Last weekend I visited Yelagiri – a quiet, quintessential hill station with pretty views of rolling mountains and green fields.
Situated at a height of about of 1200m the assent to hill town is not too steep neither tumultuous- a great attribute for those who get sick or dizzy while making their way along hairpins that circle around the mountain like ribbons on a party hat. We boarded a train from Chennai to Jolarpettai, the nearest railway station to Yelagiri. It takes about 40mins from Jolarpettai to reach Yelagiri.
We started the ride on a high note, low road and made our way up gradually onto the high roads still on a high note. As the car twisted and turned and thankfully my stomach didn’t churn in the same way, I was able to look down at the peaceful green view that expanded in vastness and grew more and more alluring as we climbed higher and higher. The view points along the sinuous path were worth stopping and clicking away panoramic views of the valley below. The floor was covered magnificently with uniform dark shades of green signifying paddy cultivation interspersed with light green from vegetation and small blocks of homes, schools and buildings. The roads and pathways of the cities of Ponneri and Vaniyambadi were visible only when we screwed our eyes enough to concentrate and focus.
The car then entered the main road of Yelagiri, and as we whisked past one side of the divider, we saw advertisements of resorts and hotels, restaurants, tiny kirana shops and toy shops all lined on either side of the road. Then quite unexpectedly did we see the cardboard boat hanging from one entrance on the road, our driver quickly pointing out it to be the famous Punganoor Lake where boating was the main attraction. Bang opposite to this was the Natural Park. Well, those would have to wait for now, as we approached our hotel, had a sumptuous lunch before venturing out in the evening to check out the Natural Park.
The Park is a good place to hang out with children, and has good walkways and about a dozen aquariums. Every evening there is a light and sound fountain show that we enjoyed in the darkness silhouetted against a background of pointed mountains.
The next day, we visited the Lake which is one of the main tourist attractions of Yelagiri. Before that a quick mention of the path that led to the lake gardens. You see once you enter under the boat archway, it is almost like you on some movie set. The road is bricked and there are shops along the lane selling spices, oils, homemade chocolates, tea of practically all flavours, honey and a dozen of other natural products that tourist visiting hill stations in India are very familiar with.
There is also an adventure sporting area, in fact, there a quite a few adventure sporting activities, such as paintball, zip lining, biking, tree walking and so on which are strewn in different parts on the town. It was good fun trying archery and shooting, and watching people scream while they glided down the zip line in fast motions.
Along the path that led to the lake, there were also women who were selling fresh fruits, such as, guavas, white jamuns, star fruit and nellika. With all these assortments of sweet and sour crunch playing in our mouths we finally entered the lake gardens and headed towards the boating area.
The view of the lake is somewhat like a surprise. Once inside the garden there is only green foliage to be seen around with narrow walk paths and a play area for children. It is only when you walk a little distance and see the rusted bridge do you realize you are near the lake. Once on the bridge you can only then see the full expanse of the lake surrounded by beautiful mountains on some sides, coconut trees on others, weeds and ferns and water plants scattered at one end and the protruding blue roof that allows you to take a place in a row or paddle boat at one side.
We walked the entire circumference of the lake (a feat I have to admit), as we crossed a herd of sheep, a few long tailed lizards scampering around, dogs, a massive broken trunk and many seats and benches to take a rest and inhale the view. Finally, we made our way to the boating area and sat put in a row boat, with our guide rowing serenely as our eyes roved around and enjoyed every bit of the landscape around us. As fellow boaters paddled and rowed and as we touched the waters under us, the sun shone on the water and the breeze was gentle.
Besides the Puganoor lake and Natural Park, another major attraction in Yelagiri are the Swami Malai Hills. Trekkers enjoy this climb up the hills, till one reaches the Swami Malai Temple to watch an amazing view of the surroundings.
The Jalagamparai Waterfalls obviously are touted as the best tourist place to visit, however, unfortunately our holiday wasn’t timed too well. The waterfalls are best seen during and after the rains but in the month of August since there is no water in the stream the waterfalls are nonexistent. The waterfalls are a good 35km away from Yelagiri, therefore, it is always good to check with the locals before venturing out to take a dip in the falls.
Apart from these major tourist places, Yelagiri does not have much else to offer to do and see. There are of course the adventure sports and if you visit with a large group, these can be really fun and easily keep you occupied for a large part of the day.
Yelagiri is thus, extremely enjoyable to those who are looking for some quiet time. Most hotels and resorts provide great views from the balconies and windows of the surrounding hills, and I was never short of excitement and freshness, every single time I shifted the curtains of the long window in my room to take in the view of the hills and country side outside. In fact, I was quite lucky to have a room facing a field with a well in the middle and trees and paddy and vegetation growing in different parts. On an early morning, I made way with my son into the field, making him sit on the tractor, making him identify the guava and custard apple tree and walking across to the well at the centre. The well looked deep and huge and the imposing steps inside the hollow were a sight. Lined high on the inside walls of the well, were weaver bird nests, all elongated and enclosed and precariously dangling.
Three days well spent in Yelagiri was what I thought as I descended down the same mountain, in the same car, watching technically the same view, but which looked different every time I saw it. Making those view point stops all over again we waved goodbye to views that we never will be able to see in our cities.
Yelagiri, is well worth a visit if you stay somewhere in south India and a great weekend getaway for travelers.