A place so close to your heart that it engulfs an aura of awe and solitude in the senses that smell the awesomeness of this place from a faraway office table. Travelling turns you into a storyteller and then the rest is history. Kodaikanal, a standing beauty of solitude and cleanliness. Heard so much about you but finally made you a reality only this year. Kodai as it is fondly known was not a much sought after destination on my bucket list until I came to work in the south and heard so much about it. The first year in Bangalore was a struggle. I listed down places and waited for financial flow to become smooth so that I could complete that south list before I ever bade goodbye to the city. I discovered that right savings and blogging helped me become more of a learner on my travels and made me a butterfly that spreads wings and takes a thing or two from every flower it goes to. These doses of flowers meant the places to me. Any place you want to go, think strongly, take a deep breath, write down when,how,why….and then wait for the karma of your actions to work, you will land up in your favourite destination because the universe plays with you. It took me exactly 29 months to come to Kodai. Anushka my FC bestie and a beautiful, young chatterbox that I share a unique bond with, planned this only women adventure once the marriage and other travel stories were settled in place.
Anushka travelled down to Bangalore one day prior and we spent the beautiful, rainy evening at Truffles, the non-veg paradise of Bangalore. It took us back in time where we had left our German travels and the same, delicious and scrumptious food lay on the table. Eaten, said and gobbled we made it home for a relishing Chicken Biryani and then off to Kodaikanal. Travel in Karnataka is very much the work of your fingertips with KSRTC sleeper buses, comfortable and cosy. Surprisingly I booked them only two weeks in advance and we got the best seats on the vehicle. We caught up on random college topics, journal fights, lecture fun, college fests, how far we had come and what life would hold for us, whether the choices we had made reflected upon our present today, debates about wine and vodka, about life in Russia and Germany, about how the other side of the world looked like, about how the other side of the world was different from India, and endlessly about the way our parents made an impact on our staunchest decisions. The thing with some people is that, you can turn any topic into an interesting discussion and take cues from it for your future plans. Anushka, is one of the few persons who has a genuine interest for books and people.
Wee hours of dawn poured in and we hit the ghats in the mountains. Lush and dense pine tree forests welcomed us with the pitter-patter of the raindrops falling on our window panes and twirling roads that gave a feeling of dizziness and nausea because a roller-coaster ride is very much comparable to our winding and opulent ghats. Catching up with your closest pals has kind of got me more closer to loving life and seeing things the correct way. There are own relatives who take screenshots and spoil the show of your life by creating gossip mongers but friends like Anushka are here to stay forever. The Kudos, that was our place and abode for the three relaxing days in Kodaikanal. Kodaikanal got us soaked in the bliss of nature and it was a much needed break away from the hustle-bustle of the city. The travel bug is much infectious it got us going even after a tiring night journey and as we set foot in the city we decided to go on a culinary trail of cuisines in Kodaikanal. Kodaikanal has evergreen cafes with a refreshing world cuisine all over. Sometimes we contemplate the whole place as one great foodie paradise even when we have no idea what kind of food is going to be available on your plate. The first pit stop was Ten Degrees cafe. Shikha, a common friend of Anushka had suggested these amazing restaurants and eateries to us. I must say each place had something enriching to offer. We savoured every little dish tried at this place. A roasted pumpkin soap to start with, hazy sunrise pineapple juice with mint and the crazy duck orange juice with chilly flavour. We tried a chicken breast roast with home-made barbeque sauce, to my surprise I have had chicken in around 15 countries around the world but this dish beat everything. Satisfied and my taste buds content Anushka and me got going to move around the city on the first day since we had little time at hand.
We covered the Kodai City View, Lake View Point, Coakers Walk, La Saleth Church and Kurinji Andavar Temple on the first day. We had a lousy walk on the PT Road discovering some eateries and then headed for shopping in the afternoon from Danish Stores, Eco Hut and Home Made Chocolates at Annamalai. The Kudos as a restaurant and hotel to stay is really comfortable and a friendly place. The staff assisted and catered to every need. The location is very near to Vattakanal Trail where a point called Dolphin’s Nose can be seen after hiking for around 5.5km from the Kudos hotel location. We came home early after a warm dinner of chicken soup and roasted wooden oven pizza at Cloud Street. This is a classic 80s restaurant that features candle lights, dim lighting, a romantic ambience and home-made food run by two sweet couples who started the restaurant with a love for Italian cuisine and serving home-made chartered recipes to the travellers and tourists of Kodaikanal. My favourite outing of the day was Coakers Walk because I like places where one gets time to ponder, pause and look back at life to improve upon your inner self.
Kodaikanal in its true sense is a princess of hills. It is a win-win situation for both solitude seekers and thrill seekers. Nestled quietly in the Nilgiri hills it has an aura that attracts you to the water bodies in Kodaikanal. Quaint little houses perched on top of the mountains. Magical views and a cauldron of new panoramas at every kilometre in the mountains. Savouring these delightful moments in the misty corners or points is in itself a travel journey.
The next day we had a short hiking trail to Vattakanal and thereby pursuing the journey to Dolphin’s Nose. The Altaf Cafe here is one of the must try places. By late afternoon we returned to our rooms and freshened up. I had eaten some corn from a shabby place which made me not get out of my cosy blanket for the next half of the day due to food-poisoning. I survived on some electrol and curd rice and the next day we both were up for a refreshing ride to Mannavannur Lake. This lake took me straight back to my favourite country Deutschland i.e. Germany. It was an infinite patch of green leading to an idyllic view of a lone-standing tree and a quietly rappling lake unperturbed by the events happening around. A silent and peaceful coracle ride on the lake, a shining patch of green where we strolled hand in hand like old friends had met after ages and then staring at the stripped and neatly laid out grass in the sanctuary near the lake with a varied variety of avifauna.
This travel journey was not only about travelling and visiting the places but catching up with Anushka, a food trail and a culture insight into Kodaikanal. We tried the Aby’s Cafe on our last day in Kodaikanal as we were craving for home food by which I mean local junk, lo and behold!..we landed bang on at the right place. This place is owned by a Marwari lady who shifted to Kodaikanal from Kolkata and started the local Northern cuisine for travellers. It was a petite, wooden cafe with homely service. Kodaikanal took me in its arms the very first day I landed here with Anushka. Misty mountains reminding you of a Ruskin Bond story at every step and making that fairytale come true. Lovely cottages and magnificent bungalows stretched on each perch at perfect intervals. Dogs of local breeds running behind you for biscuits and slyly wagging their tales for unwanted attention. Every little moment is a surprise here. Astonishingly it is one of the cleanest and most environment friendly hill stations around with polite and concerned people. We bade goodbye to Kodaikanal in the misty evening and tucked under our blankets as we made way to Bangalore in our cosy KSRTC compartments!
Until the next adventure… Soon!
Rucha S Khot