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Longing for the woods

View of Rat Tail Falls in Kodaikanal hills

View of Rat Tail Falls in Kodaikanal hills

This is the perfect time for travelling into the forest for a hike. With clouds playing hide-and-seek over fabulous viewpoints, and wooded trekking paths, the hills of Kodaikanal are just the summer escape you could be looking for. From flat lazy trails to challenging forest trails for the adventurous, there is something for everyone. And the best part? You have the option of going both on and off the path oft taken.

Irrespective of the trekking route you choose, you are never out of touch with Nature in Kodaikanal. So, ready your backpacks and arm yourselves with a good pair of breathable, waterproof hiking shoes, binoculars and camera and set off to enjoy the sweet-smelling clean air and a change of scenery.

There are a dozen-and-a-half trekking routes identified by the Forest Department in and around Kodaikanal in the Palani hill ranges, and most of them require prior permission. For beginners, it is best to zig zag along tiny footpaths that scale the ridges, walk through the elevations of cedar and eucalyptus trees, and onward through dense vegetation of ferns and pines. If you can blank out the vehicles and tourists going up and down the Kodai hills, you will be able to imagine the landscape as an unspoilt rolling countryside with panoramic views in all directions.

 Madurai, 26/04/2013. : A few Indian Gaurs seen on Rifle Range Road near a private School in Kodaikanal, Tamilnadu.-Photo:S_James

Madurai, 26/04/2013. : A few Indian Gaurs seen on Rifle Range Road near a private School in Kodaikanal, Tamilnadu.-Photo:S_James

You can choose to walk through the upper and lower shola roads that run through the dense evergreen forests. The 25-hectare patch of woods lying within the municipal limits and adjacent to the Kodaikanal Lake is known as the Bombay Shola and harbours unique biodiversity. It is not difficult to spot the Indian Giant Squirrel playing on the non-native eucalyptus tree or perched on Himalayan cherry and Blackwood trees, or the Grey-breasted Laughing Thrush and the Black-and-orange Flycatcher. Large purple orchids in bloom or herds of gaur passing through the shola on the way to Bryant Park and the lawns of lakeside bungalows can leave you awestruck.

Make your way to Berijam Lake or through the conifer forest that coils up the ghat section from Uthuperumalmalai to Adukkam. Or, take a shorter trek from Shenbaganur and Korappur to the Adukkam forests, replete with wooded slopes and tall trees, rocks and grasslands. The climb becomes steep and the deciduous forests give way to savannah forests that lead to a different trekking path to Batlagundu. Wherever the forest walk ends, the moderate hike begins.

An equally beautiful green house awaits at Poolathur, where every step you take on the narrow curving traffic-free road unfolds a landscape. Once home to a tribal settlement, rains revive the several dormant waterfalls around here, and mist curls up to form a soundproof wall. Several muddy tracts traverse the hill side, and as you walk deeper, silence and solitude take over. Parts of the forest are demarcated as reserve forests, while the areas closer to private farms and estates are open and free for trekking.

DINDIGUL: 27/05/2015: A bird sitting on a branch of a tree and enjoying the climate in Kodaikanal, Tamilnadu. PHOTO: G. KARTHIKEYAN. (Standalone Picture) DINDIGUL: 27/05/2015: A bird sitting on a branch of a tree and enjoying the climate in Kodaikanal, Tamilnadu. PHOTO: G. KARTHIKEYAN. (Standalone Picture) - DINDIGUL: 27/05/2015: A bird sitting on a branch of a tree and enjoying the climate in Kodaikanal, Tamilnadu. PHOTO: G. KARTHIKEYAN. (Standalone Picture)

DINDIGUL: 27/05/2015: A bird sitting on a branch of a tree and enjoying the climate in Kodaikanal, Tamilnadu. PHOTO: G. KARTHIKEYAN. (Standalone Picture) DINDIGUL: 27/05/2015: A bird sitting on a branch of a tree and enjoying the climate in Kodaikanal, Tamilnadu. PHOTO: G. KARTHIKEYAN. (Standalone Picture) - DINDIGUL: 27/05/2015: A bird sitting on a branch of a tree and enjoying the climate in Kodaikanal, Tamilnadu. PHOTO: G. KARTHIKEYAN. (Standalone Picture)

Kookal makes for another scenic junction of verdant hills with four types of ecosystems — swamp, grassland, freshwater and shola. This Southern Montane wet temperate forest is home to rare fern, rudraksha and shenbagam trees, butterflies and several relatively uncommon birds. The Kookal Lake runs through the middle of the sholas surrounded by grasslands, and it makes for a wonderful camping site. From here, it is a 13-kilometre trek to the Kudiraiyar dam with waterfalls and deciduous forests. The other is the eight-kilometre route to the Kookal natural rock cave formations on a hill top.

No matter where you are in Kodaikanal, the hills are like a magnet for walkers. The only thing you need to do is know your limits and trust your body’s ability. And yes, beware of leeches during the rainy season.


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Printable version | Jun 26, 2022 1:05:50 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/travel/this-summer-get-set-to-hit-the-forest-trail-the-kodaikanal-hills-are-home-to-interesting-trekking-routes-that-take-you-past-panoramic-landscapes/article18268951.ece