TRAVEL AND TOURISM

Mazha Yatra-A jungle safari into the rainforests of Kerala

Exploring the rainforests of Kerala during Monsoon season should be on every traveler’s to do list!  On June 24th, 2017, I undertook a memorable journey organized by the Kerala Tourism Dept (hereafter referred as KTD), covering the western ghat rainforests in and around Athirapally Taluk, Thrissur District.

This travelogue covers a detailed review of the package offered by KTD, photographs I clicked during the trip and my overall experience and feedback of the trip.

I first came to know about this one-day travel package from KTD via a Whatsapp forward Advt. shared by my cousin who was keen on organizing a family trip for long! The advt. was as follows (English translation below the image)

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My Translation: The Athirapally-Vazhachal-Thumboormuzhy DMC under the Kerala tourism department is starting a “Jungle Safari Rain Journey Monsoon Tourism package” (short named as Rain Journey (Mazha Yatra)) covering the tourist destinations in and around Athirappilly-Sholayar rainforests, allowing you to experience the enchanting forests and the beauty of rain! 

The trip starts at 8 AM from Chalakkudy PWD guest house and is planned to reach back at the same place by 7 PM. The journey will include Breakfast, Lunch, evening snacks consisting “tapioca and chilli chutney”, special monsoon health kit and drinks, special coffee and service of a tour guide. Also, special prizes will be awarded to select travelers based on a contest of Mobile photographs clicked on the theme “Rain”. Aiming to make Athirapally a prominent monsoon tourist destination, the KTD is organizing diverse tourism plans. The participants will also be given a bag, an umbrella, and other gifts as part of this package. 

The destinations include Thumboormuzhi, Athirappilly, Chapra waterfalls (which becomes active only during rainy season), Vazhachaal, Peringalkuthu, Anakkayam, and sholayar dam and the trip costs 1000 INR per person. 

For booking, please contact 0480-2769888 or 9497069888. The package starts from June 3, 2017. 

I went for the trip along with 16 of my relatives and we were asked to reach Chalakudy PWD guest house by 7:45 AM as the trip was scheduled to start at 8 AM. We reached early, by 7:20 AM and by then few others who would be joining us had also reached, but no KTD official was to be seen around. As the clock ticked, people started to pour in and at one point we were wondering how big the team will be! Around 7:40, a classy Benz Travel Bus came in, followed by 2 Air conditioned tempo travelers and it was then we realized the trip will be having multiple batches and not just 1 bus! In 10 minutes time, everyone got into the bus and by 7:55 we started the trip, 5 min ahead of our scheduled start time, which is quite impressive.

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10 minutes into the journey, the bus hustled past the concrete jungle and the greenery started to appear. We were heading to our the first destination which is Thumboormuzhi, also our breakfast point as informed by the guide.  10-15 minutes into the journey, the guide using the bus PA system were announcing basic instructions like “no alcohol” throughout the journey, people should finish sightseeing within stipulated time frame, history and details of the places we will be visiting and other safety instructions.  We reached Thumboormuzhi, by 8 30 AM and we were informed that we have around 50 minutes there (breakfast + sightseeing). The other 2 vans would be soon joining us, and we were asked to have breakfast first,  during which the rest of the team will do sight seeing and once we finish the breakfast, they will have their food and we will see the place. This format was followed for Lunch and tea as well. We were given colorful big umbrellas when going for breakfast and was told it is our responsibility to take care of them throughout the journey and no replacement will be offered (more about that later!) We had a nice breakfast (IMO!) which consisted of “Puttu and Kadala Curry” (Rice cake and black channa curry), the “puttu” was made of a mixture of rice powder as well as jackfruit seed powder, followed by idly and white coconut chutney and choice of either tea or coffee. The hotel also showcased different processed food made out of jackfruit which was available to buy at reasonable prices. There was no limit for the food you can eat I guess, but I did not see anyone asking for more than what was served initially!

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Buy Puttu Powder  OR Chutney Powder OR Nice squash !!!

After 20-25 min of breakfast, we headed towards the hanging bridge (a 5 min walk from the hotel) which is the main attraction at Thumboormuzhi. Spanning both sides with picturesque fauna, the place is a great view to get immersed in the beauty of nature. The place also has a viewing deck though I felt the hanging bridge offered a better view of nature. Throughout the journey, it was either drizzling or heavy rains and hence the name Rain journey was 100 percent apt for the trip! At Thumboormuzhi I had a glimpse of vezhambal (Great hornbill), the Kerala state bird but unfortunately, couldn’t photograph it. The place also has a nice park and after a quick stroll in the park, and we were back on the bus for the next leg of our journey. We were scheduled to leave at 9:25, we left at 9:30!

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Its time you buy an SLR

The next destination was the most treacherous, challenging, and fascinating of all, the Athirapally water falls! When I asked the guide about the time allotted there, he replied 1 hour and I was like, “Isn’t that too much?”. Time proved me wrong.

We reached the top of the waterfalls by around 10 AM. There are 2 places where you can watch the waterfalls! A viewing spot, which is at the same height of the waterfall and from the base of the waterfall. You would have to go through a tough 400 m steep journey to reach the base of the waterfall, hopping across slippery rocks to reach the base. The journey downward may seem easy, but the return walk is going to be excruciating! I could barely climb the final 10 steps, as my muscles ran out of energy to burn! (Applicable only to lazy fellas like me!)

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We reached the base by 10:15 and telling frankly, I was disappointed in a photography perspective as the AWF was only half as majestic as it could become. The flow of water was slow, the water was covering only a small area of the available falling space, but nevertheless, looking at a waterfall, how small it is is still a gorgeous sight. The climb back to the top was extremely difficult for me, I almost lost breath by the time I reached up. Few of us took a wrong route which made us reach all the way outside the main road, losing me a golden opportunity to photograph the waterfall from the top as well (Sharing an image taken by my cousin below) Though we came back at the stipulated time, we had to wait another 10-15 min for our bus to come and other fellow travelers came back! We started the journey by 11:10 AM.

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On the way to our next destination, vazhachal, we had a brief stop at charpa waterfall which is a roadside waterfall which again did not have the awww! factor. We were there only for a couple of minutes, (Reached at 11:20) the guide didn’t even give us time to click proper photographs, and it even started raining, so we were back on the bus in no time.

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Next destination was Vazhachaal, (reached by 11:30) another mediocre waterfall. More than a waterfall, it is water flowing over rocks which are inclined at a downward angle. It was more like a river stream itself. We were taken for a walk beside the “waterfalls” through a tribal colony and we completed the walk in 15 minutes and was back on the bus by 11:50!

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Our next stop was Peringalkuthu a KSEB IB which is a restricted area with access only through pre-approval from KSEB. Our lunch was arranged here, with food cooked from there itself (Most of the KSEB inspection bungalow has their own designated cooks and care takers). We reached peringalkuthu by 12:20 PM. The lunch was a typical Kerala style lunch (Non-veg) which included white rice, sambar, rasam, theeyal, Thoran, fish moli, chicken masala, papadam and lime pickle. I would rate it as a good fulfilling meal.

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The only view from Peringalkuthu is the peringalkuthu dam. It was very difficult to see the dam because of the heavy fog and occasionally it came popping up….It started raining heavily as well when we were at Peringalkuthu and by 1:30 PM, we were ready to start again.

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Our next destination was the Sholayar Dam, which is near to the Tamil Nadu border (few of us were receiving ‘Welcome to Tamil Nadu’ message by the cell phone provider!). Photography was banned at the place and the dam walkway is also closed making the place a stop for nothing but using the toilets available there.

On the way back from Sholayar, the guide took us for a “nature walk” which is a 30 min walk into the forest through a narrow makeshift road. We reached the place around 3:00 PM. After the trek to Athirappilly water falls, I found this small walk the next best thing in the trip. The place was filled with fog, we were unable to see even 10 meters ahead! Add to it, it was drizzling enough to make you feel the rain but not so hard you couldn’t walk, There were leeches on the road, but thankfully I was not attacked, but everyone was not lucky as me! We clicked a couple of family photographs and were back to the bus by 3:40 PM.

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The nature walk was the last “spot” in our itinerary and we started our journey back to Chalakudy. On the way back, we stopped for our evening tea at a roadside hotel (which again was a pre-designated place) and had “kappa and mulaku chammanthi” (Cooked tapioca with masala chutney) which was very spicy and a black coffee with jaggery! We stopped there for around 30 minutes, with people using the nearby “restroom complex” to relieve themselves and get freshened up. We reached there by 4:50 and left by 5:40 PM.

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The bus was playing nice melodious Malayalam songs all the way back and half of the travelers were asleep during the return journey and by sharp 7 PM, we reached back the PWD guest house!

Summing up, I would definitely recommend everyone visiting Kerala or who are from Kerala to go for this trip. Though not all places which we visited can be called breathtaking, the experience is definitely worth the money. The greenery throughout the journey itself is enough to fill your mind and heart with happiness. Walking through the forests, seeing the waterfalls from so close, breathing fresh air, the sound of nature and not machinery and vehicles, the trip gives you a lot than what is written above. Do note that the KTDC organizes this kind of trip throughout the year and they just re-named it as “Mazha yatra” to mark the monsoon season. Those year round trip also costs 1000 rs and includes one more destination which is malakkappara and that trip starts earlier since the distance is more. (See the brochure at the end of the post)

We did not even stop at “anakkayam” mentioned in the itinerary, the bus passed through the place and the guide just announced “we are passing through anakkayam” Phew!

Coming to the freebies offered in the package.

Umbrella: The umbrella given is of very low quality, some of its handles came out halfway through the journey, for some, it couldn’t handle strong winds and couldn’t even close the umbrella. You can use it at your home to go around during rain, but definitely not an all weather high-quality umbrella. But the umbrella is really big!!!

Bag: When I heard “bag” I pictured in mind a backpack or at least a sling bag, but no, what you get is a cloth cover with a zip called as a bag. You can probably use it to store few papers in it! The bag would have cost them 15 rs! The “kit” mentioned in the advt. was present inside this big.

Kit include: Brochure, 1 appam, 1 eladi sweet, 1 marunnu and jackfruit squash sample.

Additional Gift: A Biodegradable pen with seeds in it !!!

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Brochure:

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Ratings: 

|| Places 6/10 || Weather and travel experience: 8/10 ||  Food: 9/10 ||

|| Punctuality: 9.5/10 || Toilets and other facilities: 7/10 || Overall :7/10 ||

The Good: Athirapally waterfalls and Nature walk, the Bus, Food, and Weather,

The Bad:  Other destinations, the freebies, and kit

The Ugly: Fellow travelers throwing plastics at plastic-free zones!

Please share your valuable feedback, queries through the comments section below.

My other travel reviews:

Bannerghatta National Park, Bengaluru

Gurudongmar Lake, Sikkim 

It’s Monsoon season !!! Buy these from Amazon and be ready for rain!!!

….. …..

10 thoughts on “Mazha Yatra-A jungle safari into the rainforests of Kerala”

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