Drive - Coimbatore to Anaikatti & Athirapally falls in a Wagon R

Life is full of surprises. Just when you wonder about the no – road – only – rocks and pebbles for road kind of a remote village up in the hills (Sholayur in Anaikatty -  Kerala) will get some decent connectivity someday, it gets a brand new concrete / tar road all the way up to and beyond the village the very next year. Gives a sense of hope and thought that somewhere something is improving to make people’s lives better no matter where they are, no? Yes it is an off - beat place which makes it a spectacular vista, surrounded by mountain ranges and lush green forest. 

Sholayur, above Anakatti

The weather conditions were pleasant, not too sunny but windy

Our ride again was my friend’s Wagon R - the blue eyed boy. The car had clocked some 15000 odd kms and we were about to add a few hundred more. The boxy, spacious hatch has a heart that is a peppy 998 cc 3 - pot K10B petrol motor, churning out a max power of 68 PS and 90 Nm of torque. It has a 5 speed manual transmission that gives power to the front wheels. That fifth gear isn’t much use in the city – more for highway usage due to its short gearing. The gearbox is quick shifting and combined with the eager engine, it’s a fun city car. The front and rear seats can be split 60:40. The bot capacity is 185 liters, sufficient for a quick weekend getaway. The quality of the materials used for interiors could have been better. The dual tone beige and black interiors go well with the overall interiors. The silver finish around the controls in the dashboard has a nice feel to it.

Lawns spread across - a very common sight in these areas.

The route to Anaikatty is the same route as mentioned in my earlier ride to Anaikatti on the FZ and Fazer back in 2012. The only difference being the road was newly laid offering a better driving experience and the monsoon – turning all the barren landscape to lush greenery - such a brilliant sight. Its a perfect one day getaway for unwinding yourself among the verdant hills and wind mills surrounded by the calm atmosphere and grazing cattle. Sounds like a page out of Heidi right?

En route to Sholayur

The Wagon R poses for Photo shoot

Our variant was the VXi and it supported Mp3 and AUX input to keep us entertained. It also has central locking, cup holders, power windows for all four sides, a decent pioneer music system with 4 speakers and power steering. The tall stance (1670 mm height) provides a commanding view for a small hatch. It also contributes to a fair bit of body roll and unstability at speeds exceeding 100 kmph. The only serious flaw in the car is the thick A pillar which obstructs the view and creates a blind spot. It could be dangerous while negotiating hair pin bends while driving in the hills. I had to bend forward or look in the passenger side window to see any oncoming traffic. The NVH levels in the cabin is more because it isn’t well insulated as the engine noise at high revs crept in along with the road noise in the highways. The car sits on 155/65R14 on all four corners, braking is taken care of discs upfront and drum brakes at the rear.

Lot of area for camping

The 165 mm of ground clearance also meant that no underbody damage while encountering some rough terrain here and there. And the legendary aspect of the car – love it or hate it -  it simply doesn’t forgive you if you try to hit a bump or speed breaker in 2nd gear – ‘no sir you need to come back to cog 1 and then move me, else I’ll stop bang in the middle of the road’ attitude. Imagine this strict attitude of the car when climbing hills. We had that sort of experience when we went to Mudumalai in the same car some years back. But since my friend was learning to drive at that time, I thought it was his fault. Sigh.

Sholayur - a remote hill above Anaikatti

The spacious and airy cabin of the Wagon R

Enter day 2. After driving to and from Anaikatty, a sudden plan to visit the mighty Athirapally falls materializes. With the handy google maps with us we hit the road on our way to Palakad. We tanked 13.61 liters of petrol, had a light breakfast at the Gowrishankar hotel at Palghat highway. We started at around 8 am from my place near Maruthamalai, Coimbatore. There is a route connecting my place to Palakad highway, which goes via Perur – Kovaipudur. This route has less traffic comparing to the route that goes through the city via Ukkadam. Without any stops elsewhere, with the weather being cloudy and rainy for most of the trip, we were driving through the plains. One can also access the roads via Valparai -  Chalakudi -  Athirapally. But the hills of Valparai slow you down and it is recommended that a night stay at Valparai and an early morning getaway to Athirapally falls can give the best of both worlds for a two or three day trip. With time being the constraint for a two day trip, we opted for the plains for a one dayer.

Salem  - cochin highway

en route to Thrissur on the salem -  cochin highway

The detour to athirapally falls comes before entering Thrissur city , on the highway with big arch and signs about a theme park called dream land. The road is a single lane narrow road, with lush greenery all around, thanks to the monsoon rain. The journey onwards saw us encounter very little traffic and the rain made it even better sight around we made it to the falls by 1 pm give or take. The Vazhachal river joins along this route near Chalakudy. Never knew these places had their own charm with many churches dotted along the route. Many parks, theme parks and outdoor adventure play areas were lined along this road leading to the falls.

Road to the falls - simple and smooth

Entrance to the falls

View of the falls from the clearing

Pathway to the falls through the rocky mountain

We assumed that being a weekday the crowd might be less. Surprise, surprise. It seemed like most of the people in Kerala had come to visit the falls. It was a mad rush, much like visiting a carnival. Finding a parking space had become difficult. We parked the car some half km away from the entrance. One needs to get the entrance tickets that cost Rs 30 / person and charges for vehicle. The hike to the falls involves a nearly 1 km with the paths well paved with bamboos at the side that make a border with the forest. One can hear the gushing of the water as you approach the falls. Once you head down to the base of the falls – the clearing makes way to a spellbinding sight – the Athirapally falls roaring down from a height of 25 meters, with four clearings for the river water to drop. The jet stream that forms after the water hits the rocks form a gentle spray to fall on you – so gentle that it’s only after sometime after you have spent ogling at the falls you realize that you are partially drenched - and it wasn’t raining. The sheer volume of the water that flows down the four clearings is simply overwhelming. After spending one and half hours just staring at the falls, wildly taking pictures and videos of it, we hit came back for some lunch. An hour later, we hit the road, at around 4 pm turning back to Coimbatore.

All pictures below were taken from the base of the falls

The gentle spray drenches you completely without you realizing it

The return journey was not much eventful. A traffic jam at Kuthiran for nearly 2 hrs dulled the experience. We were exhausted. But that wasn’t enough it seems. Dullness has to go right? Did I mention about a third companion during our return trip? A Centipede. A big one mind you! A not – so – pleasant surprise. It was crawling in my right foot and initially I dismissed it as a bug. Only to find out in the flash of streetlight that hit my hand – it was crawling there and almost bit me! And after giving it a farewell by the side of the highway we were on our way - with some peace of mind and some alertness. How it entered the car formed the base of the conversation for the next few minutes after which it diverted to politics, cars and the usual men stuff. We reached home at 11 pm, 3 hrs late by our estimate due to the jam. We had driven 388 kms tanking up 20.36 liters of petrol, with the car giving an economy of 19.05 kmpl. The car has a 35 liter fuel tank and can give a range of 665 kms before tanking up. Overall the Wagon R is a practical, no nonsense, and spacious city car with decent interiors.

view of the falls from top

view of the falls from the bottom
 The Athirapally falls is a gem of a place in India, surrounded by the picturesque Sholayar Peaks, the dense jungle foliage (Vazhachal forest) through which the waters flow to the Arabian Sea. The fact that it is often referred to as the Niagara Falls of India says a lot about it. A picture can say a thousand words. But the video clip below offers a glimpse of the mighty falls that is Athirapally. Best time to visit is after monsoon where the falls will be in its full glory. 

My friend Muthuraj and his Wagon R

The roaring Athirapally falls