A journey through hill ranges while the raindrops are still pouring down, soaking all on earth, is perfect bait for any traveller. Mazha (rain), motorcycle and mountains... they paint a whole picture, rhyming as they are.
That was quite a trip, enjoying the waterfalls, forests, and hills of Malappuram. As I sit down to write, it is still raining; the rain once again brings back the memories of that ride we set out, all drenched in a relentless downpour. A perfect route that was! And any bike rider would cherish that ride for sure.
From Kozhikode, we took the road to Mavoor–Kavanakkallu. The first stopover was the regulator cum bridge at Kavanakkallu. The water flow during the monsoon is a sight you should never miss. The gushing waters caught our attention from very far—it was in full spate! Only the tip of the long leaves of the heavily laden plantain trees could be seen above the flood waters.
In Chaliyar, the turbid water seemed vexed. Besides us, there were a lot many people who came in cars and bikes to watch the Chaliyar swollen in monsoon rain. All the shutters of the Kavanakkallu had been raised. The water gushed out in terrific force.
Riding past thickets, rivers and plantations
Schools of Natholi (Anchovies) were frolicking in the water. Did they swarm upstream because they got bored of playing in the sea, or to enjoy the lavish downpour? Who knows! Anyway, the fish ended up in the net. As soon as a catch of anchovies touched the banks, all of it was sold off like hot cakes. The teashop close by was also surrounded by a bevy of customers who eagerly sought the warmth of tea and cigarettes to fight the damp and cold. The shop also sells line and hook for those who are interested in fishing.
We crossed a bridge to Nilambur, the capital of all the forests in Malappuram. Quite understandably, the place has a magical attraction. Here is where noted magicians like Gopinath Muthukad and RK Malayathu all are born and brought up. The historical and folkloric significance of the place is also immense. We took the road to Areekode.
Chaliyar—the priced procession of Malappuram district—also followed us on the left side, hiding in the thickets at times. We took a left turn from Puthalam, a small town, a few kilometres away we were greeted by a sand mining centre. All the country boats were resting on the sand bed. Pottiyil is also just a few kilometres away from here. There is a hanging bridge, the biggest in Kerala, connecting Potttiyil and Pavanna.
We crossed the river through the hanging bridge which started swaying as we stepped on it. Some slabs of the bridge had been worn out or misplaced. A few lovers were standing on the bridge. The sight of the cameras in our hands had apparently disturbed their romance and they suddenly became cautious. As we crossed the bridge walking, we spotted two men who were eagerly looking far into the river. They were waiting for an elephant which they heard thought had been swept away by the mighty currents upstream. We also waited for quite some time with the camera ready but the news turned out to be a hoax.
We clicked away some photos and rode to Vadapuram via Edavanna till we could see the entrance of Conolly’s plot. There, visitors are allowed till 4 o clock. If we cross the hanging bridge across the Chaliyar, then we can see the teak plantations which still nurse the memories of its bygone British colonial period. We took an off-roading through the small plot on the left side to bypass a traffic jam.
We reached the banks of river Karimpuzha, which was turbulent and swollen in the heavy downpour. The river carries the lore of the strife between Samoothiri (King Zamorin of Kozhikode) and Valuvakkonathiri (king of erstwhile Valluvanad). It was on the banks of Karimpuzha that the warriors of Samoothiri stopped over to have rest. In that way, Karimpuzhakkara has some historic relevance also. The Tamarind Hotel of the KTDC stands close to the bridge on the CNG Road (Nilambur-Gudallur Road). That day, we were the only guests in the hotel may be because of the incessant rains.
Waterfalls on the way
We woke up early next morning and went to Nadukani. Passing the verdant teak plantations, the road entered into a canopy of bamboo growth. A beautiful and neat road marked by white lines. Here, there are no hairpin curves but only S, Z, and N curves. Numerous waterfalls on the way had come back to life in the rain. A lot of trucks and other vehicles were parked by the side of one of those waterfalls.
The drivers were busy; some cooking and others taking a bath. There is Jaram of Fakir Shaik Swalih nearby. Hyderali, the caretaker was sitting at the Jaram under the makeshift roof of a plastic sheet. He was sitting close to a burning hearth to fight the cold and waiting for the devotees who would visit there occasionally.
The Jaram comes under the mosque at Anamari. It is believed that four scholars who came from Yemen years ago to spread the message of religion died here. The Jaram is the place where one of them was buried. Another one is on the top, somewhere in the forest. The burial places of the other two scholars are also somewhere in the locality. But nobody knows for certain where those places are. Hyderali will be at the Jaram every day from morning six to eight at night. The travellers passing by will offer something and pray. The incense sticks were fuming and the smoke wafted in the air, leaving a trail of it suspending in the air just like the unending streams of prayers of devotees.
Forests, elephants, atlast our destination
Elephants would frequently come close to the Jaram. But they have never disturbed the Jaram, Hyderali said. His father Mohamed Malla was the caretaker of the Jaram for years together, he added. “The nercha (the annual offering) of the Jaram falls on Sahban 1 every year. This is a forest area. So, all the rituals are conducted at the Anamari mosque. That day, there will be a lot of devotees, they will come and pray here also,” he concluded. Years ago, when facilities were rudimentary and reaching the forested areas was tough, the four foreigners managed to come there and sacrificed their lives. Let's pay obeisance to them.
We went further ahead. The symmetrical rows of tea plants started to show up at a distance. Tamil speaking workers were on their way to pluck tea leaves. Those ubiquitous yellow autorickshaws on the road also indicated that we had reached Tamil Nadu.
At Nadukani, the road bifurcates. One goes to Kozhikode via Wayanad. The other one is to Oooty through Gudallur. We took a U-turn at the traffic island and headed back through the same road. Stick to the same gear to descend in which one goes up—that is a primary riding lesson. Following the rule, we slowly climbed down the Nadukani pass and reached NIlambur by the lunchtime.
Destination after destination
Chaliyar town was our next destination. We crossed the Karimpuzha Bridge and went a bit ahead. There, we spotted a stone-paved path to the right—a beautiful road bordered by huge trees. Very soon we reached in front of the gate of the Forest Department. No vehicle is allowed inside. You have to go by walking. After walking almost a kilometre, we reached Chaliyarmukku where Karimpuzha joins Chaliyar. Small islands and the confluence of the rivers can be viewed from inside the forest. Many people were there to enjoy the evening.
We went to Chanthakkunnu next. A very old bungalow built in 1928 which is now owned by the Forest Department is the attraction there. There is also a dormitory facility. Climbing down the hill, we went straight to the TK Colony then via the railway station to Pookkottupadam. There we turned left and went ahead and then turned right.
The surroundings began to disappear in darkness, not because of the sunset but due to the heavily overcast skies. Through the arecanut groves, banana farms, and rubber plantations, the road winds up to the riverside of TK colony. We glanced down, the river was mighty down there and the water was gliding down through the rocks, occasionally thrashing them mercilessly. It appeared like a flash of pristine whiteness in the dark of the forests.
The forest is part of the Silent Valley or Amrambalam forest. The colony totally depends on this river for its drinking water needs. A lot of people used to come here to have a bath in the river. The number of visitors grew, leaving behind a lot of garbage, eventually making the water undrinkable. Then the natives intervened to stop the bath altogether. But this is a very good place to see, especially during the rainy season and the next three months following it.
The next morning, we went to Perinthalmanna. From Ilambur via Vadapuram, Vandoor to Pattikkadu. It is an ideal route for a biking expedition, with friendly curves, ups, and downs. As it was early in the morning, the road was almost deserted. We thought to have the breakfast on the way. But didn't feel like stopping.
As road leads to roads
Finally, we stopped at the Chillies restaurant in Perinthalmanna. To our right side is the road to Kozhikode, towards the left, is Palakkad. We headed towards Kodikuthimala without touching the town. We turned to left again from where our road met the bypass. After the EMS Cooperative Hospital, Amminikkad is close by. From there, we took an earthen road and as we reached the top, the whole vista changed. A panoramic view of Perinthalmanna town appeared down. Kunthippuzha and the watchtower were shrouded in a layer of fog.
We rode down the hill and went to Paloorkotta which falls between Palikulambu in Kundangupuram and Palachode in Malaparamba—places that border Puzhakkattiri, Angadippuram panchayats. Rainy season is the best time to go there.
Paloorkotta is in Valancheri route from Perinthalmanna. You have to pass behind the MES Hospital and have to take a right turn from Palachode. After two kilometres from there, the Industrial area begins. From there you have to walk through a private property to reach near a beautiful waterfall. You can reach there from Ramapuram on the Malappuram-Perinthalmanna route. There is a vast pond on the top of the waterfall. This water from the pond overflows to form the waterfall. The fall glides through the grasses and the bushes to roar down to some 500 feet below in three steps. Tipu Sultan used to stay here on his way to Palakkad. The remnants of his fort can be seen scattered in the locality.
If we climb down the slopes, you can see the low-angle view of the waterfall. From the top, it is the view of the fall from the skies. Katilassery Mohammed Musaliyar, the hero of Khilafat movement, is known to have chosen this place to hide to escape the British. Again, we reached Angadippuram and took the Thriumandham Kunnu road towards Kozhikkode. It was a nice road, but you have to respect the rain! So we had to be careful about the temptations of speeding. We turned back to Kozhikode via Ramanattukara bypass.
Is it the pleasure of the bike ride, or the chill from the ride through the rain or the contentment of seeing new places--don’t know which is predominating. Or, otherwise, let's surmise, the mix of all these three feelings is what a bike ride to Malappuram in the incessant rain had on offer.
Translated by Madhuvan Geeth