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Solo trip to Vattakanal and Kodaikanal


Canopy hills early morning as seen from a view point.
Image source: Liftnwander

I am always enthusiastic about travel opportunities, no matter how big or small they might seem. There is always a scope to explore beyond the norm and find more parts of oneself immersed in the journey.


One fine week, overwhelmed with routine, I decided to take couple days off the week and planned a trip to Vattakanal. While I've never been to that part of India, I was pretty assured about the rush our common hill stations possess these days because of social media and thus, for me a quieter, more remote area was more appealing. More so, I saw one photo of some foreign woman at the Dolphin's nose some 5 years back and since then I have longed for this place because of those unique canopy hills. Thus, I planned for Vattakanal.


I wanted alone time amongst nature with some luxury and hence I booked a cute cozy cabin from Airbnb which was supposedly a 3-4 person stay but I took it for myself. It was located on a mountain next to the main Vattakanal Dolphin's nose road and hosted by Mr.Prem Vinoth, a humble and friendly guy who helped me a lot with my trip.


I had booked a late night departure on a Wednesday night from Bangalore Electronic City through Redbus and kick started my journey at 11:30pm. I reached the Kodaikanal bus stand by 7:30am the next morning after a comfortable ride. My travels aren't fast, I am in no hurry to be at a certain place and don't feel like I am missing out on things. I generally prefer walking most of the time and see the place on foot. To me, there is no priority to the famous "view points" that the common tourists see. That way, they leave out the rest of the things and I feel there is beauty everywhere even in an empty road early morning filled with dry leaves.


Deserted road covered with trees on either side.
Image source: Liftnwander

I ate a delicious ghee roast dosa at a joint next to the bus stand and started to walk on a cool soothing morning. Vattakanal was roughly 5km from the bus stand. It was a very calm walk on empty roads, closed outlets of Kodaikanal lake side market, a few foreigners strolling near the lake and couple locals taking the first rays of the sun outside their houses. Enroute I saw monkeys fooling around as the forest got denser and deeper. There was sound of fresh flowing water from the nearby waterfall and I could hear the birds chirping.

After about an hour I reached Vattakanal which was again deserted and shops and restaurants weren't open yet. Prem escorted me to a nearby cottage as my check-in was a little late by 11ish. I relaxed and sipped on my black coffee which is one of my ways to start the day while watching the beauty of that Thursday morning. About an hour later my cabin was ready and I happily checked in.


A wooden cabin nested among dense forest.
Prem's cozy wooden cabin. Image source:Liftnwander

To me, there is no priority to the famous "view points" that the common tourists see. That way, they leave out the rest of the things and I feel there is beauty everywhere even in an empty road early morning filled with dry leaves.

I had read about the Dolphin's nose a lot and the view would be surreal from that place. Suddenly, I decided to check that place out. As I embarked upon the main Vattakanal road, to my surprise, the trail to the Dolphin's nose was just 50 odd meters from my stay. It was a well laid out trail of rocks, gravel and roots all descend. The thing with the monsoon season and hilly areas of Palani hills (eastern ghats) is that as soon as it is past 9am, the clouds fill the valley. On my trek down to the view point, my path was slowly getting caressed by the clouds flowing in from the valley and when I reached the Dolphin's nose, it was floating in the clouds and there was absolutely no view from the nose. While I found it quite beautiful and wanted to spend some time there, there were too many people clicking selfies and I excused myself and descended further. In my g-maps it showed me some echo-point which was nothing but another view of the valley again clouded! Slowly, I was all alone on the trail and enjoying my trek through the loose gravel and rocks. After another 15-20 minutes I decided to go back. I wanted to rest in my cabin and read, journal and have some food. The trek uphill took another half an hour and I was too hungry and ready for some good chicken noodles at Sunrise cafe.


A happy man standing on a valley's edge.
Somewhere between Dolphin's nose and echo rock. Image source: Liftnwander

That afternoon I slept for couple of hours, had some tea and bread butter from a local shop downhill and kept reading my book until it was dark. Vattakanal market shuts off by 9pm, so I had an early dinner and called it a day.


Prem had guided me to visit the Doplhin's nose early morning for the clear views and solitude. I did just that, got up at 6am and decided to start my trek by 7. As soon as I was up, I looked out of the window of my cabin and the view was breathtaking.

View of sunrise and mountains from window.
6am view of Vattakanal. Image source: Liftnwander

Boy! wasn't Prem right! I knew I had a treat in store at the Dolphin's nose.

I spent almost an hour on the nose mesmerized from the different color gradient of canopy hills stacked one after the other, the entire valley visible from far off surrounded by Palani hills. While the sun was up, it was also drizzling a bit, very minute little drops which were really soothing. I didn't even want to go further down and trekked back after an hour or so.

I had seen a few interesting things on the google maps on the other side of Kodaikanal where I came from the other day and I started my walk from Vattakanal towards the Pillar rock view point and Guna caves.


A collage of mountains in Vattakanal.
The Canopy Hills as seen from Dolphin's nose. Image source: Liftnwander

This walk will always remain in my heart. One of the most soothing and meditative walks along green hills with colorful houses, empty and clean roads and a dense forest on the other side. The path led me to residential houses, schools and a beautiful golf course. I crossed such beautiful and dense forests full of flora and fauna, saw peacocks and a lot of monkeys. The best part was that the weather was with me. Being July it was supposed to be raining, but it was dry and sunny with cool breeze flowing in. I loved every bit of it.


A beautiful road among nature.
Image source:Liftnwander

After about an hour or so I reached the Pillar rock view point which was again clouded as expected being post 9am. The ticket boys were generous and allowed me in even when I didn't have change(they only take cash by the way). Another kilometer or so from Pillar rock point, I reached Guna caves. This place was unique, it had a spooky vibe to it. The entire area wass covered with thick dense forest with trees' roots laid all around. It feels like you're gonna be trapped into these roots. Owing to the safety reasons, the authorities don't allow you to visit the caves and the entire area is fenced, the feeling of standing between those dense tree roots covered with fog and monkeys screeching all around was enough to make it exciting :D.


Roots of trees spreading on earth
Guna Caves. Image source:Liftnwander

After spending some more time near Guna caves I started my walk back to Vattakanal. Time for food, some more reading and sipping tea. After another hour I was back and this afternoon I decided to have my food from the famous Altaf café. I had heard a lot about this place and wanted to have a meal there. The Lebanese food was good along with the beautiful view of the valley. A lazy afternoon called for more journaling and reading as I sat outside my cabin among dense vegetation and rays of the sun falling in parts nearby.

I saw the canopy hills getting darker in shade as the sun settled into the the night and I got into my cozy blanket.


Reading a book in nature.
Image source: Liftnwander

Mountain view in the evening.
Evening view from a point near the cabin. Image source: Liftnwander

The next day started at a lazy 7:30am, waking up when the sun was shining bright and ready. It was a leisure Saturday and I had to check-out from the cabin and wanted to spend the entire day at Kodaikanal, near the lake. I packed up and left the beautiful cabin sending good-byes to Prem and other locals and started walking back to Kodaikanal from the same route as the first day. Being weekend I was expecting a lot of people around the lake as it is a common hangout place for friends and families with a ton of food joints and street vendors.


I decided to walk the perimeter of the Kodai lake. I was expecting a simple lake with tourists boating in it but I was wrong, it was a huge water body and so peaceful and blue that I had to stop multiple times and just keep looking at the amazing scenery. From different sides, the look and feel of the lake was different. At times, the backdrop changed into a huge hill and other times it was a dense forest with a fountain on one side. While there were people boating regularly, I had never expected the calm that lake had to offer. I was happy to be walking along this serene lake and spending good time there.


Kodaikanal lake with people boating and surrounded by nature.
Kodaikanal Lake. Image source: Liftnwander

I also wanted to experience some good cafes in Kodaikanal. The first one was Cariappa cafe whose name is now changed to "Pulney Hills Cafe". While it is quite small and not many people can sit around, I found myself a spot near the counter and had a delicious cold coffee with their patent banana cake. Took my time while I journaled.

The next was Aby's. Another small, wooden themed café where I picked masala lemonade and chilly cheese bread, another delicious and a satiating option.

I was too full from the food so I decided to sit next to the lake to read, but to my surprise the sun was blocked by clouds and it started to rain, rather heavily. I had to take shelter so I hopped into Munchies café. Loved its vibe. It is famous for its hot chocolate and what better than sipping on a warm delicacy while it rains outdoors and there is soothing music playing inside.

It was almost evening and I decided to take a stroll in the nearby local market. I saw plenty of options for local food, tea shops, confectionery and what not. The place was now flooded with people from all sides. I felt lucky that I will be heading back on a Saturday evening :D.

An hour prior to boarding my bus back to Bangalore, I hopped into the Tibetan cafe for some chicken noodles. It was ok, I liked the vibe not the food.

At 7pm I boarded my bus and dozed off quite early to reach Bangalore at 5am the next morning.

While 4-5 years back if you give me 3 days for a trip, I would be racing between places to visit most of them but hardly find time to immerse myself into the place. Gradually over the years I have slowed down my travels thanks to Rolf Potts's Vagabonding book which I have read and re-read multiple times and it has really struck a chord within me and now even a 2-3 day trip seems like a fulfilling three month long deep travel journey :). If you happen to have fewer days to travel, don't hesitate! Take the short trip, it will vitalize you and help you reach deep within to find parts of yourself you weren't even aware of.


_________________________________________________________________________________

Hi,

Thank you for reading this article, I hope it added some value to you and made you think in a positive direction.

I am Vidhu Mahana, an avid Traveller and a certified Strength and Nutrition Coach. If you wish to be a part of my travel and fitness journeys, do connect with me on Instagram through my below handles:



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