Saturday, April 12, 2008

2008-04-06: Yercaud, TN

All my plans for a good drive over the long weekend (celebrating Kannada New Year, ‘Ugadi’, on road, as I did for New Year 2005 – 06) had gone to the cleaners. I could count a few reasons on fingers…

  1. I had some pending task for Saturday, so could have no way left on Friday night.
  2. None of my two partners in crime, Abdulla (office commitments) or Azmi (@home, in Rampur) were available.
I thought of making the best out of the remaining weekend by inviting all my cousins at my place. We had a gala time until I burped out my initial plans to Gaurav, the 'little' one ;)

मेरा एराविकुलम नही तो बेलम गुफा जाने का program था इस हफ्ते|”
(“I was thinking of visiting Eravikulam (near Munnar, Kerela) or Belum Caves (Kurn
ool, AP) this weekend.”)

तब क्या हुआ भैया, गए क्यों नही?”
(“Then why didn’t you go big brother?”)

“उम्म… एराविकुलम के लिए समय नही है, 500km पड़ेगा लगभग एक तरफ़ से| शायद बेलम गुफा जा सकते हैं, क्या बोलता है? या फिर येरकौड़, आज़मी का मन पसंद?”
(“Umm… don’t have time for Eravikulam, it's about 500kms one way. May be Belum Caves,
which is less than 300kms. What say? Or Yercaud, Azmi’s favorite?”)

तब येरकौड चलते हैं, लेकिन पता चलने पर आज़मी भैया बहुत मारेंगे..!”
(“Ok, let’s go to Yercaud, but Azmi will
hit us when he comes to know about it..!”)

And true it was. Yercaud had been in the wish list of Azmi for a long time. Most of our recent trips had started with a mention of Yercaud but canceled each time as it would not qualify for it's proximity to Bangalore (less than 250kms).

The Start

We could not start before 1AM as Gaurav had to go back to his place to collect his jacket and other necessary stuff. As we crossed Electronic City, my bike's fuel tank went into reserve. As planned, we made our first stop in Hosur, to take full advantage of cheaper fuel (Petrol is ~ Rs2 less in Tamil Nadu). It was also time to change guard. Though this was not the first time that Gaurav had come on a night drive (we had earlier taken up Chamundi Hills, overlooking Mysore), he was yet to drive at night. The 4 laned NH-7 from Hosur till Krishnagiri presented a nice platform for his maiden drive. His lack of experience clearly showed initially, but then, he took my preaching rather seriously and made me feel more comfortable by the time we reached the toll gate before Krishnagiri - a distance of 52kms done in 45 minutes, not bad!


We took a couple of tea breaks in between Krishnagiri and Dharmapuri. As if turned out, this was the worst stretch of road for the entire journey (not to forget the little 'under development' stretch little later, after descending the ghats and before Salem). It was around midway to Dharmapuri when we were stopped by cops of a local police station. There were four of them, all drunk till brim and maybe beyond. It was an achievement that they were still moving around (may be 'coz of practice!!) One of them straight away came asking for 'original' RC book. Curse his bad luck, I always make a point to carry the same on all my trips. The next line was as blunt as one could ever get - 'Give us money if you want to continue, else we detain you for being decoits..!' I thought this happened only in AP (I had faced a similar situation at AP-Karnataka border while returning from Tirupati). And people say that folks from Bihar are corrupt! After a long dialogs, we somehow got ourselves free from their clutches, and moved forward! The journey till Salem would have been rather eventless but for the cloud cover that suddenly engulfed us just before the little ghat section before Salem. The visibility got reduced to less than 100m making our drive little more than a crawl. No one was complaining though, for the camera came out to capture the dense white blanket...

The Climb

As we took the way up the hills, leaving Salem behind, we could see a typical scene. No, I'm not talking about the scenic mines (yes, mines can be scenic sometimes!) and the city itself or for that matter, the Sun rising behind the rocks. It was rather to do with the localites who had turned up in huge numbers just to walk/jog up and down the road leading to Yercaud. On further observation, we noticed that there were lots of monkeys too, but only till the small temple around 5kms from base of climb. As we continued beyond the temple, we encountered the second of twenty hair-pin bends to Yercaud. This came after relatively long time; the first had come just at the base of hill. As we negotiated the fifteenth turn, we entered coffee territory. All the while, we kept our eyes on what looked like a view point of some kind (we later learnt that this was the 'Lady's Seat'). In total, it took us around an hour's time to reach Yercaud from Salem. Our camera battery had run out (yes, I could not charge them in time :() by the time we reached the lake area, the center of town. The little shopping extravaganza that followed meant that we were fully equipped for the next leg of trip, geared up with all amenities - from mineral water and toothpaste to a pair of Duracell batteries! Well something else too, information on places of interest and visit for this trip ;)

Pagoda Point (Gent's Seat)

As we reached Pagoda Point, a pleasant surprise was awaiting us. Benefits of keeping expectations low had paid rich dividends. This place was just spectacular! With the morning sun shining on silken cloud, we could see the pagoda shaped hills in distance - reason behind the name of this view point. We took our time to get freshened up and make ourselves a bit more presentable to camera (the night drive was otherwise having its effect felt). Once out of box, the camera just never went back till we were here. In the process, we also met a small group of people. It was a privilege to shoot them in one frame; they were meeting after a gap of more than 25 years..!

Lady's Seat

After a filling breakfast comprising Onion Dosa and tea, we set of towards the other side of this hill station, Lady's Seat. The weather was on our side. We could see the entire city of Salem from here, not to forget the hair-pin road that we took to reach Yercaud. It was time to sit back and soak ourselves in nature's bout - one between the hills standing tall and clouds rising above them for conquer. We found this place conducive to making calls (alas we had some cell phone signal at a view point) and made full use of it. While Gaurav fixed up a lunch appointment with Rashmi (his cousin) in Salem, I took liberty of updating my parents of my exact coordinates. All good things come to an end and so did our stay at this place.., as we turned back and headed towards the tallest view point of all around Yercaud...

Servarayan Temple and View Point

After putting the first gear briefly, we reached this place, and greeted by a guy collecting 'development fee' of five bucks per motorcycle. That way, it was the only place were we paid any kind of entry fee. The cave temple was out of bounds, thanks to some homa happening there. We were not complaining. This place confirmed the small piece of information that we got at the beginning of the day - each of the view points in Yercaud present completely different set of pictures. Some more clicks in the camera and we had to turn back; the sky was not exactly looking safe with dark clouds hovering, threatening us of heavy rain on our way back to Bangalore.

Kiliyur Water Falls

We were on our way back when suddenly Gaurav shouted, "Bro, there's a waterfall that way..!" Confirming the presence of some water in falls with a corn vendor besides the town lake (not to forget, bargaining a couple of baked corns for ourselves), we did a 'U' turn and took the road towards Kiliyur Waterfalls. Its around 3.5kms from the lake and one needs to park his vehicle about half a km before the falls. Then, there's a descent of about 300m. One needs to be careful on this slippery trail, barbed fencing at few places not helping the cause. Water was a bit less to our liking, not matching the effort we'd put in reaching this place. The view of valley from here was however another good one, not to forget, unique. Once back up, it was time to finally bid Yercaud goodbye. The delay of an hour was updated to Rashmi and off we went, rolling down the hill, taking couple of breaks to capture the last glimpses of 'Poor Man's Ooty' - a misnomer according to me!

Way Back

We were back in Salem by 1PM. After a bit of confusion for HP petrol pump at the end of 'Five Road' (for those who don't know, there is an HP petrol pump at either end of Five Road in Salem), we finally got hold of Rashmi. A satisfying lunch followed the rendezvous. Around couple of hours later, we were trying our level best to beat the heat with gulps of Coke and Pepsi, 50kms on the way back towards Bangalore. Fatigue and dust not withstanding, Gaurav drove for most of the stretch, barring about 40kms, till Hosur. As we switched the driving seat, the sun set over this lake on the periphery of city. 7:30PM and we were back in Bangalore, covering a total of 497 to be precise... It was time to slip into our swimming trunks and hit the pool for the the next hour and half, relax and reflect on the trip... Snapshots of the trip can be found here.