Silent hills of Kodai

Silent hills of Kodai

Short getaway

Silent hills of Kodai

It’s a mystery, but a delightful one — this misty, beautiful, and ecologically diverse hill station has somehow managed to dodge commercialisation.

It is still a mountain retreat where one only has to step out of a hotel and brave the chilly air to encounter picture-perfect nature, hear intriguing calls of wild birds and marvel at their outrageous colours as they hop and flit across the porch; gloss over the riot of flowers — including the lilac-blue kurinji that blooms once in 12 years. It is a hill station where one can trek from one ‘tourist spot’ to another, enjoying the journey as much as the destination.

Four days was all the time I had in hand, and on day one, I took a 120-km drive from the temple town of Madurai to Kodaikanal, that is some 7,000 feet above sea level, nestled on the Palani Hills in the Dindigul district of Tamil Nadu. The air grew perceptibly cooler and more fragrant with every hairpin bend. At Kodai, impromptu rains greeted me as I checked into a hill-side resort.

I set out for the Kodai Lake the next morning. Walking down the slope, I admired the dexterous driving skills of the locals who manoeuvred cars and bikes up and down these narrow sloping roads leading up to the lake. Cruise, cycle, horse ride or walk — those were the options on hand, to take in the lake. The Kodai Lake is the heart around which the hill station has grown, and the lake meanders rather than expands. Built by the then collector of Madurai, Sir Vere Hendry Levinge in 1863, this waterbody was created on a naturally formed basin by damming three streams. I decided to cycle my way around the lake. I cycled some five kilometres — the circumference of the meandering lake, stopping here and there, watching the birds on the lake, the trees fencing it, the lily buds lining the lake’s edges.

Tranquil treks

The plan for day three was to explore Vattakanal and trek to Dolphin’s Nose, a rocky ledge that provided a sweeping view of the hills below. I drove past meadows dotted by huge eucalyptus, cypress, pear, magnolia, mahogany, and acacia trees, besides flowering shrubs and random streams. Vattakanal is a village that has a beautiful waterfall and stream. Vattakanal has come to be known as ‘Little Israel’ because of the huge number of Israeli tourists who throng here in winter.

After a beautiful morning at Vattakanal, I resumed my journey to Dolphin’s Nose, walking through tunnels of trees that suddenly opened out to reveal valley views on one side. After half-an-hour’s walk, I arrived at the starting point of the Dolphin’s Nose trail. Curiously, this trail sloped down to the ledge, rather than climbing up. The path changed its nature every now and then, shifting from being paved with stones, to knotted roots exposed to the air, rocky terrain, cliffs, and dirt tracks. On reaching Dolphin’s Nose, the view and the exertion stunned me into silence. After a while, and some lemon sodas, I started the climb back, tired but thrilled. 

On the fourth day, I opted against the standard tourist haunts — Bryant’s Park, noted for its flowers, the view from Moier Point, Silent Valley view, Berijam Lake view, the Shenbaganur Museum that houses the region’s indigenous flora, fauna and archaeological artefacts, the Palanianadavar Murugar temple, the village visit, the 150-year-old La Saleth Church, historic remains at the Dolmen Circle, the Rat-Tail Falls, and the Kukkal Caves. Instead, I chose to just lie on the grass and soak in the view of the valley, and enjoy some reading and music in the open air. Time moved imperceptibly. Soon, it was sundown, time to head back home.

How best to enjoy Kodai?

Give yourself a week there. Explore the place in the mornings; just settle back on the veranda or the lawns of your cottage in the afternoons, with family, books, music, thoughts, short walks, or solitude, if the location is safe.

Don’t miss out on Kodai’s delicious homemade cheese and chocolates. But beware of adulterated stuff and stick to government-certified shops.

Avoid the rainy season. Even summers are misty and cold, so pack in a lot of warm clothing.  

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox

Check out all newsletters

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox