Monday, December 29, 2003
TRAVEL : KodaiIt had been some time, 5-6 months, since I went travelling. I had planned a week's trip through Rajasthan after returning from the US, but it got sidelined because of some urgent personal business I had to attend to. So as Christmas loomed with a few slack days at work, friends out of town and some colleagues thinking about making a trip to Kodaikanal and Munnar, I readily jumped onto the bandwagon. There were supposed to be eight of us, but one couple dropped out due to work pressures.
We'd planned to rent a Qualis the entire route from Kodai Road to Kodaikanal (80 kms), sightseeing in Kodai for a couple of days, taking the Qualis to Munnar and returning to Kodai Road, after four days. But the price quote of Rs. 7800/- for the entire package for just the car seemed a bit too steep to be shared between 6 people, so we decided to do the Kodai route by whatever local transport was available.
Reaching Kodai Road at 5.30 AM, it was surprising to be off in a local bus, not too crowded by 6.00 AM. Trudging along, creaking and groaning it's way up the mountain, we managed to reach only by 8.45 AM. The hotel we were staying at, was about a kilometre away from the Bus Stand, so we walked our way there. While Kodai town has one main attraction - the lake - there are numerous smaller places to go in a range of 4-12 kms from the town. These include a suicide point, an Upper Lake View, a couple of waterfalls which would've looked nice if they had a littttle more water, some terrible looking caves and some other things which were eminently missable. A part of the fiasco was also because of the cloud-cover which had engulfed us all through the morning, but a lot of it has to do with the high expectations set by people and us realizing that some of the "points" were just marketing gimmicks by the local travel operators.
Kodai is the kind of places you go to relax. The success of a trip depends on the company you're with. There are two kinds of travellers - people who go to places to say they've been there and to have photographs to show; and people who go to a place to enjoy the smaller things there. Unfortunately part of my group fell into the former category and being the dominant sex in those relationships took along a few of my buddies tagging along behind them.
The first day wasn't so bad - since we spent about 4-5 hours around the lake, boating for an hour and a half in a paddle boat, cycling around the star-shaped lake with the perimeter being about 5 Kms. It was perfect - chilly with that right amount of the sun, occasional cloud covers and a lovely range of mountains around the lake for that scenic beauty. The cycling was fun because we were in a group and trying to act corny - like driving and singing the way they used to in those old hindi movies - and playing games with the cycles which we hadn't for years. Due to unfortunate weight constraints, some stunts didn't pan out as they were supposed to. Well. Sigh.
The second day was terrible to start off with. With Dada's Curse of the Fog, striking us from moment Go, to our "vintage" car developing technical difficulties, it wasn't a particularly good morning. Suicide Point in December will prove to be a foil for anyone who goes there with that intention, since he/she will not want to take the risk of jumping into the white fog without a trace of letting up. Guna Caves was a terrible mistake - for us and for that poor chap who slipped and fell to his death there 50 years ago. The pine forest was a small area which would have been ideal for a good "running around the trees" sequence in a 1980s film, but misplaced in the current context.
The only good memory of the morning, in fact, was that photograph of loads of stuffed animals piled up on a Yamaha.
The entire town seemed to be engulfed by hordes of tourists who were hell-bent on creating as much of a nuisance as possible. Not fun. Definitely not my idea of fun.
Lunch was taken with the hope of a better afternoon where had been promised a small quiet trek. Luckily it did not disappoint. Though it was a short trek, it was lovely in patches where we trekked along a decent sized rivulet with it's own personal waterfalls. It was quiet and awesome to be surrounded by the forest and it's noises.
By evening, we were back at the lake, this time rowing and then cycling in the dark for 2-3 hours. Overall recommendations for Kodai - boating at the lake for a few hours every day, cycling along the lake, the masala tea opposite the Carlton boathouse, some good bhutta, lots of leisurely walks outside the town. Those walks are the only way you're going to enjoy the place. Like they say - slow down and smell the roses. Or for Kodai, the spices. Oh, and also, if you get a chance to walk in, go see the Kodai International School - it's impressive in it's architecture and looks.
The third morning, we leave for Munnar at 7.30 AM.....
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