What began as a sanatorium by an American Mission in the nineteenth century, is today, a rather untarnished hill station- possibly South India’s more scenic answer to Matheran.
It is off season now by definition- but a boatman explained that the weather in Kodai is great all year through, from cool to cold. The off season comes from lack of holidays and therefore lack of visitors! This was a blessing since we did not have to contend with long queues and unruly crowds while sight seeing.
We were 13 of us, including 5 kids. The gang from Blore joined us at Kodai road station. We set off in a mini bus, a 3 hour journey to Kodaikanal. Halted en route for fruits and corn ( ensure you try the pears, star fruit, avocado, tree tomato and raamphal, a variation of custard apple)
We stayed 3 days, 2 nights and that was just about right.
Being such a large gang we settled for the Sterling Lake view rather than the Carlton ( a more stately 5 star hotel) . There seem to be many other good options to choose from anyway including home stays.
The Sterling property is really nice and comfortable that too since we got the rooms with kitchens attached. While the intention is not to do full fledged cooking, coffee, noodles are easy access what with little children around. The property is full of flowering plants and you would love to walk despite the steep inclines.Sterling offers the usual mix of a children’s park, just about acceptable dining fare, and interactive games including the ubiquitous housie( tambola) each evening.
There are cycles available on hire. Near the lake, there are a lot of horses to choose from as well. Since we were so many, we took a tourister.
Any travel book will tell you all the various points with their old worldly names- Coaker’s walk, Green Valley, Echo Rock, Dolphin Nose, Bryant Park, Moier Point, etc and waterfalls and the Kurinji Temple that you could see. It has not been raining enough in Kodai which is why the waterfalls were not in their full glory- a sore point for me specially since I love waterfalls.
Among the do-not-miss places are the Pillar Rocks…. They even have a cross at the peak that a father-son duo put up there. The vast and gorgeous pine forest’s claim to fame is the many movie songs shot there so we did the rounds of the trees and took snaps as well Bollywood style.
A 500 year old Jamun tree still stands tall and yields fruit as well and close by you will see countless pear trees.
There is Devil’s kitchen, a cave where in complete access is denied since people have lost their lives in it, but this could have been intriguing. It was the one that Gunna starring Kamal Hassan was shot in.
The mandatory boat ride in the main lake, was enjoyed by all of us with the mist hanging over often. Life jackets are not provided. There are boat races three times a year- one for outsiders, one for the Kodai schools and one for the boatmen. You can have the paddle boat to yourself if you wish but we opted for one with a boatman since we were not sure about Anushka’s response.
Plastic has been banned but it is not very well enforced as you can see by the lake bank. And there has been a stay order on the lake “clean up” machine since it does not do a good enough job.
Onto food. While there is a Punjab Dhabaa, a restaurant near Foodworld and a nicely named Rasoi, the one we went to was a quiet, almost desolate little Patel joint for very homely Jain/ Rajasthan food with fluffy hot phulkas. There is an excellent pastry shop near the bus stand.
And a very unassuming cheese store which can teach you a lot about the subject without going to Switzerland. It is just opposite Savitri- Gemini Ganeshan’s house. As you would have noticed there are a lot of “cine ” connections in Kodai.
The must buys are dry fruits such as figs, cashews, walnuts, raisins and spices, cheese and tea. And of course home made chocolates. Also native to Kodai are the hand made earrings which you can bargain down to Rs 10 a pair. Makes for an excellent gift.