Thursday, October 12, 2006

A Forest Tour in Kodaikanal

To the pedesterian who has heard about Kodai, their knowledge is restricted to the fact tat Kodi as a popular hill station and a hot tourist spot. But my recent visit to this beautiful place, opened my eye to other stories that has given Kodaikanal its charm. The hill station was discovered by the British, whom I think resided in this hill station to escape the hot summers. You can still see some of their stone rest houses inside the Shola forest. Coaker’s Walk and the Kodai Boating Area stand as an evidence of British contribution to this attractive hill station. History apart, you can further classify Kodai into flora and fauna, hills and terrians, view points as well as its spice and chocolate industry.
A forest tour is a must for those who love nature and are not averse to trudging down a couple of bad roads and steep hill side. A good patient guide is an added bonus. I was especially lucky, because my tour guide Loganathan aka Logu was extremely patient and was quite taken in by our enthusiasm to explore the forest. He made it worth our while. A couple of online lookups also helped me make a trip to the Manoranjitha dam, which is outside the Moir Point. Its very existence is limited to a few locals and tourists. There are two important dams in Kodai, of which the Manoranjitha dam is one, and the other dam which does not have name, and is simply referred to as the Reservoir, is slightly bigger in stature. We could not make it to the Reservoir, since the pumping was going full swing and the gates had been closed.
There are a couple of rules while making the forest trip. One needs permission from the Forest Division and once permit is obtained, you are allowed to explore the forest until 3.00pm. You make your entry at the Forest Check Post at Moir point and exit from the same side at 3.00pm sharp. This is because, the creatures of the jungle make their trips into the main forest area. My guide told me stories where a cheetah had killed a couple of photographers in the jungle, catching them unawares. Sometimes, if you got lucky, you could see a bison standing and simply staring at you.
The tour guide also strictly observes the rules while driving into the forest. No loud music may be played, since it may disturb the natural surroundings. You should make your exit at 3.00pm sharp and no littering is allowed.
Our group was quite lucky in one aspect-the weather! It was perfect and the trip would have turned sour had it been foggy and rainy. We stopped at Berijam lake view point and admired the view of the lake amidst the clouds and the mountains. You should remember that, being a hill station, Kodaikanal is all about view points. From there on, we proceeded to Silent Valley, but decided to skip it since the Valley was covered in fog. Next, we headed to the Forest Fire Tower, which is 40mts in height and located in the heart of the forest. From here, officials can keep a watch over forest fires and prevent harm to wildlife.
The next place in the Forest Tour agenda was the Caps Valley View. Here, because of the air pressure in the mountain, it is believed that if you were to throw a cap into the Valley, the air pressure and the wind combined would bring the cap back to you. Unfortunately for us, conditions were not conducive for such novel experiments. Nevertheless, the long walk up the pathway was mind-blowing.
From there, we headed to the most important place of visit in the itinerary – the Berijam Lake. We had earlier seen only the Berijam Lake View from atop the hill, but the prospect of driving into the forest to see the lake at its best was simply exciting. This is once destination that you should not miss. As soon as we reached the lake area, our groupwas very surprised to see a quaint old Murugan temple standing there with Lord Anjaneya near the foothold. After seeking the Almighty’s blessings, we headed for the lake.
It is very quite down there at the lake, save for a few students and the occasional visitors who come to explore the flora and fauna that abound the place. The quite and calm waters of the lake glisten in the afternoon fog, and its beauty is further made remarkable by the numerous rows of pine trees, and other forest trees that carry a natural orange-turmeric shade on their tree trunks and barks, much like giving a picture its frame. A lone boat stands tied to a post and is strictly meant for the Forest Officials. The lake is situated in the midst of the Shola forest and the entire landscape is drenched in a beautiful rich green, just like the color that follows the aftermath of a rainy spell. We took the pathway around the forest upto the upper slopes where medicinal plants were grown and researched. Each plant has its own distinct smell and taste. I tried a couple of greens and some spices. It is quite an experience. So don’t forget to stop by and smell them on the way up!
After making our way down to the lower slopes, we took the pathway around some sturdy stone based rest-houses. While some form of activity does take place, these structures were primarily built and used by the British for their own requirements. I did not expect to come face to face with history and mankind inside the forest of all places. We chatted with a couple of woodcutters and after exploring the houses, made our way back to the jeep.
Two other kids and including me pestered Logu, the driver to take us to the Manoranjitha dam. It had started to rain and we were not sure if we could make it. Moreover, since the path inside is blocked by gates, we would have to walk a good 2kms inside the forest to see the dam. Second we had to drive out of the forest check point by 3.00pm. Nothing could deter this enthusiastic lot from visiting the dam. It was afterall, once in a lifetime opportunity. The road leading to the dam is horrible and you should take care to keep your footing carefully, lest you twist your leg. It is to this waterhole, that the animals make their way in the evening hours. So Logu kept insisting that we travel as a group and move quickly. As I walked down the road, I could hear the familiar sounds of the jungle- the crickete, the birds, the big fat bugs chatting away in the dark- it was a creepy feeling mixed with the awe factor.
After a long day, we finally arrived at our respective accommodations, taking back with us the contentment of spirit and peace of mind.

No comments: