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Old 29th October 2020, 16:48   #1
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Default A staycation amidst the hills of Tamil Nadu

We usually plan our vacation around school holidays - summer holidays, Dasara holidays and Christmas holidays in a year. These periods are also being peak tourist seasons, we carefully plan our holidays to avoid the crowds and tourist traps as much as possible. We usually go for holidays with extended family. Our collective idea of holiday is stay put in a place, soak up the environment and visit those places which locals do and not go on sightseeing frenzy of the popular tourist spots.

Thanks to pandemic and lockdown, we cancelled our Sikkim trip this summer holidays and also didnt bother to plan anything for Dasara holidays this year. But as luck would have had it, due to unexpected turn of events, an opportunity beckoned us to spend some time in one of the most beautiful parts of Tamil Nadu amidst the hills of Theni region. It was not a homestay or airbnb property, but we could stay put in an independent private residence all by ourselves in a non-descript corner surrounded by lush greenery and hills in a village environment near Vatlagundu, thanks to a known acquaintance in the family. We could self support ourselves without depending on others for food and other things. The no. of Covid cases were minimal in that region, TN govt had just relaxed the inter-state movements, it was also an opportunity for our car to stretch its legs and coupled with other considerations, we assessed that we could have a covid scare free holiday away from Bangalore for few days.

Call it paranoid or precaution, we decided to carry everything that we may need - groceries, utensils, all types of covid safety tools so as to minimize contact with external world and stay independent as much as possible. Also ensured that we have enough options of network connectivity so that the kids dont need to miss the school and if there is a need to attend office work if any. The route was familiar, applied for TN e-Pass before hand and had planned to carry our own food and have it on the way.

Made good use of the bigger boot. Having learnt a lesson from previous trips, didnt want surprises just before the journey wrt amount of luggage vs available boot space, hence had started loading the car from two days prior.

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We started by 6.45 AM on Saturday with a fully loaded car.
Just like us, since people have started going out and being a weekend + beginning of Dasara holidays, we anticipated crowd on the road, toll booths and restuarants. Also in the mele of shopping, packing, office work, school, the ladies of the house got tired and were unsure of cooking and packing food early in the morning. In order to reduce their stress levels, we decided to take it easy and go with the flow and carefully choose our pitstops with enough precautions, avoid popular restuarants and stop only at those places with lesser crowd.

Crossing Attibele toll was surprisingly smooth. There was no checking of epass at the Hosur checkpost. TN police were just waving off all the cars/trucks at the border. But the myriad barricades could cause a congestion on a busy day.

For breakfast, had planned to stop at Adith Bhavan which comes first since it is comparatively less crowded and a decent place in the past, but it was closed. We thought we will check out Krishna Inn. Even though the parking lot was full of cars, but the crowd inside Krishna Inn was much less than expected, all together just 8-10 families. They had arranged outside seating area too ( later noticed that Saravana Bhavan or A2B had no outside seating ) and also it seemed like that they had increased the spacing between tables inside. Overall we were satisfied with covid safety measures and crowd control and breakfast as usual was lipsmacking.

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Traffic thinned out after diversion to Chennai at Krishnagiri where it seemed like majority of the cars were headed too and it became even more sparse after crossing Salem. Overall, there were more KA cars than TN cars on the road all along. The road after Salem towards Dindigul and even the Kodaikanal highway had a fresh tarmac all along. There were road works happening at later part of Thoppur ghats and traffic was allowed on only lane, but didnt hinder the traffic flow. Looks like TN govt made good use of lockdown time upgrading roads unlike the fate of Bengaluru roads during the same time.

Since we were making good time, skipped our planned stopover for lunch going into Karur town and proceeded further to checkout few google suggested stops on the highway. Valluvar restuarant had closed, Stopped at this place called Anandas restuarant. It is on the right side, but there is a U turn right in front of the place, We were the only guests at 12.30 PM. Clean restrooms, cheap and best veg meals that one would expect in TN interior areas. So no worries for a safe stopover between Karur and Dindigul.

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The roads were excellent through out with lot of greenery and filled up lakes/ponds. Instead of racing the car on open highways, I for one prefer cruising, hence set up the cruise control at comfortable 90-95 kmph speeds and enjoyed the butter smooth roads, the views and the music.

Soon we exited from NH and took the road towards Vatlagundu. Even this road seemed to have been relaid and extended. Good job TN ! The final approach to our destination was even more scenic!!

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Our destination was some 15 kms beyond Vatlagundu. Finally we reached our 'home' around 2.30 PM comfortably. The weather was cloudy and pleasant and the lush green rustic surroundings set the tone for our holiday.

Last edited by mankuthimma : 30th October 2020 at 11:39.
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Old 29th October 2020, 18:35   #2
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Default re: A staycation amidst the hills of Tamil Nadu

A Do-Nothing holiday!



Personally and I guess for most of us, one of the most important learnings from this pandemic situation is to slowdown, be grateful for what we already have, be in the present moment and enjoy the simple things in life. This holiday offered us an opportunity to experience all these things.

The first thing that struck us here was the open spaces all around and the S-I-L-E-N-C-E! Yes! Silence! being in concrete jungle, we dont realize what silence really means. Outer silence brings inner silence, a clutter free space outside declutters our mind and an open mind starts observing things around, breathe deeply and fill lungs with fresh air, listen to the silence, birds and butterflies soaring in the air, the various colors of nature.. observe the stillness of the mountain, a lone tree on top of the mountain, clouds caressing the mountains, rains descending from hills to the plains. Last but not the least, soak in everything through our senses first than clicking photos/videos and loading the phone with digital junk!

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And we had some guests around..
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Is there anything more beautiful than sunrise ??
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Who is the creator of this grand show ? Do we need to search for Him elsewhere ??

Last edited by mankuthimma : 29th October 2020 at 19:41.
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Old 29th October 2020, 20:17   #3
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Default re: A staycation amidst the hills of Tamil Nadu

Vatlagundu is a sort of gateway to many popular tourist destinations in that region - Kodaikanal, Palani, Bodi, Munnar, Thekkady, Madurai etc. With lot of things happening around us itself, we didnt have any intention going that far, but explore the local landscapes. Everyday, one of the routine was to take any road and go for a short ride around 1-2 hrs without any particular destination in mind, as the proverbial says - its the journey that matters!

Best part of TN is any road that we took - unnamed village roads, major district roads, SH and NH - quality was top notch - no broken patches or potholes that we are so used to in BLR. It was absolute bliss driving in these roads. Only on village roads, I was bit conscious as to not draw unnecessary attention - by the looks of the people, it seemed Seltos itself was a novelty in those interior regions and that too with a non-TN number plate and a non-Tamilian driving past their homes and fields! So I stopped very rarely for photos. But the local people were very kind and friendly and their tamil accent was like a song!

I will let some of the pictures do the talking.

A highway to the heaven..

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Driving by mango plantations.. and this is not even a highway, but an interior road !!

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The canopy of tamarind trees lends its own charm to the roads..

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Vaigai river and the dam..

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Coconut plantations and banana plantations are in abundance here..

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Blue hued hills in the evening..

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A drive in the rain..
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A glimpse of Sothuparai dam near Periyakulam. It was closed, but the drive was superb!

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Later Jeep Compass belonging to yet another extended family joined the party. Two equally good looking beauties set the roads on fire one evening !

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Last edited by mankuthimma : 30th October 2020 at 11:02.
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Old 29th October 2020, 21:52   #4
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One of the days, we went for a drive to Kodaikanal just to see its beauty in these lean period. Had applied for separate ePass. The message said application needs to be approved by District Collector, Dindigul. But the approval came in 15 mins.

There is a strict checking of ePass at 3 places, both for TN and more so for non-TN vehicles - at the entry of Kodai Ghat road, at the entry of Kodaikanal town limits and at the Kodai entrance fee collection booth before Silver Cascade falls.
Here they insisted us for taking Covid tests since we are non-TN people which they claimed it is compulsory for outsiders entering Kodai to take tests. But we somehow convinced them saying we had already entered TN few days back and got exemption from tests. The ePass checking is just for namesake, no entries were made or no tracking or no quarantine period as mentioned in the ePass.

Driving up the hills, first time in Seltos
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Manjalar dam view..
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Whats Kodaikanal without the clouds...
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Kodaikanal resembled a ghost town with absolutely no tourist frenzy. There were hardly any non-TN vehicles. But it was at its best - calm, peaceful and serene, just the way we liked it to be.
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Leisure drive around the lake, for, we will never get this opportunity again once the tourism picks up!

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Kodaikanal visit is not complete without visiting our favourite spots -

The Pastry Corner - their pastries, cakes and ice creams are out of this world and they get sold out literally like hot cakes within minutes. Need bit of luck and timing to savor their goodies !
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Cloudstreet Cafe - Its a charming place known for its mouthwatering pizzas and pastas with fresh local ingredients !
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Kodai market was closed. With tourist economy badly hit, wonder how vendors are managing their life in these times.

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Last edited by mankuthimma : 30th October 2020 at 11:05.
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Old 30th October 2020, 10:45   #5
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We were in no hurry to return to Bangalore. Extended our leaves and started the day after Vijayadashami. It was also the day NE monsoon started in TN. The entire region was covered with clouds early morning We took in all this beauty for sometime, bid goodbye to this lovely place and started around 7.45 AM. Stopped for breakfast at Sri Saravana Bhavan next to Eden Garden on the Vatlagundu road. We were the only guests, tasty food and a clean place. Coincidentally, just when we were pulling out of the parking, we saw BharatiRaja, the famous Tamil movie director, who hails from this region and has showcased the beauty and culture of this region in many of his movies.

In front of the restaurant, one section of the already good road was getting upgraded. Man! TN govt is on a mission to make their roads good to great ! But sadly noticed there is surprising amount of construction going on for cafes, restaurants, petrol bunks by the road side, probably expecting a year end tourist boom from lockdown frustrated crowd. Looks no end to exploitation of green environs!

The journey henceforth was comfortable at cruising speeds, empty roads, empty toll booths and empty restaurants. The perks of travelling on a non-holiday weekday! Stopped for lunch by 12.30 at SaiSangeet. Again, we were the only guests and food is great as usual.

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Soon crossed Attibele and took the deviation towards Sarjapur road. Before I could realize I had hit a pot hole at good speed, a stark reminder that we are in namma Bengaluru! Reached home by 3.45 PM. MID showed ~410 kms, ~7 hrs driving time, ~20 kmpl, not bad for a fully loaded car with AC on all the time. Exactly same figures on the onward journey too. Overall, total driving distance was ~1300 kms

Last few words about the car.
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This was the first long trip with Seltos. Earlier, our beloved Swift served its duty of taking us places safely and comfortably. But Seltos took the experience entirely to another level - safety, space, comfort, handling, control, convenience of AT and cruise control ensured that none of us, especially myself, were tired and felt relaxed even after 8 hrs of travelling both onward and return journey. Due to my own momentary careless uncalled for overtaking maneuver, had to do a hard breaking to avoid slow moving tractor while coming down a flyover. Emergency Stop Signal, the new feature of 2020 seltos, got activated and the strong brakes ensured that car stopped in the nick of the time. phew! Lesson learnt.. with bigger car comes bigger responsibility, resorted to preventive breaking henceforth.
This was also the first time I was driving a diesel car on the ghat roads. It appeared that car could climb the entire ghat without sweat in AT mode, but I switched to sports/manual mode for my own learning. 3rd gear itself was sufficient for most of the time, no more downshifts or breaking was needed. But had to be more careful while coming down, switching between 2nd and 3rd gears. Hill driving is an art no matter a manual or automatic car, which we city riders need more experience to master.

If I had to nit pick, the only gripes are about the LED headlights - they provide good clear visibility on the normal roads, but on the ghat roads, I dont know the correct term, somehow felt the throw of the lights, i.e., the distance the light can cover, on the ghat roads could have been slightly better. May be the nature of LED lights doesnt bounce off obstacles or it fades earlier than normal lights. Had to switch on the LED fog lamps also for better visibility of farther objects. The other issue I faced was that the UVO system froze while climbing the hills and with that, there was no way to see the reverse camera or 360 degree camera feed. It was not a major issue, but would have been helpful when it was most needed while negotiating tight parking spaces on hill roads.

Last but not the least, this my first travelogue here. I would like to thank all the BHPians who have influenced me directly and indirectly with their knowledge, experience and the lovely travelogues all these years in this forum !

(P.S: Pardon the inconsistent picture quality and any gaps in narration)

Last edited by mankuthimma : 30th October 2020 at 11:43.
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Old 31st October 2020, 04:11   #6
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Thread moved out from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 31st October 2020, 09:04   #7
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Default Re: A staycation amidst the hills of Tamil Nadu

Nice Travelogue and Congratulations on your first one on Team BHP, thanks for sharing your experiences

Very refreshing to read your travelogue, there's been a drought when it came to people traveling since the Covid situation, hope this is the one that opens the doors to many more travelogues from you and others as well this holiday season

*Did you take the Vatlagundu bypass towards Kodaikanal ? Couple years ago that was almost ready but didn't read much about it after that.

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Old 31st October 2020, 11:44   #8
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Default Re: A staycation amidst the hills of Tamil Nadu

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*Did you take the Vatlagundu bypass towards Kodaikanal ? Couple years ago that was almost ready but didn't read much about it after that.
The bypass has been completed more than a year back.

Being my native village, we were happy that the opening of this bypass will solve traffic jam on the main road. Alas, it is not so, till now the traffic piles up at any time on the main road (even though it is a village). Our ancestor's home is located on the main road.

@mankuthimma - Nice travelogue. In my younger days the place use to be flusher and greener. Now most fields have vanished. Still, it has not lost its charm

Interesting bit: Village name is spelled in English as “Batlagundu” and not "Vathlagundu" though the pronunciation in Tamil language is “VA”
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Old 31st October 2020, 12:04   #9
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Bunch of our friends were desperate to go out for a trip and we planned for hill stations like Valparai, Ooty, Kolli hills and finally ended up in Kodai as they were the one's who approved the epass within 1 hr. Quite productive work from Dindugal Collectorate people!

Trip was fantastic and so the climate and the resort + the food!

Attaching some of the photos.
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Last edited by Johnnny : 31st October 2020 at 12:07.
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Old 31st October 2020, 12:31   #10
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Nice pics! and nice username as well, mankutimma. only kannadigas will understand it Havent you blocked your rear view with those many bags and luggage? I see lot of cars on highways jam packed their boot space with tons of luggage and wonder whether they use rear view mirror!
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Old 31st October 2020, 14:08   #11
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The bypass has been completed more than a year back.
...
Alas, it is not so, till now the traffic piles up at any time on the main road (even though it is a village).
Any specific reason why ? Is the bypass not designed properly ?

Quote:
Interesting bit: Village name is spelled in English as “Batlagundu” and not "Vathlagundu" though the pronunciation in Tamil language is “VA”
Yes, thanks for reminding
Decades ago, my parents got married in this town, grandad was working in the electricity board then. It was his last posting before he retired.
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Old 31st October 2020, 15:51   #12
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Any specific reason why ? Is the bypass not designed properly ?
The bypass road is good. It starts just outside the town on the Dindigul road and rejoins after the old Batlagundu junction, bypassing the town completely.

Batlagundu serves as a trade center, especially for wholesale vegetables, etc., hence lorry and other traffic is always there. There were some concern that the town might lose its relevance due to this bypass, but it has not come true.

Also the town serves as a last refreshment point to all travelers to Kodiakanal, as within eight kilometers the ghat road starts. Though some hotels have come up at bypass junction, still many travelers pass through the town.
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Old 31st October 2020, 19:35   #13
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Nice Travelogue and Congratulations on your first one on Team BHP, thanks for sharing your experiences

Very refreshing to read your travelogue, there's been a drought when it came to people traveling since the Covid situation, hope this is the one that opens the doors to many more travelogues from you and others as well this holiday season
Thank you very much sir for the kind words ! As one of the ad says "divided by <fill in the blanks>, united by team-bhp" the warmth shared by senior bhpians to newbies like us makes this a very special place indeed !

Yes! agree with you. We have to live with Covid. But whatever choice the individual makes.. either stay at home and be safe or take the risk and venture out, there is nothing right or wrong about these choices, to each its own. But if we go out, its not a bad world after all. I think this is the best time to go places!

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@mankuthimma - Nice travelogue. In my younger days the place use to be flusher and greener. Now most fields have vanished. Still, it has not lost its charm
Thank you ! and Wow! how envious we are to know that you were born and brought up in this region!! I am sure it would have been much more awesome place than it is now. And yes! I was thinking the same, thank god the old world charm is still intact here - the friendly people, the market, the tea kadai's, the old fashioned brass/copper utensil stores and it was amusing to see that firewood is still being used in the eateries, it lends a nice aroma in the air mixed with whatever is being cooked ! Urbanization is slowly creeping in - mobile shops, 'malls', appliance stores, but it is inevitable.

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Originally Posted by Johnnny View Post

Trip was fantastic and so the climate and the resort + the food!

Attaching some of the photos.
Thanks for sharing these beautiful pictures ! Kodai never fails to impress! We also thought about going around Mannavanur, Poombarai, Kookal villages, but , there is always a next time !

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Originally Posted by travelling owl View Post
mankutimma. only kannadigas will understand it
shhh..! dont tell anyone!
anyway, when it comes to car i am also blink blink only ...and also I am a big fan of DVG and Kannada Sahitya in general, had read this book during lockdown, so felt it was apt and took the liberty of using the name

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Havent you blocked your rear view with those many bags and luggage? I see lot of cars on highways jam packed their boot space with tons of luggage and wonder whether they use rear view mirror!
Only the space behind the headrest on the both sides was utilized to pile up the luggage leaving just enough clearance for IRVM view in the middle. Didnt cause much of an issue, I had a clear view of the traffic while driving.
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Old 2nd November 2020, 17:42   #14
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Originally Posted by mankuthimma View Post
Last but not the least, this my first travelogue here. I would like to thank all the BHPians who have influenced me directly and indirectly with their knowledge, experience and the lovely travelogues all these years in this forum !

(P.S: Pardon the inconsistent picture quality and any gaps in narration)
Congratulations on your first travelogue mankuthimma. Wonderful narration and excellent pics. The place seems to be lush green which itself is such a psychological tonic that our minds need during such pandemic times.
Wish you many more awesome trips on your Seltos.
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Old 2nd November 2020, 17:47   #15
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Originally Posted by Johnnny View Post
Bunch of our friends were desperate to go out for a trip and we planned for hill stations like Valparai, Ooty, Kolli hills and finally ended up in Kodai as they were the one's who approved the epass within 1 hr. Quite productive work from Dindugal Collectorate people!

Trip was fantastic and so the climate and the resort + the food!

Attaching some of the photos.
Great to see everyone's heading to the hills to get some fresh air. (pun intended )
I was planning a similar trip to Vattakanal in December, after taking delivery of my Kia Sonet later this month. Do they still require an e-pass even if it's a TN registered car?
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