This monsoon, the craving to relish the nature’s magic goes up a notch every passing day. With no major trips planned, we try to make use of all possible weekends. Khodala happened like that. So was the trek inside the Sanjay Gandhi National Park to Mumbai’s highest point (more about it later).
We manage to squeeze in a short getaway while on a 3-day trip to Kerala for a family function. A lazy Sunday morning at Palakkad. We get up late; relax with tea and newspapers; enjoy breakfast; and then comes the irresistible urge. The low ranges of the vast Nilgiri biosphere merges with the plains at our backyard. A few kilometres from our home, the Western Ghats and its ever mesmerising rainforests rise up to flirt with the monsoon clouds.
It doesn’t matter that we have just about 5-6 hours to spare before a long ride to the Coimbatore airport for a flight back to Mumbai. Three options—a 30-odd km drive to Kanjirapuzha dam, one of the largest earthern dams in the country; a 20-odd km drive to the back of beyond of Malampuzha dam backwaters; or an 8-odd km drive to the famous Dhoni Waterfalls. We choose the last.
We reach the gate to the path leading to the waterfalls, have a chat with the forest officer, and realise it is a 4-km hike up to the falls.
That itself is nothing new for us but others with us are not regular trekkers or hikers. Anyways, we set off for a long gradual climb, peppered with a few switchbacks.
Without wanting to waste more time, we climb back down to the dirt track and continue walking. Vehicles are not allowed inside the forest but a VIP and family drive past us, with a police vehicle as pilot. As the vehicles pass us, we realise the shortcut we took would have taken us to the right path, had we explored further.
So we again venture off the path into the forest and find a spot where we could re-enter the regular track. After that, figuring out the shortcuts is not much of a problem, and it saves precious time.
All this while, we do not hear any sound of the waterfalls. A slight scepticism sets in but as we escape the last switchback with one more shortcut, a board states “Dhoni Waterfalls, 750 meters.”
Pepped up, we walk down the path (no more climbing up). Gentle roar of the waterfalls greets us.
It is extremely dangerous to go under the falls but the river, before it takes the plunge, is easily accessible and enjoyable.
We splash around for half an hour or so. The thick, lush forest and the river, placidly flowing at places and gushing through the rocky crevices at others, present too enchanting a scenario that we want to spend the whole day there. But the long walk back and the long drive to the airport are unavoidable. Reluctantly, we get out of the water and walk back, taking shortcuts of course (which are more dangerous on climbing down).
PS: It seems there is a cricketer named after this waterfalls!
Dhoni Waterfalls is in Palakkad, Kerala, about 10 km from Palakkad town. The forest ranges are part of the Nilgiri biosphere in the Western Ghats bordering Kerala & Tamilnadu.