Hidden Trails | Travel

Discover this unexplored getaway spot located less than 30 kms from Chennai Airport

The freshwater lake in Kumizhi

The freshwater lake in Kumizhi   | Photo Credit: Pradeep Kumar

The forever still and serene Kumizhi is an entry off the travelogue’s diary. It is also a perfect weekend getaway for Chennaiites sick of doing the same old trip to Puducherry

For a few seconds, after a colleague mentioned the name of Kumizhi as a possible place to scout for this column, I stood pondering. It is not exactly hidden, is it?

Of course, I was thinking of Kumily (in Idukki district of Kerala), the paradise upon Earth to which I had ridden in the past. But I was mistaken.

“This is near Tambaram,” he told me, and hardly an hour’s ride from my place of stay (according to Google Maps). I was intrigued, more so because of the endorsement he had given it as a quaint spot.

In sight

Note the difference in spelling: this sleepy settlement stowed away from the hustle and bustle of the GST Road (Guduvancherry bus stand located off the National Highway is around 13 kilometres from here) is spelt Kumizhi.

Take a detour off GST Road near Guduvancherry bus stand onto Nellikuppam road, or Vandalur near the Arignar Anna Zoological Park onto the Kelambakkam Road (before cutting right onto Nellikuppam Salai near Kandigai) to access Kumizhi.

The route to Kumizhi from Vandalur

The route to Kumizhi from Vandalur   | Photo Credit: Google Maps

I take a colleague along for the bike ride to Kumizhi on a wet winter morning. Rain-fed clouds hang over us throughout the trip like the Sword of Damocles, threatening to play spoilsport. Much later we realise that the dark skies add a whole new hue to the quaintness that we discover in abundance here.

Where to begin? The detour off Kandigai is a good point. The Vandalur-Kelambakkam Road is an unremarkable stretch of asphalt, dotted by concrete structures just as soon as you skip past the zoo — a stark reminder of the extent of urbanisation Chennai and its suburbs have undergone.

However, as soon as you get off the highway, a different world, with an old-world charm that can be found nowhere else in this cosmopolitan city, awaits.

Tranquil settlement

The landscape opens up to reveal a row of huts fixed by the side of a hillock.

A row of huts on the way to Kumizhi

A row of huts on the way to Kumizhi   | Photo Credit: Pradeep Kumar

Picture this like a shot right out of a car commercial: the two of us driving up the road in an SUV, and one of us puts our hands out to receive the little, crystal clear rain droplets oozing out of the grey skies; all this unfolds in slow motion while some dub step music plays in the background... and Cut!

You get the point, although I could not stop thinking of how this scenery would look like in the backdrop of the setting sun. For now, it is just a perfect wintry morning.

We feel a breath of fresh air, literally. The chill breeze that rubs against our cheeks and bodies is so full of oxygen, and devoid of the coarse particles of dust that most Chennaiites’ eyes are populated with.

And no, it isn’t some Rodney Atkins ‘Take a Back Road’ style course that takes you to Kumizhi; the road has a top grade black top, and offers as smooth a ride as they come.

You don’t reach Kumizhi until you spot a languid bus stop, which has the face of former Indian President APJ Abdul Kalam painted on it.

The row of trees that dot the bank of the freshwater lake

The row of trees that dot the bank of the freshwater lake   | Photo Credit: Pradeep Kumar

The structure was built only recently — in 2016, say locals. Nevertheless, it serves as a mile marker equivalent. A detour to the right from here leads you towards the unexplored wilderness of Kumizhi.

Road to nowhere

A little way past the local school, the road cuts into a freshwater lake. My colleague, perhaps caught in a trance by the beautiful sight in front of her, decides to get off the motorcycle, and walks up to the water body’s edges.

A couple of locals are fishing for fresh catch. Rows of trees which dot one side of the lake’s bank make for a resting spot — the kind where even families can get together for a barbeque. It is an amalgamation of all things deemed perfect for a getaway weekend.

Yet, there is more ground to cover. After spending over 30 minutes by the water body, taking in the bird noises and watching a snake take a swim in the waters, we push ahead.

The off-roading trail in Kumizhi is covered on both sides with thick vegetation

The off-roading trail in Kumizhi is covered on both sides with thick vegetation   | Photo Credit: Pradeep Kumar

The driving conditions don’t remain the same. The black topping gives way to a muddy trail.

What little asphalt is left of a road, that seemed to have been paved decades ago, also provides us a natural off-roading trail. It would have been perfect for a mountain bike, but we decide to push the Royal Enfield through, and it is not a regrettable decision.

The trail itself can feel spooky due to the thick vegetation that envelops it on both sides, and also because the only sound for around 10 minutes is coming off our vehicle. The thumps from the two wheeler, though, are not enough to drown out the tranquility of the place.

After a good 20 minutes of off-road adventure, we emerge on the other side of Kumizhi, at Nallambakkam, when we discover that there are buses which connect Kumizhi to Guduvancherry and Tambaram (55D, 60K, 55K are the few routes we notice).

In the next 15 minutes, the hidden trail is nothing more than a blip on the rear-view mirror, and we are shaken out of our dream visit by the blaring honk of an overtaking truck. It reminds us that Chennai lies ahead.

(This trail is best visited during daytime)

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In this column, we document the city’s lesser-known oases for you to explore.

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Printable version | Feb 27, 2020 11:31:47 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/discover-this-unexplored-getaway-spot-located-less-than-30-kms-from-chennai-airport/article30607608.ece

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