It’s been days since we have had internet so I’m a little behind in my blogging, I will however catch you up slowly over a few postings rather than do one massive one today.
From scorching hot Pondy our next destination was to be Kodaikanal, advertised as a hillstation in the clouds whose name means “Gift of the Forest”. Shimla, that freezing cold place we visited shortly after I arrived in India, was also a hillstation. The term hillstation refers to all towns located in the mountains. However, because we are now in the south of India, Kodaikanal (Kodai) will not be as cold as Shimla. The expected temperatures are 25 degrees during the day and 12 degrees at night. It will be a wonderful break from the temperatures we have been enduring for the last few weeks.
Our overnight non air-conditioned, semi-sleeper (meaning the seats recline) bus ride to Kodai left at 11:30 pm and was an 8-hour trip that cost us $13 each. We made reasonable time leaving Pondy, traversing endless suburbs and cruising open highway. Wide open windows helped dry some of the sweat off us and we gradually cooled enough to dose. Around dawn we saw approaching hills and the bus commenced the long climb along a surprisingly good paved but winding road up through bush and villages into the hills. There is nothing more refreshing than boarding the bus in the evening heat-soaked Pondy and disembarking in the morning cool temperatures in Kodai. Unfortunate for us though, the bus dropped us at a hotel on the wrong side of town and it was a rather arduous uphill walk for about 2 km to our youth hostel.
That climb however was totally worth it because our hostel was located on the edge of the cliff and the views over the valley below were breathtaking. The hostel was also located about 1 km away from the main village. The evenings were magical here, sitting in our patio chairs and viewing the lights from towns and villages far below and the stars up above, and in the morning, we would wake to the sounds of the birds chirping in the surrounding hillside forests rather than to the blares of the horns typical of traffic in India. This hostel is where Sanford stayed on his first trip to Kodai in 1990.
I really enjoyed this place. It is known as a honeymoon destination, so there were lots of young starry-eyed couples around, as well as Indian tourists escaping the heat of the lowlands, and many foreigners. There really aren’t any sites to see here; it is more of a nature town featuring parks, hiking and outdoor activities.
Kodai is centered around Kodaikanal Lake. We did the 5 km walk around the lake and really enjoyed seeing all the activities around this popular vacation attraction. There were two kiosks where horse rides were available and we saw mainly women and children mounted on the horses. The riders however did not get to hold the reins; rather the horse handlers, pedalling in front on bicycles, controlled them. At one spot a guy had a little “shooting gallery” set up; several small balloons tied to a board and a few pellet rifles, with which you shot from a distance of about 3 metres. No prizes, just for fun. I had a go at 5 shots for 20 cents, my first time ever with a firearm. I had a great time and hit 3 out of 5. Available for rent were 2-seated bicycles that looked extremely uncomfortable. As a matter of fact we saw several riders struggle with the bikes who appeared to give up because they were walking with their bikes or turning around and heading back rather than going the distance around the lake. There were also a few rental outlets for pedal boats and rowboats. Lonely Planet guide says, “If you’re sappy in love like a bad Bollywood song, the thing to do in Kodai is rent a pedal boat.” Sanford and I did this, not because we were sappy and in love (well maybe we are) but I wanted to do this because we did this in our first year of dating when I was so much heavier than Sanford and I distinctly remember getting in the pedal boat after him and I’m sure my side lifted his side out of the water. Well maybe it wasn’t that bad, but now that I am virtually the same weight as Sanford, I wanted to replace that memory with a more positive one. We had fun and stopped some other peddlers to snap our picture. The last comment about the lake area was there were lots of vendors around and I found a place that served a boiled or coal roasted corn on
the cob. A vegetable!! I so miss my vegetables and the corn was wonderful!! Added to the corn, a few feet away was a stand where we could buy sections of fresh pineapple. I was in heaven!!
Another day we hiked to Bear Shola Falls, about 2.5 km from our hostel. Sanford had been there his last visit and wanted to check it out again. It was a pleasant and not too long or steep walk, first along streets, then a path into the bush along the creek bed. The forest was wonderfully green and pretty. The falls were dry but, despite garbage around, was still a tranquil pretty place. I sat at the bottom of the falls as Sanford climbed up a small path to the top of the falls. We meditated a while in solitude at the bottom before returning to the lake area.
Other nature outings included Bryant Park, a botanical garden containing pleasant paths, flower gardens, tall gum trees, a greenhouse, sculpted hedges and a couple
of Buddha trees (it is said that this is the species of trees is the one that gave enlightenment to Buddha). It was pretty, but looked a bit worn and rundown in parts, and somehow didn’t quite all blend together aesthetically. We also enjoyed a 10-minute stroll on Coaker’s Walk, a paved path on the edge of the cliff that afforded magnificent views of the plains 2000 metres below.
All in all, we spent five nights here, the most we spent (other than with Sanford’s friends) at any one location. Soon we would have to go back to the heat as our time in India is almost up. But I have one more blog to do from here. To be continued….