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Old 28th May 2012, 13:16   #1
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Default Eco Escape (Kilavarai) - The road not taken from Kodaikanal

With no respite from either the summer heat or work pressure, was feeling upset the kids' vacation would get over soon with no outing what so ever for them.

A work related visit to Bangalore on Friday meant a small chance of clubbing some outing for the weekend may be around the Nilgiris with family. Had blocked myself something in Coonoor for Saturday & Sunday. The plan was to may be comeback to Chennai on Monday.

Thursday early morning the plan went into a toss, Bangalore trip had to be postponed which meant new set of plans, new destinations and more confusions. Finally decided to take off from work on Friday & Saturday instead of Saturday & Monday.

Only issue is finding accommodation in 24 hours notice in peak vacation season. A quick search through the travel portals just confirmed the worst, nothing good available in any of the hill stations. Thursday evening 6 PM was able to fix up with Eco Escape - Home through Booking.com: 217,504 hotels worldwide. Book your hotel now! only for Navin from Eco Escape to call and inform the rates listed in booking.com is old and they have been trying to get their property unlisted from the site. The rates are Rs.4,000/- per person instead of Rs.3,000/- per person per night as quoted by booking.com. He also confirmed both my kids would not be charged etc since they were under 12 years old.

After some thinking I confirmed to Navin that am coming down, he took down details like the favorite choice of biscuits, chocolates, soft drinks etc. for the kids.

So there we are we finalize our vacation plans at 7 PM and intend to start our vacation at 4 AM the next day morning. What a way to have your vacations. I tell my wife we are going to Kilavarai village for our vacation, if only looks could kill.

We were supposed to stay here

Eco Escape (Kilavarai) - The road not taken from Kodaikanal-dscf7487.jpg

So where is Kilavarai. For those who are aware of the "Escape Road" to Munnar from Kodaikanal, this place might be familiar. It is a village which features often in those who have done the "Escape Road" trek. It is a small village near the Kerala - Tamil Nadu border and predominantly an agrarian world. Kilavarai along with villages like Kavunji, Poomparai, Mannavanur, Poondi, Kovilur (Kerala), Vattavada (Kerala) possibly supply the majority of carrots / turnips / potatoes to South India. A google maps shot of this area.

Eco Escape (Kilavarai) - The road not taken from Kodaikanal-kilavarai.png

Last edited by pypkmsrikanth : 28th May 2012 at 13:23.
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Old 28th May 2012, 15:23   #2
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Default Re: Eco Escape (Kilavarai) - The road not taken from Kodaikanal

On Friday morning we started at about 4:30 in the morning hoping to reach Kodaikanal at around 1:00 PM. With the road full of traffic each toll took about 5 minutes to cross delaying our progress all the way. The fuel & food break at A2B Ulundurpet took us almost 50 minutes. This meant we reached Trichy only at around 10:00 AM. Thanks to the peak hour traffic crossing the town was slow and tiresome.

When we crossed Dindigul it was about 11:45 AM, we were late by about 45 minutes from my original plan.

The constant diversions on the Dindigul - Theni road added more delay to our already delayed schedule. When I reached Perumal Malai I called Navin who gave me directions to his Brooklyn Bungalow on Convent Road.

At around 2:30 PM we reached Brooklyn Bungalow. They offer one cottage in Brooklyn as well. Fairway Inn - Home. The cottage looked fabulous with an old world feel to it. May be for my next trip to Kodai I will use this place. The best thing about this place is even though it is less than a km away from the lake, the place is quite and peaceful. It would be apt for those who prefer to spend time sitting on the lawn reading a book or may be just spend time with oneself in peace.

Eco Escape (Kilavarai) - The road not taken from Kodaikanal-dscf7474.jpg

After a long journey from Chennai, the kids found the nice garden a great place to unwind, they went around checking out all the flowers while Navin and myself were discussing about how to go about to Kilavarai.

All of the below pics were taken by my kids.

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After having lunch at a nearby restaurant we left for Kilavarai at about 4 in the evening. I was not sure if we would be able to reach the place before darkness falls.

You would have to pass through Poomparai, Mannavanur, Kavunji, Poondi & Nattampatti villages before reaching Kilavarai. The roads were decent all the way except for a few patches.

As we made our way through the road went on and on, after almost an hour we reached Poomparai, by this time my wife started complaining about how far the place is away from the town. As we went up and down the hills, crossing over one mountain after another, each time a valley appeared the views were spell bounding as terraced farms were visible everywhere with houses here and there.

There were no high rises to block your views, you could see the valleys as far as your eye sight could take you.

Eco Escape (Kilavarai) - The road not taken from Kodaikanal-dscf7592.jpg

After almost two hours we reached Kilavarai to find the road ending amidst a couple of shops.

Time for us to call our caretaker, I pick up the phone only to find Airtel not working, fortunately my BSNL 3G datacard SIM came handy to call Durai, who was to be our Man Friday for the next couple of days. He guided us to the property.

So a good 14 hours after we left Chennai we reached "Eco Escape". It was just about getting dark when we reached there, giving us no time to check out what the place was all about.

The first statement the kids made was "Appa No TV?". First time I thought it would be difficult to spend two days in a place without TV for the kids, now that we have come here there is no other go, lets hope the kids are not at their worst over the next two days.

The view as we step out of the cottage.

Eco Escape (Kilavarai) - The road not taken from Kodaikanal-dscf7486.jpg

The cottage looked rustic, but cosy and well laid.

With nothing much to do we had a simple dinner of Veg Pulav and subji and retired for the day with the plan to wake up early in the morning to explore the place. The night was cold but all of us had long snuggled under the blankets and we were sound asleep quickly.

Last edited by pypkmsrikanth : 28th May 2012 at 16:14. Reason: Pictures not appearing
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Old 28th May 2012, 16:28   #3
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Default Re: Eco Escape (Kilavarai) - The road not taken from Kodaikanal

By about 6 in the morning my daughter is already awake, while in Chennai we would have to wake her up with lot of efforts for her tennis classes, here she is the one who is waking us all. After a quick cup of tea we decide to explore the property.

Eco Escape has a bit of everything around it, organic farms, wild stream, waterfall, forests. Slowly we make our way around when our Man Friday Durai points us to something on the other side of the river, a Nilgiri Thar as per him while for me it looked more like one from the deer family.

Eco Escape (Kilavarai) - The road not taken from Kodaikanal-dscf7492.jpg

We go around through Pine forests, the kids enjoying the walk, asking Durai all sorts of questions, which he was patiently answering. The early morning nip and the fresh air giving a lot of energy to the kids as they explore the surroundings.

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We watch the various vegetables being cultivated around the place and also peep into a hut where Eucalyptus oil is being distilled.

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The kids try their hand playing with a pony around. These ponies are used to carry loads of vegetables from the field to the roads.

Eco Escape (Kilavarai) - The road not taken from Kodaikanal-dscf7505.jpg

We slowly go around take a loot a the new wellness resort which is under construction in the property and also take a look at the Bio-gas facility that the property has.

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Last edited by pypkmsrikanth : 28th May 2012 at 16:31. Reason: Picture added
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Old 28th May 2012, 16:47   #4
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Default Re: Eco Escape (Kilavarai) - The road not taken from Kodaikanal

Now we take a look at the various vegetables being grown in the farm. The entire produce is organic and completely pesticide free. We were told Eco Ecape is one among the few farms producing strawberries locally at Kodaikanal.

The place is a "Veg Only" place and the food is made from the locally grown vegetables. On Friday night Navin had arranged for pastries from Kodaikanal with strawberry topping from his farm. A lovely way to pamper your guests.

Carrots

Eco Escape (Kilavarai) - The road not taken from Kodaikanal-dscf7508.jpg

Strawberry

Eco Escape (Kilavarai) - The road not taken from Kodaikanal-dscf7509.jpg

Beetroot, Turnip

Eco Escape (Kilavarai) - The road not taken from Kodaikanal-dscf7510.jpg

Brocoli

Eco Escape (Kilavarai) - The road not taken from Kodaikanal-dscf7511.jpg

Peaches

Eco Escape (Kilavarai) - The road not taken from Kodaikanal-dscf7512.jpg

Lovely strawberries, this was a new experience for the kids.

Eco Escape (Kilavarai) - The road not taken from Kodaikanal-dscf7513.jpg

Beans
Eco Escape (Kilavarai) - The road not taken from Kodaikanal-dscf7522.jpg

Eco Escape (Kilavarai) - The road not taken from Kodaikanal-dscf7523.jpg

The farm produces a whole range of vegetables, stuff which I remember are Potatoes, Onion, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Radish, Turnip, Beetroot, Knol Khol, Tomato and various varieties of Beans. They also have fruit trees as well.

The entire area is divided in patches, each one of them numbered individually. The date each patch is sowed is maintained on a computer to keep a track of harvesting dates. This also ensures that almost at all times all the vegetables are available by proper planning of sowing time table.

Slowly winding up we reached back the cottage for our morning break fast.
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Old 28th May 2012, 17:21   #5
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Default Re: Eco Escape (Kilavarai) - The road not taken from Kodaikanal

After break fast it was time to get to the water. The property has a stream running through it and in a couple of places it does allow for some canoeing in a small way.

Eco Escape (Kilavarai) - The road not taken from Kodaikanal-dscf7514.jpg

Eco Escape (Kilavarai) - The road not taken from Kodaikanal-dscf7515.jpg

While my wife and myself decided to stay on shore, the kids went on the boat with the caretaker, they had a jolly good time canoeing around.

Eco Escape (Kilavarai) - The road not taken from Kodaikanal-dscf7516.jpg

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After some time my son wanted to enjoy water even more, time for some waterfall action. So the action moved upstream where the kids had a frolicking time playing in the water, though I was scared if they would catch a cold or a fever considering the water was pretty cold and the temperature was very pleasant even though the sun was out in full force.

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Here we were in the peak vacation time having a whale of a time all alone with no other tourists around. The entire stream was all ours, the kids were playing as though they were playing in our back yard.

Eco Escape (Kilavarai) - The road not taken from Kodaikanal-dscf7530.jpg

Eco Escape (Kilavarai) - The road not taken from Kodaikanal-dscf7531.jpg
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Old 28th May 2012, 18:38   #6
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Default Re: Eco Escape (Kilavarai) - The road not taken from Kodaikanal

After a simple lunch which had chappatis and one of the best subjis I have had made out of Brocoli & Cauli Flower, we decided to trek into the nearby forest, it would be a first time for the kids to trek into the forest. Though I was sure there would not be any animals of note that could be sighted we were all quite enthusiastic to do the trek.

Eco Escape (Kilavarai) - The road not taken from Kodaikanal-dscf7533.jpg

Eco Escape (Kilavarai) - The road not taken from Kodaikanal-dscf7534.jpg

It was during this trek my wife and kids had their first exposure to leeches, though we were able to find all of them before they could show their true colours, the damage was already done, wife was scared to do any more trekking. In hindsight it was a good decision as we reached the cottage right in time for heavy rains to strike the place for a good hour or so.

If we had decided to continue our trek am sure we would have got caught in the rains with no where to hide.

But the trek did provide us an opportunity to see such a beauty, what a sight it would be when the rains are in full flow.

Eco Escape (Kilavarai) - The road not taken from Kodaikanal-dscf7538.jpg

Post the rains the place was looking fresh and gave an opportunity to do nature photos.

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Our evening plan was to go upto Mannavanur spend some time at the lake and then drive back around dusk, so that if we are lucky we could spot some wildlife on the road. But the rain played spoilsport and we had to make a short trip towards Polur a few kms away from Kilavarai. This short visit gave us some splendid views of the terraced farms and the valley all the way upto Udumalaipet & Palani.

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A couple of Panoroma shots of the farms and Polur falls

Eco Escape (Kilavarai) - The road not taken from Kodaikanal-terraced-farms.jpg

Eco Escape (Kilavarai) - The road not taken from Kodaikanal-polur-falls.jpg

The kids did not utter the word TV for the whole day. The evening dinner was Chappati, Kerala Red Rice with Avial and Vegetable subji. The surprise dessert for the day was lovely home made chocolates. They tasted out of the world.

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After a good night's sleep we were in no mood to leave the place. Since we had a long day's drive ahead we decided to start early. The breakfast was Puttu with Kadala curry, Uppma and fresh mountain bananas.

We thanked Durai who had taken care of all our needs over the last couple of days, showing great temperament with our kids, a perfect Man Friday.

Eco Escape (Kilavarai) - The road not taken from Kodaikanal-dscf7585.jpg


On the way back got caught in a traffic jam at Kodaikanal which meant we took almost 3 hours to reach Kodai from Kilavarai, thanking Navin John once again for the lovely experience he and his team provided for us we reached Chennai at 11:00 in the night.

A panaroma shot of the Mannavanur Grass lands taken on the way back to Kodaikanal.
Eco Escape (Kilavarai) - The road not taken from Kodaikanal-mannavanur-grasslands.jpg

My son enjoying one moment of the average tourist checklist, horse riding at Green Valley View.

Eco Escape (Kilavarai) - The road not taken from Kodaikanal-dscf7619.jpg
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Old 29th May 2012, 12:00   #7
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Default Re: Eco Escape (Kilavarai) - The road not taken from Kodaikanal

A few more information so that people could make an informed choice about using this place.

It takes almost 2 hours to reach Eco Escape from Kodaikanal, so it cannot be a regular accommodation option. It would not be the best option for a 2 day weekend either. It is ideal for a 3 day weekend or a long holiday.

In my opinion the best way to enjoy is stay in Kodai for the first day and then make a trip the second day to Kilavarai, this would allow you make the trip less stressful. We made more than 12 hour journey from Chennai both ways. Alternatively you could club it with nearby places like Madurai / Palani etc which would allow you to reach Kilavarai in about 5 hours.

The place is good enough for 4 / 5 people, the master bed is big enough for 3 adults to use comfortably while there is one small bed which is good for 2 people.

The place is costly but I feel it is the price you pay for exclusivity since there would be only one family that would be staying in the cottage. The caretaker would be your personal butler for your entire trip.

This is a great option for those who are an outdoors type and also for those who would like to sit under the tree with a book in hand and watch the water flow by. Except for farm laborers the only disturbance possibly could be from one of the numerous ponies which graze around.

This is a Veg Only Place and as of now the food comes from Kodaikanal, they are in the process of putting up a "Wellness Resort" in the property, post which you would have a restaurant locally. Though the host takes your choice in terms of juice, soft drinks, biscuits etc and stocks them up for you, it is difficult to get something in short notice.

You could indulge in walking, trekking into forest, canoeing, picnic by the waterside, etc. They have used a check dam in the property to breed fishes, few months down the line fishing also would be an activity where time could be spent. Though it was peak summer the day time temperature was comfortable right through with late evenings to early mornings quite nippy and cold in the night, so sitting under an umbrella would be very comfortable even during day time.

While the typical touristy view points etc. are not available, the stretch between Mannavanur & Kilavarai is one of the most beautiful I have ever driven. While driving to Polur we realised we missed out good sunset views by being little late, so the beauty of the place is exploring and finding out views ourselves.
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Old 29th May 2012, 14:21   #8
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Default Re: Eco Escape (Kilavarai) - The road not taken from Kodaikanal

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to the Travelogues Section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 29th May 2012, 14:42   #9
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Default Re: Eco Escape (Kilavarai) - The road not taken from Kodaikanal

Truly one of those sylvan places, a wonder in today's age of crowded hill-stations, great discovery!

I am tempted to ping the Mod to delete this thread so that this discovery is not announced to the world!

Are there wildlife sightings on this road all through or only in some places?
What do they say about the condition of the road during monsoons?
Is there any further development of building the through road to Munnar Top Station via Vattavada?
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Old 29th May 2012, 15:45   #10
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Default Re: Eco Escape (Kilavarai) - The road not taken from Kodaikanal

Very true HVK, the only traffic the road sees are the jeeps / vans carrying vegetables and locals in their two wheelers apart from the TNSTC bus to Kodai. My son was so surprised that he finally asked me when we were coming back as to why every one are watching us when ever we stop.

I think it would continue to be exclusive as there are very little stay options available apart from a few unorganized cottages near the villages. The average tourist may not find the agrarian economy to his liking as well.

The forest is not far away from the road at most places. Between Kodaikanal & Mannavanur the road passes through forest except for a small stretch when we pass near Poomparai. We saw the bisons between Poomparai & Kodaikanal. I forgot to add in the original post we saw a Malabar Giant Squirrel right at eye level just before Poomparai when we were on our way to Kilavarai.

I was told by the caretaker the sightings are guaranteed between Mannavanur & Poondi during mornings & evenings. It is between Poondi & Nattampatti the road from Berijam joins this road, so am sure there would be enough opportunities to spot Wildlife on this road.

The road has been relaid fresh for the entire route so I think for the next monsoon or so it would stand good, there are a few patches which need to be negotiated carefully.

With regard to the new Kodai - Munnar highway through Vattavada & Kilaveri I did not see any signs of it. I think it is still on the drawing board. This road just stops at Kilaveri with 5 / 6 shops on both sides nothing more.
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Old 29th May 2012, 15:51   #11
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Default Re: Eco Escape (Kilavarai) - The road not taken from Kodaikanal

That sounds like a dream place, away from the crowd surrounded by green. This being a vegie place is a dampener outweighed by lot other things. Hope they will start non-veg once they start fishing

BTW. Animal in the snap looks like a barking deer to me, I'm sure it is not a Thar.
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Old 29th May 2012, 16:35   #12
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Originally Posted by gadadhar View Post
That sounds like a dream place, away from the crowd surrounded by green. This being a vegie place is a dampener outweighed by lot other things. Hope they will start non-veg once they start fishing

BTW. Animal in the snap looks like a barking deer to me, I'm sure it is not a Thar.
The place would always be a Vegie place, the family who owns the place are a Veg only family, hence I doubt it would change. The fishing also is being planned more as an activity rather than fish and cook type.

I think it would be a small sacrifice to go around enjoy the lovely weather, fresh unpolluted air, far cry from any other hill station which have all become worse as days progress.

The entire loop road of Kodai was full of trash like this.
Eco Escape (Kilavarai) - The road not taken from Kodaikanal-dscf7614.jpg

With regard to the animal in snap, I was also of the same opinion as yours, a barking deer for me, especially considering these are solitary animals unlike most of their other deer cousins.
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Old 29th May 2012, 16:41   #13
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Default Re: Eco Escape (Kilavarai) - The road not taken from Kodaikanal

Lovely detailed narration. Yes. The 'deer' is Barking Deer. May be Durai said the tamil name 'Kelai Aadu'. Nilgiri Tahr in Tamil is 'Varai Aadu'
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Old 29th May 2012, 16:46   #14
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Default Re: Eco Escape (Kilavarai) - The road not taken from Kodaikanal

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Originally Posted by thalavoy View Post
Lovely detailed narration. Yes. The 'deer' is Barking Deer. May be Durai said the tamil name 'Kelai Aadu'. Nilgiri Tahr in Tamil is 'Varai Aadu'
You are right Thalavoy, Durai did mention it as Kelai Aadu, I was not aware Kelai Aadu was the tamil name for Barking deer, I knew Varai Aadu was the tamil name for Nilgiri Thar, I had mistakenly assumed Kelai Aadu to be a tamil variant of Varai Aadu, hence the confusion.

He is quite a resourceful chap, who knew the area and forests around pretty well.
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Old 29th May 2012, 17:13   #15
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Default Re: Eco Escape (Kilavarai) - The road not taken from Kodaikanal

This place is a great find, never heard of it before. What are the other stay options available. Seems to be a great choice clubbing with Kodai. The place already looks quite green even before the monsoon. The terrace farms, waterfalls, Avial with kerala rice .. its tempting. How long does the Kilavarai-Madurai drive take. Pls share infor on the road condition.
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