Travel

The lesser-known sister of Kodi!

CLOSER TO THE CLOUDS: Dawn break at Vattakanal. Photo: A. Shrikumar  

During my numerous trips to Kodaikanal, the most charming of hill towns in the country, I have always had something new to experience. Kodi never fails to surprise her visitors and on one such recent trip, I was left in awe at the sheer secrets she contains. One such treasured little-ventured pocket is Vattakanal, just seven kilometres above the main town of Kodaikanal that has luckily escaped commercialisation.

So here I was, with two new-found friends doing the chameleon fete. On a Saturday night, this was the last thing I had in mind – scaling up a rocky cliff on four limbs! Like those tree lizards, we held on to the rocks, setting our nails deep into the soft mosses on the surface and climbed up. As a first timer, I took long breaks and panted my heart out before I could conquer the 500 metre stretch. And this the locals described as ‘just a walk up’.

By the time we reached the little cottage for our night stay, I was peering into vast darkness. But there were little sparkles peeping back at me – the stars! They shined like diamonds against the black mantle of the sky, showering a faint silvery light over the little hamlet of Vattakanal. Far away, somewhere in the middle of the valley, groups of lights glittered in the town of Periyakulam in Theni district.

An evening stroll around Vatta is something special. The single main road in the town offers a mesmerising view of the circular valley (Vatta in Tamil means circle), surrounded by mountains. Between the few cars and bikes parked along the road, one may also be greeted by giant Indian gaurs that are almost as common as stray dogs here.

Vattakanal attracts lone backpackers and hippies from across the globe. Especially Israelis have taken a liking to the place as they believe in Vatta flows a spiritual energy.

Another must-do in Vatta is a visit to the quaint little Altaf’s café, a cozy restaurant perched on a cliff that offers Israeli and Italian cuisine. Altaf’s is an Utopian setting for artists, singers, music lovers, writers and anyone who nurtures love and passion for some creativity. Between bites of the pita with chickpea sauce (Humus) and puffs of cigarettes, one could see them discuss philosophy. Some also play the Guitar or the Didgeridoo in the evenings.

Everyone at Vatta walks in a reverie, immersed in a world of their own. We too walk back like zombies to retire for the night, but only to return early in the morning to see the sun rise up from behind the mountains. At dawn break, the bowl of Vatta gets lit up in a yellow glow and with the mist still hugging to the peaks of Kodi hills, it looks absolutely dreamy! Surely, a visit to Vattakanal can bring you close to your own self and the Gods.

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Printable version | Oct 23, 2020 1:44:17 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/travel/a-day-out-in-vattakanal-an-underexplored-hamlet-in-kodaikanal/article7565932.ece

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