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Old 15th March 2023, 20:31   #1
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My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations

Introduction

This is a travel account of my maiden drive up a hill to Kodaikanal. Although one would get to see more challenging adventures on the forum and elsewhere, this drive was special for me. It did get me a little anxious as I'd never taken a car up a hill except of course the Khandala ghat on the Mumbai Pune Expressway and the Khambatki ghat from Pune to Satara.

My guiding principles here were my memories of travelling in the Nilgiris in the 80s by car and the Ashok Leyland Cheetahs of the then Cheran Transport Corporation. My observations of these drivers were my memory recall and helped me undertake this trip without fuss.

Safety

Here are a few points that I followed:

1. Drove at a speed that I was comfortable with - 35 to 40kmph both uphill and downhill typically in no.3 gear
2. Overtaking the vehicle ahead only when I saw a clear path ahead; NEVER AT BENDS
3. Checked the vitals of the car before setting off
4. Kept a bottle of water, and a towel (like a State Transport Corporation driver) handy at all times

The bigger challenge

I had a challenge on hand - since with me in the car were two puke potential passengers; and my task was to ensure that they didn't suffer motion sickness.

Acknowledgement

I'd like to thank Almighty for having kept us safe and help me realise this dream.

My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations-enroute_dglbatlagundu_2.jpg

My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations-movingup_1.jpg

My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations-lake_2.jpg

Last edited by vigsom : 15th March 2023 at 22:57.
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Old 15th March 2023, 20:47   #2
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Re: My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations

Background

In my almost 30 years of driving, I've driven a lot in the plains. The only hill drives I'd undertaken were

1. a short drive to a temple atop a hill near Shencottah in 2020
2. the drive up the Khandala ghat and the Khambatki ghat twice in end-2022

An elder in the family was turning 80 and some of us decided to celebrate this occasion as a family outing at Kodaikanal. This occasion was the driver - and helped me with the opportunity to fulfill a long time desire of driving up the hills. The hill section was going to be approx. 50km, full of its share of beauty and beasts, but it did seem an exciting prospect.

Preparations and planning

Since I had undertaken 1500km drives not too many months ago, it helped me in my prep rather quickly:

1. Car's papers - Original RC, PUC Certificate, Insurance (had all these on my parivahan app but still)
2. Spare wiring
3. some Coolant and distilled water
4. A full tool kit
5. Inspection of the vitals - fluids, brakes, tyres

Anxiety - and how I overcame it

This was going to be a rather short drive - just 200km from source to destination, but the thought of the hill drive did give me a chill! However, like the way I undertook the GJ to KA drive in November last year, I decided to just take this in my stride and navigate the ghat when we got there.

Last edited by vigsom : 15th March 2023 at 23:00.
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Old 15th March 2023, 21:43   #3
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Re: My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations

Day-1

We were seven of us -and we had to accommodate ourselves in two vehicles. The split of pasengers was decided such that those prone to motion sickness would travel in the higher seater while three would travel in the sedan. Once set, we decided to do the 4 hour drive in one shot, with breaks warranted only if necessary.

1. Section-1 from Trichy to Dindigul was a typical TN National Highway - very little greenery and the sun blazing down in full fury. This took approx 90 minutes.

2. Section-2 from the Dindigul bypass towards Batlagundu started to get greener and did offer some pleasing sights. Although the tarmac was good, this was a median-less road. Enroute, I got to see a toll plaza near Batlagundu almost ready for the kill! Eighty rupees is what they're going to charge once this is set up. This was about 45 minutes.

3. Section-3 from the Forest Road Bus Stop (turning off from the Theni highway) to Kodaikanal was what I was waiting for; this was about 90 minutes section and was a mix of ecstasy and agony.

When one would be experiencing a beautiful smooth road with neat markings, one would suddenly see the road narrowing down and parapets missing at many places. This is something one would need to always watch out for, and not spotting this missing parapet can easily send someone hurtling down if one isn't careful.

Also, there were some plainish sections where one would be tempted to shift to the fourth gear and as one would seem like coasting, one would encounter a set of curves and even a hairpin bend. Key here is to hold the speed at 35-40kmph and not go faster. Here's where I recalled memories of watching Cheran Transport Corporation drivers navigating the bends in the Nilgiris in the 80s; and this served as a perfect formula to adopt myself. Also, I was watching out for the odd biker with a girl on the pillion who'd have no idea of how to ride in the ghats. Once up there, the rest of the afternoon was spent just lazing around.

Approx, 7 kms short of Kodaikanal, and just ahead of the Silver Cascade is a Kodai Municipality toll both where they collect 60 bucks as an entry fee for cars. Here is where they check if 1 liter PET bottles are in the car, and if yes, they would take them away. From what I saw, Kodaikanal is plastic free

Enroute Dindigul to Batlagundu
My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations-enroute_dglbatlagundu.jpg

My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations-enroute_dglbatlagundu_2.jpg

My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations-enroute_dglbatlagundu_3.jpg

Just after turning off the Theni highway is Genguvarpatti
My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations-kodaifoothill_genguvarpatti.jpg

At the foot of the hills - the last fuel station is the Nayara fuel station just before the police check post
My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations-kodai_foothill_1.jpg

My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations-kodai_foothill_2.jpg

My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations-kodai_ghatsection_entry.jpg

Moving Up the hill road
My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations-movingup_1.jpg

My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations-movingup_2.jpg

My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations-movingup_3.jpg

My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations-movingup_4.jpg

My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations-movingup_5_jacaranda.jpg

My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations-movingup_6.jpg

Silver Cascade enroute to Kodaikanal
My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations-movingup_7_silvercascade.jpg

Finally there at Hotel Rain Drops
My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations-kodaikanal_resting.jpg

Last edited by vigsom : 15th March 2023 at 23:11.
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Old 15th March 2023, 22:10   #4
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Re: My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations

Day-1 (Contd.)

Hotel Rain drops was a simple, yet well laid out property at the heart of Kodaikanal - the seven road junction. We have memories of visiting this place when it was a simple home with just seven rooms in the 90s. The place has a Cream Centre restaurant attached. Although some options on the menu weren't available, the food was excellent. Another eatery that we used was the Hilltop Premium Veg Restaurant for breakfast; very good options and reasonably priced.

About Hotel Rain drops

What to look forward to

* Well appointed rooms
* Reasonably priced on weekdays; not sure how they are on weekends/high season time
* Kettle with tea/coffee and dairy creamer available
* Parking for eight cars

Limitations

* No Buffet breakfast as is typically served in most hotels
* Only vegetarian food available in the attached Cream Centre; timings 1pm to 4pm and 7pm to 9pm

View from Cream Centre
My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations-kodaikanal_ground.jpg

Hotel Rain drops
My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations-kodaikanal_resting.jpg

My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations-raindropsparking.jpg
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Old 15th March 2023, 22:34   #5
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Re: My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations

Day-2

Since the objective of visiting Kodaikanal was just to celebrate a senior family member's milestone, we limited our outings to just a stroll around the lake, a walk down Coakers Walk and a short drive to Green Valley View point (known as Suicide Point earlier). The drive down the Club Road to the Upper Shola Road made for some breathtaking views. I never imagined that Kodaikanal would still look so beautiful after so many years. Green Valley View Point was a sub sub par experience; not recommended to visit at all. Instead, it would be a good idea to take to the Coakers Walk multiple times.

Driving around Kodaikanal

1. Look out for No Entry signboards. I was once stopped by two cops asking if I didn't see the No Entry signs. I told them politely that I was on the same road twice and that I saw no sign placed. They were stopping all vehicles coming onto this road (the Club Road leading to the Upper Shola Road) since they were apparently doing up the road
2. When in doubt on where to turn, don't stop. Just keep going and reverse/make a U-turn a little ahead on a flat section. It is better than being stuck on an up incline, and some of these inclines are real bad.

One of the roads from the Seven Roads Junction
My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations-roadfromsevenroadjn.jpg

Aavin Junction close to the Seven Roads Junction - their milk shakes in tetra packs come in handy
My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations-aavinjunction.jpg

Gate to a premium school
My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations-kodaiintnl.jpg

Black coffee in Hilltop Veg Restaurant is served like this
My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations-blackcoffee.jpg

No plastic used for packaging
My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations-parceltiffin.jpg

The lake

in the evening
My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations-kodaikanal_lake.jpg

and in the day
My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations-lake_1.jpg

My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations-lake_2.jpg

Kodaikanal Bus Stand
My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations-kodaikanalbusstand_2.jpg

End of Club Road leading to the Upper Shola Road
My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations-uppersholaroad_1.jpg

My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations-uppersholaroad_2.jpg

View of the lake from the Upper Lake Road - a must see!
My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations-lakeview_fromupperhillroad.jpg

The Tamara Kodai - off the Upper Shola Road
My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations-tamara.jpg

Holiday Homes on the Observatory Road
My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations-holidayhomes.jpg

Green Valley View Point - absolutely pathetic place
My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations-greenvalleyview_1.jpg

An interesting Shake!
My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations-omni.jpg

Last edited by vigsom : 15th March 2023 at 23:17.
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Old 15th March 2023, 22:42   #6
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Re: My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations

Day-2 (Contd.)

I ended up going to Coakers Walk twice - first at midday with everyone, and again in the evening with my bro. The entry fee here is 20 bucks but worth it, for the view on offer.

My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations-coakerswalk_view_1.jpg

My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations-coakerswalk_view_2.jpg

My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations-coakerswalk_view_3.jpg

My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations-coakerswalk_view_4.jpg

My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations-coakerswalk_view_5.jpg

My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations-coakerswalk_view_6.jpg

Last edited by vigsom : 15th March 2023 at 23:20.
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Old 15th March 2023, 22:49   #7
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Re: My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations

Day-3

We were scheduled to leave after breakfast; a lovely and biting cold trip was concluding, but not yet. The downhill drive was another experience to savour. The key here was to drive in the same gear as coming up, and limit speeds to 40kmph for good control. I was driving with zero accelerator input for the first 30 minutes. Key here is to exercise restraint and never overtake rash. I witnessed a near miss of a brown Renault Duster almost colliding with a Mercedes GLC that was coming uphill. The near miss occurred when the Duster driver tried to overtake a TNSTC bus around a bend. Very very bad driving!

My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations-goingdown_1.jpg

My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations-goingdown_2.jpg

My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations-goingdown_3.jpg

My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations-goingdown_4.jpg

My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations-goingdown_5.jpg

Jacaranda at its best
My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations-goingdown_jacaranda1.jpg

My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations-goingdown_jacaranda2.jpg
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Old 15th March 2023, 22:56   #8
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Re: My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations

Key takeaways

1. Do not drive beyond the third gear and 40kmph either uphill or downhill on this section
2. Watch out for clearance between the left fender and the parapet/ rock to the left when navigating turns. One minor lapse can cause the left fender to be damaged
3. Watch out for missing parapet at some sections/ bends.
4. Allow morons to get ahead; we are not wanting to win a race here
5. Give way to uphill traffic, even if it means stopping a few meters ahead
6. Watch out for long buses (read Ashok Leyland Vikings) which are coming downhill; the rear tends to swing at curves
7. Do not carry PET bottles up; they will be confiscated at the cash only entry toll gate approx. 7kms short of Kodaikanal
8. Take warm clothing and keep them on always - one never knows when the chilly wind blows and one must not get caught unawares.
9. Enjoy the drive

Last edited by vigsom : 15th March 2023 at 23:22.
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Old 16th March 2023, 05:28   #9
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Re: My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations

Thread moved out from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 16th March 2023, 07:56   #10
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Re: My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations

A very informative read as ever, Vigsom.

If you want to try a more challenging narrower route, try the Palani-Kodaikanal way. Very entertaining. Roads are wider than what they used to be in the 90s though.

For birders, this is a great place to see some endemic species like the white-bellied Blue Robin (White-bellied Sholakili, earlier known as the white-bellied Shortwing) and plenty of raptors. The Palani-Kodai route holds a lot of promise.

There's also the natural cave formations commonly called as the Guna caves (after Kamal Hassan's movie Guna), originally known as Madhikettaan Sholai. And the Berijam Lake. These areas do come under the Forest Department , so ensure proper permits are taken. There's plenty of wildlife around, so stay aware and don't wander away from designated areas.

Kodaikanal is also infamous for Unilever (Hindustan Lever back then) dumping mercury, causing widespread environmental damage as well as taking a toll on humans.

Avoid weekends and vacations, unless crowds are your thing.
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Old 16th March 2023, 08:24   #11
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Re: My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations

That is a very lovely writeup. Kodaikanal is my favorite hill station. I studied in Coonoor, so, I am probably fed up with Ooty. As said above, I always take the Palani route for I travel from Erode. There are lots of hairpin bends and I used to love it when we used to travel by bikes. Still love it as I find this route more scenic. Should visit Kodai soon as it is boiling already in Erode
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Old 16th March 2023, 10:40   #12
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Re: My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations

Thank you for the Travelogue, I hope this trip inspires you to do more hill roads - there is a lot to discover in Western Ghats, TN having the maximum of these hill roads, pleasure to drive on them.

Kodai also has some really good private bungalows that can be rented out for larger groups, great option for friends and family outings.
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Old 16th March 2023, 12:51   #13
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Re: My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations

Quote:
Originally Posted by vigsom View Post
Key takeaways

1. Do not drive beyond the third gear and 40kmph either uphill or downhill on this section
2. Watch out for clearance between the left fender and the parapet/ rock to the left when navigating turns. One minor lapse can cause the left fender to be damaged
3. Watch out for missing parapet at some sections/ bends.
4. Allow morons to get ahead; we are not wanting to win a race here
5. Give way to uphill traffic, even if it means stopping a few meters ahead
6. Watch out for long buses (read Ashok Leyland Vikings) which are coming downhill; the rear tends to swing at curves
7. Do not carry PET bottles up; they will be confiscated at the cash only entry toll gate approx. 7kms short of Kodaikanal
8. Take warm clothing and keep them on always - one never knows when the chilly wind blows and one must not get caught unawares.
9. Enjoy the drive
Point 7 is much appreciated. I hope a similar rule gets implemented in more places.
Another point that I follow is to give a short honk at blind/semi-blind turns.
While the travel log is lovely I do have a complaint. You did not post pics of the Pajero. It is a rare sight these days and more snaps of it would not hurt
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Old 16th March 2023, 12:55   #14
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Re: My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations

enjoyed going through your drive experience. I have also just returned back from drive to Munnar from Hyderabad and back. Your travelogue has inspired me to post my experience as well and will do so shortly.
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Old 16th March 2023, 15:51   #15
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Re: My Maiden Hill Drive | Kodaikanal - Princess of Hill Stations

Nice travelogue! Very informative as always. Kodai is one of the most visited hill stations in South India. Weather is a big plus. We are already making plans to visit Kodai during this summer. Bangalore is blazing hot already.

Where are the pics of your Pajero? I was hoping to see some pics

Cheers,
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