Valparai was the first of many places I visited in South India that I have fond memories we go back to even today. It was also going to be the benchmark of many trips we would take in the future, in terms of the people, places and of course food. We didn’t know back then but “Saturday Night” Whatsapp group solidified from here. The trip was happening at a good time. It had already been a year since we had gone out together , and we were deciding on September, so the weather would be good. I used to be very rigid about my criteria back then. Good weather, either waterfalls or beach should be a must and of course my tight knit group. Any deviation from the above and I would throw a fit. It’s always so easy with them. Everyone would dance all night in our traveller, no exceptions. If you see a waterfall expect everyone to jump into it immediately, no fuss of clothes or makeup whatsoever. It’s like we are always on the same page, in all minute details.

This would be the first time Sajal wouldn’t be joining us and it seemed almost impossible to be true at that time. Every group has a couple of core people who are a given, he was one of them. He took care of money and per head contributions, he was fun to be around and also the first guy to break into dance. He didn’t come, so naturally Namrata didn’t either. Few from CADM didn’t, and we were left with 10. Sounds like a crowd now, but back then when our trips had a minimum of 16 to 18 on all trips that we had to book private buses, 10 sounds too meagre and came with its own complications. So it was going to be a traveller this time, which meant we might not be able to stand properly let alone dancing(which was one of our biggest highlights, to mad dance till break of the dawn and have some crazy drunk stories to go along the next day).

Not many people know about Valparai, and it’s a boon if you ask me honestly. But back then I wanted to go to some known places so I could boast in front of my other friends. Valparai was Suman’s find, and research of travel distance, stay and a rough budget was much more detailed than others, hence Valparai was finalised. 

Arushi contacted Red Bus and got us a new traveller. It looked swanky neat and with pink lights in them, it was a mood lifter. This was also the first time Shreeram was joining us. Brownie points to me!  😁. It took an enormous level of convincing, brainwashing, then giving up and finally him reluctantly agreeing just the morning of the trip.

We met at EGL. Been our go to starting place ,since forever. Contrary to my inhibitions, the TT was actually a new one. Clean and did not give out an eerie feeling. Oh and we danced!!!!  Give us a place we can barely stand and we still danced like wild bulls, stamping , falling on each other with every turn the vehicle took. The green lights added the cheap bar feeling which we donkeys absolutely loved. Nothing like a local bar ambience . Plus our driver was a crazy dude. 

He drove like he was on a race. Shekhar decided to be awake all night because every speed turn this guy took put his heart on race. Plus since all of us loved his collection, he took it upon himself to keep only the best songs playing all night 😀

Morning woke us up to a chilly breeze, an extreme stone cold breeze that will wake your bones. The air was majestically clear, you can feel that with every inhale. And everything was lush green. Abundant and zero pollution.

Up until now I didn’t know of hairpin bends and boy I had to know this way. Hair pin bends are fun if you are not in it and if you don’t have a crazy driver. I had both. And it was as freaky as you would imagine, the hill had 23 of them and it never ended. Bend no 9 is where you can take a stop and see the view and I remember , it took forever to just get there. Now that i recall, the adrenaline rush with every steepy turn or everytime a rush truck went by, was so fun!(not that i want to experience the near death experience again). Bend no 9 pit stop was so amazing! Don’t run to the road to take pictures. Vehicles come and go in seconds and it could kill you. IT COULD KILL YOU.

We reached the homestay around 9am. It’s basically a house and they had rented out their first floor. I rushed in to check out and somehow didn’t like it, AT ALL. The rooms were clumsy, gloomy and it had three very distant rooms with no proper ventilation. Suman talked to the owner and they had another one available on the second floor. It opened to a dining room with a big dining table that could seat my entire group. And it had one big hall with 5 double beds. That was a first. But I knew that second, it was gonna be fun. We always end up in one room anyway, playing cards or dancing, might as well stay and see how it turns up. The room looked very cute. It had a cozy vibe, with a gorgeous view plus eating together at the dining table all together felt like a family thing 🙂 if you know what i mean.

Valparai wasn’t much of a known tourist destination back then, so the prices of everything was nominal. We got ourselves a tour guide for Rs 500 for the day. We didn’t even bargain ,that was his price. Having Sashi sir on trips is always a boon. He speaks the local language, he is mature and calm , he knows the rates of everything even when he is visiting a place for the first time. He is chill to be around. The fact that he is insanely talented photographer and captures all moments of our trip is an added plus.😁

The guide told us about three places for the day and then end it with a viewpoint. Since all the three were water places, we decided that we will first go to see-only ones and then in the end go to the one where we can get drenched. 

Vellamalai tunnel

We walked maybe 500 meters after parking our vehicle. When you are nearing, there is a downward steep step almost slippery which you must watch out for. Super narrow and totally covered with mosses. Then came the tunnel. Out came water in such supersonic speed , had us all taken aback. I mean we were standing on the edge but the gushing water was so tremendous it was scary. Even the iron bridge didn’t help. I tried throwing a stone and that didn’t land in the bed, the water was moving in so much speed that it took the stone the minute it touched and off it went. We spotted a small waterfall sorta thing nearby. It looked super cute. It was tiny and had a small perimeter around it, like an open air shower 🙂.

Cross the bridge there and even the splashes will tell you that the water in it was freezing. No kidding you.I don’t think any of us had any plans to get into water. Everyone was just playing with the little splashes and stuff and all of a sudden Suman wanted to put her hand  in the fall, test the forces. KAS joined in. Needless to say both were drenched in no time. And since they were drenched, it was given that eventually everyone would be too. The guide was surprised to see us bathing in that freezing cold fall which technically wasn’t a fall per se.We were so happy and excited and shivering. Everywhere my eyes laid on was lush green and clean air and picturesque. Eventually we left, after making sure everyone was wet from the head.

Koolangal river

You have to visit this river. It’s my most favourite place in all of Valparai. The river crosses through hills of tea plantations, and just the sight of it will make you sooo happy. It was like the drawing we made in school. The one nature drawing everyone did the same. Water flowing through hills amidst the choicest colour of green in lush thick tea bushes, making life look perfect and soothing. I remember by the time we were done sight seeing this river, our guide was already heading back to the vehicle. Needless to say, nobody paid attention to him. Since it isn’t touristy and crowded ,it made it better. Quiet untouched places are a boon. Ram was the first person who rushed to the shallow river to the middle. 

We were still taking group pictures and contemplating if we should get drenched at every place we go when we see him playing like a kid. Took less than five seconds for everyone to make up their mind and off we went to join him. If we thought the tiny waterfall was freezing, we weren’t ready for this one. The bed was full of tiny pebbles so we could adjust ourselves and sit in a way that the water current wouldn’t move us. I will repeat, it’s a vast view of breathtaking landscape and amidst it all, us together in that freezing river was unperturbed happiness. 

Nirar Dam

By now the city looked like it just belonged to us. Everywhere we went , had hardly any people  or they were leaving the place , giving it all to ourselves. Nirar Dam was desolate to say the least. So we took the stairs down to the bottom of which laid a green reservoir. I don’t know if it was allowed. I think you must be careful of snakes and leeches here. There was not much to do here than sit on the bridge and enjoy the view.

When we finally left, all of us realised we hadn’t eaten all day. The sunset point could wait, our growling tummies could not. Costed us barely 1200 bucks for all ten of us, and we ordered a bunch of stuff. 😀 After that, we rushed to the sunset point. It was a good 30 minutes drive and we were already past five. Places like that close soon as it’s unsafe in the dark. We  reached before 6 and yet the sunset spot was closed. Our guide tried talking to him, but there was no budging that fellow. So we took a stroll in the tea plantation ,in that eerie quiet surrounding.. When it was nearing dark, we had tea from the stall in the hill, took some pictures and headed back. 

I wouldn’t have talked about the usual things we do once we are back from outside, but since we all stayed together which was a first, I will tell you just the highlights. 

Chilling back in the room was like home. We played cards and laughed and joked and  adjusted ourselves in the two double bed and ate all the junk food we had brought along. If we thought we could retire ourselves, Sashi sir and Suman had other plans.They insisted we take the night safari. Arushi, Arka and few seemed interested too. I didn’t wanna move from my bed one bit. I had a heavy dinner ,my bed was cozy, and getting ready at 2am in the chilling cold wasn’t an inviting thought.

Never take the night safari. It’s a waste. There was nothing to see, not even local birds. Forget tigers, there were no buffaloes, not even cats. So occasionally he torched in the direction of fields to show us dogs . Yes that happened. But I was starting to like it. We took a blanket from the room, no lights in the bus, roads pitch dark and it was starting to look not so bad after all. Cozying in the blanket and sleeping, I could do that.

Five minutes into that, I went to the front next to Shashi sir for maybe just one minute or two. When I came, Arushi had taken my seat. I asked her to move and she said no. SHE SAID NO 😡. I had no sweater on me, she wore a jacket, that was my romantic date happening, she didn’t need the blanket, and yet said no. Like really she didn’t move. I have never been so taken aback before. Quietly I went to the back, sat in the excruciating cold and basically saw my date night go down the drain.😢 It was heartbreaking to say the least and the constant reminder that I was freezing wasn’t helping. Arka came and slept on my lap. After that I dozed off. We must have come back around 3. And I dozed off without changing. Others, they went back to playing cards again.

Stay Tuned for Day 2.

Read Hampi Travel Experience here