April 26, 2012

Kodaikanal- Princess of Hills...!!

All must have read a lot of hill stations being called as the Queen of hills. Ootacamund, Shimla and many of them have been fondly called by that name. However, Princess of hills has only one contender and that definitely is Kodaikanal, the lovely hill station in southern India. For no reason has she been coined the name, Princess of hills as Kodiakanal stands beautiful like a well decked up princess.

When my eyes opened in the morning, the bus was climbing the ghats and I was treated to lovely views of valleys. Flowers in different shapes, sizes and colours blossomed from all sides. Kodaikanal was just waking up when I descended from the bus and headed to my hotel. 

My first destination was Bryant park which gets its name from British army officer Glenn Bryant and is located next to the lake. Every year in the month of may, flower and vegetable shows are held at the the park and when I visited in the month of march, the place was getting readied with new layers of grass, new plants and a lot of cleaning. The place looked beautiful with a lot of trees, flowers and greenery around.

Bryant park

One of the most visited places in the princess of hills is Coakers walk. It is a beautiful walkway with enchanting views of the valleys, the distant hills and floating clouds. Honeymooners, youths, families and school children were all strolling down the walkway admiring the beautiful landscape and clicking photographs. It also offers a telescopic view of the beautiful valleys but the long queue did not really push me to go and have a look through the telescope. The place also has a lot of hawkers selling different memorabilia and paraphernalia to the tourists.

Coaker's walk

Pine forests in Kodaikanal is prominently known as a film shooting location. Numerous movies in the 80s and 90s have been shot amidst the tall pine trees. The place was teeming with tourists who were busy clicking and posing for photographs and hawkers who were selling fresh carrots and raw mangoes. The place is on a slope and the visitors can keep walking a long way down crisscrossing the pines.

Moyer's view point also attracts a large number of visitors. One has to climb up an elevated place to gaze at the exceptional vistas. The place however was too small and claustrophobic with the numerous visitors pushing shoulders to have a glimpse of the vast landscape. The place is also closer to the road that leads to Berijam lake. Without prior permissions visitors are not allowed to go to Berijam Lake. This lake is also the starting point for the Kodai- Munnar trek.

A few kilometers away from Moyers view point lies Shanti valley. The place can be easily misunderstood for pine forests. Though Shanti valley looks quite similar to pine forests, it looked serene and secluded. There were hardly any tourists or hawkers. The only people whom I found were a couple of professional photographers. It definitely is a lovely tourist spot devoid of tourists with lots of shade and calmness.

Pine forest

Moyer's view point

Shanti valley

Very few people call Devil's Kitchen by its official name and rather call it by its popular name, Guna caves. Made famous by the Kamal Hassan movie, Guna, this place became a prominent one on the tourist circuit after the movie was filmed here. Its a small walk from the road to reach Guna caves. The place looks eerie with roots of trees weirdly snaking all around and I felt Devil's Kitchen was the apt name and more suited than Guna caves. The place is quite steep and the gravel doesn't help in climbing. As you trek higher above the roots, the mist covered pillar rocks comes into vicinity.  This is the view of the rocks from the other side and not from where usually tourists see it. The place has been fenced to a large extent but still has stretches where if you slip, its the last the world will see of you. Expansive valleys and mist covered green hills make up for an eye-soothing experience. The caves where the Guna movie was shot lies between the pillar rocks and has been prohibited from entry. This place was earlier known to be a killer as many people who had trudged further ahead ended up loosing their lives. However, Devil's Kitchen does leave its visitors spellbound with the beautiful vistas and quirky roots. 

Devil's Kitchen

View from Guna's cave

Pillar rock is supposedly one of the most famous and frequently visited tourist spots in Kodaikanal. Three huge rocks in the form of pillars jut out from the hills to form the Pillar rocks. The rocks with beautiful landscape in the background and mist hovering around it is a treat to watch.

Renamed as Green valley view, Suicide point has changed immensely from what I had seen of it 15 years ago. It used to be a huge open land with a fencing just before the gorge but has now turned into a busy commercial location. It has numerous shops on both sides selling everything from chocolates to earrings with a narrow pathway wedged between them that leads the visitors to mindblowing vistas that the gorges and hills offer. Tourists and travellers were frolicking all over the place happily clicking photos through the huge fencing and buying all that were being offered by the hawkers.

Pillar rocks

Pathway to suicide point
Suicide point

The only letdown during my visit to Kodaikanal came in the form of waterfalls. Silver cascade waterfalls is located a few kilometers outside the limits of Kodaikanal and I had a quick look at it when the bus passed by. There was a huge crowd that had assembled to see a trickle of water flow down the rocks. Summer was peaking and that denied me the view of Silver cascade in its full vigour.

Bear Shola falls is another waterfalls in Kodaikanal which attracts tourists. After a long walk through the woods I was surprised to find the place without even a drop of water. The place had completely dried up and the only way I could imagine that it was a waterfall was after seeing water flow marks on the rocks.

Pambar falls was made famous by liril advertisemnt in the 90's when the liril girl danced under the waterfall promoting the brand. With just the rocks and my imagination of the falls, this was also no different from the earlier falls that I had seen.

Silver cascade waterfalls

Bear shola waterfalls

Pambar waterfalls
The lake is the most prominent place in the whole Kodaikanal.  Life of the princess revolves around the lake. Numerous shops selling from anything to everything, horses and cycles ready for a ride and boating options make the lake the most preferred location for people holidaying in Kodaikanal. The big sprawling lake looks gorgeous with beautiful blue lotuses popping up from the waters, white mist floating over it and lovely green canopy in the background. After a nice cycle ride around the lake I went for a long stroll around the same with some raw mangoes and hot tea. That was indeed a tiring and refreshing experience. The walk also gave me an opportunity to see beautiful bungalows and old houses located alongside the lake. Staying in one of them and taking in the beautiful vistas that the lake offers would definitely be a surreal experience. There were also numerous Tibetan shops selling a melange of artifacts. The place was as expected, very crowded with honeymooners, families, school children, locals and foreigners. However I found the lake and its surroundings quite captivating with pleasant climate and beautiful vistas.

I also went up all the way to have a look at the lake from Upper lake view. It is a very small view point from where one can get a mind blowing aerial view of the gorgeous lake and the surrounding green woods.

Lake surroundings

Tibetan shops

Kodai Lake

Kodai lake

Upper lake view

Kurinji Andavar temple is quite a famous one with Lord Muruga as it main deity and is situated on a nice little hill. The temple gets its name from the flower Kurinji which blossoms on the hills of Kodaikanal only once in 12 years. The next blossom is expected to happen in the year 2018.

I experienced that people in Kodaikanal find Sundays special since the local market opens up and the crowd throng the streets. I found hawkers selling vegetables, fresh fruits, fabrics, accessories, utensils and much more. The place was swarming with people I had to really brush shoulders to move ahead. Kodaikanal has some of the famous residential schools in the country and Sundays were happy times for children too. They were at the lake, on the streets, at coffee day and everywhere. Potluck cafe on PT Road is a beautiful little cafe in European style which offers some mouth watering delicacies. With outdoor seating, one can enjoy the lovely dishes and see the locals, tourists, backpackers and bikers languorously strolling past on the busy street. Their Mayan hot cocoa is very much recommended. Tibetan Brothers restaurant on the same road serves authentic Tibetan food. I found their momos and thukpas to be exceptional. Kodaikanal is also well known for its home made chocolates and there are lots of shops selling them.

Kurinji Andavar temple

Crowded sunday market

With numerous view ponts, waterfalls, trekking options and a splendid lake, Kodaikanal definitely is one of the best hill stations that the country can boast of. 

Signing Note : The princess looks gorgeous and is charming and inviting...!!

Route- Bengaluru- Salem- Dindigul- Batlagundu- Kodaikanal
Distance- 465 Kms

April 18, 2012

Beside The Cauvery...!!

On a bright friday morning, it was a lovely drive past the traffic snarls and concrete structures of Bengaluru onto kanakapura road and then further onto dusty village roads. After manoeuvring past the village houses, nonchalant cattle and curious onlookers, the road snaked past barren brown lands and trees that had shed its leaves. With hardly any civilization in the vicinity it was a nice lonely drive through the woods. The only specimen that popped up quite frequently were the monkeys who were loitering all along the road.

After a drive of more than 2 hours and 100 Kms we reached the nature camp of jungle lodges and resorts beside the beautiful Cauvery. The place looked quite interesting with  the tented lodges, lots of open spaces, little birds fluttering around and macaques welcoming the guests.

We had opted for a day package and the programme began with a light trek through the forests in search of that elusive wild being. However after a long walk through the eerie looking trees and hot brown earth, we chanced upon a few spotted deers that ran across when they heard our footsteps and also a beautiful peacock which kept gazing at us from a distance. Wild boars were also seen in good numbers. Our guide mentioned that elephants and leopards were commonly spotted. The guide also pointed out a few dungs of the pachyderms who had visited the place a few days back. We however were not lucky enough to spot one. I also felt that spotting a wild tusker amidst the trees should not be something that I should pray for. We had no precautions taken and the guide just had a stick in his hand. I am better off seeing the deers and the macaques. :)

After the 45 minute walk through the forest we got back on to the tarmac and walked back to the camp. The month of march is not an appropriate time to visit the place as the sun was beating down on us and the only solace came in the form of beer. We had a relaxing afternoon with a sumptuous lunch later at the camp's restaurant beside the Cauvery. The place was quite crowded being a long weekend and most of the visitors had taken an overnight stay package.

Even though it was the beginning of summer, Cauvery wasn't dry and had a good amount of water. Our next activity was a coracle ride on the hot waters of the gorgeous river. In the hot sun we ventured out into the burning sand and then hopped onto one of the numerous coracles. A half an hour ride through the river turned out to be futile as we could not get a glimpse of even a single crocodile which supposedly are found in huge numbers on the rocks that pop up in the middle of the river. My boatman's reason for not spotting them was that we were out in the river during the wrong time. The rocks are pretty hot during noon time and the crocodiles avoid them. They come and lie on the rocks before it gets very hot or after the hot sun has mellowed down. Bad luck!! However the ride on the Cauvery was nice despite the blazing sun and the breeze helped us to a certain extent.

 A good day spent exploring the banks of Cauvery came to an end with evening tea and snacks. Post that it was the same nice drive through the winding roads and dusty villages.The camp also provides a few adventure activities like zipping, burma bridge etc for the visitors. A one night two days package at this camp would definitely be a refreshing experience with more activities included like safari, bonfire etc. Fishing has been prohibited off-late at this camp. One can also explore the near by places like Sangam, Mekedatu and Shivanasamudra falls.

Signing Note: An ideal getaway for a good break for Bengalureans...!!

Route- Bengaluru- Kanakapura- Halagur- Bheemeshwari
Distance- 100 Kms

April 4, 2012

Conserve Wildlife...!!

An animal need not necessarily be a tiger or a panda or a lion tailed macaque to be termed as the one that is facing threat of extinction or to be given extra care and protection by the WWF in order to conserve it. For the fact, every animal or living being needs to be conserved to make sure that the ecosystem is not affected and does not bring an ecological imbalance. More than the scientific reasons, we just need to keep reminding ourselves that they too are made of flesh and blood and also breathe, move and emote like us. We humans, even after encroaching into someone else territory do not have the basic concerns or care for them and keep disturbing, irritating, provoking and even injuring the animals. It is time we acted sensibly by restricting our encroaching instincts and left the animal world to live their life peacefully in their domain.

The above picture shows a group of Rhesus Macaque surrounding the body of one of their mates who lost its life due to careless driving by one of the vehicles that passed by near Guna caves, Kodaikanal.
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