Kodaikanal... Princess indeed!!!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

My impression of South Indian hill stations was pretty inferior, in comparison to those I have been to in the North, until I took this trip in January 2007 with a friend. I had gone to Ooty the previous year and found it to be crowded, commercialized and 'not-at-all-cold'. So when I started for this trip I carried along with me 'not-so-much-expectation' and only one sweater.

Day 1, Jan 2, 2007: We had boarded a Parveen Travels' Volvo on the night of 1st January. I was in for a surprise the next morning, even before we reached Kodaikanal. I started shivering as the bus gained altitude and I was freezing by the time we reached our hotel. So the first thing I did was ask for a room heater and extra blankets. After freshening up and a sumptuous complementary breakfast, we started our sight-seeing tour.

Our first stop was at La Saleth Church, a 150 years old church that had 'Our lady of La Salette' shrine. At the backyard of the church, there was a deep valley. I could even hear a waterfall somewhere nearby, but couldn't site one as it was very foggy in the morning.

Next we went to Pambar Falls, which is also known as the 'Great Cascade' or the 'Liril Falls' after the famous Liril Soap Advertisement. The view of the falls was quite majestic, as the crystal clear water cascaded over the step-like rock formations and then formed a basin at the bottom. I assumed that that's all we had to see there, until our guide declared that we were actually going on a trek inside the jungle, following the course of the falls.

We started to tread through an extremely narrow, steep and slippery jungle track. As we followed the stream, we came over two more small cascading falls on the way. At one point we had to cross a small falls. The rocks were precariously slippery. We also saw a so-called 'tiger's cave'. After that point, the route became impossibly hard as it was strewn with huge and steep boulder like rocks. We decided to turn around from there. This secluded 3 km trekking route was truly a surprise and a nature lover's delight.

Our next stop was Dolphin's Nose, which is a flat rock projection over a 6,600 meters deep chasm. . Before we got out of the van, our guide asked us to take off our woolen clothes as this was going to be a very tiring trek. We had to follow a very steep rocky 1 km long trail, strewn with natural tree-root step formations. Going down was in fact easier. On the way we saw few beautiful cottages and hybrid roses.

Dolphin's Nose was both scary and stupendous. People were standing there, holding the guide's hand, while clicking pictures. From there we went to another nearby rock formation called as the 'Eco Rock'. The climb till the starting point is what took my breath off, as it was then when I realized how steep the path was. After undertaking two such tiring treks, we decided it was enough for the day.

We spent the evening boating on the Kodaikanal Lake and shopping home made chocolates from the markets. We also visited the stadium and on the way back to our hotel, we saw the famous Kodaikanal International School, among whose notable alumni are Arjun Rampal and Zayed Khan.

Day 2, Jan 3, 2007: This day was rather boring as compared to the previous day. We decided to take a walk up the Coaker's Walk after breakfast, which is a paved path running along the edge of steep slopes. It was very near to our hotel, so we decided to walk till there. The view from the Walk was breathtaking, in spite of the fog. We spent some time there, enjoying the view, clicking pictures and buying hand made earrings and other accessories from the local vendors.

Our van picked us up from Coaker's walk and we made our way to the upper lake view point. The view as one can see in the picture, was absolutely stunning and beautiful. After taking some snaps there, we proceeded for the Pillar rocks and the Green Valley view.

The Pillar rock is a set of three giant rock pillars standing next to each other. We saw these rocks from an adjacent view point. Our next stop was Devil's Kitchen, the deep chambers between the Pillar rocks. We could only get glimpse of the bat-infested place from the other side of a thick wired fence, which has been put up there for the safety of the tourists. Our guide told us that due to the tragic death of 12 medical students there few years back, these caves were now closed to the public. Devil's trap indeed!!

Next on the list was the Green Valley View point, formerly called the Suicide Point because of a sheer drop of more than 5000 ft from there. Apparently the name was changed to prevent people from being lured to commit suicides there. We had to pass through a pine forest to reach that point. The view of the plains from the point was mind blowing. There were also a lot of pesky monkeys all around.

After this, we stopped once to see the Kodaikanal Golf Course, before returning to our hotel. After lunch, we went to a nearby Jain temple and the Kurinji Andavar temple. We were lucky enough to see the Kurinji flowers in full bloom, which blooms once in every 12 years. We saw a spectacular view of the Palani Hills from there. On the way back from the temple, we rested for some time in a very quiet park called Chettiar park and then headed to Shembaganur Museum of Natural History. The museum is affiliated to our very own Loyola College in Chennai and has extraordinary taxidermy collection of animals, birds and insects.

Here ended one magnificent trip to the Princess of hill stations, which undoubtedly is the best hill station of South India and rather deserves the title of the 'Queen'. The place had a magic about it and I felt very sad leaving it behind, as our bus slowly started to go downhill.

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