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Kodaikanal

After discussing many hill stations we settled for a trip to Kodaikanal during the Good Friday weekend. This was my fourth trip and Suresh's first, but my enthusiasm was no less! Due to the holiday season we were left only with the option of travelling by a coach direct to Kodai and we chose Parveen Travels, having seen their huge Air buses. I would not claim the bus ride to Kodai was comfortable but it was definitely worth it. I would not have got the opporunity to see the hills waking up if we had travelled otherwise!

We started climbing the hills a little past 6 a.m. With the fragrance of pine in the air, the sun rays filtering through the trees and the cold air tingling our feet, we grew expectant of a wonderful weekend ahead. We reached Hotel Sivapriya a little past 7 and checked-in into a room with a view of some greenery and hills. 

We refreshered ourselves and after a tasty breakfast, decided on a sight-seeing tour that covered quite a lot of the spots within Kodai town. A mini-bus picked us up a little late than the scheduled start of the tour. We covered Coaker's Walk, Green Valley View, Devil's Kitchen (now called "Guna" Caves after the famous movie by Kamal Hassan), Pillar Rocks from a different view (from behind), Pine Forest, Upper Lake View, Kurinji Andavar temple, Museum, Silver Cascade and were then dropped at the Lake. Since we were tired after the previous night's bus journey we decided to just hang around before pushing off to the hotel. We relaxed at Bryant's Park near the lake, which was a scaled down version of Ooty's Botanical Gardens. All of a sudden it started raining and luckily we had carried an Umbrella. We waited for the rain to slow down and then started our walk back to the hotel which was about a kilometer from the lake. On the way we saw the Kodai International school with a colonial stone structure and a beautifully manicured football field. We were literally shivering when we reached the hotel. We had short nap in our room before we went for a hot dinner at the restaurant. There ends day 1! Kodai International School 

We decided on the Forest tour on Day 2. As usual, the mini-bus was late and we were driven straight to Bear Shola Falls. We were wondering on the generosity of the tour operatior as this was not part of the conducted tour. We were then told that the driver has to go to the Forest Office to get permission for taking us into the forest. The guide warned us there would be no water in the falls as the Kodai "officials" had stopped the over-flow of lake above since there was acute water shortage in Kodai. We spent more than an hour waiting for the mini-bus to come back. Then were driven into the Forest. There was a complete change in the environment. Deafening noises of motor vehicles and horns gave way to silence and occassional chirping of birds, concrete and thatched buildings faded away and there was plain greenery everywhere with some rubbish strewn here and there (Sigh.... Indians never change!!). 

Pine Forest Our first stop was the Pine Forest (of a different kind). We took some snaps and moved onto Silent Valley View. There were two view-points - one with fencing and the other a sheer drop of 1000 feet into the valley below! The next stops were Fire-watching Tower, Upper Lake View (of Berijam lake) and Caps Valley. The Fire-watching tower (when climbed up) is supposed to give a complete view of the Kodai town. The Caps Valley had an interesting note. Caps, when thrown into the valley will be returned when the air-pressure is right! We did not try it anyway! Then we moved onto Berijam Lake, the place we have been waiting to see. Right in the middle of the forest was a natural lake about 3 miles in length, with just greenery all around. We spent some time here adoring the natural beauty, which we would not get to see in our concrete jungles! We returned to our hotel for lunch.
After refreshing we did a little shopping the in the Bazaar (home made chocolates), proceeded to the lake and decided on cycling. Each of us rented a bicycle and started our 5.5 km long journey! It was difficult initially as we hadn't cycled for quite some time. Then we started managing pretty well. It was dark when we reached the starting point. We returned our cycles and started our walk back to the hotel, silently wishing that the holiday would never end. On the way, we decided to do some shopping at the Khadi Bhavan, when again, all of a sudden it started raining. We rushed into the Khadi Bhavan and spent some time looking at the differnt things on display. Finally bought one coir mat! Back at the hotel, after doing a little packing, we went for sumptuous dinner as we were very hungry after the evening's activities and retired early to wake up to a long day.  Berijam Lake

The third day morning we woke up early as we had to check-out of the hotel and take a bus to Palani. We were greeted with a wonderful sight from our windows. The hills in the distance were bathed in the orange light of the rising sun and there were blue rays at the bottom of the hills due to the presence of some clouds in the path of the sun rays! We definitely were going to miss the natural beauty that we have no clue when we will be seeing again! 

After breakfast and checking-out, we went to the bus stand and boarded a bus that would take us to Palani (about 65 kms). The bus ride was very scenic. Travelling on the edge of the hills, we were treated to spectacular valley views through out the journey. After about 2 hours of a scenic ride, we reached the sweltering plains... and to reality! Palani was trying. Hot sun, crowd and the cheating people all around us made us wonder why we ever decided to see Lord Muruga. But our tiredness vanished on seeing the Lord (in the Rs. 100 Q)! We decided to skip lunch and had some drinks before we boarded the bus to Coimbatore. We reached Coimbatore in the evening and spent some time at our relatives house before we boarded the train back to Madras. 

The British have left behind a rich legacy of hill stations that become dear when the mercury levels in the plains start shooting up. But it is heartening to see the amount of damage done to these beautiful summer get-aways in the name of tourism during the so called "season-time". People swarm these spots and pollute the atmosphere with loud chattering, blocking the paths of other tourists, making other people wait while trying to click that "one photo that covers the entire view behind" and above all throwing trash as they please. All the tourists are there to enjoy nature's beauty and it is the duty of every tourist to ensure that he/she leaves the place as beautiful as it is. These hill stations may not remain so dear for long. With global warming and the increasing pollution caused not only by the trash but also from the high levels of emission from motor vehicles, we may soon loose the crispy coolnees in the air and the greenery which is becoming increasingly rare in the plains. And we would have nowhere to go for our long weekends!