A trip to Kodaikanal



For long time I have wanted to try my hand at travelogues. But somehow whenever I got down to writing it, I did not find it all that interesting and gave up mid way. Usually two approaches present themselves when one gets down to writing a travelogue – factual or chronological, neither of which I found particularly appealing. A factual approach somehow feels like a text book while a chronological approach ends up capturing lot of mundane uninteresting details. So I thought I will attempt what I call a stream of thought approach, just drawing upon salient aspects from my memories as they emerge naturally from my mind. If this is successful, I may try more travelogues in this style. Another distinguishing feature is going to be the lack of photographs. Though I take a camera on my trips and click some random snaps, photography is clearly not my forte. So I would rather spare my readers my photographic marvels.

Ooty and Kodaikanal are the popular summer vacation haunts of any typical south Indian family. Whereas Ooty was lucky enough to register my foot print within a decade of my terrestrial existence, Kodaikanal had to wait three full decades and survive a threat of the world coming to an end without being graced by my august presence.

One of the popular attractions in both Ooty as well as Kodaikanal is boating in the lake. Actually, almost every water body in the country that calls itself a lake has these pedal boats which couples take for a romantic spin around the lake. Seeing all the people going around on those boats, it all seemed so cliched  so mundane; I just could not bring myself to step into one of them. It seemed a better idea to just leisurely stroll around the perimeter of the lake. Most of the perimeter was dotted with dirty little shops, vending homemade chocolates, local oils, woolen sweaters and a few knick knacks. But the lake is quite huge with the perimeter stretching over 4 – 5 Km. So we managed to discover some peaceful sections with clear blue water on one side and the green hills on the other only occasionally disturbed by the enthusiastic boater in the water or the cyclist on the land. Talking of cyclists, they have this weird bicycle called a tandem cycle which is like two cycles smashed together to be ridden by two cyclists pedaling in tandem. I could not for the life of me figure the point of these ugly contraptions. But seeing the number of couples riding them, I can only surmise that these things had some romantic angle to them.

The best aspect of the lakeside stroll was a little shop in a relatively calmer stretch that sold art works and tea. We could however afford only the tea. We satisfied ourselves by gazing at the art works while sipping the tea, pretending we were planning to buy one. Some of them were real good – a few carvings of animals and what looked like a carving of a wood goblin on a piece of wood. What we could afford however were some homemade chocolates and a couple of sweaters in one of the dirty little shops in the crowded stretch. Our joys on thus promoting local artisans were cut short, when the shop woman proudly told us that we need not worry about the quality as the local ‘artisans’ had a stringent quality check on the consignments from the woolen factories in Ludhiana.

Coaker’s walk and Bryant Park are other attractions in the vicinity of the lake. Coaker’s walk has a few good valley views. It also offers other attractions such as groundnuts and target practice, giving the place a kind of seaside feel. Bird watchers may also find this place interesting. However I hope mention of birds immediately after beach does not conjure a wrong image of the kind of birds I am talking about. Possibly the use of the technical term ‘ornithologist’ can help avoid confusion but that makes the whole thing sound so nerdy - which is one of the reasons I restrain myself from reeling off names of bird species I observed here. The only memorable thing about Byrant Park was a shooting that was going on for some low budget Tamil serial. There were these two sets of couples in marriage attire who were made to run towards each other again and again while a bored cameraman sitting on a large statue of a duck struggled to capture it right, though I am not sure what is so dandy about a man and woman running towards each other that it can even go wrong. But then who am I to judge these things? For all I know there might be droves of housewives in Tamil Nadu shedding tears of admiration over this great work of art.

Whereas it is easy to see animals in a zoo, spotting an animal in the wild is a really different type of experience. I have been to quite a few animal sanctuaries claiming to be the habitat of all kinds of exotic wild beats. But I have never got to see anything beyond deer and monkeys unless you count stray dogs as wild and exotic as well. So I had no big expectations when the hotel guys mentioned bison and foxes may be seen in the vicinity of the lake. Kodai Lake definitely did not look like the kind of lake where you could see anything except stray dogs in the surroundings. Then I found out there was another lake called Berijam Lake within the reserved forest, 21 Km from the city. You need forest department’s permission to enter this jungle but local tour operators have permits. On the trip to this lake I got to see a bison in the wild at real close quarters. That was indeed an amazing experience. The animal looked real majestic. That one sighting made the whole trip worthwhile.

There were a couple of other interesting sights on the trip to Berijam Lake as well all included in the price of Rs. 250 per head. One was a medicine forest that could be seen in the valley below. Apparently the trees give out a fragrance that can be hallucinogenic. Then there is this misty place called caps valley into which you can throw something light like a cap and the air from inside the valley throws it back to you. Also the entire hillside around the town was covered with creepers blooming with purple and violet bell shaped flowers and there were other smaller flowers of various hues. That and the various breathtaking valleys views were indeed good. But that was kind of expected and I guess it is out there for anyone to see in any written accounts or photos on the internet.

29 comments:

Purba said...

Oh! I remember Berijam lake! Mysterious, covered with mist and so breathtakingly beautiful.

And I wish Tamil Nadu tourism would do something about cleaning up Kodaikanal.

Harikrishna said...

I remember some details about my visit to Kodaikanal in my twelfth grade as a school tour. I found that place so cool against the noise of the town or the city. I kinda got amazed seeing the lush greenery everywhere. The stray dogs you mentioned are not such a large number when compared to the nos. here in the cities. And I think it would be kind to appreciate the peculiar details rather than mocking it. Newly wed couples might find those boating, tandems so romantic and we may not know about it. And there may come a time when we also will appreciate it. I am not sure about the people who accompanied you. Going with friends will surely make such a trip really memorable. A nice travelogue :) and I am wondering how the hell I missed the Berijam lake.

The Fool said...

True, Purba. That picture is of Berijam lake.

Agree regarding the maintenance. It is cleaner than the cities. But a similar destination somewhere in Europe would have had a different level. But where do our authorities have time from politics and corruption?

The Fool said...

Thanks Harikrishna. I did not want to make it a complete gaga travelogue or a rave review. I thought it would be more interesting to share my true reflections. I find this pedal boars every where there is a lake in India. There is just no novelty in them. Stray dogs are indeed lesser in number compared to cities but that is about the only animal you are going to see in the main circuit.

With a group of boisterous friends, any place can be exciting.

Regarding Berijam Lake, many people seem to miss it. But that happens to be the best part of it rather than all the lake boating and stuff.

Rachna said...

I recently visited Ooty but have not been to Kodai so far. I have heard great things about it and would love to visit it some day. I actually love these boat rides even though the lakes are dirty. There is something very timeless and tranquil about these rides. And boatmen usually are great conversationalists. LIke you, hubby and I love to trek on mountain paths or around the lakes just doing our own thing. Generally, I love hill stations. Have you been to Yercaud? It is among my favorites!

Deguide said...

I remember the short trip which we undertook to Kodaikanal which was hurried since we had to return to base town of Dindigul. Maybe next time around we shall camp in Kodaikanal to have a complete experience, good to see luciferous joining the bandwagon of travel writers. Keep it up. Excellent first post

Alka Gurha said...

Travelogues arent easy to pen...unless one is passionate about traveling. I haven't been to Ooty but this write up inspires me to. For some real bird watching.
:)

The Fool said...

Thanks Rachna. Somehow seeing so many people around on boats gives it a commercial, junky feel and you don't get the tranquil feel. Maybe it is nicer in more remote lakes. And pedal boats do not need boatmen.

Not been to Yercaud yet. Maybe I will check it out next time.

The Fool said...

Thanks a lot, Umesh. Coming from a travel expert like you, it is indeed a compliment. I will try to pen down more of my travels in the coming days.

The Fool said...

Yes, Alka. You are right. As my friend Suresh says if you yourself are not finding the narrative interesting, how will your reader? Actually I have found all places are good for birds. One of the most common birds I found at Kodai was red whiskered bulbul in case you are into bird watching.

DS said...

Quite a well written travel piece even though I would have ideally loved to have seen some pictures. And you have given the post a humorous side which keeps the reader interested.

The Fool said...

Thanks, DS. I have quite a few pictures. But I could not see the point of putting them up. As I said, I am not a great photographer. Anyways there are going to be better pictures available on google.

Bikramjit said...

I have been to kodai kanal, when i was in 10th class .. our school took us for a south india tour and we visited a few places .. I have faint recollection of the place , we stayed in a lodge which had so many bunk beds ..


would like to go again now and hopefully remember all that i see
Bikram's

umashankar said...

The format is a hit! I loved the sparkling streak of humour within that 'stream of thoughts'. I marvel at your description of the tidbits like that conjoined bicycles.

The Fool said...

Thanks a lot, umashankar. I am encouraged to try more of this.

The Fool said...

You definitely should. Probably it might revive some fond memories.

Ruchita said...

Hey TF,

Great to see that you are trying your hand in travelogue. Like the way you have described the city and each details. Looking forward for some more post on travel

sharmila said...

Have been to Munnar and Thekkadi down south ...but Kodaikanal has been on my list for the longest time .Loved reading this travelogue of yours ...but I am just thinking in my head,did you just manage to dissuade me a wee bit from visiting this honeymoon special destination ? !
BTW,I am tempted to attempt writing about my travels after reading your post .Had fun reading :)

indu chhibber said...

The Berijam lake sounds very alluring,i want to visit Kodai one day.

The Fool said...

Thanks, Ruchi. Good to see you here. I hope I can continue to write these.

By the way, I thought you will be at the fablery writer's workshop. Would have been nice to meet up.

The Fool said...

Thanks, Sharmila. It is worth visiting. But then some no so well known things are more interesting while some of the regular things are cliched. You must also attempt travel. I have attempted after a lot of reluctance over a long period.

The Fool said...

Yes Indu. It is a nice place. That is the picture of it there, clicked by my wife.

Ashwini C N said...

Writing a travelogue is always a challenge. And nice write up on Kodai. For people in Chennai, it's like we head out there if we are bored. It might not boast of the best scenery but to spend time away from the mad race and to spend time with our dear ones is what matters, doesn't it?

The Fool said...

Thanks Ashwini. Actually, it is fine. The scenery is also fine. Only the commercialization and crowds are the problem.

dvirada said...

Very nice:) I actually avoid reading travelogues even if they are by one of my favorite writers, mainly because they are factual and boring. But even before reading your post, I knew your take on the travelogue would be very unique and out-of-the box ilk. I am glad I was proved right:)

Enjoyed reading your post, though I wished there were a few more details encompassed in it. But I guess it is up to the author's discretion of how much to express and to what level of personal details should be added on to their posts.

Looking forward to reading more of your travelogues. I should definitely catch up on reading your older posts. I immensely enjoy reading your posts for one thing I like in them is they speak volumes of sincerity. Wishing you a great year ahead in terms of literary achievements!

The Fool said...

Thanks. Some of the details had to be sacrificed for the very reason you mentioned - to avoid making it boring and factual. And yes, in a public blog I can't write a piece that feels like a family album - some of the aspects that are fascinating within a closed friends circle or a family may actually be found boring by a general reader.

Wish you too a great year ahead.

debajyoti said...

hahaha, that was a fun read!! I have been planning to visit Ooty for past several years but it never materialized.

The Fool said...

Thanks debajyothi. If this is what you call humor, you can find more of these this year. Do visit Ooty. it is a somewhat decent place.

dimpy roy said...

Good post. One of most picturesque hillstations in Tamil Nadu, Kodaikanal is a popular honeymoon destination, owing to its cool weather and breathtaking views. Escape the madness of the city and reach out and touch the clouds. Explore best Kodaikanal tour packages for wonderful vacations.

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