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Old 28th September 2016, 19:13   #1
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Default In nature's cradle - Kawasaki chronicles

These enchantments, these pantomimes, cannot be described or expressed in the language of poets and painters, musicians and mystics, for these are creations of a higher being. A being above all that is tangible and temporal. They must be … taken in without reply, as animals do with their contemplative and entranced gaze…

The open road. Mile after mile of endless ribbon of tarmac knitted together with gravel and asphalt. It’s a mesmerizing indulgence in itself that is hard to contemplate for an average human, to explain the feeling it expresses as it provides an excellent field for living an earthly existence and abandoning every bit of agitation and perturbation. It is as soothing to the mind and body as resting on a cozy pillow, on a cold winter day or as enjoying good company with a hot beverage on a rainy day. Elusive as it sounds, maybe it is because of this distinct magical pleasure to thrill yet calm the senses at the same time, its special.

Day 1: Saturday 13th August.

My ride to kodaikanal, ‘the Princess of Hill Stations’ as it is called started at 04:40 am on a cold Saturday morning in the middle of the month of August. It was a three day weekend owing to Independence Day falling on the immediate Monday. The routes that were in option to take to reach my destination for the weekend were a) Tambaram – Tindivanam – Ulunthurpet – Salem – Palani – Kodaikanal via Palani hills and b) Tambaram – Tindivanam – Ulunthurpet – Trichy – Dindigul – Batlagundu – Kodaikanal which is a much more straight forward approach and the one that is more popular. The day started out as every other trip that I’ve done, without a hitch and by 08:30am I was near the southern city of Trichinopoly aka Trichy.

The ride was pleasant and satisfying with the gorgeous coppery sun skimming the horizon giving a peaceful setting to the land beneath and with a pack of snickers giving me the strength to fight hunger and ride onwards. However, as it was a three day weekend, the road was quite a bit crowded than usual at the tolls which did eat up a bit of travel time. Still the roads, everywhere else were wide open and that ensured that I reach the foothills of Kodaikanal by 11:15 am. The climb up the hill was sublime and the ghat sections are wide enough to make the ride/drive safe and easy. As it was a long weekend, there was congestion going up to the hilltop. Now traffic isn’t a big deal when you’re on a bike, with which you can weave about and move on. But it was the ghat section, perilously narrow, dangerously slippery and very wet making it chaotic for everyone on it, and the ‘jam’ stretched for about three kilometers or maybe even longer. At that moment it felt like it stretched in to the far reaches of the globe. It must’ve been an arduous journey for the folks in the cars and the buses. After a while, spending much time zipping past the traffic listening to Bon Jovi, reached my hotel where I had booked my stay by 13:15 pm. Rested a while, had lunch and I was out to ‘explore’ the ‘gift of the forests’ as kodaikanal is locally called.

Little did I know that I was about to enter in to a world of problems and despair, and get a firsthand lesson on why it is not advised to plan a holiday during the festive or a long holiday season. Stepped out of the hotel after my well needed rest, saddled up on the ‘kwacker’ like the Lone Ranger saying “Hi-Yo Silver!” in full spunk and set off. Rejoined the main loop road around the town and I was back to a standstill. Why? Traffic. That’s why. The small petite roads around the town were completely clogged with motor vehicles. It was complete pandemonium even for two wheelers. The immediate thought that came to mind was a phrase something James May would say which I’m not sure if it’s ok to say it here. Yeah you get it, don’t you! Anyway, thoughts on kodaikanal were not so good. Frustration and disappointment crept in to my mind and made itself to feel at home. I was able to ride from my hotel near Fern hill road which is adjacent to Kodaikanal Lake, only up till the road to Pillar Rocks viewpoint past Coakers Walk and couldn’t proceed any further. And to add more misfortune, while making my way back to the hotel it had started to rain down hard forcing to take refuge from the cold icy waters under a fruit shop’s canvas roof in the middle of the forest. Cold, Wet, shivering and nowhere to go, it was a matter of choices. Its either stay and hope for things to get better which may prove unlikely to happen considering the odds or shorten my two day plan to one day and return home on the next day i.e., on Sunday.

With a mind full of confused thoughts and wet clothes covered with dirt, I headed back to the hotel to reconsider everything that had led to this point and the conclusion that I had arrived was to dabble with lady luck and hope things go from worse to good which seldom happens in reality.

“And then I realized. Adventures are the best way to learn and not all who wander are lost”

Day 2: Sunday 14th August:
Well, with everything that had happened the previous day, my heart and soul were braced and ready for further disappointment that could present itself if it decide to make a cameo. However, as we all know and have heard, fate is a fickle mistress. Twilight! Dawn! The day (for me at least) began at 05:30 am when the sun forced its cosmic rays tearing through the subtle clouds. When everyone were cozying up in their snug toasty linen and tepid mattresses, it was an opportunity to really take in the morning mountain air and ‘live’ the endless stretch of tarmac draped around the hills in all its splendor. It was at this point that I had an epiphany. An epiphany that was, to ditch the popular tourist spots and go deeper into the mystic forest of Palani and Agamalai. And God, was it a revelation!

“If you’re a copy of another person, the world would not have the pleasure of experiencing your uniqueness”

Berijam Lake, freshwater reservoir at around 2,100 meters above sea level nestled deep within Palani hill forest and conservation area is a wildlife hideaway that houses a diverse collection of flora and wildlife. I had decided it would be a good place to start the day with the ride to the lake at the break of dawn, and thus started off from the hotel. To reach the lake from where I stayed, there were two routes. There was the road via Moir point past pillar rocks that goes to the lake which was about 20 kilometers or the observatory road via the eerie pine forests and the spectacular Poomparai view point which was around 42 kilometers, almost twice as long. I chose the latter option as fewer tourists would take the long way round which proved good that it is always good to shy away from the commonness that the world presents. With an atmospheric temperature of around 13 degree celsius it was quite nippy and raw but the excitement and adrenaline surging inside dissolved all sense of chillness and calmed my chattering teeth. Made my way past the Indian institute of Astrophysics, being established in 1899, it bore the architectural aura of the lost colonial era. Rode past the transcendental pine forests clicking a ton of pictures and basking in the mountain air. Having no idea of where the road would take me or how the terrain would be, it was a imposing surprise and an enchanting experience when the mountains revealed the truly magnificent poomparai valley.

Unmatched Solitude, Romance, Nirvana, Peace, Bliss are some of the words that come to mind when bestowed with the pure natural flavor that this gorgeous exotic location offers. A lone tea stall seated on the very curvature of the road gently kissing the edge of the cliff offering a vibrant yet sensual view of the valley with the divine Palani Hills at a distance forming the backdrop for the truly stellar sight was just the cherry on top. If points were to be given for ambience or views offered by tea shops/stalls, then this place would be at the absolute top of the list quite simply because of the majestic visual grandeur it offers, coupled with the chill soothing weather and the unmatched solitude of nature. After filling up on ‘chai’ and bananas, set off again towards my destination i.e., Berijam Lake. After meandering about the ghat sections, arrived at a fork in the road around 7:30 am where there was long line of vehicles queued for a couple of hundred meters. It was that the road to the lake is open for traffic only after 8:30 am, so it was again the time for a decision to be made. The left hand of the fork led to Berijam Lake which was the straight forward route for me to take that comes with a time stamp and the right hand of the fork led to Berijam via Mannavanur and Kodaikanal ecological park.

Took the long way again, passing through the outskirts of Mannavanur and Kavunji. This road and the serenity it presents is one of the must see things when in Kodaikanal. The views and the solitude it offers to calm the senses is absolutely divine. Alone in the middle of nowhere with only a two wheeled machine and a mobile device full of songs to keep company, yet there wasn’t even the slightest sense of fear or distress or negativity. This is without a shadow of a doubt one of the best routes to take if you decide to do a long ride on two wheels. After soaking in the views of the striking Western Ghats, reached the road that leads to Berijam Lake only to find that the road was closed off for traffic with a large a barricade and a no entry sign hung on the tree. With that I returned to the comforts of the hotel room, not with a frown but with a wild grin as big as Kodaikanal itself. Because the abrupt end to the ride was not an end but an exclamation point that gave more answers than questions. After returning to the hotel, rested a little and had the entire afternoon for me to use, so I decided to head out by walk and avoid getting stuck in traffic again. The hiker in me was alive, so alive that it was only later that i noticed that I had walked for about two hours and had covered a good 11 kilometers. Achievements unlocked. Walked around the lake, admiring the beauty of it all. The tourists from across the globe, the diversity of the cuisine that was on demand with crowd, and the simple serenity in the atmosphere made everything worth while and memorable. After my legs decided to give up, I headed back to the hotel with a sense of accomplishment and a soul full of life.
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Travelled all the way for more than 50 kilometers in total, soaring above mountains and tackling slippery curve of tarmac only to find that you couldn’t move any further would put any person in complete dismay or rage. But was I in disquiet? Was I in worry? Was I disappointed? Did I arrive at an exclamation mark that put a question mark on my entire trip? What did I learn from this? It’s very simple to be brutally honest. It’s just that as they say, “it’s not the destination. It’s the journey”. How true did this turn out to be. Anyone travelling several hundred kilometers for their holiday with high hopes of relaxation and self-rejuvenation would be irate and left fuming if it were to be denied. Yet I was not. Why? My first day at Kodaikanal was a very eventful day in a more bland way that raised several pessimistic and obstructive questions in my head. But in the end the question marks have taken a dive and were nowhere to be seen. Simply because of the majesty and the beauty of the land. It speaks not to any sensory receptors, but directly to the inner heart of the beholder. It doesn’t grab you by the scruff of your neck and force the natural aura on to your eyes, but caresses you like a mother caressing a delicate infant and appeals directly to the depths of the human soul. Comforting. Reassuring. Offering solace and elegance only to the one who seeks.

“It is only in adventure that some people succeed in knowing themselves – in finding themselves”
That glorious morning sun.
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Somewhere near Perambalur, TN
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*queue the Monroe* The beginning of the ghat section. The road all the way to Kodaikanal is in good condition and is well maintained by the officials.
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It is common to find monkeys on the ghat sections wandering around. These friendly primates were happy and 'friendly' enough to to get up and close with anyone.
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A part of the ghat section overlooking the plains below.
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Baby kawasaki flexing its Japanese muscle in all its glory.
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Picturesque Silver Cascade water falls en route to Kodaikanal. There's no specified parking space and you end up using the side of the road at everyone's risk. This is a good spot to relax and unwind to soak in the atmosphere before entering Kodaikanal. Also these is the availability of an Indian Oil petrol station just past the falls in case there's a requirement for fuel.
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View of the Manjalar dam from the ghat road
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On the narrow road to Vattakanal where the gorgeous view of the valley can be witnessed. The road is rocky, broken at places and is too narrow for cars.
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Coaker's Walk: A paved pedestrian path running along the edge of steep slopes, starts in front of the Van Allen hospital, running parallel to the Van Allen Hospital Road and joins the main road beside St.Peter's Church, providing a stunning panoramic view of the gorgeous valley and the plains below. It is said that a fascinating rare phenomenon called Brocken spectre can be witnessed, where a person can see his shadow on the clouds when the sun is behind the person. There is an observatory with a telescope halfway along the walk and are shops to buy souvenirs and snack foods. Entrance fee to the walkway is nominal and it is open all year.
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Well catered for food around the lake area. One could get anything from hot steaming corn to cotton candy to fresh vegetables to woolen clothes to clothing accessories along the perimeter road around the lake.
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Poor and failed attempt at being Bill Oddie.
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At the Kodaikanal eco park for promoting and establishing the greening and biodiversity project for the district. Located at Mannavanur village, the facility is easily accessible by road and does have entry fee. Apologies for not getting more information on it.
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Last edited by GTO : 3rd October 2016 at 10:12. Reason: Spacing :). Thanks for sharing!
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Old 28th September 2016, 20:34   #2
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Tried my hand at wildlife photography turned came out well. The common Kingfisher, primed and ready to strike down on its prey at the Kodaikanal Lake. A lot of water birds can be found around the lake area.
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It is mandatory to enjoy the serene beauty of the lake and what better way is there than a relaxed boat ride.
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En route to Mannavanur and Berijam lake.
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This abandoned Jetty is more pretty than the one being used for promoting boating in the lake.
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Kodaikanal Lake at dawn, before the crowds invade its privacy, is such a pure and calm sight that has to go on one of the must do things at Kodaikanal.
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On the road to Kavunji and Mannavanur
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Poomparai Village and the view from the ghat road overlooking the village.
Several elevated man made stairs made of wood and metal that offer a better view for a minimal fee of 10rs, can be found along the ghat road.
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This joint simply cant be missed. Located on the cliff face en route to Mannavanur and Kavunji , is one of the best places to contemplate or reminisce on everything.
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Last edited by GowthamDonz : 1st October 2016 at 22:56.
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Old 28th September 2016, 20:42   #3
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In the pine forests with only the screams from the monkeys from above on the branches for company.
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The crucible of motorsport, apart from teaching us that the best taxi in the world is an Hindustan Ambassador, has also taught us that the key is to stay out , get it in and kiss the apex and take the outside line with a fist full of beans.
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Amidst the pine forests, dirt finds its way all the way up to my helmet.
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Spectacular piece of tarmac hidden deep within the forest. Paradise is on earth folks!
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Fancy 'chai' with a view?
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The magnificent view of the poomparai valley with the Palani hills in far sight.
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near Mannavanur Lake
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Overlooking a valley, somewhere near Mannavanur
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Last edited by GowthamDonz : 1st October 2016 at 22:58.
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Old 28th September 2016, 20:48   #4
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Overlooking a valley somewhere near Mannavanur. The highlight of this gorgeous scenery was the sheer scale of it.
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An abandoned hut in the middle of nowhere. It was abandoned with only a couple of beer cans occupying the floor.
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My Kawasaki 'Calista' on the road leading to Berijam Lake via Mannavanur. Absolute silence all around with only growls and hisses from insects and Monkeys.
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On the road to Berijam that seemed like it was isolated and cordoned off for quite a bit of time,is blocked off for traffic. But if the officials decide to open it, would definitely recommend it for all travelers.
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Tree barks were orange possibly from termite infestation or something similar.
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The empty road offered time for a good photo session and the picture turned out better than I had hoped.
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Be on the look out for sudden rain and dark clouds such as these. Always carry a rain weather clothes unlike me and save yourself the pain of being wet and cold.
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The crowds at the lake boating facility, with boating being one of the must do activities at Kodaikanal. You could get food while boating courtesy of the vendors selling grub on the banks of the lake.
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The view of the Kodaikanal Lake from upper Shola road view point. Recommended to be visited in the morning when one could catch the sunrise overseeing the lake in its glorious stillness.
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Last edited by GowthamDonz : 1st October 2016 at 22:59.
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Old 3rd October 2016, 10:15   #5
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Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to Travelogues. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 3rd October 2016, 13:40   #6
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Lovely photos and narrative. Thanks for sharing. It's been quite a few years since I've been to kodaikanal, this travelogue made me wanna fire up my bike right now and head out.
Also, heart pirates sticker on the helmet
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Old 7th October 2016, 10:32   #7
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Thanks for sharing the nice pictures and your solo ride. Sometimes it is best to do things on our own, to unwind and re-discover ourself.
It was great the see pictures of Kodai, have visited the place a couple of times as a part of school and college trips when in medical school. The only issue with these hill stations are the crowds and the pollution. I try and keep away from the usual ones and try and find new and up coming places. Cannot deal with dodging traffic and people even when on a break.
The photo of the Kodai lake, with the reflection in the still waters, is my personal favorite among the lot.
Keep traveling.
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