The Arippara waterfalls sometimes is a gentle play of colours at other times it whips up a fine symphony, says Anima P

The backyards of the settler families are hemmed by buoyant landscape. A young villager takes a shower at the foot of the waterfalls. Leelamma’s hens can saunter and take in some fresh air on the rocky banks if they want. Arippara waterfalls is in the midst of habitation. It is quintessential Kerala — every ounce of space is taken up by houses big and small, rubber plantations and coconut groves and natural landscapes have households standing guard, though not intrusively.

Arippara waterfall can be sedate, moody, boisterous and belligerent and the locals read the mood swings well. “We know when it is raining in the mountains,” says Babu Arippara, ticket collector at the District Tourism Promotion Council’s cash counter, who lives by the waterfall.

With the Western Ghats always just a whiff away, the drive towards Arippara is bound to be a little nippy. The waterfall is tucked within the Thiruvambady panchayat and Thiruvambady is also the closest bustling town. Tokens of urbanisation steadily thin out on the onward drive. The Thiruvambady-Anakkampoyil road though narrow is remarkably well laid and often bordered by yellow cosmos growing wild.

On the way is Pullooramppara and vestiges of the recent landslide are still strewn around. Houses with their walls chipped away, the once mighty trees now uprooted and the boulders that brought in the catastrophe still make the landscape. Along the way Iruvanjipuzha keeps sedate company though it loves to play hide and seek. The journey is towards the point where the river is at its thunderous best — Arippara.

A crisp walk through a thin path guarded by slender trees and one can hear the river hissing and splashing. Arippara is a gentle play of colours. The languorous dark rocks bear signs of wear and tear, the umpteen wells and caves on its back are testimony. The water spat out from the heights is pristine white which when lulled by the plains soon takes on an emerald green. The bottle green canopy and the clear blue sky are engaged in a game of contrasts. With the elements playing an able supporting role, Arippara whips up a fine symphony.

“The water falls at three levels here,” points out K.N. Mani, the guard at Arippara. Babu points out to a tiny well on the rock between the two landings of the waterfall. “We call it the ‘shwasakuzhi’ (a breathing hole), you can sink into it and allow the water to flow over you. No one can see you from outside.” The waterfall collects into a large pond and the Iruvanjipuzha continues its journey. If it is not the monsoons, there will be enough room on the rocky banks for one to trek up.

According to Mani, the Iruvanjipuzha at Arippara is already a blend of three rivers — Muthappanpuzha, Maripuzha and Kaniyadupuzha, flowing down from the distant Vellarimala. Iruvanjipuzha courses through Arippara and Thiruvambady to finally meet the Chaliyar. The towering, mist-capped Vellarimala is a trekker’s haven, says Mani. A day-long trek one way, the world at the top is colourful and stunted. “At that height the trees are small, there are varied wild flowers and also animals. I have been at the top once,” he says.

Arippara now has caught the attention of picnickers and they come in from around Kozhikode and at times from places as far as Bangalore. It is also on the radar of tourism promotion bodies with about Rs. 50 lakh set aside for its development. A facilitation centre, a rain hut, better parking facilities and sitting areas are on the anvil. Avid trekkers are promised enough action, especially on the trek to Vellarimala. The best time to visit is from December to May.

Maripuzha is a short drive uphill from Arippara and is aloof to tourism. Along the way farmers grow their crops — tapioca, colocasia, areca nut and pepper. Around 200 m from the main road the river flows demure. A carpet of boulders to the river makes it a smooth walk to the bank. One only has to look further up, through muddy pathways beyond Maripuzha to find the settlement of a lone farmer uphill. Vehicles go through the river to take the farm produce to the market, informs Babu. One gets to know that the boulders laid out perfectly are no natural beauty.

Maripuzha is all about quiescence and clear, cold, tingling water. It does not have the expanse that Arippara boasts but promises a few serene moments. The hills are closer at hand. However, the signs of change are all around with preparatory work for resorts dotting the way.

We drive down from Maripuzha as the man who had given us directions earlier looks on from his tiny house. As the mountains move away, the houses grow fatter, the cars longer, the roads busier.

GETTING THERE

Arippara is about 45 km from Kozhikode. Drive down Wayanad road through Mukkam to Thiruvambady panchayat. Arippara is 12 km from Thiruvambady from where cabs can be hired. The nearest airport is Kozhikode about 70 km away, the nearest railway station is also at Kozhikode. Buses ply on the route till Maripuzha which is six km from Arippara.

WHERE TO STAY

Arippara doesn’t have too many accommodation facilities. Private enterprises provide basic comforts. Staying in Kozhikode and making a day trip to Arippara is a viable option.