Usually we go for vacation in midsummer to keep ourselves away from hot weather and chill sometime in pretty cool mountains/hill stations while visiting places in and around the destination. Although I have visited almost hill stations/mountains within the state of Tamil Nadu, I still believe there is a lot to be explored and experienced. Each time I plan to visit mountains or any other place, I look forward to go beyond tourism and take roads that less traveled and places explored at least. This time too, though, went to the places that I have been already, I tried to explore things that missed last time and observing more the nature and environment and experience things leisurely.
After a gap of two years, I visited the mountains of Kodaikanal and stayed at Thandikudi followed by Cloud Mountain’s – which are a part of Western Ghats, from March 20-25. I was looking forward for a break/change from regular life since it’s been nearly a year I had vacation (in Ooty-Valparai) or traveled long, I decided to be earlier mainly to prevent the season’s crowd and easy accommodation at less fare/tariff. Being a month ahead to midsummer, it’s already terrific hot here and as we began the journey the sun was almost up in the sky shimmering bright, which is one of unusual with this travel as we always begin our journey early morning so that could easily get out of the city before it get congested and lesser heat.
Our drive from home till the foothill of Thandikudi/Kodaikanal was under scorching sun, which we felt heavily on the national highways in lack of trees and the A/C in the car also went frozen to block the blowers. The heat was able to make feel even driving upon the mountains and being unseasoned to rain there wasn't a piece of cloud to hold umbrella. The coldness on the mountains was also not so high and bearable with plain blankets at night and only in the morning the chillness is felt. We had booked rooms in the Panchayat Union’s Narumana Kudil (fragrant hut/cottage), which we early stayed and it is one of the very few accommodates available at Thandikudi apart couple of high fee resorts.
And it is a wonderful place to stay and watch birds alongside. But this time it wasn't fair enough to allow me to wander its premises, encompassed by coffee plantations and canopy of trees, because of lack of maintenance and unclean of fallen leaves gives a strange look across to move around. Moreover I didn't get the room I was looking for, which would ease my access through wheelchair so that I could come in and out of the room without much difficult. While booking in, itself we stressed for that particular room but those communicated hadn't conveyed it clearly to the management who had rented the room to some other. So I had to be transferred to a chair before getting in and out of the room to overcome a huge step and then back to wheelchair/car to move around.
|The beauty of Kodaikanal Lake, illuminates in eventide sunlight|
I expected to spent much time outside the room looking for birds i.e. it is a bird paradise in itself with many distinct bird species, even though I listen to their chirrups in various tones, I find only few birds with capable to shoot while others were tiny ones which treats me with sweet tweets. We stayed there for three nights and two days, which was spent mostly on drive and discovering new places/routes that I wanted to do for some time – will write more about it in detail later. I hope my future visits/stay at Thandikudi would be fine due to my uncle’s (mom’s sister husband) construction of guesthouse there, beside the coffee and orange plantations he bought two years back.
During my stay, I visited Kodaikanal only for a brief moment and took a leisure ride around the lake while capturing some photos and having a cup of coffee, we head back to room by late evening after purchasing some homemade chocolates. We haven’t planned to visit Kodaikanal that day as we are intended to stay there later; it was our car that forced us to check the princess of hills as it refused to start suddenly we are either to go to Vathalagundu (at the foothill) or Kodaikanal to rectify, we chose Kodai so that we don’t need to get down the hills. While the day went like that and the other spent on exploring some Ghats sections, the real excitement of the entire vacation was the chance to visit Cloud Mountain aka Megamalai!
|The place where we stayed in backdrop of Highwavys dam at Cloud Mountain|
I have been to this part of Western Ghats Mountains in 2009, but I haven’t done a post or write a piece on the pristine mountains that guard the Cumbum Valley from the east. It is one of the few places where nature exists at its best/pristine stage and human intervention is at least. I avoided writing about this place and posting pictures then to do a bit on preserving and preventing exposure as I never want it to be seen as another spoiled hill station. I think it is a place not for tourist activities but to admire and experience nature. At about 1500 meter, the cloud mountain is dedicated to tea plantations and it comes under the High Wavy Township which is one among the three major tea estates who leased the land for 99 years.
Getting there is not an easy task and one really needs a high ground clearance vehicle to venture the road that almost an off-road journey. One can drive up to High Wavy (there is also bus service) somehow, but trying to go beyond is painful. We haven’t planned to visit Cloud Mountain but it came as an offer from my cousin brother, whom we sought for booking rooms in Kodaikanal, and upon our willingness he booked rooms for us in the High Ways IB (inspection bungalow). I was telling to my dad, very lately, that we should go to Cloud Mountain once again, a place I visited as a day travel in 2009, I couldn't say no when someone offered such an opportunity. I was quite delighted to spend two days stood between dense forest, tea gardens and dams/lake in front and rear.
More for later...