[Contd from here..]

With Mannavanur and Poombarai behind us, it was onward to Kodaikanal and only later did I realize that we had missed the beautiful town of Kukkal and the quaint and charming man-made lake in it. Something for the next visit I suppose, if there is one. But considering how breathtakingly beautiful Mannavanur was, I am optimistic there will be another.

On the way, we spotted this huge, fallen tree in the jungle. Because of the way it had fallen, it had enclosed a patch of resplendent green grass that stood out in sharp contrast to the dark trees around it.
As we walked towards the clearing, grass with fresh dew drops gently washed our feet. There was another fallen tree with mushrooms growing out of it’s trunk. Pine cones lay by the dozens on the ground. All of it made for a very picturesque morning sight.

Many photographs later, I felt a slight itching sensation on my foot and upon lifting the strap of my sandal, discovered a leech happily gorging on my blood. I quickly removed the other sandal to discover 4-5 of them trying to make a Saravana Bhavan out of my foot. Ran out of the grass on to the road to remove them one by one and discovered one more hidden in my left little toe. (I later spotted a big one settling down between my knuckles, while I was seated in the car as well.) Even after I removed all of them, the mind started playing it’s tricks, causing itching sensations at strange places – discarding those thoughts was an effort in itself.

Inside the Jungle
The ground near this tree was full of leeches…aargghhh

Back to the trip then, we went to the touristy Moir point and Pillar Rock, but lots of mist ensured we couldn’t see anything at all. Hot cups of tea near these attractions were a relief however and we made our way back to Kodaikanal to find a hotel (Hotel Bala near Astoria – 1380 for 4 people for a day in the off-season) to spend the rest of the two days.

Since it rained non-stop that day, there weren’t many options for us to do any sight-seeing. The rest of the day was spent lunching at Rasoi restaurant on Anna Salai road (decent north Indian food I must add), sipping coffee and tasting the pies, ginger biscuits and ice-creams at Daily Bread Pastry Corner (pretty yum), looking at the shops on Anna Salai and Seven Roads Junction and making another unsuccessful attempt to see if the mist had cleared at Pillar Rock. The entrance to Pillar Rock closes some time between 5.30 and 6 in the evening and on the return road along side the golf course, we sighted bisons, plenty of them in fact.

Back in the town, it still hadn’t stopped raining and an attempt to stroll around the Kodaikanal lake later, we opted for dinner at the Tibetan Brother’s restaurant near the Seven Roads Junction. Next day was to be our last day at Kodaikanal and I vowed to wake up early again to catch the sunrise at Coaker’s walk.

The body’s alarm clock went off at 6.30 and I rushed outside to discover it had stopped raining after all. Quickly woke up the others and we walked down to Coaker’s Walk only to discover that it opens only at 7.30. With nothing else to do, we waited outside and saw a caretaker drive a huge bison out of the Van Allen hospital nearby.

Bison near Coaker's walk
The bison seemed a little confused after being driven out but pretty soon, started walking towards the forest..muscles rippling and all

By this time, the gates to Coaker’s Walk had been opened and we strolled in, the first of the visitors that morning.

View from Coaker's Walk
Early morning view from Coaker’s walk..there was a thin sliver of golden yellow sunshine from the rising sun when we first walked in, but that was soon hemmed in by clouds from all sides
Early morning at Coaker's Walk
Walk among the clouds at Coaker’s Walk
Early morning at Coaker's Walk
It can get misty at the drop of a hat anywhere in Kodaikanal
Sunshine at Coaker's Walk
Yet sometimes, the mist parts to reveal sights such as these. Tufts of cotton-like clouds hovering over green peaks in the distance.
Cottage overlooking Coaker's Walk
Some mental kilojoules were spent contemplating the chances of owning a property like this. Imagine the views every morning from the verandah.
Mist at Coaker's walk
Pretty soon, the fog began to roll in, blanketing the splendid views. After a few hours you could view nothing beyond the leftmost tree here.

The clock had struck 9.30 by this time and we rushed back to our room to freshen up and check-out. Breakfast, at Astoria Veg nearby turned out to be true to the reviews I’d read. Seldom have we come across a restaurant where every dish we ordered seemed to be better than the previous one. This sumptuous breakfast was topped off with some shopping in the vicinity for chocolates, gulkand, ginger biscuits and tea (a little difficult to fathom why the tea should be popular, since there aren’t exactly any tea plantations in Kodaikanal).

Astoria Plain Dosa
The plain dosa. Absolutely yummy south Indian dishes for breakfast at the Astoria hotel’s restaurant. Pretty quick service too…adventurous folks might want to check out their Astoria special dosa at 300 odd bucks

Our last destination for the day was the dolphin’s nose, which is a tiring 1.5 km walk down and an even more exhausting climb on the way back. The spot itself, is a 1 meter rock jutting out into the vast emptiness of a valley below with no fences to hold anything back. Being an acrophobiac, I had to crawl on to the rock to peer below but I couldn’t bear to sit there for too long. On the way though, we had a few ‘tree tomatoes’ or Tamarillos. These fruits, indigenous to South America and probably introduced in India by immigrants, grows only at higher elevations. It left a tingling sensation on my tongue and it’s skin was somewhat bitter to taste. The area outside the dolphin’s nose entry point has a few orchards where you can get pear very cheap – almost at 50 bucks for a bagful and what is more, you get to pluck the ones you want straight from the tree !

Misty forests near Dolphin's Nose
The mist can create an opaque veil sometimes. And sometimes, it can create magic like this..Walking through this path felt like being in a fairy tale.

With sightseeing done, it was almost 3.30 in the afternoon and time for us to bid goodbye. It was a glorious evening down in the plains and a rainy night by the time we reached Bangalore. I will concliude this trip report with some images from the wonderful ghat section between Kodaikanal and Bathalagundu.

Huge clouds in Kodaikanal
It felt like Kodai was beckoning us once again. Splendid sights on the ghat section while exiting Kodaikanal.
On the Kodaikanal-Batalagundu Highway
Panoramic views on the highway..splendid and breathtaking at every corner
Panorama of Manjalar reservoir
This one turned out to be a good capture. You can see the Manjalar dam and if you observe closely, to the right you can see the Rat-tail falls as well.



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