|Silent Valley Viewpoint|
This trip was more of an impromptu trip without much of a planning involved, thanks to the long weekend for Dasahara. But I had one of the greatest enlightenment of recent times, "Never to visit a traditional travel destination on a long weekend especially during the school vacations". Kodaikanal does fall under this category of a "traditional holiday destination" and hence we had to endure the wrath of an overcrowded place , going totally against the concept of vacation wherein one is expected to relax and unwind. Further it was my second innings to these hills, after a gap of nearly 6 years and I could see drastic changes everywhere. Since I was the only one on driver duty it was decided to split the journey into smaller manageable legs and hence we left for Salem once I was back from office. We rested for the night at the Raj Residency at Salem which was a well maintained service apartment. It was big. It was neat. It was totally worth the money spent.
We left Salem in the morning after having breakfast at one among the innumerable "Saravana Bhavans" dotting the landscape within the city and its outskirts. It seemed that naming their eatery anything apart from "Saravana Bhavan" was a great blasphemy :P. Also found that the servers at this particular restaurant were ladies, which was the first time I have experienced in a not-so-high-end restaurant giving a vibe that women are much more empowered in these parts of the country. Once you are out of Salem travelling towards Madurai which is at distance of close of 240km there is an immediate dearth of any decent eateries along the highway. The highway between these 2 Tamil cities was smooth and we reached there just in time, before the Meenakshi temple closes at 12.30 pm. Infact we were among the last few people allowed in and my wife was literally the last person allowed in. But one complain is that the streets of Madurai leading to the temple are narrow , congested and pothole ridden. It didn't make sense that they couldn't maintain or improve the infrastructure to one of India's most famous temple !!!!
The temple on the other hand was spectacular. Mammoth in size and even though the gates of the temple were closed, we were allowed to spend our own sweet time exploring the temple and no one forces you out of it. One of the unique feature of this temple is the usage of bright colors to decorate majority of the sculptures and not even sparring the roof from it. The inner sanctum can be accessed only by Indians and foreigners and strictly prohibited from entering this place. And a funny thing happened in here. There are entrance doors with different entry fee starting from 20, 50 and 100. So the general perception was that the higher you paid , faster the darshan would be since all these queue's would ultimately join the same general Q at some point. We took the 20 Re ticket since it didnt look like it was crowded in there and to our surprise there were more people in the 50 and 100 Rs queue than the 20 Rs Q :P. Had a good laugh seeing their surprised faces on seeing the much short er 20 Rs queue :D.
|Silver Cascade Falls|
After exploring the main sanctum, we explored the other parts of the temple which included the 1000 pillar Hall museum, the super tall gopurams and so on. Spent close to 2 hours exploring this place and then we left for Kodaikanal our main destination for this trip. The route from Madurai to Kodaikanal is a well maintained 2 lane highway. But at the checkpoint of the hills we were stopped by police officials, who basically wanted us to prove that we were husband and wife. Had some comical turn of events because of that, which I wont be describing though :). Had a small break at Silver Cascade falls which one encounters couple of KM before the town and is very gorgeous. We had booked rooms at Kodai Sunshine Hotel and had also got a good deal. Hence once we entered the town of Kodaikanal we first explored the area around the Kodaikanal lake. But thanks to the long weekend and school holidays it was a chock-a-block in the heart of Kodaikanal. Our hotel was in outskirts of the main town and it was very peaceful over there.
|Upper Shola View|
The next day we were to explore all the major sightseeing spots of Kodaikanal. But due to the tourist rush it was really a painful experience trying to navigate through jams on these hilly roads. We first went to Upper Lake view wherein one gets a good view of the entire town especially the lake. Following this we went to the observatory. Even though it was govt run organization it was pretty informative and I saw solar spot for the first time in my life . All the major sightseeing places of Kodaikanal are situated in a loop sort of road which begins and ends back into the town. After the educational tour we encounter the beautiful pine forest , but looks like due to heavy footfall there was a lot of garbage strewn across the place.
|The Jam !!!!|
|Berjam Lake from a distance|
The best part of being in Kodaikanal was the weather , which was close to freezing even though the plains were simmering with heat. Once we were fed up of navigating through the heavy traffic and we reached the Suicide view point we saw the board as the entrance to Berijam lake. This lake is highly restricted and "supposedly" only 25 vehicles are allowed in per day (But we saw a lot more during our 1 hr wait at this place :)). For those who cannot take their vehicle there are minibuses run by the forest department for every hour or so and we caught the last bus for the day at 2.30 pm. The tour lasts for a couple of hours and this was the most peaceful part of our sightseeing trip in Kodaikanal. Found some breathtaking view points inside this reserve forest, the most exciting among them being the Silent Valley view point. Other major stopovers are Caps fly and the lake itself. It is more like a guided tour and the driver provides some interesting background information regarding each individual places.
Once we were back to the entrance of the this park the traffic had reduced and we proceeded with our traditional tour covering Pillar rocks and then back to the town. Since we had skipped our lunch thanks to Berijam lake excursion, we were starving like hell and surprisingly none of the eateries were serving any food and it was just 6 in the evening. Finally we went to a Bangalore based restaurant "Woodys" and once they came to know that we were Bangaloreans they prepared food from scratch including chutney to serve us. In process they got all our gratitude and a fat tip :). Later we had shopping for home made chocolates to be taken back home.
The following day after having our breakfast and checking out of our room we decided to visit the Bear Shola falls which is pretty much within the town limits. There was not much water flow in this particular falls and it was just ok. From there started our return journey back to Bangalore. The initial part of the return journey was good and we had a stopover at Salem for lunch. After that we got caught within the huge rush of vehicles trying to make their way back to Bangalore. We literally encountered a 2 km jam before the Dharmapuri toll gate. After this ordeal we checked google maps for the traffic updates and saw that there was a huge 4-5 km jam at Krishnagiri tollgate. Hence decided to take a detour and took the lesser used state highway. We took the route Dharmapuri-Rayakottai-Hosur hence avoiding the Krishnagiri stretch and probably saved fuel, toll fee and a lot a frustration. Reached back home after an exhausting drive back :).