Sabitha's engagement @ Elamgulam (midway between Ponkunnam and Palai in Kerala) was a very good excuse to make another trip. Especially when I was granted a couple of days leave from the otherwise hectic work schedule :) One can think of numerous routes between Elamgulam and Bengaluru, the most obvious one being the chartered waters thro' Salem, Dindigul, Teni and Kumily, but we had other ideas!
The journey started by abt 6'O clock on a saturday morning. We hit Hosur road (NH7), Hosur, Krishnagiri, Dharmapuri and Salem in quick time, had breakfast at Salem and continued along NH7 via Namakkal and Karur all the way to Dindigul. To reach Teni, one shud take NH45 Extn from Dindigul. On this road, about 30kms from Dindigul is the town called, Vathalakkundu, and another small village called Genguvarpatti abt 10kms from there. It is from Genguvarpatti, that the road to Kodaikanal starts. Few kms off Genguvarpatti, the ghat road begins - a delight for the man behind the wheels, with its fair share of winding curves and panoramic views.
|View Enroute Kodai
Kodai is about 53kms from Genguvarpatti and majority of this road is ghats. The more u travel, the higher u go and more majestic the views are. Kodai is at a height of about 2130m above sea level and is one of the tallest points in Western ghats. About 15kms from Genguvarpatti is a point (called Dum Dum Rocks) which offers a good view of the surrounding hills, an almost dry, but reasonably long waterfall (called Rat Tail falls) and a dam (Manjalaar dam) down below in the valley. The camera started clicking from here on, all the way till Kodai. We encountered lot more view points from there and couple of waterfalls - including the Silver Cascade falls.
At about 2.30, we were looking around the streets of Kodai for accomodation, which we finally managed in a place called Classic Regency. They also arranged for lunch there. After freshening up, we had a very spicy lunch and soon headed for sight seeing in Kodai.
Kodai is a typical hill station, which I wud rate better than Ooty. It had its own lake, view points, gardens, museums and the chilly weather. We opted for the view points first and hit the Pillar rock view, followed by the Green valley view. Pillar rocks were nothing in special, but the view of the valley was awesome. Green Valley view offered a different view of the same valley. Looking down the deep valley underneath, I cud imagine why its also called 'Suicide Point'. It seems people do treks from the Pillar Rock view till the Pillar rocks. Anyways, we didnt have time for trekking at that point :(
From Green Valley @ Kodai
Next was Coaker's walk, which again offered views around Kodai along a nice walk way. Coaker's walk is the only place, were we had to pay an entrance fee - Rs. 2 per head and Rs. 5 / camera. Kodai is definitely one of the most economical places! The walk was longer than we expected and the exit was a bit away from the entrance, which made us almost run towards the car, in order to hit the lakes on time for boating. The weather had become very chilly by then, accentuated by the strong breeze.
We reached the lake @ about 5.40 only to discover that the boating is closed @ 5.30. But a guy over there, agreed to take us to the lake in his roving boat, for a little extra. We were glad to pay that little extra and had our share of fun in the lake. The lake, man made, supposedly to a star's shape, looked clean and well maintained and was reasonably large spreading to about 60 acres.
After half an hour in the boat we chose to have a walk and later a leisurely drive around the lake, joining a crowd of people who were circling the lake, in their rented cycles or horses. The weather was very chilly by this time and it was getting dark by the time we headed towards the Upper Lake View, from where we cud recognize the lake as somewhat star shaped.
Upper Lake View @ Kodai
The only major places left were the museums and the Berijam lake about 20kms from Upper Lake View in the Kodai - Munnar road. Ofcourse, one can spend a lot more time in Kodai, especially with the "right company" :) but to rush thro' all the places, like we did, a day wud be more than enuf. In between, from various people, we learned that the Kodai - Munnar road, which we were planning to take to reach Kerala is closed for years and we will have to go back to Teni :( The road is now open only for trekkers and may b gud to return later, but not a practical option now! We finally, headed back to the hotel, had a very early dinner on the way and hit the bed pretty early.
Next day morning, we said good bye to Kodai, hit the ghats once again and headed towards Genguvarpatti, took the road to Teni from there via Periyakulam. From Teni, there were two routes to reach Kerala - one thro' Cumbum/Uttamapalya and the other one thro' Bodinayakanur/Bodimettu. Having driven thro' the Cumbum/Uttamapalya road once (during the Thiruvananthapuram Trip) we chose to take the other road. This turned out to be a mistake in the end, yet a good mistake to make.
Teni - Bodinayakanur - Kerala road is part of the NH49 connecting Dhanushkodi, Madurai and Ernakulam. We reached Bodinayakanur by 9 and the ghat road to Bodimettu starts from there. The police man at the check post blatantly asked for Rs. 20 as bribe and got it since we were running out of time. Well ... all that was forgotten after seeing the winding roads going up the hill!
Winding Roads Enroute Bodimettu
The ghat roads leading upto Bodimettu and Kerala border was one of its kind. It had 17 hairpin bends and a distance of about 15kms. The height to ascend was more that 1000 metres and the road was narrow, with hardly any side fence or tarring for most of the distance! On top of that the wind was blowing at a very high pace, threatening to topple the vehicle. It was an eerie drive all the way, with hardly any traffic. For a moment I thought, if this was the NH49 and the Kodai - Munnar road is bad and unused, god save those who are taking the Kodai - Munnar road!!!!
Finally, we reached the top of the hill @ Bodimettu at a height of about 1700 metres above MSL. The top of the hill also marked the border between Kerala and Tamilnadu. From then on it was a descend. But, unlike the section of road in Tamilnadu, this time we had a lot of greenery for company!
Grass gets Greener - View from Santhanpara
By 10.30 we reached a small town called Poopara near Santhanpara, were we had a mallu breakfast comprising of Appam and Egg curry.
The journey resumed after breakfast, thro' some small roads via Rajakumari, Rajakkadu (yes, these are names of places) and Ponmudi dam till Adimali. I am not sure if this is NH49 or not. Obviously, the TTK's Kerala atlas we used had some errors and had atleast marked Adimali as Devikulam. From some other sources, I cud later figure out that NH49 passes thro' Munnar contrary to what is mentioned in the Atlas. This mite have been the mistake we made, since we didnt take the road to Munnar at Poopara, thinking its off the highway. Anyways, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise, since we finally went thro' some places of abundant scenic beauty, especially the region around Ponmudi dam. Well ... at Adimali (Devikulam, as per TTK's Kerala Atlas) we entered back into NH49 and carried on.
|Waterfall - from Adimali Town
Adimali town is covered with hill ranges on all sides and numerous waterfalls were erupting out of the hills, including one clearly visible rite from the town. Even after Adimali, there were innumerable waterfalls on the way, with two of them just next to the road. Most noteable was the Valara falls about 12kms from Adimali and 33kms before Kothamangalam.
Valara Falls - Enroute Kothamangalam
Past Neryamangalam, we reached Oonnukallu, from where a state highway starts towards Thodupuzha. This was nice and newly laid with pointers at every junction. We reached Thodupuzha in a blink and Palai in another hour. At Palai, we took the road towards Ponkunnam and Elamgulam is about 15kms from Palai. By the time we reached the church, were the engagement was slated to happen at 12.00, it was about 2.30. We were obvioulsy too late for the function, but on time for the yummy fooddddd !!!!
View from Kuttikkanam
Road to Pirmedu
After the function and a visit to Sabitha's house, we started back. This time we chose to take the easier route, via Ponkunnam, Kanjirappally, Mundakayam, Kuttikkanam, Vandiperiyar, Pirmedu and Kumily. Though, this route was already covered during the Thiruvananthapuram Trip, it was worth many more visits. After too many photos and stoppages to admire nature's magic, we hit the Kerala border @ Kumily, ghats past Kumily, Cumbum, Uttamapalya and back in Teni. It took only 4 hours to reach back Teni as oppossed to the 6 hrs in the morning :) It was enuf travel for the day and we halted at Teni.
It was another detour on day 3. Teni to Bengaluru is about 460kms (via NH45 Extn and NH7) and we could have reached Bengaluru by noon, it looked like a waste of time. There were more places to be visited. We reached Dindigul by 9, had breakfast there and headed towards Trichy (NH45) and towards Thanjavur from there (NH67). By noon we were there to check out the big temple of Thanjavur - the Brihadisvara (Brihadishwara) temple, which is one of the four world heritage sites in South India along with Hampi and temples @ Mahabalipuram and Pattadakal / Pattadakallu. The temple is grandiose, similar in style to the ones in Kanchipuram (See Chennai Trip for details), but bigger.
Outside View of Brihadisvara Temple
Inside Brihadisvara Temple compound
From Thanjavur we headed further east, via Thiruvarur to Nagapattinam. Our destination was the famous church @ Velankanni. At 2.30 we hit the place. After parking the vehicle @ the parking lot, people pointed us towards a flat tyre. Luckily, there was a puncture shop, just next to the parking lot and they promised to take care of the tyre. Meanwhile, we paid a visit to the church and had lunch @ one of the hotels. The church, partially destroyed in Dec 2004 Tsunami, had no signs of any destruction and looked glorious in white.
By 4, we were out of Velankanni and back to Nagapattinam. On the way back we noticed a monument being erected as a memorial for Tsunami victims - a lighthouse under construction.
We passed by the famous mosque at Nagore, former French territory of Karaikal, vast paddy fields before hitting the busy towns at Chidambaram (where Annamalai University is located) and Cuddalore. The road (NH45A) wasnt great along this stretch and was even narrow at patches. Nevertheless they were crowded with a lot of commuters in buses, two-wheelers and cycles. With all these factors coming into picture, it was past 6.00 by the time we hit Pondicherry. It is sad not to have any time to spend on a place like Pondicherry. On this monday evening, Pondicherry was also an extremely busy place and we moved at snail's pace till Villupuram. At Villupuram, we hit the state highway to Gingee and took the deviation towards Thiruvannamalai. It was around this spot that I met with an accident 2 years ago (during the Pondicherry Trip).
NH66 stretch connecting Thiruvannamalai and Krishnagiri was in a very bad condition, with gutters all over the road. While trying to speed up as I can, I didnt miss any of them and managed to fall in most of them :) By this time, it had become very tiring and I started counting number of kms to go.
At 11, we hit Krishnagiri and entered the Golden Quadrilateral section between Krishnagiri and Bangalore. This road was easy to drive even with ur eyes closed, which indeed became useful, since we were almost asleep by then. At about 12.30 we were going past electronics city and by 1, it was home ... sweeet .... home.
At the end, it was a staggering 1740kms in 3 days, covering a lot of places in east cost of Tamilnadu, where we hadnt been previously. Apart from this, the trip was a very welcome break from a hectic work schedule and came after almost 6 months after I hit the road last time.