I’m a sucker for waterfalls. Seriously, if you ever need to distract me from something important for a few hours just put me in front of a cliff with water flowing over the edge and I’ll be oblivious to nearly everything else around. I had that opportunity once again in India this trip, with a visit to Athirappilly Falls, near Kochi. This was the afternoon portion of our "elephants and waterfalls" tour, one of the more popular day trips available from Kochi.
The falls are not incredibly tall (~24 meters/85 feet) but they are reasonably broad and there are three different falls across the face of the rock. The middle one also has a "platform" two thirds of the way down which causes some rather neat effects with the water spray.
There are two observation areas at the falls. The first is at the top, accessible by a rather easy path from the parking area. From that area a second path descends down to the base of the falls where a large outcropping of rocks is available for climbing and relaxing with the views. The path is reasonably marked and mostly stone and dirt, though there are also many shortcuts own the switchbacks where people have chosen to take the much more direct routing. Too steep for my tastes, but its there if you want it.
The area at the base of the falls is strictly cordoned off preventing access to the water for visitors. Ignoring the ropes will get you a whistle blowing from the park ranger and potentially a stern talking to as well. At the top of the falls, however, there is a large area marked off as accessible for visitors to relax and play in the cool water. We settled for just soaking our feet in the water rather than going for the full swim; I think we were in the minority. There were many others taking full advantage of the situation. Most were just bathing themselves but there were a few doing laundry as well.
Much like any good tourist attraction – and this is a popular one, seeing 7MM+ visitors annually – there were plenty of stalls set up near the parking area selling various tchotchkes. We managed to negotiate our way through them mostly successfully. The allure of fresh coconut water, however, was too much to pass by. That the guy is hacking them open with a machete right there only adds to the fun.
The Falls are only about 90 minutes from Kochi, assuming you are driving directly there. If you add in the elephant tour detour the drive time seems to increase exponentially, though that also might have just been our driver; it did seem like many others we saw at the elephants got to the falls faster than we did. The two combined made for a very full and very enjoyable day overall.
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