151252_hdr-large.jpg

And the view of the reservoir side. Much water receded.
Valparai: Driving into nature's pride-20170520_151347-large.jpg

Stopped at Valparai and found a nice tea stall for tea, coffee and snacks.

A Malayali needs his tea and vada in the evening
Valparai: Driving into nature's pride-img20170521wa0019.jpg

Then our next place in the agenda was Nallamudi View Point. The route was through dense tea estates and it was just amazing.

But having reached the top, we realized we were late. We reached by 1745 and the route to the viewpoint was closed by 1700 as per forest guards stationed there. Ideal time to reach there was 1500-1600 as per local people there. Ah well...

Then we spoke to the bungalow owner and told him we are leaving Nallamudi and are headed towards the bungalow. Who would have thought it would be an adventure just to reach that bungalow.

The place was AGB Shivnivas Estate where we had booked the family room which easily accommodated all 6 of us. As per google, it showed a distance of 25 odd KMs and a time estimate of 1Hr.

Who would have thought most of that was uphill into a desolate area clouded in mist with a visibility of 10ft in front and no clue as to what was on the left of us. In all fairness there was a note in the booking.com site asking guests to travel during day time for visibility.

Anyway, it was a narrow stretch but thankfully it was newly laid and except for the mist and darkness and general feeling of doom and danger it was ok!
Sitting in front i nearly lost it when i saw a bus coming in the opposite direction! Thankfully we managed to squeeze by.

Still shudder to think what we would have done if an elephant had been in our path. And we all shuddered even more when we imagined the situation if we had brought our spouses along!

After finishing the misty mountain path, we were happy to be rid of the mist and we entered what looked like a forest area. Saw houses protected by electric fences and kids sitting inside the fence on the steps laughing at us as if wondering who these idiots were to travel into the forest at night while they sat behind protected by 20,000 Volts!

Then the road disappeared and we started to climb again having to negotiate hair pin bends. Just unpaved stretches of rocks and grass. Thankfully our friend had bought new tyres for the car which really made the difference. If we had done this stretch on bald tyres we would have been stuck in the middle of nowhere with blowouts.

All this while, doubt had crept into all of our minds whether or not this place actually existed or not. No signal, No route markers, Just offline google working overtime and the overworked lady asking us to turn left where there was no left and right where there was only a deep ravine.

Finally we did manage to reach the bungalow much to our relief.

Got some tea and caffeine and we settled in for the night. Dinner was ordered and was told it would be ready in an hours time. Hot chappathis, veg curry and chicken curry. Good stuff.

He offered us a night safari into his estate but we decided to skip it and instead use the time to just kid around and relax which we did from 2100 to 0100!

Middle of nature's bounty, with friends...What better therapy does one need to detox from the work overload of day to day life!

Stories of school days were told and retold and all the mischief we used to be caught in up when life was much simpler.

Next day started at 7AM with caffeine and hot idlis and dosas.

The view from outside the bungalow. Really in the midst of nature.
Valparai: Driving into nature's pride-20170521_084455-large.jpg

Our initial plan was to leave by 10AM heading towards the 40 hair pin bends and into Top Slip and then proceed back to Kochi. But the place was amazing with peacocks flying in the trees and just the sheer silence of it all was nice to take in. We decided to take a walk into the estate/forest area with their caretaker.

Turns out that it was a good decision. It was good walk up the mountain and the views from the top really made up for what we might have missed at Nallamudi. Sat there a awhile feeling humble and at peace.

The walk up to the summit of the estate:
Valparai: Driving into nature's pride-20170521_101512_hdr-large.jpg

The view made us stop midway:
Valparai: Driving into nature's pride-20170521_101701_hdr-large.jpg

Still climbing: [Much breath was gasped]
Valparai: Driving into nature's pride-20170521_102240_hdr-large.jpg

Finally we scaled the mighty mountain and just stared in awe at the splendor all around us:

Valparai: Driving into nature's pride-20170521_102839_hdr-large.jpg

A couple of obligatory panoramas:
Valparai: Driving into nature's pride-20170521_102955-large.jpg
Valparai: Driving into nature's pride-20170521_103343-large.jpg

With heavy hearts, we said goodbye and started onwards to our next stop at the 9th hair pin bend, Loam's View Point.

The view from Loam's View Point:
Valparai: Driving into nature's pride-20170521_125523_hdr-large.jpg

It was hot and sultry and we quickly returned back to the car after a few pictures. By the time we reached Alayar dam area, we were all hungry, bought some green mangoes with chilli/salt masala and hunted for a place to eat. Finding nothing worthwhile we decided to head to Pollachi to have lunch.

Needless to say, we ended up skipping Top Slip and got back to Kochi and the chaos of day to do day life...

A trip 10 years in the making, well worth the wait!

Last edited by deathwalkr : 7th June 2017 at 17:05.
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Old 8th June 2017, 08:40   #2
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Default Re: Valparai: Driving into nature's pride

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to the Travelogues Section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 8th June 2017, 12:27   #3
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Default Re: Valparai: Driving into nature's pride

Quote:
Originally Posted by deathwalkr View Post
[b][u]

The place was AGB Shivnivas Estate where we had booked the family room which easily accommodated all 6 of us. As per google, it showed a distance of 25 odd KMs and a time estimate of 1Hr.
Your description of AGB Estate looks interesting. Any snaps? What's your review of the bungalow?

Nice crisp travelogue. Thanks
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Old 8th June 2017, 12:30   #4
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It's a pretty barebone place. Neat and clean with good food and friendly hosts.
Not a bungalow in the traditional sense though. Families might get bored. Shall post a few pics later.
Thanks
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Old 8th June 2017, 12:43   #5
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Default Re: Valparai: Driving into nature's pride

Would love to have more pictures of AGB Shivnivas Estate, Looks like a real find in Valparai ! Nice travelogue.
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Old 9th June 2017, 09:53   #6
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Default Re: Valparai: Driving into nature's pride

Quote:
Originally Posted by venkatt1800 View Post
Would love to have more pictures of AGB Shivnivas Estate, Looks like a real find in Valparai ! Nice travelogue.
Not much to show about the "bungalow"

You can see lot of pics uploaded by them here:
https://www.booking.com/hotel/in/agb...as-estate.html

Neat and clean with good food and friendly hosts No TV, No landline, No mobile network and of course no internet. In short, nothing to distract you from admiring the greenery. There's a nice big stream next to this bungalow and in the rainy season it would be nice to see.

Kids might get easily bored and would require constant monitoring since there does not seem to be any fenced off space.

Diesel cars would be recommended to navigate the steep climbs. SUVs preferred.

Plan to reach the place before 6PM unless you want to go on adventure in the mist covered winding roads. A couple of Lightforces would come in handy.

Bonfires and barbecues can be arranged on request

Mod Note: Mentions of alcohol in any context is not allowed on the forum.

Last edited by ampere : 3rd July 2017 at 17:21. Reason: Removed pointers to alcohol
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Old 3rd July 2017, 13:55   #7
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Default Re: Valparai: Driving into nature's pride

Thanks for the post! Very nice and descriptive

Took me back to last year. I rode from Hyderabad to Munnar and eventually ended up in Ketti for a few days. An old buddy and I, each on a Duke 390. The ghat to Valparai was among the most enthralling rides ever. Since it was in August it more or less rained continuously and this added to the feel. Like you, we didn't get to see any animals. I guess they know not to turn up next to our roads in the daytime.

I want to get back to Valparai someday and stay over a few days this time. Looks like there's a lot more than i thought to it.
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Old 3rd July 2017, 17:23   #8
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Default Re: Valparai: Driving into nature's pride

Valparai is always the classic place without the crowd. But now thanks to more awareness the place has gained quite many followers and I think slowly tourism to this place would catch up.

Nice travelogue! Would love to see this place when it rains.
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Old 3rd July 2017, 17:24   #9
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Default Re: Valparai: Driving into nature's pride

Quote:
Originally Posted by VedderTheFixer View Post
Thanks for the post! Very nice and descriptive

Took me back to last year. .
Yeah, it's one of those places that makes you want to go back
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