The Telegraph
Monday , December 3 , 2012
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A boat ride down Lake Periyar

Much before the sun had dipped in picture postcard-perfect Munnar, I managed to travel an extra 20-odd kilometres to reach the village of Chinnakanal where a knuckle of mountains greets visitors to the luxurious resort of Terrace Greens. Shut away from the hustle and bustle of the nearby town, this is where tranquillity resides.

Though completely exhausted by the two-odd hour journey from Cochin, the receptionist didn’t waste time shooting a list of places-to-visit and things-to-do. Yes, Chinnakanal and its surroundings appear simple but there is much to see and, needless to say, much to do.

But first things first, it was time to glance through the restaurant menu on which authentic Keralite dishes jostle for space with those from around the world. The adventurer in me wanted a sadya meal, which usually comprises 12-16 dishes served on a banana leaf and then there was the Planters Kitchen with its gourmet fare.

After a good night’s sleep it was time to explore. There are a few great options for tourists, like the Tata Tea Estates that offers a welcome break to city dwellers from the monotony of grey skyscrapers. A narrow road winds through lush green tea gardens where you can just wander or enjoy a quick cuppa. For those with some time at hand, there is the Anayirankal Dam, an ever-popular spot for honeymooners to cosy up and click pictures by a lake on which the beauty of fragmented clouds gets reflected.

Walk on the wild side

Having drunk in the beauty of Munnar and Chinnakanal, I was ready for some adventure and there was plenty of it in Thekkady. Checking into Thekkady Woods Spice was enough to offer me a glimpse of things to come. After all, it shares boundaries with the Periyar Tiger Reserve! Before venturing out, a stroll around the hotel premises is recommended, for there are enough jackfruit-chomping black langurs lurking among trees.

Kathakali show in Thekkady

Things become far more intoxicating once you are out in the open taking a one-and-a-half-hour boat ride down lake Periyar. Make sure you are armed with a DSLR and a binocular because droves of bisons, tribes of monkeys and herds of deer rule the area. The lucky ones can even chance upon a herd of elephants or tigers.

Another high of my trip (believe it or not) was an hour-long Kathakali show. What was so special about it? Visitors, especially shutterbugs, turning up at the venue before showtime can watch dancers put their make-up on!

River of dreams

By a stroke of luck, the final leg of my trip started on Onam. This meant that I had the opportunity to see intricate pookalam (similar to alpona but with flowers) motifs while entering Tamil Nadu and experiencing a climatic change. If the plains were a furnace, the gradual climb up the mountains brought with it a considerable dip in temperatures and by the time I reached my last Sterling Holidays address, Kodai by the Lake (previously known as Lake View), it was freezing cold. Thankfully, there are enough pine trees and a placid lake to warm one’s vision.

Lake Kodaikanal obviously is the biggest attraction here, especially in the morning. Magnificent is too small an adjective to describe Kodaikanal, which means “gift of the forest”. The breeze from the lake is cool enough to force a fitness freak to break into a jog, though there is the option for a boat ride down this man-made lake. Almost 60 acres of flawless pine trees against a clear sky is the place for romance.

The lake and Silver Cascade need to be seen together. This is one of the prettiest waterfalls in the world created by excess water from the lake and even at 180ft, the water is crystal clear… a treat for sore city eyes.

Tea pickers at the Tata Tea Estates

Walk the line

A long walk was necessary to clear the head and Coaker’s Walk was the perfect medicine. Named after Lt. Coaker, the path meanders through mountains while allowing a panoramic view of the Pamba River and Periyakulam. The deafening silence allows one to appreciate a sunrise or sunset.

What made this trip special? Be it floating down a lake, breathing the scent of spices along forest paths or going on a long walk, the Munnar-Thekkady-Kodaikanal stretch leaves tourists with a warm glow. And, unsurprisingly, the wilderness frees one from the human zoo that any city has become.

Text and pictures: Pramita Ghosh