I rubbed my eyes and pushed apart the window curtains. Foggy shades of blue were creeping across the sky. Dawns are my favorite part of any bus journey. I make a point to wake up just before the sunrise. Twinkling stars fading into oblivion as the initial rays seep through the sky. The sight is nothing short of sacred. Silhouettes of hilly peaks against the faint blue dawn skies seems like God has thrown in a myriad of colors on a life sized canvas. My wait was going to get over very soon. Just the brunt of a strenuous and winding roadway up the hill, and we would be at our destination, KodaiKanal.
‘Journey constitutes the best portions of travel’. Whoever has quoted this, must have been a well traveled scholar. Contrary to my anticipation of constant vomit due to altitude sickness on the hairpin bends, our journey uphill was like Mozart’s compositions. Slow and beautiful. The weather would get cooler with each bend. Distant hilly peaks seemed to be drawing closer as the bus rambled up. Trees laden with colorful,rare flowers would often greet us at points. Fruit sellers standing midway with heaps of fresh and rare fruits would stare up at the bus windows, smiling expectantly. There is always something pure about the hilly air. Breathe in and it would fill you up with thoughts. Positive thoughts. Just happy thoughts. The most interesting aspect of a journey is that Speeding vehicle ensures you have something different to watch out, every few seconds. Post a 1.5 hour upscale, we finally reached Kodai. Although the morning clocked in 9, clouds seemed to agree less. Blobs of clouds sat stubbornly over the tree tops. A light scent of crushed hilly flowers hung over the air. Weather was pleasant. We checked in to our hotel and in about 20 minutes, we were in the parking lot. Both, vehicle and we were ready to embark on the sightseeing spree. The meticulous planner in me jumped out and within a span of few minutes, I procured a schedule covering the usual tourist trail. The plan called out that we should be back by 6 pm which was a deadline for cab drivers. But, all my planning went for a toss, when we actually started. The gorgeous weather and scintillating views managed to tempt us.Thus, we ended up spending more than the allotted time at every place we visited, screwing up my meticulously planned schedule. In every hill station, there are a few sure-shots. View points are the definite finds. Out of 10 odd view points, for sure you would find an average of 3 must visit places. Scars are bound to be formed when something huge and beautiful is in making. So,caves form an integral part of hill stations. Waterfalls are must, for brooks flowing down the hills transform into gorgeous falls later.
Lakes are the heart of a hilly region.Don your imagination hats for a moment. Now, picture this. A sparkling water body right in the middle of a green pasture. Crystal, clear and icy cold pure water ripple on the tunes of flowing wind. Junction of two hills guard the lake. A few grazing sheep spot the green fields. Sun rays hit the water softly, reflecting diamonds on the surface. A delicate flowery fragrance constantly tempts you into the nearby forest. Tempting much?
Kodai has all the requisites of a typical hill station but its uniqueness lies in its tranquility. A large area of a certain part of Kodai is covered by tall pine trees. While the initial thin covering is popular as a tourist spot, the thicker part is more of the forest that is rarely visited. Trekking pine groves is always a joyful affair. Nature has its own signs to show that it is supportive of its exploration. As far as your eyes could reach, an endless stretch of forest greets you with open arms. Playful brooklets welcome you as you start off on the trail. Huge trunks of uprooted trees offer the nature’s lap when you get tired. Our first host, the young brooklets happen to greet midway but now as an adult, a swift and steadily flowing river.
If you happen to have a day’s time in hand, sit by the river and listen to its gurgle. Rivers speak but only in a language understood by few. Occasional hoots and creeks keep the background music alive. Needless to mention, the scent of pine infused air is so much better than that expensive bottle of pine scent you buy from Versace. Its like having a party. Its just that unique guests are expected. Getting back to my tourist trails, our lake hunt ended at Manavanur lake, a peaceful existence at the outskirts of the city . Thanks to the driver’s information and Tripadvisor, I discovered that this lake is one of the most beautiful sights on offer. Surrounded by hills, pastures and grazing sheep, this lake sits pretty at the middle of a field. A tiny rope bridge at a distance adds to its beauty. For a moment, it feels somewhat switzerland-ish. If it would not have been for my crazy, have-to-see-every-place-since-we-spent-money, family, I would have settled down there for the day with a nice book and a cup of green tea. Alas! Some dreams are meant to be just dreams. Nevertheless, I forgave them when we stopped at our next visual retreat. It was a view point by the roadside. Beauty of kodai lies in the existence of small villages that lie on the foothills. Step farmed lands and a clean village view from the top was nothing short of amazing. 180 degrees starting from my right, gave me a full blown view of mammoth sized hills patched with greenery.
A lone hut on some random hill would catch attention at a moment while a fluttering red flag of a temple at another hill slope would beckon you at another. At times, I had this sudden urge to swoop down on the nearby hill and then fly off from one hill to another. But, on realizing what lay a few feet ahead me, I controlled my emotions. The heights are really scary. Just nothing but thin air, beyond the edge looks more scary than what it sounds like. Anyways, I pushed aside fearsome thoughts and pulled in the dreamy ones. Better!
Our next stop further fueled up my dreamy think tank. Pillar rock, as the name suggests are a pair of tall, sturdy rocks which stand strong amidst blobs of cloud. We reached the place at sundown due to heavy traffic. The sky had donned a shade of orange. Cloud patches had just started settling on the top of the rock. The rocks were visible partially since half of it was adorned with white. As much as I tried to sneak a peek at the top of the rock, all I could see was a foggy white.
Initially, I guessed it was the effect of sunset. Weather was also starting to turn colder. But a chit chat with our driver revealed that the top of the rock is rarely visible. Any time you visit, peak of the rocks is mostly gheraoed by the clouds. Your journey to kodai is not complete if you dont sink your cannines into hot, crispy coat of chilly fritters. At a chilling 14 degrees, the sight of huge, spice coated green chillies, being tossed into hot oil is simply awesome. The sight of a fritter swelling up in hot oil is so tempting, you cannot take away your eyes off the vessel, till the chillies are handed over to you. With a sprinkle of black salt, chilly bajji as they call it should be eaten piping hot. Bite of hot chilly in that chilling weather is a nirvana in itself. Ironically, these chillies are not spicy. They have a tangy, salty taste that hits you hard in those cold conditions, in a good way ofcourse. We reached the hotel back at 10, in contrary to the 6, I had master planned. Post a few altercations with the travel desk, we stumbled back to our rooms and fell into deep slumber. Sleep was a much needed amenity. Next day, we could figure out why. I woke up at dawn the next morning. We headed for the kodai lake straightaway.
I did not spot a lot of people at that time but people did start pouring in as clock ticked away. Kodai vendors rent cycles on an hourly basis for the interested morning cyclists. Typically folks cycle on the pathway surrounding the lake. We planned to take 2 rounds of the lake within an hour. Little did we know how huge the lake was. We kept gyrating along the circumference of the lake but starting point came no where in vicinity. When we finally found our starting point, the milestone showed a total of 8 KMS. We sure, had underestimated the lake a lot. Oops! I forgot to mention the highlights. Since we underestimated the radius of the lake and overestimated our cycling skills, we decided to sneak up along a winding pathway up the hill. The pathway was a sloppy one. With superhuman efforts, we managed to cycle up, still seated.The slope was lined with houses on both sides. The thing about hilly areas is that every house has an old world charm. Decked with hilly creepers ,wild shrubs, blooming flowers, gardens are the first thing you see past those cute wooden gates. Most of the houses have slanted roofs. Older ones are made of red bricks. Occasionally, an old Fiat parked at the driveway adds to the existing overall charm. Makes you go wow! So much better than compact apartments with make shift terrace gardens, we dwell in. A look into their laid back and peaceful lives make you envy them.They are closer to nature than you are. Untracked time and miles we cycled, made us wolf hungry. So we completed circling the lake and returned to our hotel. A hot shower and quick breakfast later, we were ready to embark on the adventures of day 2. Our first destination was a waterfall. Since the water had dried up, a tiny stream was all we could see as remains of the waterfall.
But what caught my attention was the carrot farm close by. Since our driver seemed to be a pal of some laborers working there, they plucked some fresh carrots for us and handed them to him. I swear, I haven’t come across such juicy carrots before. They were delicious. Wow! I should get a house here, right in the middle of that farm so I could just sit and munch such carrots all day. Anyways, I paused my dreams to slip back into reality and move on to our destinations for the day. Next place was known as Dolphins nose. I was curious to know the history of its nomenclature. Dolphins nose, right in the middle of hills? Quirky lot! Well, quirkiest part was the journey till Dolphins nose. A trek of about 10 kms down a hill. And it was not the usual trod trek. The pathway down the hill was carpeted by natural steps. Steps formed by tangled roots of trees. Imagine the strength of these ageless roots.
Trodding down the pathway, occasionally slipping into narrow alleys, one reaches a nude rock. Edge of the rock is steep and just peeking down a little can make you go dizzy. Local guides always insist you sit as soon as you reach the rock. A few clicks later, when I had climbed up halfway, I turned around to take a look at that deadly rock. It looked like a smooth nose of a dolphin. The name seemed clearer now.
We trekked our way back and reached up panting, hungry again. The best part about the view points in Kodai is that for almost every visual treat, you need to trek a lot. In other words, you earn the view. The best can never be easy. A typical South indian restaurant located at the heart of the city satiated our hunger pangs and all I needed now was a cot to snooze off. But, I did warn you about my family in the earlier sections of my blog. They have to see everything. So we proceeded to our supposedly last stop, the famous Church. Having undergone a spiritual reverie, we settled outside the church for a while. The location of this church won my heart. 1 word. Peaceful. Behind the church was a small woods of sorts. Mowed lawns sprawled across the property. A pretty view of the city greeted our eyes on one side. It had started drizzling. The settled clouds seemed perturbed but environment was pleasant. It was misty and beautiful. I sat down in the mowed lawns and watched a few stray birds pecking grains. My family looked happy. Few moments stick to your mind for life without reasons. This was one of them. The ones which we list under the unforgettable category. Beautiful moments owe their birth to beautiful places as these. You know when a trip is fulfilling in its truest sense? When you find unreasonably happy moments as throwbacks and inner satisfaction on a relatively higher pedestal than other worldly possessions. I don’t quite remember the amount of time we spent sitting there but all I could remember was those partially hidden skies which remained afloat in my thoughts for a long time, even after I had bade a wishful good bye to this heavenly place called Kodai kanal.