Come summer, the cool of the mountains beckons, and Kodaikanal gears up for the tourist onslaught. From Kodai Road station it is a three-hour drive into the Palani Mountains. The ghat section begins at Batlagunta, and snakes up to the top, at a height of 6300 feet. The mist rising up from the valleys in diaphanous layers is a sight for sore eyes. We drive through lush green cardamom groves and orange orchards, with birdsong ringing in our ears. For miles before we reach Kodaikanal, banners and boards caution callous tourists, “Plastic strictly prohibited. Don’t litter.”
Our accommodation has been wisely chosen at Lockend. It is in the heart of town, yet nestling in green acres of the Lutheran Mission. For a measly hundred rupees per head, we have a spacious bungalow with a fireplace lit up at night, when the weather turns chilly. Bedrooms with attached baths, and a small kitchen meet our needs. A variety of flowers grow around the bungalow and the cuckoo gives us a wake-up call each morning. There are no telephones, TVs or computers to distract us. It is a time of bonding with Nature.
The CSI Trust association also has several cottages for tourists, which overlook the Kodaikanal lake.
This man-made lake is the hub of activity. Pedal and row-boats can be hired from the Boat Club at 50 rupees an hour. In June every year, a Regatta is organized for the Challenger’s cup. A walk around the lake is five kms, and is a pleasant exercise.
Roadside booths sell anything from woollens to fruits and home-made chocolates. No plastic is used. Paper bags must suffice, often spilling precious purchases on the road. Fine cloth bags are sold cheaply at Rs. 5/- each. Paper carrier-bag industry provides employment to many people. Attempting to buy vegetables from the market is a futile exercise unless one carries a bag.
Rain-water harvesting is another eco-friendly initiative.
Bryant’s Park near by, holds its Flower Show in May. Many exotic plants and blooms are on display, though the purple Kurungi, which blossoms once in twelve years, has still not bloomed.
Sight-seeing can be done by vehicles or by trekking. The Silver Cascade and Pamba Falls are popular with tourists. The adventurous can trek to Suicide Point and Dolphin’s nose, where the height exceeds 7000 feet.
Entry into the forests involves red-tape and money. But once inside, one is awed by the lush green tree-cover and the majestic pines that stretch for miles.
Coaker’s walk is a steep climb up the side of the mountain, with the panoramic view of the Cumbum valley below. Because the air is so pure and clean, one is never tired or out of breath.
We soon have to say Goodbye to clean air and healthy living. An aerial view of the Vegai Dam irrigating miles of coconut plantations is refreshing.
The forests tremble with the noise of somersaulting monkeys, reiterating their ownership over this green domain.
Hindu Metroplus July 3rd, 2004