Kodaikanal (கொடைக்கானல்), which in Tamil means “gift of the forest” or “the summer forest”, is a hill station in the mountains of the Western Ghats. At over 2,000m it is cool, quiet and peaceful, the perfect juxtaposition to Madurai.
Our journey from Madurai took us across the plains on the NH 7. We turned off and headed towards the SH73, over the railway tracks and past a small village before the town of Pallapatti.
Here were children playing by the road side with dogs as monkeys skipped across the canopy of branches above, whilst their parents worked either at the bike repair shop or drying fish. That’s about all there was going on in this little township, which is quite normal in the outback of Tamil Nadu.
A few miles further up, on the outskirts of Pallapatti, we stopped off for a chai. The tree-lined street was thick with foliage, which was just as well since it was hot. The tea was a welcome refreshment.
I hopped out and grabbed a couple of pictures of a couple of families playing and chatting down a back street. I was warned not to wander too far because of dogs, a warning I always heed!
Like our previous experience of the Ghats it took a fair few hairpin bends to ascend into the clouds, past waterfalls and into the damp, chilly ambiance of this village-in-the-hills.
The village sits atop a plateau on the Palni Hills. Beneath it, in the valley, is the 5km wide Kodaikanal Lake. Surrounding it are the Western Ghats, the tips of which may be viewed from Kodaikanal.
I tell you this because the main reason for visiting Kodaikanal are the views.
We dumped our gear off at our stone-cottage retreat, which looked like it had been lifted from an English west-country village, and wandered around Coaker’s Walk, the famous 500m mountainside path that offers unprecedented views over the Ghats. Time it right and the sunset offers spectacular shadows across the tips of the mountains.
After Coaker’s Walk we continued walking west where we spotted a troop of monkeys causing havoc with a tourist. The most daring had managed to get inside and, clearly knowing what was in the contents of a crisp packet, found himself a treat by the driver’s seat. Here’s a little clip of that moment:
Further west, passing some beautiful art deco residential houses we found ourselves at St Mary’s Church, which wouldn’t have looked out of place in Portugal.
Looking back east we were able to look down on the lake.
Below is a slide-show of the photographs taken on Coaker’s Walk of the Western Ghats. (After clicking on the image to start an automatic display, use the four-arrowed button to go full-screen.)
We returned to Coaker’s Walk and came across a chap preparing a snack, wrapped up in a leaf. We had seen this being prepared all over India but had never tried it. Now seemed an appropriate time. In this video clip we see him prepare our snack and explain what the ingredients are:
Kodaikanal is a very comfortable town with plenty of ‘hotels’ to eat out in, a well-kept garden bursting with familiar tropical flora for the romantics amongst us, and the lake. It was suggested to us that we hire a boat to take out on the lake, but when one lives on a boat that isn’t such an appealing activity, especially when the clouds had dropped and smothered the lake in a mist. Instead we opted for the Carlton Hotel where we could sit out and look at the lake from the comfort of my expensive beer.
Feeling tired from our day’s saunter we retired early, but not before I took some night-shots from our English country garden.
The next day we opted to walk to Pillar Rock, 6km to the west of the town. The weather wasn’t too dissimilar to an damp autumn afternoon in the Lake District in England, and as we passed stone farm houses with large unkempt gardens it all looked eerily familiar.
We walked through two or three villages, built around the undulating hills and streams, passing households preparing for Pongal and women working in the forest collecting wood.
This is the only Indian who has asked me for money in exchange for a few photographs. We flirted for a bit before agreeing on 10 rupees (about 13p) but I gave her 50 as I got that great shot of her and her mum, above. After handing the money over she indicated that she wanted a kiss, but I think my opportunity for a snog was lost in translation somewhere along the line.
As we approached Pillar Rock the visibility was no more than 50m, so we expected a disappointing view. We weaved our way through the marauding masses of Indian tourists and found ourselves a spot. As we did so the clouds simply dropped away, revealing this fantastic view for just a few minutes. As quickly as it was revealed the clouds came racing back up through the valley and cloaked the sight once more. It was a biblical moment but I guess you had to be there.
We finish with a slide-show round-up of our pics from Kodaikanal.
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