Friday, April 07, 2006

2006-03-17: Kodaikanal, TN

The last time there was a plan for this hill station, it was only to be cancelled at the 10th hour, coz of a campus recruitment happening over the weekend; one of the reasons that I joined hp the very next day of my last exam instead of a week later! Lastly, Kodai couldn't wait for me any longer ;)

The Plan

16th March. I got a call from Milind in the evening.
“We are planning to make a trip to Goa for the coming weekend, you game?”
“No, not at all”, said I. I had just been back from Goa a couple of months back.
“Ok, if not Goa then do you have anything else in mind?”
“Umm… lets see. I have already seen most of the places in Central and Southern Karnataka.
Its already getting warm, so we should rather avoid the beaches. What about a hill station?”
“Which one, Ooty”? Asked Milind.
“Since you are planning to take the car, what about Kodaikanal?”
“Ok, let me ask my other two friends.”
“Madan and Vinod. You have already met Madan when we went to Ranganthittu.”
“I do have some work for the weekend, if I can finish or postpone it, I’m game!”


Probably, this was the first time that any plan made more than a day in advance was actually going to work out for me. As it turned out, I fulfilled all my weekend commitments before time and we were ready for the trip. On being informed about this plan, Abdulla (my partner in most of my recent trips) had a very simple question, “Do you have space for one more guy?” This time, it was Azmi who was going to miss out!

18th March, 21:45hrs. I couldn’t believe my eyes! Milind was actually there dot on time! Probably, it was the company of Mohan and Vinod that did the trick, but still…
In fact, it was Abdulla, the otherwise punctual guy, who did the damage. Never the less, we were only 15 minutes late on departure. The biggest blow to the schedule came when I came to know that 3 of us hadn’t taken our dinner. So, now instead of reaching Dindigul by 5 in the morning, we were sure, not to be there before 7am!

The Drive

One of the biggest reasons for my coming for the trip was the drive. We were going to do to and fro Dindigul driving overnight! Of all 5, only Milind and Mohan were to drive (apart from me, of course). By 12:40am, the 2 have had their stint at the driver’s seat, and it was time for me to take over after Krishnagiri. The road till Salem was going to be tough – first, the last year’s rain had completely eroded the tar, and second, the road widening was taking place. As we swirled around pot holes and diversions, wickets started to fall one by one. There was a serious competition going on for the stud with the loudest snore. Vinod was a clear winner until Milind joined the show – ‘Rang de Basanti’ songs just got lost somewhere; leave the guys alone, Milind directly competing with his Sony X-Plod!

This was the first drive in quite a few years that I got those glaring headlights; people forgetting about the dipper switch in their vehicles. That marred the average speed a bit. I was more than glad to stick to the basics (if you can't see what lies ahead, then stop!) of night driving; saw a couple of accidents, in one case, a truck had romped into one of those many bullock carts that take the NH without having any reflectors abroad!

Good Morning Dindigul

It was just about 6am when we stopped over for getting straightened out. It was time for Milind to show us his daredevils – something he is infamous for! We were snaking through typical morning traffic of rural India, at 90-120kmph!

Things improved marginally when we actually entered the ghat section, about 45-50kms in total; Milind could only manage 40-50kmph on ‘U’s and 20-30kmph on ‘V’ turns!! We stopped over quite a few times to get a casual glimpse of all the scenery in offering. Also, a necessary stop for few of us to unload themselves…

Enter Kodai

It was nearly 10:30 that
we entered Kodai, the Silver Falls greeting us at the doorstep! Once in, we looked out for a hotel, and found one cottage with much ado.
The evening went pedaling boats in the star-fish shaped Kodai Lake.

The Following Day

Croaker’s Walk

The visits started with a stroll down the ‘Croaker’s Walk’ – a km long paved pathway on a ridge with breath taking views. We felt as if we were actually air born, having a definition bird’s eye view of the cloud covered hills down below! Simply awesome! We had our breakfast in one of the resorts adjoining the ridge, a perfect start for what was going to be a perfect day out…

Suicide Point a.k.a. Green Valley View

Illustrated by a steep fall of more that 600 feet, this place was right there, at the top of our world. It got its name coz of a simple fact – once you let go of yourself off the edge, I’ll have to wait for a while, to catch you not before 1’m in haven! Just wondered, it could an excellent place for hang gliding…

Pillar’s Rock

You find not one, or two, but three 400 feet plus tall rocks, standing next to each other forming the edge of a hill. They looked like someone had just put them there, as a support for all the clouds that hovered above them.

Life on Edge

I’m not able to recall what this place was called, but then, who cares for the name after all. We simply went down the slope till we found ourselves on the edge yet again. But this was different. This thing was jutting out of the main hill like a nose. The view was simply splendid; steep valley in the background with the clouds conquering the mighty mountains…

Bird's eye view of the Kodai Lake

On our way back from the ‘Pillars’ and ‘noses’, we were hunting for what they called ‘Devil’s Kitchen’. But all we came across was a diversion that said ‘Top Lake View’. We deviated off track, and it was not long before we found ourselves at the view point. Few photo shoots and we were off, back to the cottage. We were to go to the Forest Officer now, to get a perm for entering the forest area engulfing the Berijam Lake.

Towards the Berijam Lake

The Timings are restricted till 11am to procure an entry to the guarded region. Thanks to Milind, Mohan and a considerate Forest Officer, we got a special letter allowing us inside. Just as we were about to enter the restricted area, we realized that this place was in fact less than a kilometer ahead of the ‘nose’ that we had been to. Little did we know what lied ahead to welcome us in the forest area…

The clouds and mist had been avoiding us till now. It was time to settle our differences and embrace each other. What followed was a treat for anyone coming to Kodai. More than the Berijam Lake, we liked the road taken. Spotted with viewpoints and misty stretches, this was just beyond our dreams… we were kids again, running and sprinting and making all sorts of poses for the camera!

Devil’s Kitchen

What we thought didn’t exist finally shown up on our way back. We had previously ignored this place saying, ‘Dangerous Place, Do not enter’. This time, however, we stopped over and asked the passers by. Bingo! We had hit the bull’s eye, for this indeed was the place. We kind of felt silly for the sign board initially. Once at the actual spot, we realized why the place was called so… We found ourselves probably at the top of one of those ‘pillars’. Out of no where, surfaced these deep cracks or caverns that led all the way to the bottom of the pillars – once you slide into one of them, even devil himself can't save you!

Way Back

Once back from Devil’s Kitchen, we went to a kitchen that would serve our food, Tava, a place that serves decent North Indian Veg food. Bidding good bye to the Silver Cascades, we were on our way down the hill. Mohan took over from me after half the decent, till we pulled over for our dinner. Once out, Milind, this time was fully determined to take the wheels home. He carried us till beyond Salem. He judged his ‘sleep’ to perfection! This was not at all expected from him, coz he, I assumed, was one of those guys who would go to any extent to prove them. Well, for me, he more than proved a point – that beyond that ‘reckless’ driver, there was this guy who knew his limits and put safety above all. I was really impressed! I then took over the wheel with Abdulla joining me on the front seat. The rest of the journey was uneventful, barring those 4kmph and 4.01kmph races between those overloaded trucks in between Krishnagiri and Bangalore! God knows when would these people have brains to just form a train instead of completing with each other, and in process, blocking the other vehicles to overtake them…

This trip reminded me of the one that I’d been to for Roseville to LA; the same enthusiasm and energy level.
Glimpses of the Kodai trip can be found here