TravelMore - Wagon R to Valparai

Monsoon makes the hills alluring, no doubt. And after that scorching summer heat,  you tend to imagine yourself in a misty cool hillstation with lush greenery all around, eating pakoras and having Chai...all these thoughts interrupting during work. Wait for the weekend,  I told myself.  This time it was the scenic hill station of Valparai that beckoned us. Our ride was my friend's  Wagon  R that he had  bought recently. 

the road to walayar

Palghat highway at 8 in the morning

 And so, on a cool, rainy day in August, at around 7.30 am from my place near Maruthamalai, we took the NH-47 via Kovaipudur, connecting the NH-209 to Pollachi,  which took us just over an hour, as there was minimal traffic and the Wagon R got an opportunity to stretch its legs. Having breakfast there, we took the SH-78 to Aliyar dam and Monkey falls, which took us another 40 minutes.

Pollachi town

en route to Aaliyar

 road near Monkey falls

hill road to Valparai

view of Aaliyar dam enroute to Valparai  

 Valparai is about a 108 kms from Coimbatore, with Indira Gandhi national park to the left, Aliyar reserve forrest and Parambikulam tiger reserve on the right. Roughly half an hour into the drive, and what surprised us was the mist which started appearing in the plains, in Palghat road, much before we reached Pollachi. On the highway, the Wagon R was pretty confident though slightly uncomfortable at speeds above 100 kmph due to its tall stance. The 998 cc, 3 cylinder, K10B petrol motor produces a max power of 68 PS and 90 Nm of torque. The power steering was quite useful when driving in tight conditions on the hills. Our variant was the VXi and it supported Mp3 and AUX input to keep us entertained. The rear defogger and the fog lamps came in handy as we were using it for most of the trip due to the misty, rainy conditions in the hills.

misty roads en route to valparai

view from the tea shop 6 kms before Valparai

lush greenery, everywhere 

We were greeted by mist, as early as the third hairpin bend from the foothills of Valparai. The climb took almost an hour, and the roads, to our surprise were good. Valparai, at an altitude of 3500 feet above msl and boasting of 40 hairpin bends, all much close to each other, the climb was gradual and in some places the road is narrow. Six kilometers before Valparai, we had tea in a small tea shop and a hut nearby surrounded by lush green tea plantations. From there,  Sholayar dam is a 20 km, one hour drive by taking a detour to the SH-21, without entering Valparai town.

our ride, the Wagon R VXi

 En route to Sholayar dam

The route to Sholayar dam was captivating, and the mist and light drizzle made it even more picturesque. Random river streams, small valleys and no rush since it was off season. Perfect. A few kms before the dam, the road meets the river on its left side, the mountains on the right and the last leg of Sholayar dam was almost as if we were driving on a coastal route. The dam was scenic and we hung there for about 20 minutes taking selfies and pictures of the serene place. We drove back the route we came, heading to the town of Valparai by 2 pm and checked in a hotel in the center of town, which had the basic necessities. Valparai, not that much developed compared to Ooty or Kodaikanal has its upside and downside. The upside being the vastly unexplored terrain and the beauty still intact, without pollution of any kind. The downside is lack of star hotels and no 3G network. That would change sometime soon as more star hotels come in place. 

 near Sholayar dam

Sholayar dam

We refreshed ourselves and had a quick lunch in a hotel, and hit the road soon to explore the nearby locales. We took the main road and saw the Koolangal River, scenic and roaring with its current. We halted for a few pictures and drove further, to Nallamudi Punjolai, a view point near the Sangiliroad, 15 kms from Valparai reached there by 3.30pm. The local tea seller told us that we had to walk 1km in the tea estate, to get a good view. The walk up the hill was delightful, with rain, mist and just 2 – 3 tea estate workers apart from us. Unfortunately, we couldn’t see the temple from the viewpoint due to the heavy mist that hung for most of the part, reducing visibility to just 50 meters. The elephant droppings that we spotted while climbing scared us though, since the area is visited by the wild elephants and we were the only two people near the viewpoint. After soaking in the enchanting beauty the place offered, rain forced us to turn back and we took shelter in the car, having a hot cuppa from the tea seller. The taste of that hot cardamom tea in the rainy and misty weather was something truly exceptional. Office daydream fulfilled. 

route to nallamudi poonjolai

walk through the tea estate to nallamudi poonjolai

After the rain stopped a bit, we headed to back to the town, from where the route to Nirar dam starts. Located at 15kms from Valparai, the drive turned out to be enthralling, and we were surprised that such a beauty lay here, untouched. Wherever we took a turn, we saw a small valley and natural waterfalls between it. Maybe it was because we came here on monsoon season or it was just simply pouring those two days, we were in awe. After a quick tour of the upper view of the dam and some clicks, we walked down the road that leads to the lower view of the dam, forests surrounding us. It was an eerie feeling as we were the only two blokes walking down the dam and the sounds of the jungle just came alive. Dark as it was, close to 6 in the evening and even darker clouds looming above threatening to pour, we made it back to the car and had a chat with the lady selling tea and aaloo bondas there. It was then that she told us the wild animals like panther, leopards frequenting that area in the evening. Ignorance is bliss eh...?  By 7 pm we drove back from there, the rain pouring down heavily, and ours was the only car for a few kms. We reached hotel by 8.30 pm after having dinner in a Chettinad restaurant. Nearly 210 kms covered on the first day, we were exhausted and called it a day.

Nirar dam

The next day, we freshened ourselves, checked out of our hotel by 11.30 am, and headed to another tourist spot, Birla falls.  At just 2 kms from Valparai in the Sholayar estate, it is well hidden from the main road and there is no board indicating the spot. Finally after much searching and asking around, a local tea estate worker told us just to walk down the muddy road on the left, from our location. Just a short walk later, the falls came into view and we walked about 150 meters on the muddy trail to get a close up view. A small bridge to the other side, surrounded by small hillocks, cloudy and rainy, it was a picture perfect view all around the falls. The falls itself is very small, but the location was charming. After spending some quality time in the enticing place, we drove back to Valparai and then to Coimbatore.

route to Birla falls

Birla falls

    We reached Coimbatore by 5.30 pm and halted at KR bakes opposite to Karpagam University for a quick bite.We tanked up 17.69 liters of petrol at the start of the trip. A total of 330 kms were covered in two days and we got a decent figure of 18.65kmpl on the Wagon R. A special mention to the weather, which remained cloudy, rainy and misty for the entire trip making every possible location from normal to scenic, splendid greenery and as a result we ended up taking pictures almost everywhere, slowing us down. And this is the kind of weather you truly want to experience the untouched beauty of Valparai.

my friend Muthuraj and his Wagon R

that's me

the mist crossing area before Valparai