If you have attended any Indian wedding, you would have seen either an artificial waterfall or water fountain at the entrance of the wedding hall to welcome guests. In the same way, Kodaikanal welcomes you with Silver Cascade waterfalls. Not much to see around it; you can’t go in and play either. You simply have to watch water flow down the layered rocks like flexible columns in intricate patterns that cascade. This renowned hill station in the Dindigul district of Tamilnadu, India, will make you forget your bustling lives in metros. Narrow gullies, numerous thrift shops alternated with lodges and restaurants, and tea estates. Kodaikanal, though has come to commercialize itself, has not lost its small town charm.
Though our check-in time was at 9am, Mr. Vincent, the manager at Snooze Inn where we had booked a twelve bed dormitory, allowed us to check in by 6:30am just because we reached Kodaikanal way too early. After eleven people scrubbed themselves well enough to look good in the hundreds of pictures to be taken later, we started towards Berijam Lake in the Tempo Traveller we had hired from Bengaluru. On the way we got to know from other tourists that we need a prior permission from the forest department to see the lake as it is situated inside forest area. Since we had another day to spare in Kodaikanal, we decided to get permission and see Berijam Lake next day. As Pillar Rocks and Green Valley View Point were on the way back to town, we decided to see them.
On the way to Pillar Rocks, we stopped to see Guna Caves. You need to park your vehicle in the parking lot and walk for about kilometer into the jungle to reach the caves. These caves are not horizontal on the ground going deep into some mountain, but plunge into the Earth. What I mean to say is Guna Caves are deep cracks in that certain area which sometimes appear to be all-consuming pits. Around these caves are trees whose roots are seen above the damp soil surface making tendril-like patterns where one can pose in different postures to get their pictures clicked with many other random people in the background. Yes, too many tourists. The area around Guna Caves is covered with moss which makes wearing footwear with good grip necessary if you want to wander around. You have these pits on one side and the valley on the other.
After clicking our share of pictures at Guna Caves, we moved towards Pillar Rocks. You can see gigantic yellow coloured rocks standing vertically one behind the other, attached to the neighbouring mountain, and the valley in front of them. You need to stand in the open air corridor opposite to the rocks and see them from far. With absolutely nothing to do there apart from staring at the rocks and the valley, I bought a small container filled with soap water and a loop attached to its lid. At least blowing bubbles is a good time pass.
As we had already observed that the valley looks same from every view-point, we gave Caps Fly Valley and Green Valley View Point a miss. We had sumptuous lunch and rushed towards Kodaikanal Lake.
Kodaikanal Lake is situated in the middle of the town. Surrounded by busy lanes, shops selling homemade chocolates, eucalyptus oil and many other herbal products, and cycle rental shops, you can rent pedaling boats as well as rowing boats from the boat houses at the lake.
Only one hour was left before closing time of the lake when we reached a boating house. We wanted pedaling boats and that boat house rented out only rowing boats. We went around the lake by walk, for about two kilometers, to another boat house and rented three 4-seater pedaling boats for thirty minutes each. While pedaling, we could drink in the beauty of the hillocks of Nilgiri range around us. It felt like an insanely huge bowl formed by the greenery covered mountains is filled with water and we were tiny specks floating in it.
We even bought ice cream cones and candies from a vendor who was selling them inside the premise of the lake without the knowledge of the authorities, but we didn’t throw the covers and sticks into water. Remember, you should never pollute the environment. There was an old tree that grew into the water and every other person wanted to click a picture with it, under it, over it and hanging from it. We spent a lot of time with the tree and by the time we moved away from it, we had only 15 minutes left to pedal the boat for about a kilometer. We knew we would be late, so one of us tactfully said “let’s extend it for half an hour more and make it totally one hour. We will pay for the extra half an hour once we reach the boat house.” Thus, the extra half an hour also got extend to forty five minutes and people were waiting for us to leave so that they could close the lake for the day. They didn’t even ask us to pay for the extra time! Even after boating, we were not satisfied.
So, we hired bicycles to go around the lake once more. It was twilight already and that didn’t stop us. With all the shops lighting their colourful lights by the lake, the view was mesmerizing. Don’t miss cycling around the lake; it is for about five kilometers perimeter. Don’t race; relish the twilight beauty of the magnanimous Kodaikanal Lake.
After cycling, we returned to our dormitory only to go out again for dinner. We had Kothu Parota at a nearby restaurant. Did you ask what Kothu Parota is? It is regular parota shredded, mixed with curry of your choice (I ordered Kothu Parota with chicken curry and scrambled eggs) and mashed. A good night’s sleep after traveling is very much necessary to enjoy the next day.
One of us woke up early next morning and got permission for the whole group from the officials at the Forest Department to go to Berijam Lake. Rest of us freshened up and picked him up on the way to the lake. They say that only twenty permissions are given per day, but once we reached the lake we saw there were more than twenty groups with permission from the Forest Department.
Getting back to the point, I will say Berijam Lake is overrated, that is only if you see the lake alone. The scenery around it is soothing with country-style cottages near it reminding you of the movies Leap Year and The Holiday.
We jumped from here and there to get pictures clicked; by then it was lunch time. I ordered for 2 chapatis and Chettinad chicken. Authentic Chettinad chicken will be red in colour and slightly moist which can be made into gravy as per preference; it will be spicy too. If your curry does not have any of the characteristics mentioned, then it is simply not Chettinad chicken. Even after eating chapatis and Chettinad chicken I was not satisfied, so ordered chicken biriyani. It was yum! One should never miss chicken biriyani when in Tamilnadu. You will get variety of chicken biriyani in Tamilnadu and each one is as good as the other. Lip smacking!
After lunch, we moved towards Dolphin’s Nose. Not the zenith, but one of the edges of the mountain looks like snout of a Dolphin (not exactly, but yeah….better to be called Dolphin’s Nose than anything else). If you google out Dolphin’s Nose, you will get its location in Ooty, Coonoor and Kodaikanal. I used to think it is in Coonoor until I actually visited it in Kodaikanal.
When we reached the snout, there were two backpackers from mid-East and a British woman at the edge. The mid-Eastern woman was strumming guitar and singing in her native language peacefully. It was quaint watching her. They didn’t seem to be perturbed by our presence. Be careful when trying to get your pictures clicked there as it is pretty dangerous. One poke and you will be straight away sent to visit Hades. After being dare devils by posing at the tip of the snout, we walked back a little only to take a deviation towards Echo Point. I realized my voice is not loud enough as whatever I shouted didn’t sound back, but it worked for my friends. We spent some time there and left at dusk.
On our way back, we stopped at a Government recognized shop to buy homemade chocolates, spices, oils and anything that was on sale; not only for ourselves, but also for friends back home. They make awesome souvenirs and nobody will refuse them. Tired, but jovial and salutary with the excursion, we drifted towards Bengaluru.
Budget: Rs.3000 – 5000/- per head. Depending on the luxury you seek, it may exceed.
Who and when: Anytime good for honeymooners and trekkers. If you are seeking spectacular sceneries, then from August to January would be good. If you just want to beat the summer heat, then February to April. For people like me who want to strike off this place from the List-of-Places-to-Visit, anytime will do. The climate will be chill throughout the year.