If you leave Chennai by 6 in the morning you can reach the hilltop before 10 a.m. The drive is pleasant as the early morn traffic is negligible and the road is in good condition, yes the National Highway 4 is real good. The 250-km distance does not seem tedious.

From Vaniyambadi it takes half an hour to reach Yelagiri. You can also take the morning train and get off at Jolarpet; from there buses take you uphill.

Yelagiri is small hill and a far cry from say Ooty, Nainital or Kodaikanal, but it has a charm all its own. There are 14 hairpin bends, named after Tamil kings and poets like Paari and Kamban. The hill is a cluster of 14 villages and is 1045 metres above mean sea level. As you'd have guessed by now, the day temperature is not anywhere near cool, but the evenings and nights certainly are, all year round, affirm the residents. Like Chennai, only October and November are the monsoon months.

Yelagiri is a good summer weekend getaway spot. Jackfruit, pepper and honey are plentiful.

The Tourism Department has of late stepped up efforts to make this a sought after destination. The nature park with its aquarium, mini artificial waterfall, and fountains is an attraction. Paragliding is catching on. The Government-sponsored Kodai (summer) Vizha is a looked forward to event in the town's calendar.

Kids love the dog show which is held during the summer fest. Though the Punganur lake is not big or impressive, boating is popular here. The Jalagamparai waterfalls is a five-km trek away. Do not venture on it for seldom do you find water in there.

The six-acre park adjacent to the lake is a fun place with play areas for kids and lovely big trees and plants and a well-laid path out for walking.

There are a few upmarket resorts, several moderately priced hotels and also guest houses. The YMCA Yelagiri Camp Centre sprawls over a scenic 30 acres of fruit trees, vegetable garden, pepper, coffee and boasts of good facilities for group activities. Even while we were there, got to see busloads of NSS students and others descending in droves.

There are over 30 double bedrooms, cottages and dormitories. We went trekking a cool 1000 feet from the base to reach the top - a mountain-top experience it was.

For details, contact the YMCA Secretary George Prince at 9486723499.