With just less than two weeks left on our six-month Indian visa, we decided to spend our time cooling off in the hills of the Western Ghats. Comprising of a ridge of mountains stretching all the way from southern Tamil Nadu to just north of Mumbai, the Western Ghats have long served as an escape from the hot Indian summers and winding up the mountain roads on a rickety public bus we could feel the drop in temperature and we welcomed it.
Kodaikanal is set around a lake which at the weekends fills up with Indian boys on tour, young Indian couples and families. Resisting the urge to rent a tandem bike, we instead did the next most cheesy thing and rented a pedalo, complete with a giant duck head, and pedalled around the lake for an hour, much to the delight of the Indian tourists on the lake who called out at us as we passed by “One snap please”, “Where you from?” and all the other typical conversation starters we had grown so accustomed to hearing. Market stalls surrounding the lake sell the usual Indian street snacks and we got stuck in, soaking up the carnival-like atmosphere in all its cheesy glory.
Stories of a little village outside Kodaikanal, known as Vattakanal, had found their way to us during our travels and after spending one night in the main hill station of ‘Kodai’, we made the move up the road to the more remote settlement of ‘Vatta’. Up here there is little to do but enjoy mountain life.
Getting to Vattakanal
We got a bus to Kodaikanal from Madurai and once you get to Kodaikanal you can take a taxi to Vatta. You can also walk or rent bikes locally if you’re feeling energetic.
Staying in Vattakanal
With a few short treks around to go on, most people rent a small house or apartment type setup and relax in the social atmosphere of the village leaving now and then to walk around the hills. Vatta is known as ‘Little Israel’ by the locals so don’t be surprised if they greet you with a “Shalom” instead of a “Namaste” Our first night we stayed with two of our Israeli friends whom we had met in Varkala a few weeks earlier. We then sought out our own space and found a little gem above a lovely Indian family.
If you ask around the locals when you arrive, you’ll find anything from a room in a guesthouse to your own private house if you want. Sometimes it really is the simple things in life that you get excited and at this point in our trip unpacking a bag, boiling water to make tea, cooking for ourselves and having our own space was a real novelty. However, the icing on the cake for us was the fireplace, the evenings in Vattakanal get quite chilly and sitting in front of the roaring fire with a hot whiskey in hand wrapped in our newly acquired one euro, retro woolly jumpers we bought in the market in Kodai was something we hadn’t experienced in what felt like years and it was a pleasure.
Staying in Vattakanal for almost two weeks we caught up on some writing, sorted through photos and got excited, reading about Sri Lanka, the next stop on our trip. Leaving the mountains on an overnight sleeper bus, destined for Chennai’s International airport we drifted along the roads, the climate getting warmer as we dropped down from the hills and us getting closer to a full on beach life in Sri Lanka.