This was one of my best mornings! Waking up to the mist kissed morning! City was slowly waking up to the hustle bustle of the day. The woody smell of pine was like a sweet welcome and you couldn’t help smiling at the day.
I woke up early and got ready to go to Kurinji Andavar temple. It was not a destination covered in the one day hike tour I had booked. So, after a quick breakfast at the attached cafeteria, I was on my way for the day. After much bargaining, I got a taxi for INR 300 and got nice guide in the driver. Thankfully he was also too obliging with the stories about Kodaikanal.
Kurinji Andavar temple, is about 82 years old and was built by a British Lady who had embraced Hinduism, though, the myth dates it back to Lord Muruga who met his consort ‘Valli’ here and fell in love. I was more curious as to how a British lady got associated with this temple, for which the driver promised to give me a book he has at home about the detailed history to read if I went to Kodaikanal a next time. He only knew that the lady was called ‘Lady Ramanathan’. This temple got its name because of the ‘Kurinji‘ or Strobilathus plants inside and around its premises. This year it was in full bloom too. The deity is ‘Karthikeya’ or ‘Murugan’ same as the deity in the more famous ‘Palani’ temple. This temple is maintained by the Palani Devasthana. On a clear day (which was definitely not today, as usual) one can see the Palani hills and the temple from here. For today, I got a nice view of the villages below.
There are about 15 villages in and around Kodaikanal. All of which are famous for the many Tamil movies that were shot here. The main occupation is farming and most of the vegetables and fruits grown here are organic. Rainwater is the major source of water for people in Kodaikanal. Kodaikanal faces an acute water shortage during summer months (April-June), which incidentally is also the peak season for tourists too. During this season, accommodation charges also go high because of the water shortage. So, whichever household is lucky enough to have water in its compound, sell water at a price of Rs 3000 per tanker during these months. Water tanker comes up every 15 days and supplies water to the city. So, my guide advised me that it is better not to visit Kodaikanal during the peak months as food and accommodation gets costlier and water is also not good at this time.
After bowing to the Kurinji Andavar, we left. On way back was the ‘Chettiar park’ a miniature version of the Bryant park, with flowers in full bloom.
By the time I reached back, my group for the day had arrived for the trek. We started off to the Vattakanal trek.
Away from the city, somewhere in the middle of the forest reserve is the Bear Shola Falls. It originates from the Parappar river stream. It gets it name from the popular belief that bears in the surrounding forest came to drink water at the falls. It was a refreshingly quiet and serene spot. Our guide was too happy to click pics for anybody would wanted it.
There is a trail of about 1 Km further into the forest. It was steep climb downhill along the falls offering a stunning sight all throughout. Going down further, we reached the Vattakanal falls. There wasn’t much water but still it was beautiful, except for the stray plastic bottles, which were the signs of how indifferent man is to nature.
Our guide told us that the area was not fit for travel after dark as leopards have been spotted there. Trail narrowed further and we reached the lion cave. I can’t believe the story that was told to us that a lion used to inhabit that cave once. Because lions and tigers strive only in a complete ecosystem naturally. In such a place, human won’t dare to venture without protection. Either way, I loved every minute of solitude in the forest. We were free to stray around clicking pictures. I was using my phone for the same and I was feeling a little too peaceful and wanted to steep in it. So, photography took a backstage. Not that I am much good in it anyway!
After we climbed back, we reached another part of the road that led to the Green valley view point or the suicide point. that was another piece of trek which finally exhausted me. By the time we started on that trail, fog was down. So, all the view was covered in mist. A part of the trek is through the middle of an orchard full of pear and orange trees. Ripe pears were a refreshing sight to behold. A few of us jumped the wire fences to pluck a few of the juicy fruits. I also got my hoodie torn by the fence amidst the antics. The fruits were really sweet and it became all the more sweet because of the trouble that went into getting it. Our guide warned us that wild bison and boars frequent those orchards and advised us to be back on track soon. After this short break, the trail continued to the first view point. But thanks to the fog, nothing was visible. So, we walked on. What waited was a eucalyptus forest which reminded of all those ghost movies of Bollywood. Benches were put up for resting. I sat for a few minutes before continuing the trek to the suicide point.
Suicide point – a spot which is common to almost all hill stations I have visited. From Munnar, ooty to Shimla, everywhere, there is a suicide point. How can someone take all the pain to hike up to this point, just to end it all? A look around gives the best lesson, that at the end of the hardship, lies the beauty of life. I really didn’t understand why would someone want to commit suicide at a spot where everything was so perfectly calm and stunning. Wouldn’t it teach us to appreciate the nature and its bounties? I sat on top the boulder, with these thoughts running for some time breathed in the beauty of the moment before being ushered by the guide onto Dolphin nose.
Dolphin nose gets its name because of a rock of the shape of the nose of a dolphin at the very end. At a time only two could be on the nose boulder. So, people were waiting patiently for their turn to get their selfies and pics on the top. My chance also came and honestly, it was scary to be on the nose rock with the wind speed and the depth below. But still something that would make you bow down to the Creator.
One thing I learnt during this trek is that your are never alone in any place. There were a lot of solo travelers, of both sexes, in Kodaikanal. We all kind of knew each other and there was an unwritten and unsaid rule that we all look out for each other while maintaining the sanctity of the solitude. I didn’t know any of them by name or anything. No one knew me too. But still we were all together looking out for each other without intruding each other’s personal spaces and maintaining the solo status. All while enjoying the serenity of the moment and place.
Climb down was still easier compared to the trek back. I had a hot chocolate from a vendor at the first view point. Then nibbled the pear all the way back. At the top, our van was waiting for us, which dropped us back at the Lake. I had a quiet lunch, bought more chocolates and shopped for my baby niece. I wonder whether by the time she grows up, there would be anything like this left here in the mountains. Looking at how insensitive people are towards the nature, I do wonder about it. There is plastic bottles thrown everywhere. Even though there are dumpsters every 100 mts, still people find it easier to throw it just anywhere and everywhere.
I had another round of the lake on a tandem cycle with a fellow traveler, 3 rounds of balloon shooting and then a perfect sunset to watch. I walked back to my room promising myself to be back. I had missed the village tour, solar observatory, Eucalyptus oil extraction unit, Chocolate factory, Berijam lake and may be more. Another place I want to go again is the Aravinth nursery! Its nursery selling all sorts of plants and covering a whole hill! This is where I fell in love with the Rosemary plant! It introduced me to a lots of new flowers and plants. Some day, when I have a house of my own, I am going to come back and get a whole lot of these green wonders from here! So, I have enough reasons to warrant another visit. But without the guilt of lies somewhere playing at the back of my mind. So, next time, I will come, without having to hide my whereabouts and status. It started here, and definitely would not end here!
I am just starting to love myself and life. My life just starts here, with a lot of memories and love…