K. PRADEEP connects instantly to the interestingly named Dhoni, a quiet village with reserve forests and sparkling waterfalls
What does Indian cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni have to do with Palakkad? Stumped? Not surprising. For Dhoni has nothing to do with this town. But a quaint village, with its small hilltop, reserve forests, sparkling waterfalls, hardly 13 km from Palakkad town, is interestingly named Dhoni.
No one actually knows why it is called so. We tweak this question and try asking some of those who stop to give directions if they know of someone called Dhoni. The answer is a sheepish smile, a nod and a hand stretched out that simply says that we have to go further down the road.
Dhoni falls under the Olavakkode forest range. The crowded main road from Palakkad town to Olavakkode suddenly turns, becomes quieter. The majestic Western Ghats emerges in front of you as the car races closer to the entrance of Dhoni reserve forest.
A few forest officials are waiting at the entrance where there is a ticket counter and the quarters of the officials. “The car can take you only half the distance. You will have to walk from there through the forest to reach the waterfall. The whole distance is motorable by jeep,” says Raghu, the forest guard, even as he moves the iron pole allowing our car entry to the forest area. Entry to the forest is priced at Rs. 20 per head.
It’s noon, hot and we decide to drive halfway. The road, like any of the forest tracks is uneven, covered with dry leaves. The shortest trek is to the waterfalls, which is four km. “Some of the locals take this trek regularly. And some of the more adventurous take a bath at the waterfalls,” informs Raghu.
Dhoni is a trekkers’ dream. Dirt tracks covered with leaves, steep climbs and the anticipation of confronting an elephant as you take a bend in the track makes this a perfect trekking experience. There are longer trek tracks to Malampuzha and Meenvallam waterfalls from Dhoni.
The jungle is unusually silent that noon. The chirping of birds, chatter of the monkeys that one often associates with the jungle is strangely not heard. There is a death-like silence. “See, only the other day we saw elephants on this track. They moved down to the settlements below and created a ruckus,” says Raghu pointing to dried dung. “And people have also spotted leopards here,” he continues like most of the forest guards, ever optimistic about spotting an animal at every turn.
I ask Raghu why this place is called Dhoni and surprisingly he has a rather convincing answer. “It was called ‘dhwani’ for sounds echo through the silence. This got modified into Dhoni.”
A series of steps leads you to the waterfall. Narrow streams cascading from the rocks overflow into sparkling small streams. A heart-shaped grotto on the rock-wall is striking. There’s nothing magnificent about the falls. The water forms a pool beneath, which looks deceptively shallow. “But there are deep, unseen gorges that can be dangerous. The best time to come here is during the monsoon when the falls become bigger and fiercer,” explains Raghu.
We remain there for a while, splashing the ice-cold water on our red faces and tired feet. It is so refreshingly quiet here. Time ticks away and we decide to take the trek back.
Close to the Dhoni forests is a farmhouse that rears harbours cattle of the Swiss variety. Other must-see destinations are the Viswanatha Swamy temple, an ancient Shiva shrine famous for its annual chariot procession, Tipu Sultan’s fort and Malampuzha gardens.
The trek has given us a huge appetite. Hot, simple, ‘naadan’ lunch at one of the little tea shops and we are on our way back.
GETTING THERE:Dhoni is 13 kilometres from Palakkad on the Olavakkode route. It takes around 30 minutes by road from the town.
WHERE TO STAY:
Accommodation is available at Olvakkode, about eight kilometers away. Palakkad is perhaps a better option providing a wide range of accommodation and other places of visit.