It was a while since I hit the road. Especially after a long Jaipur Trip, where we had our stay and accomodation totally booked, I was dying to do a road trip like I usually do. December was also my last chance to take the excess leaves which cannot be carried over to the next year.
I had my target set on Athirapally & Vazhachal waterfalls - a place I have never visited. Athirapally is about 30kms from Chalakudy - about 50kms from Ernakulam towards Thrissur on NH47 in Kerala. But, I wanted to reach there through a different route - via Valparai. More than destinations, I was thinking of some stretches of road where I wanted to drive in - the ghat roads leading to Valparai, the forest road from Valparai to Athirapally via Sholayar and the ghat roads from Munnar / Bodimettu to Bodinayakanur. The route I was taking would cover all this in a matter of four days!
Since the plan ran into weekdays, I did not expect anybody else to take leaves and come along. Specifically, Preethu could not have taken these many leaves. So, I planned to go on my own and promised her to come back before new year. Even though I had a week off from office and two weekends (christmas and new year weekends) on either side of the week, staying away from the family for 9 days would have been too long!
The trip started on saturday morning, by about 6 and soon I was on the elevated toll road to Electronic city. It was just the smooth start for a wonderful road trip. The road was spruced up past the Electronic city as well, with flyovers and wider junctions wherever needed. This is a very important stretch of road (NH7, part of both Golden Quadrilateral and North - South corridor) and connected most of southern India with Bangalore.
I was thinking of a breakfast break at Adayar Ananda Bhavan, but a huge crowd and lack of any parking space quickly changed that plan. I was on the lookout of some road side shops and found one soon after Krishnagiri. After hogging on to some Dosa, Idli, Chutney and Sambar, I was back in the highway.
The smooth ride continued even past Krishnagiri (NH7 again and North - South corridor till Salem) and I was in Salem by 10. Last time I was here, the ride was little bumpy till I was out of Salem city. But, the Salem - Coimbatore stretch of NH47 was also being 4-laned as part of the port connectivity project and most part of that stretch was also completed.
This time, I was pleasantly surprised - the grade seperator for NH7 - NH47 junction was completed and a new bypass stretch to the NH47 was ready. This means that the entire ride from the Silk Board junction (NH7 - Ring Road junction in Bangalore) till Chengapalli (about 100kms from Salem and 300kms from Bangalore) is now 4-laned and almost un-interrupted. I paid a total toll of Rs 277 for this stretch but would hardly complain given the quality of these roads. These new 4-lane highways have really ensured fast and safe connectivity.
10kms from the Chengapalli bypass took me to the Perumanallur town. During our last trip to Valparai, I made the mistake of continuing on NH47 all the way till the Coimbatore bypass before taking the turn to Pollachi. This time, I took the Perumanallur - Tirupur - Palladam - Pollachi road, which turned out to be much more shorter and efficient. There was hardly any traffic, except in the towns.
Tirupur, about 14kms from Perumanallur, is a famous textile town. It is a busy town as well and I had some trouble figuring out the road to Pollachi. I took one wrong turn and had to consult a few people before finally hitting the right road. About 13kms from Tirupur is Palladam, through which the NH67 (connecting Gundlupet, Ooty, Coimbatore, Karur, Trichy, Thanjavur and Nagapattinam) passes through. Just out of Palladam, I reached a three way junction, with the road on the left going towards Udumalpet / Udumalaipettai. That route will be ideal to reach Munnar, but right now I was headed towards Valparai via Pollachi.
After passing through a state highway flanked with windmills on both sides, I was in Pollachi. It was quite hot by then and quite tempting to take a break. With a bridge construction in progress on the Valparai road, I had to ask a few guys to figure a way around it. In the meantime, I also identified a restaurant where I could have lunch. Hotel Gauri Krishna, turned out to be the kind of restaurant I prefer - quick service, economical, simple and tasty food and no frills. I had a nice meal and asked for an additional gobi manchurian to add spice :)
Half an hour later I made a visit to the petrol bunk and then headed out of Pollachi town. It was quite hot even now and I did not want to drive up the ghat section in this heat. Another break, about 20kms before Aliyar, was the obvious choice. There was another reason to take a break - and that had something to do with a copy of 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows' that I was carrying! Though, I have watched all Harry Potter movies so far, I never read any of the books. But, after watching Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I, it was hard to wait another year for Part II. So, I ended up borrwing the book from Thejas and carried it along. Now, it was time to start reading!
Almost two hours later, I was back on the highway and very soon reached Aliyar dam. I did not bother to visit the dam site as I had gone there during the last Valparai Trip. Aliyar dam is about 30kms from Pollachi and about 40 to go for Valparai. The ghat section starts soon after Aliyar and I was stopped at the checkpost for an entry fee - Rs 10 for entry and Rs 25 for camera. The area is part of a protected forest and has a few water falls en route - hence the entry fee.
|Its not just monkeys in this falls
I did take a stop at the 'Monkey Falls' which was soon after the ghats started. It was a decent waterfalls and had a shallow pool. A huge crowd was there, enjoying the waterfalls and frolicing in the pool, which prompted me to leave soon.
This ghat section is one of the best for people who love winding roads. Forty hairpin bends accompanied with some awesome viewpoints is indeed a treat. The ghat section offers a beautiful view of the Aliyar dam cachement and the best is probably from the Loam's view point - at the 9th hairpin bend.
The lighting was not as perfect as what we had seen on our first trip to Valparai, but it was still a wonderful spectacle. I had ample time for photographs and took my time to reach the Attakatti checkpost. Post Attakatti, the hair pin bends are less severe - but not totally absent!
I stopped at two more places before Valparai. First one was at the Valparai range forest office, to check if there is any way to get permission to trek upto grass hills. This office is a few kms past Attakatti - the guys there were very friendly and helpful until I brought up the topic of Grass Hills. They said that there is nothing they can do about it and only research students are given permissions - that too should be obtained from their head office in Chennai. I would now have to find some alternate ways.
The next one was the Anamalai Nature Information centre. They had a photo gallery of wild life in western ghats and Anamalai hills in particular. The purpose of the centre was to spread awareness and advocate conversation of bio-diversity. I browsed through their gallery and items and even baught a CD containing information on wild life in western ghats.
I was at Valparai before 5 and started looking for a room, after parking the car near the Plaza restaurant. The green hills hotel, where I stayed last time, was full and so was all the other main hotels near the town. But, I managed to find a room with the help of a guy at Plaza restaurant. The room was behind the restaurant building, had no ventillation and was not very clean. But, that would suffice when I am travelling alone :) Besides, the rental was only Rs 250.
What was I planning to do in Valparai? If I got the permission to visit Grass Hills the choice would have been obvious. Now, the only other option was an early morning drive around the tea estates. But, what really happened was me picking up the 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows' and go in to a marathon session which finished at about 10 in the morning, with only a couple of hours of sleep. In between, I visited Plaza restaurant three times - for snacks, dinner and breakfast. All three times, apart from normal food, I also had their special 'Aval Milk'!
Green, Blue and the clouds ...
... more green and blue!
Next day, at about 11, I was out of Valparai and after checking with a few guys, I drove around a few tea estate roads, went around in circles and finally found a jeep track towards Sholayar dam. It was quite hot by now and the quality of the road was not good. But, with the endless green carpet all around topped by a beautiful deep blue sky, I could hardly complain.
The road became quite bad at some points and coupled with the photo breaks, time flew by. At about 12.30, I reached a checkpost - only 22 kms away from Valparai, with a road to the left leading to Sholayar and the one straight ahead leading to Athirapally and Chalakudy.
Only after taking the turn to Sholayar, I realized that I had taken the wrong road. I must have taken a road through the tea estates and finally reached the actual Valparai - Sholayar - Chalakudy road. Sholayar dam was about 3kms from this check post and about 20kms more on the same road would take me back to Valparai.
At Sholayar Dam
A little later, I crossed a bridge and saw the tall dam cachement wall to the right. There was hardly any water showing out the cachement and the river looked almost dry. It looked like, there is a trail to the top of the cachement wall. So, I parked the car and started walking along this trail. The trail was steep and in a few minutes, I gained a lot of altitude. In between, I even had doubts if I was on the correct trail. But, in the end, I managed to reach the steps leading up the dam wall and climbed it for a beautiful view of the entire area. On one side was the Valparai town amidst an endless stretch of tea estates. To the other side it was the dam cachement with its serene waters!
At about 1.30 I was back at the checkpost and continued towards Athirapally / Chalakudy. This town, called Malakkappara, is the last one before the Kerala border. I was feeling quite hungry by now and spotted a small shop serving home food. This place kept up with the philosophy for this road trip - opting for small places instead of bigger hotels / restaurants. As I expected, the food was yummy and cost me less - only Rs. 25!
Athirapally waterfalls is about 40kms from Malakkappara and the Kerala border came almost immediately. The guys at the border checkpost looked very industrious and checked the car thoroughly for alcohol and plastic. They noted down the number of plastic bags and bottles I had with me. I was supposed to keep it with me and show it at the next checkpost after the forest area.
Soon, I was passing amidst thick forest and the road was patchy as well as deserted. Having heard many elephant stories in this stretch of road, I was expecting to see some wild life. The settings were really wild that I expected a tusker to show up in the road almost any time! But nothing of the sort happened.
The Chalakudy river was meandering along the right side of the road. The river became more prominent and closer with time. This portion of the river is part of the Paringalkuthu reservoir. I took a few photo breaks as the weather was also very pleasant to make it a beautiful evening. But, the wilderness was about to change soon - as I spotted more and more vehicles and gangs parked next to the view points. Some of them had loud music on and were visibly drunk - a study on what not to do inside a reserved forest.
The road criss-crossed the river and its smaller tributaries. One of the places were marked as 'Anakkayam' (Elephant Pit in Malayalam) a lake kind of formation, where even elephants were supposed to have drowned. It would normally be a nice place to spend the evening and looked serene - if not for the drunk revellers. I could spot so many gangs of people with liquor bottles and loud music. At one time, I even saw a government jeep and people wearing khakee uniforms taking a dip in water and coming back to have a sip of beer - I could only hope that they were not from forest department.
The gentler falls - Vazhachal
Soon, I reached the Vazhachal waterfalls, parked my car on the road side and got the entry tickets. The tickets were common for both Vazhachal and Athirapally falls, about 5kms from here. The waterfall was gentle and looked more like a long chain of rapids. There was also a park built along the falls and one could take a walk along the river side. I too had a walk along the river side, took some snaps and then quickly headed towards Athirapally as the light was slowly fading.
At the exit from Vazhachal was another check post - the place were I should show the piece of paper I recieved from the border check post. But, to my disappointment, the guard simply allowed me to go without even checking the car. There was hardly any checking happening for vehicles going towards Valparai / Sholayar as well. May be it was tough to check everybody, given the huge weekend crowd, but it did explain the drunk revellers in the reserved forest.
The not so famous one - Charpa falls
A few kms from Vazhachal, I spotted another falls, right on the road side. This one was tall and had less water compared to Vazhachal. Apparently, this one is called Charpa falls (or ... is it Chapra?) and is known to plunge right in to the road during monsoon days. I stopped my car and took a few shots, but did not want to take too much time and get late for Athirapally by sending too much time here.
Soon after Charpa, I started seeing vehicles on both sides of the road and then there was a huge traffic jam. I was getting closer to the Athirapally falls and the crowd here was even bigger than what I saw at other places. As soon as I spotted a vaccant spot, I parked the car there and decided to walk the remaining distance - which turned out to be about half a km. It was about 5.30 by now and the guards at the entrance were already asking people to hurry up and come back by 6 - I got a feeling that I just made it to the falls on time.
There was quite a walk from the entrance till the falls - first on a flat area and then a sharp and tricky descent on loose soil. There were many families and old people and some were finding it tough to get down. But, I had no time to waste and was almost running down. As I descended towards the falls, the thundering sound caused by the falls became deafening and the mist covered the entire area.
The majestic falls - Athirapally
The falls is approximately 80 feet in height and was wide and voluminous spewing a good amount of mist towards the visitors. The Chalakudy river is very wide when it plunges down here, but at this point, the falls was split to two main streams. It is expected to be even fuller during monsoon, earning it the sobriquet of 'Indian Niagra'.
|A section of Athirapally falls
I had some trouble getting any good photographs - first due to the huge crowd I was unable to get a good view of the falls. Then, the pics I took came out murky and blurred. By the time I realized that it is because of the water droplets accumulated at the front element, it was getting dark and the guards were asking people to leave. I still got to spend more than half an hour at the falls. It was indeed a majestic falls and lived up to the expectations.
I would have liked to spend some time here and look for more vantage points. But, it was getting dark and I had to leave. It took me a while to get back to the car and by then it was quite dark. There was considerable traffic too while moving towards Chalakudy. But, the road was good and the drive was smooth. Half way through, I spotted a road going to the left and a sign board mentioning that it is a shorter road (by about 18kms) to reach Munnar and Adimali. I did take that road, but was a little unsure if I could find any town where I can find accomodation. This prompted me to turn back and head towards Chalakudy. In hindsight, this may have been a mistake.
The road till Chalakudy was not a problem, but once I reached Chalakudy and entered NH47, the traffic snarls began. This highway, connecting Coimbatore / Palakkad / Thrissur to Ernakulam and southern Kerala, is one of the busiest in Kerala and 4-laning is going on in some of the stretches. I was caught in a pile-up and took almost an hour to reach Angamaly, less than 15kms away.
At Angamaly town, I started looking for lodges and found one right on the road side. Even though, Angamaly is close to Ernakulam city - about 35kms, the lodge was not very costly - Rs 350 for a tidy room with TV. I was feeling quite sleepy, thanks to the late night reading at Valparai. After a quick dinner and a little TV, I was off to bed by 10'O clock.
An early start is always preferable for road trips and this was something I missed while starting from Valparai. But, this time, I was out of Angamaly by day break. I took the MCR (Main Central Road - Kerala SH1 connecting Angamaly with Thiruvananthapuram via Kottayam) via Kalady till Perumvaoor. At Perumbavoor, I took another state highway till Kothamangalam to join NH49 (Ernakulam - Theni - Madurai - Rameswaram highway). In between, I also had a good Kerala breakfast in another road side restaurant.
My next target was Thattekad bird sanctuary for which I had to take a deviation towards left, just after Kothamangalam. Thattekad bird sanctuary is one of the most well known in India and habitat to many rare bird species. It is sandwitched between two branches of Periyar river and is at a distance of about 13kms from Kothamangalam. I reached the entrance of Thattekad before 10 and found hardly any one around. The person at the ticket counter gave me the bad news - even though the season is supposed to have started by now, the guided tours have not yet started.
Thattekad had a boating facility but it is stopped a couple of years ago. Now that even guided tours have not started, the only option was to walk around the sanctuary and spot birds on my own - not a bad thing to do! I picked up my telephoto lens and ventured inside. There are a few buildings on either side of the entrance, but I chose to walk past, until I could spot the river. While crossing the river, I opened the account with a Small Kingfisher - bright blue and beautiful.
There are a few families staying on the other side of the river, inside the sanctuary limits. Apparently they had been staying there even before the area was declared a bird sanctuary. In the river, there were a few ducks (mostly domestic), Pond Herons and Little Cormorants.
Flying lizard with a yellow throat patch
After crossing the river, I spotted something flying across and landing on a tree right next to me - it was a flying lizard, with a yellow patch in its throat which it keeps flicking time to time. With the tree cover around, light was very low to use the telephoto, but I managed to get a few shots of this fella so that I could confirm its identity later. The lizard was barely visible when it was set against the bark of the tree, so I had to change the angle to set it against a greener background. Apparently, it is a genus called Draco, capable of gliding from one tree to another using folds of skin attached to its rib. I could not confirm if it was Draco Haematopogon or Draco Dussumieri or some other species.
I also saw a few tourists in this area and it looked like some of the families living here are also running homestay facilities. I talked to one lady and also picked up their contact details so that I could plan a visit some time later. I roamed around the area for quite some time and managed to spot a lot more birds, mainly on my way back - a gang of Jungle Babblers, a pair of Wood Peckers, Bulbuls, Rufous Treepie, Ashy Drongo and Magpie Robin. I could not really spot any of the rare bird varieties, but this list was good enough to make me happy!
Finally, at about 12, I left the place as a happy man and took a district road to reach the NH49 again just after Neriamangalam. On the way to Adimali, I saw a road going to the right and a sign board saying Idukki / Painavu. I was tempted to take it, but changed my mind later as the condition of the road was bad. In comparison, NH49 was - though a 2-lane - in excellent condition and the ride was smooth.
Soon, the ghat section started and I passed by two water falls - Cheeyapara and Valara. Cheeyapara is right on the road side, about 15kms before Adimali. It is a seven stage waterfall, but, the entire height of the falls was not visible from the roadside. Water was scarce too and the falls looked almost dry. Even then, it looked quite good for people who would like to get in to the water. Needless to say, there were quite a few people already playing in the falls.
Couple of kms after Cheeyapara is Valara waterfalls. This time, the falls was not on the road side, but visible in the valley on the right side. The view is more dramatic and it looked tall and voluminous. Infact, the base of the falls looked like a good trekking destination. There were a few shops ... etc near the view point and enough parking space. So, I did stop for a few snaps before heading towards Adimali.
Just before reaching Adimali, I saw yet another road side shop - an ideal place to have lunch - with not much of crowd and good home food. After another sumptuous Kerala meals, I headed towards Adimali. The emission certificate of my car was about to expire and that prompted me to take another break near the town to update the certificate.
It was not the first time I was in Adimali. In July 2006, during a Kodai - Idukki - Thanjavur trip, I had come here. In that trip, I took a different route from Theni / Bodimettu / Poopara via Rajakumari, Ponmudi dam and Rajakkad to reach Adimali before heading towards Neriamangalam / Kothamangala via Valara. This time, the plan was to continue along NH49 towards Munnar, instead of going towards Rajakkad.
By about 2.30, I left Adimali town and in another half an hour I was approaching Munnar. I was welcomed by yet another huge crowd as I approached Munnar. It was the vaccation season and what else could I expect? The roads were choc-a-bloc with tourist vehicles and I was sure that it will be impossible to get any accomodation here. Neither did it make any sense to go to any regular tourist spots in this crowd.
But, I still wanted to go to Rajamalai and see the Anamudi peak - the tallest peak in south India at an altitude of 2695m. I had been trying to get permission to trek up this peak, but with little success. This time, I atleast wanted to see the peak and feel good!
So, I headed to Rajamalai, about 17kms off Munnar, from where safari is conducted within Eravikulam national park. Infact, Eravikulam is adjascent to Anamalai national park, which includes Valparai and Grass Hills. On an earlier trip to Valparai, we were told by our guide that on clear days Anamudi peak is visible from Nallamudi Poonchola.
Rajamalai is located on the Munnar - Marayoor state highway, which will finally lead to Udumalapettai. I did not find too much traffic once I got out of Munnar town and was hoping that there is not much crowd at Rajamalai. But, my hope was crushed when I reached near Rajamalai. There was a long line of vehicles trying to get inside and it was almost impossible to find parking, unless there is a dedicated driver.
But, I somehow managed to park the car at one corner of the parking lot after talking to few of the taxi drivers. Now, the ticket counter already has a long queue of people waiting to get inside. I checked with the wildlife guard who told that the entry is only till 5. It was already past 4 and there was not much point in going through the queue and finally getting inside when it is dark.
Anamudi peak is the one at the right extreme
The good news was that Anamudi peak is visible even from outside. So, I skipped going inside and clicked a few pictures of the peak instead. It was already quite cloudy and I did not get any good pictures. But, I had to come back to Anamudi in any case. Better pictures could be taken when that happens.
Half an hour later, I was back in Munnar and then headed towards Devikulam / Poopara on NH49. With this crowd, it was close to impossible that I will get any accomodation in Munnar. So, it made sense to travel towards Bodimettu and look for accomodation in Devikulam or Poopara.
The drive from Munnar to Poopara was very scenic. It was through a mountainous road flanked with lush green tea estates. At Devikulam, I checked for accomodation at a few hotels, but they all sounded extremely costly. Past Devikulam, I spotted a few homestays, but most of them were full. Even the available ones were quoting very high rentals and I had to flee.
Roadside view of Chinnakanal falls
Lockart Gap view point is along this road, but the cloudy weather was not so good for taking photographs. So, I did not worry much about locating the view point and kept driving along the NH49 to finally reach Chinnakanal falls, 16kms from Munnar. The falls was right on the roadside and all stages of the falls are visible from a distance, but when I got closer only a few tiers where seen. It had very little water when I passed through, but there was some crowd there at the falls. There was a pool of water just under the falls and that was quite an attraction.
Getting closer to Anayirankal lake
Just after Chinnakanal, I could see the Anayirankal Dam. In December 2006, I had come to Munnar for a Meesapulimala - Anayirankal trek. The lake looked quite beautiful from the top, especially when seen through the lush greenery of the tea estates. But, the cloudy weather did not allow me to get any good shots. As I lost altitude going towards Poopara, the lake appeared closer and closer. Then, the road started turning away from the lake. At about 6, I reached the Poopara town.
Poopara town is a junction with the NH49 taking a left turn towards Bodimettu. The road ahead leads to Kumily / Thekkady and the one to the right leads to Rajakumari / Rajakkad. It is almost midway between Munnar and Thekkady - about 30kms from Munnar and 40kms from Thekkady. It is a small town, but I was delighted to see a couple of lodges. The first lodge I checked only had double rooms and it would cost me Rs 400. So, I decided to check the second one which had a slight dilapidated look.
It was managed by an old man who sounded very apologetic when I asked for a single room. He said he had only double rooms and did not feel it was right to ask for a double room rental. It took some persuation from my side to make him say Rs 200. I gladly agreed to pay up, but found the room lacking a plug point. When I mentioned this, he gave me another room with a plug point and a fan for the same price. I had a feeling that he may have quoted a higher rental in the end - but it did not matter much. I have actually saved a good amount by coming down here and not spent a few thousands for rental by staying back in Munnar or Devikulam.
Poopara has a few restaurants too and I chose one of them when it was time for dinner. The guy in charge gave me a warm smile and I asked 'Whats available?'. The response was 'Nothing'! Then he explained that they were not expecting any customers to turn up as late as 8.30 and they dont have much food left! I was adviced to check in the neighbouring restaurant. Almost as an after thought, he queried how many people were there with me? Obviously, it was only me and then he said that he might have a few chappathis left for one person, in case I did not like the other hotel. I thanked and checked in the adjascent hotel, but found it too crowded and prefered to go back to the first. It did not really matter if it was Chappathi and some curry or something more fancy!
This night, I was off to bed as early as 9 and got up early enough to make another visit to the same restaurant for breakfast. This time, it was another person, but they recognized me as the guy who came for food yesterday 'late night'. Poopara, being a small town, they wondered if I came for some work. Apparently, the tourists usually do not stay within Poopara town and hence the curiosity.
Munnar hills from Poopara
In any case, I bid adieu to Poopara and hit the road to Bodimettu before 9. It was another beautiful day, especially with the white cotton clouds almost covering the sky. I could see the hills of Munnar at a distance giving a great long distance view.
By 9.30 I was at Bodimettu and entered Tamil Nadu. When I was here in July 2006, during a Kodai - Idukki - Thanjavur trip, this was one of the scariest ghat sections I have driven in. The roads were very narrow and lacked any grip since it was more of a mud track. To make it more interesting, there were no seperation of the roads from the cliff. It was almost like, if you miss, its bye-bye time! The icing in the cake was the heavy breeze which threatens to blow the vehicle towards the cliff!
This time, the road was mostly spruced up and made a little wider, with re-inforcements at the sides. There were a few stops due to the repair work happening, but otherwise, it was a smooth ride all the way down to Bodinayakanur. In another half an hour, I was in Theni and switched to NH45. Just before noon, I was at Dindigul (about 65kms from Theni) bypass and entered the North - South corridor (NH7) at the stroke of 12.
From here on, it was an excellent 4-lane highway and the drive was extremely smooth and un-interrupted. In the next one hour I covered exactly 115kms! This is inspite of couple of toll-booths en route. The speedo was mostly around 140kms and there were only few instances when I had to slow down below 120. I encountered some traffic near Karur bypass, till which time the average speed was even higher. In the next two hours, the distance covered was exactly half, as I slowed down around Namakkal bypass, stopped once for fuel re-fill, again at Salem for lunch and had to go through some traffic pile up at Thoppur ghats, apart from a normal increase in traffic compared to the first hour.
In the next one hour, I covered about 85 kms and was past Krishnagiri, approaching Hosur. The traffic increased many fold in this stretch, especially with a pile-up at the Krishnagiri toll booth. In the next one hour, I was past Hosur, Electronics city and then glided on the elevated highway to make it to home by 5. The trip was over, but I now had a few days to spend with Manu!
This was one of the most enjoyable trips, even though I did not cover too many places. The only problem was the huge crowd in most of the places - mainly Munnar and Valparai. I guess planning a road trip in December during the vaccation season is no more a good idea. I may have to revisit Rajamalai and may be even Thattekad. I should have finished reading 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows' before the trip, might have liked to spend a little more time at Athirapally and may have liked to do a trek to the base of Valara falls. Do I sound like complaining in the end? Not a bit!