In the month of December 2019, I changed my car, but again it is a hatchback due to various reasons. We wanted to feel the car and also wanted to go for a long trip during Christmas holidays as it was holiday for kids and my office workload was also minimal. So, we decided to venture out and feel nature. The plan and destination were finalized by my wife and son along with itinerary. As we already made a trip to Anamalai and Valparai during 2017, it was bit easy for us to plan and book our accommodation. We decided to make our base as Royal Cottage, Anaimalai which is near to Malampuzha, Valparai and Nelliyampathy.
December 25, 2019 – Wednesday – Travel from Chennai to Anaimalai Elephant Reserve (Day-1)
December 26, 2019 – Thursday – Travel to Malampuzha and return to Anaimalai (Day-2)
December 27, 2019 – Friday – Travel to Nelliyampathy Forest and stay at jungle (Day-3)
December 28, 2019 – Saturday – Exploring Nelliyampathy Forest and return to Anaimalai (Day-4)
December 29, 2019 – Sunday – Travel to Valparai and return to Anaimalai (Day-5)
December 30, 2019 – Monday – Return from Anaimalai to Chennai (Day-6)
We started near Adyar on 25th December at around 5.00 AM and planned to take the following route:
Adayar – Tambaram – Chengalpattu – Thindivanam – Villupuram – Ulundurpet – Salem – Bhavani – Perundhurai – Palladam – Pollachi – Anaimalai
We had already done the same route once during our 2017 trip and hence route seems to be familiar to us. The climate was chill outside and it was dark during December early morning. I was driving carefully between 70 to 80 kilometers per hour due to mist and darkness around. At around 7.30, we crossed Thindivanam and we had sun out of darkness and cloud. I was cruising at 100+ kilometers per hour and we were nearing Villupuram toll at around 8.15 AM and we found a huge line of vehicles before us. Luckily, we had Fastag installed and for Fastag, we had a separate line and hence we crossed these tolls easily without waiting for longer period and at around 8.30 AM we stopped at Arya Nivas for much needed breakfast. It was bit crowded and we waited for our turn. Finally, we completed our breakfast and started from there at around 9.15 AM. Soon we saw dark clouds all over and it started raining heavily. Due to this heavy downpour, the driving has become bit challenge and I was driving carefully. Soon at around 10 AM we took the right turn into the route which takes us to Salem, which is a combination of both 2 and 4 lanes and it was less crowded. We further need to travel another 130 kilometers to bypass Salem and I was comfortably doing 3-digit figure in the car. Till Salem it is a well-known route to me as I had self-driven for more than 10+ trips. We reached Salem at around 11.30 AM and took the much need turn at right to Bhavani and Perundhurai route. One has to pay more attention in taking this right turn towards Sangagiri road which takes to us to Bhavani and Perunthurai. We soon crossed Bhavani and Perundhurai at around 1 PM we were heading towards Avinashi and Palladam. At around 1.30 PM, we stopped at Hotel Annapoorna for much needed lunch. After light food, we started at around 2 PM and reached Palladam at around 2.45 PM and took the turn towards left which was heading towards Pollachi. This is again an important turn at left and failing to take this turn will take us to Coimbatore. It was 2 lane road for next 80 kilometers till Pollachi and the road was scenic with coconut trees and farms on the both sides. The road also had nice twist and turn and we reached Pollachi at around 4.30 PM. We further travelled another 16 kilometers to reach our destination Royal Cottage, Anaimalai at around 5 PM and headed for a short rest. Royal Cottage is a safe place to stay with family and kids.
As we done the same route already, we never tried google maps all through the travel till Anaimalai. After our short rest we refreshed ourselves and at around 6.30 PM, we went to Maasaniamman temple which was very near to our stay. While returning back, we completed our dinner at Hotel Gowri Shankar at around 8 PM and reached Royal Cottage. We ended our day-1 with next day plan to Malampuzha at Palakkad district.
We had an early breakfast and decided to start after 11.30 AM due to full solar eclipse as it was not advisable to venture out during eclipse period. The plan was to visit Malampuzha in Palakkad district and we started at around 11.30 AM. The distance between Anaimalai and Malampuzha is around 59 kilometers and we need to travel through the state highways. We switched on the google maps for the route and as usual it led to confusion. It took us into all the small lanes and in between we completely lost the route. So, I took the locals help and reached Malampuzha dam at around 2 PM and parked the car safely. It was crowded a bit there with more tourists. We thought of having lunch and found only a restaurant run by Kerala tourism and it was crowded and hence we decided to skip lunch and explore further. There were play area in entrance and kids played there for some time. Then we went into the Dam and had a walk and the view was amazing from it’s top. We got down from top at around 3.30 PM through a different route which was like a small trekking. We then went into the big garden and were playing there till 4 PM and we further headed towards rope car which is a specialty there. Rope car in Malampuzha dam is one of the exciting events available and we should not miss the opportunity to travel in rope car. There was a big queue to get tickets and we got the tickets and waited for our turn to get into the rope car. Each car can accommodate 2 persons and I took my daughter with me as she was bit frightened in the beginning and my son and wife got into another car. Wow, it was mesmerizing trip for around 20 minutes and during the rope car travel, we had an expansive view of the Malampuzha Dam on the left side and on the right side we saw garden and play area. The height also varies during 20 minutes travel and it was amazing and while returning back, my daughter started asking me for one more round. It was almost 5 PM, we landed down from the rope car and we quickly visited a near by aquarium. We all then completed our activities at around 5.45 PM and decided to return back to our base, Royal Cottage at Anaimalai.
We need to travel around 60 kilometers back and I was driving in the fading light in 2 laned state highway where we had a good amount of lorry traffic as these roads connects Tamil Nadu and Kerala for goods transport. Soon it become completely dark at around 6.30 PM and still we need to cover at least another 30 kilometers and we entered into Tamil Nadu zone from Palakkad. Since it was dark and no road lights, I decided to switch on google maps for directions to reach our destination. After travelling around another 10 kilometers, google maps asked us to take a right turn into a small lane and we followed google guidelines as no other option was available. It was completely dark at round 7 PM and we were driving in a small lane with coconut farms on either side and we were unable to spot any human being in the roads, no house or huts on either side and no lights on the road, except our car headlights. The kids were bit frightened in the dark and there were goosebumps for me for those 45 minutes, during the amazing drive and finally we spotted a few lights which indicated that we were out of those coconut farms. We reached our base, Royal Cottage at around 8 PM and went out for dinner at around 8.30 PM to Hotel Gowri Shankar and we ordered heavy dinner as we missed our lunch completely.
We ended our fascinating day by watching dam, travelling in rope car, adventurous drive inside coconut farm in complete dark and driving in state highways between Tamil Nadu and Kerala with next day’s plan to Nelliyampathy forest for next 2 days.
We started day 3 with a plan to travel to Nelliyampathy forest and stay there for a day and return on next day, back to Anaimalai. Nelliyampathy is a reserved forest situated in Kerala hills at a distance of around 79 kilometers from Anaimalai. One has to drive to Nemmara which is 49 kilometers from Anaimalai and we need to take a U like turn at Nemmara to Nelliyampathy and need to drive another 28 kilometers via Pothundi Dam to reach Nelliyampathy.
Nelliyampathy is still unexplored by many and it is a wonderful place to spend our leisure time, away from all our busy schedule as many locations inside the forest may not have mobile towers and we will be completely cut off from other parts of the world. We already made our booking for our stay at Vanya Jungle Resort. As the name suggests, it was situated in the middle of a jungle and we need to do off-roading to reach the destination. If we are travelling by our own car, it is better to park our car safely before 2 to 3 kilometers and we can ask the resort support staff to pick us in their own off-roading jeep to avoid damages to our car as there are not proper roads available except adventurous off-roading.
We started at around 8 AM after our breakfast and I was driving leisurely through the breathtaking scenic roads with a plan to reach Nemmara. We travelled around 49 kilometers and reached Nemmara at around 9.45 AM and roads were narrow and I was careful enough to take a U like road which takes us to Pothundi Dam, which is the entry point for Nelliyampathy Forest. We then travelled another 28 kilometers and reached Pothundi Dam before 11.15 AM. We made a short halt and entered Pothundi dam where we spent next 45 minutes in exploring the areas near the dam. We again started and reached Nelliyampathy at around 1 PM and headed for a quick lunch and completed the same at around 1.30 PM. We tried to call the reception of Vanya Jungle Resort through our mobile phones and there were no signal available in both Airtel and Vodafone. We then requested the restaurant guy to use their landline to inform Vanya Jungle Resort about our arrival, so that they could pick us in their jeep. Based on their advice we further travelled a few kilometers till post office and we parked our car safely there and got into their jeep. The jeep then travelled for further 4 to 5 kilometers deep into the jungle where no roads were available and it was completely an off-roading experience. We finally reached the resort which was situated alone in mid of a forest. It was amazing that we were in middle of a jungle where we were hearing birds sounds alone and we were completely disconnected from other parts of the world.
We had a brief rest and at around 3.30 PM we came out and wanted to explore the forest. The receptionist in the resort advised us not to venture out to longer distance and asked us to explore areas which are near to resorts stating that there are possibilities for elephants, tigers and leopards. Wow, what a thrill? ELEPHANTS, TIGERS, LEPORDS, Etc., near us, wonderful. He also told that during night times these wild animals will roam around the resorts and sometime we may hear their noises as well. After hearing all these, we ventured out only to near by locations with utmost care and returned to resort at 5 PM. We were provided accommodation at second floor and when we opened balcony, we saw a valley next to balcony. Wow, wonderful and it was worth it to stay. On the other side, when we opened the screen from the big window, we could able to see a stream with water at a good distance, where these animals may come to drink water. If we were lucky enough, we can see those. I spent rest of the time sitting in the balcony, viewing the sunset, hearing the birds humming sound and enjoying the chill climate till night without any disturbance. We asked the resort support staff to deliver our food to the room and spent the entire evening to till night watching and enjoying those nature. We ended our day-3 with some mesmerizing memories.
To enjoy the nature and sun rise we got up at around 5.45 AM in the morning in chill climate and heard wonderful humming sounds of birds. We then had a little walk around the resorts in misty climate and got ourselves ready for breakfast at around 8 AM. We completed breakfast at 8.30 AM and went for a small trekking in the forest which was arranged by the resorts support staff. He accompanied us and during the walk, he had shown us the fresh foot marks of leopards near the resorts, which means they were roaming in the night around our resorts. He also shown the elephant dung and again an indication that elephants were roaming around us in the night. Wow, goosebumps for us, but we have not heard any noise during night, but still wonderful experience to see all these. We completed our trekking and came back to resort at 10 AM and immediately vacated the resort. The resort guy dropped us near post office where we parked our car on the previous day. For these, up and down trips they charged us INR 400/- in total.
We then took our car and driven further to a market place and still we need to explore other parts of Nelliyampathy Forests and this time, through a complete off-roading trip in jeep for around 22 kilometers. We parked our car safely and booked a jeep for forest off-roading safari. There were several off-roading jeeps available which will take us inside the forest for around 22 kilometers, where no roads were available and the charges were around INR 1700/-.
Our safari started at around 11 AM, and we travelled into the forest for 6 to 7 kilometers where only mud roads were available. After crossing those regions, there were no roads and we were travelling on rocks and pillars which was quite astonishing and next 15 odd kilometers were challenging and wonderful. In between we had pit stops at around 3 places and we were advised to venture out nearby and certainly not deep into the forest in fear of wild animal attacks. All these 22 odd kilometers were amazing, with no roads and this 4-wheel jeep drive was taking us over various rocks and pillars. We finally returned back to our parking slot at around 1.30 PM and decided to skip lunch and started climbing down in our car to Anaimalai via Pothundi Dam and Nemmara.
While returning, we had a quick thought of visiting Aliyar Dam which we missed out last time during our 2017 visit. We reached Aliyar Dam at around 5 PM and we were searching for parking slot and luckily got one to park our car. We made a quick entry and spend some good time till it becomes dark. The dam was huge and long and it was wonderful to be there during the fading light. Finally, we returned back to Royal Cottage, Anaimalai at round 8 PM and headed for immediate dinner to Hotel Gowri Shankar.
Overall, we ended day-4 with an astonishing note, where we made a small trekking, saw the foot prints of elephants and leopards, off-roading jeep experience in dense forest, driving through twists and turns and cool experience in dam and with next day plan for Valparai.
We started at around 8 AM to Valparai and decided to have breakfast on the way near Aliyar dam. We quickly completed our breakfast on the way and we soon crossed Aliyar Dam and started climbing the hills to Valparai. There were 40 steep hair pin bends to reach Valparai and the driving was scenic and challenging as we need to negotiate the steep narrow lanes carefully. These hair pin bends are famous for elephants and leopards as we had a few view points for them as well.
We first visited Balaji temple and prayed there for some time. The route to reach Balaji temple was very steep and narrow and our driving skills were tested. Then we travelled further and stopped near few tea estates for pictures and then went to Karamalai Annai Velankanni church. We also played in a water stream near church. Soon we travelled to Koolangal River and kids really enjoyed playing in chill water. It was almost around 11.30 AM and we started towards Nirar Dam and also visited Nallamudi Viewpoint.
At around 2.30 PM, we visited Pooncholai Estate after walking into the area for more than one kilometer. It was such an amazing experience to walk in chill climate were the locals advised us to look out for elephants and leopards. We also found a few elephant dung which was an indication that the elephants were crossed those places in last 2 days. We reached the end view point and we were taking pictures. Suddenly, we saw a forest ranger running towards us stating that elephants had entered these areas. We were thrilled on hearing this and had a thought to stay safely to watch those wild elephants. But the ranger warned all the tourists to vacate this view point immediately without any delay and advised us to go back from the Pooncholai Estate as early as possible considering a possible elephant attack. He further stated that these elephants will have the mindset to attack visitors and it is not safe to stay there further. So, we decided to walk back half mindedly and our family was the last one to get evacuated from the arena. So safely reached back the Pooncholai Estate entrance and got into our car and started back.
We further decided to skip Sholayar dam as the tourist activities got suspended further for the day due to wild elephant invasion. We started back and while returning back we quickly visited Chitti Vinayakar Temple and started our downward trip. We were driving with utmost care as it was a real challenge in testing our driving skills where we need to cross 40 steep hair pin bends. We were planning to visit monkey falls and we reached the spot at around 5.30 PM. Unfortunately, the security personnel stopped us at the entrance stating that they are going to close the entry as time was up. We were not lucky to make a visit to this waterfall for second time and of course we had a wonderful time during our last 2017 visit. We were now heading towards Royal Cottage, Anaimalai and we reached the resort at around 6.30 PM. After a short rest, we again went to Maasaniamman temple which was very near to our stay. We then completed our dinner and came back to the resort with good memories.
We ended our day-5 with good memories of Valparai and especially the elephant invasion and steep hair pin bends. We now started our packing as we planned to return back to Chennai next day.
We started around 9 AM from the resort and took the return route after memorable 5 days. We were driving at good speed in car through Pollachi, Palladam, Perundhurai through Avinashi road and reached Salem at around 2 PM. We had our lunch after Salem and headed towards Chennai through Ulunderpet, Villupuram and Thindivanam. The traffic was heavy when we reached Ulunderpet and we need to negotiate other speeding vehicles and finally reached home at 8 PM.
To summarize, the entire trip was exciting in visiting different dams, rope car travel, staying inside forest, jungle safari, off-roading in jeep, viewing the elephant dung and foot marks of leopards and elephant invasion and lucky escape.