2nd August, 2015
To access the Thoovanam falls you have to first reach the Alampetty EDC counter on the road to Marayoor. From Palakkad the route goes through Pollachi (45 kms) and Udumalpet (75 kms). At Udumalapet you have to get on the Munnar road. There is a divider all along the Pollachi - Udumalapet road within the town so you have to go to the end of the road, make a U-turn and come back to get on the Munnar road.
Now that the railway overbridge work is complete you don't have to take any confusing deviations inside the town. The Munnar road has a series of check posts starting with the police check post at Amaravathinagar (91 kms). The Tamilnadu forest department (TNFD) check post was immediately next to this but has been shifted further up on the road at the entrance of the Anaimalai Tiger Reserve (formerly Indira Gandhi National Park and WLS). You have to make an entry here and again at another TNFD check post the TN-Kerala border. Immediately after crossing the bridge on Chinnar river, that marks the state boundary, you drive into Kerala through a series of check posts; excise, commercial taxes and the Kerala Forest department's. You have to again enter details at the last check post that marks the start of Chinnar WLS (104 kms).
The forest department has a rest house and dormitory here if you want to do an overnight trip. The eco-development committee has a small canteen where you can pre-order food if you are staying. The river trek and watch tower trek starts from here. The Alampetty EDC counter (116 kms) is halfway up the road to Marayoor from the Chinnar WLS entry. You can book your trek to the megalithic burial sites (dolmen or muniyaras), Thoovanam and Vasyapara from here. A tribal trekker guide will accompany you from here till you return.
The trek to Thoovanam follows a general downhill course from the EDC counter and the distance is approximately between three and four kilometers, depending on the little short cuts your guide might take you on. In any case it is an easy paced walk even for inexperienced trekkers. With the exception of a couple of slightly steep but short climbs it is overall a trek that can be done without too much of effort.
|The shy barking deer|
|Fresh steaming dung can be a magnet for some creatures!|
|Some, like these dung beetles fight over it!|
Chinnar is rich in avian life and can occasionally throw up unexpected surprises.
|This rufous bellied eagle was a first for me|
|Grizzled giant squirrel|
|They move fast and are difficult to photograph in the dense canopy|
|Grizzled giant squirrel|
|A common peacock butterfly|
|A shy cobra!|
|The rock agama|
|Rapids on the Pambar|
|The trek path|
|The trek path|
You hear Thoovanam before you see it. About 400 meters from the falls you will start hearing the rushing sound of its waters. Upto now you were engulfed by the sounds of the birds and insects. Gradually that is replaced by a steadily roar of water rushing over a precipice, like the sound of a train coming ever closer. Then about 100 meters before the fall you see it for the first time.
|The first view of the falls|
The cool waters are inviting but I had not carried a change of clothing. I just soaked in the atmosphere of Thoovanam. There is a gentle mist of water droplets that permeates the air around you and wets the rocks and plants below the fall. That is what gives it the name Thoovanam.
|The frothy waters rise as a mist as it hits the rocks below|
|The cool waters are inviting for a dip!|
I had finally made it. Now I'm planning to stay overnight in the hut that faces the falls at the first opportunity.
|Downstream of the falls|
The trek back is a little more taxing on the limbs especially for a person past middle age and used to sitting in a chair all day. It is a gradual climb on the return except the last stretch where it can be a little tough, especially if you choose to take a very steep short cut instead of the regular trek path. I learnt a lesson about trekking that day, something that taught me not to overestimate our age and fitness levels. However that will not dissuade me from going back and spending a night beside this beautiful fall.
Thoovanam may not impress many like Athirapally but with the high inflow of tourists and mushrooming 'resorts' around the latter, it is not a place where you can go spend a few contemplative moments by yourself. At Athirapally and Vazahchal you are too busy avoiding the crowds, especially on holidays.
|Athirapally from the top|
|Athirapally at the bottom of the falls|
I want to go back, and soon.Waiting for a full moon night......