While most of us cut out traveling during the downpours, monsoon in ‘Vattakanal’, the lesser-known cousin of ‘Kodaikanal'(Kodai) is something to be experienced. 7 Kms. away from the jam-packed town of Kodaikanal, Vattakanal remains absolutely unsullied from commercialization.
Hidden in the Palani hill range, surrounded with thick carpets of dense forest- Vattakanal is apt to it’s name ( ‘Vatta’ circle; ‘Kanal’- forest). Vatta(Vattakanal) attracts lot of backpackers and hippies, who flock here during September – December. Vatta is also known as “Little Israel” as maximum percentage of travelers coming here are ‘Israelites’.
Off to Vattakanal
After an overnight bus journey from Bangalore, we ( a group of six) got down in ‘Kodai’. A cool breeze welcomed us as we set our foot here. A few meters walk from the bus stop took us to the town centre. After a yummy South Indian breakfast at ‘Astoria’, we bought some groceries for our homestay, as there are fewer options once you are in Vattakanal. We hired a taxi to Vatta, on our way we came across a check-post, which was set in the past few years after mushies( magic mushrooms) came into limelight. After a thorough check, we were back on the road to Vatta- swaying along the narrow curves.
As we reached closer to Vattakanal, we could sense the change in the air and began to notice silvery mist hovering over us approaching mildly almost to possess us, like some distant spirit. Covered in cotton clouds and cool breeze kissing our faces- we were very much enchanted and totally into ‘Vattakanal’ the moment we got there. Carrying the luggage to our stay along the steepy road was a real toughie. Due to it’s high altitude, the climb made us crave for some generous dose of oxygen.
We stayed in a place called ‘Pink house’ which was actually quite pretty pink to look at. As you can see, its dotted with baby pink stripes everywhere on the outside. Luckily, we had the entire place for the six of us with all amenities including a fire place. And, the views from the balcony were simply spectacular. As the clouds started to scatter, we realized how high we were above the plains- Periyakulam village was somewhere far and at the bottom of the valley.
Trek to Dolphin Nose
We assumed climbing down the hill won’t be back-breaking as it was upwards. We panted and took breaks every few meters. Even the chilly wind couldn’t stop us from sweating like pigs. A dog escorted us all the way down to the ‘Dolphin Nose’ without taking breaks unlike us.
The view from the tip of the Dolphin Nose was simply breathtaking, but as I got close to the tip, my heart skipped a beat- and I couldn’t dare to step an inch further. On the contrary, our more daring companion (the unstoppable doggie) was at the tip enjoying the bird views while we were trying to move our feet inch-by-inch. Argh! I wish, I was as mettlesome as he was.
To Echo Point
We back-pedaled to the echo point which was 100 meters from ‘Dolphin Nose’. The cotton clouds and the silvery mist were agile altering the picturesque portrait of nature constantly. I got on top of the rock, which was a bit slippery because of the rain. But, I didn’t give up this time; I sat there in silence- as the drizzles formed dew on my skin and the zephyr poured me gentle kisses. The feeling of becoming one with the nature was spine-tingling. Quite frankly, I had the best of the entire trip on the first day.
On our way back, we took a break at a small tea stall run by some local folk. I gulped down the tea hoping it would produce some heat as all that drizzling made me go cold. Over our chat with him, the guy surprised us by revealing that he lives way down in the Periyakulam village and he carries all the material down to the village every day, Zoinks! And poor us, we were gasping for breath in just one day.
We started our final part of trek to our homestay, and believe me when I say, those last few five hundred meters felt like five kms up the hill. We were sweating buckets by the time we reached. We made dinner with the groceries we bought in Kodai.
There was pitch darkness when the power went-off in the first couple of minutes, but the sparkling stars were like diamonds against the dark sky that gradually lit up the outside. You could never see so many stars in the cities due to light and pollution. I was glad to add one more breathtaking view onto my cart of memories.
Kodaikanal lake & Coalker’s walk
After that tiresome first day, we decided to go light on this one. We hired a taxi to Kodai centre where we discovered lots of street vendors and local markets selling various local delicacies from sandalwood to chocolate! We decided to walk to the Kodai lake and go pedalling on a boat. Pfff, this was more strenuous than the trekking! Once we realised we couldn’t pedal any further, we just stopped in the middle of the lake to soak in the surrounding views.
After trailing off half way in the lake, our bellies screamed for some food. So, we had South-Indian thali on our way to Coalker’s walk. This was a one kilometer walk along the edge of the hill with clouds on the either side that was simply astounding.
On our final day, we checked-out early in the morning to visit ‘Mannavanur’, a farming village which is 40 Kms downhill from Kodai. We hired a taxi for the entire day. The curvy road took us down to Mannavanur as we went further, mountains slowly began to transform into lovely meadows. We came across an idyllic village enveloped with lush green meadows, beautiful step-farms and scented mist.
Probably, the first picture most of us drew as a kid was a landscape with mountains, clouds and mud huts. But, we never knew how beautiful that picture could turn into on the very off chance if it would come into life. My first notion of this village reminded me, how much I fancied something like this as a kid.
I felt like screaming with happiness. The cattle grazing on the lush green sprawling meadows made me realise how peaceful and stress free country life is. And so, we found ourselves a nice spot to wallow in the nature, which is quite quaintly unmindful of its own beauty.
On our way back to Kodai, we visited ‘Kuzhanthai Velappar temple’. Built in a typical South-Indian style architecture, The Kuzhanthai Velappar Temple is believed to have an interesting history that dates back to 3000 years, related to the Pandavas. Once you enter the temple premises, your heart is filled with calm and positive energy.
Our trip to Kodaikanal would be incomplete without spotting a ‘Bison'(gaur) – the most powerful of all the bovines can be spotted seen here.
On our way back to Kodai, we spotted 4-5 bisons on the road side. Whee! We got lucky. These lot are hugely built, looks like they workout real hard. He surely looked pissed off after we took a picture of him. So, we just got back on to the wheel!
If you are looking for a perfect trip in the lap of nature, here it is! Visit before it gets spoiled by manmade litter and noise! Just like me, one can only hope Vattakanal and Mannavanur stay untouched as they are now.
I left a piece of me there, I will definitely go back one day to find it.