#CoffeeWithTripoto Kodaikanal: Billion Stars Hotel

1st Sep 2017


Photo of #CoffeeWithTripoto Kodaikanal: Billion Stars Hotel by Vaibhav Kashyap


A wave of Goosebumps, crawls under my skin with a rush of adrenaline through my veins to live with the peaks and the valleys, the seas and the beaches, the waterfalls and the lakes, and the skies sum up my affair with the wonder and the beauty of the earth. This eternal affection, brings my wandering soul out of the cocoon.

The big great world out there is awaiting for the awestruck stories to be made and I, here with one of my stories, a solo travel to Kodaikanal (the princess of the hill stations) and camping in the nearby forest range 'Mannavanur'.

Photo of #CoffeeWithTripoto Kodaikanal: Billion Stars Hotel 1/1 by Vaibhav Kashyap

A week before the journey

I came through Exoticamp website and found 'Kodai mountain camping' event. The itinerary description looks so promising that without giving any second thought, I booked for the camping event.

As I had three holidays in a row, so I engaged my 1.5 days for the Kodaikanal camping event, and the rest 1.5 days, I left it totally unplanned. Former half of the journey, was there to leave me boggled amidst the nature and the rest half of the journey, was there to enjoy an impromptu exploration.

Day 1

A spectacular welcome by the Palani Hills

The Saturday, around 7.00 a.m., my bus, stopped at Batlagundu (60 kms away from Kodai, off the Palani hills) for a short break. As I stepped out of the bus, my body felt a gush of cool breeze. This transition of weather from Chennai’s humid waves to Kodai region’s chill breeze was so exhilarating.

I was flabbergasted to see what a piece of art, god has spilled over that terrain. Geographically, I was standing in the playground of the gigantic mountains around, near the promising road towards heaven, and above, the sky was full of bright clouds with the hint of mist in the air. Meanwhile, weak though tantalizing sun rays, after trying hard to surpass the cloud sheet, made a way through them. It felt like the glamorous sun was ready to play peek-a-boo with the mountains.

Breathtaking view, on the way to Kodaikanal

Photo of Batlagundu, Tamil Nadu, India by Vaibhav Kashyap

Chennai to Kodaikanal

The Friday, mere this is a day name, but a bliss for the people with a mundane corporate life. As the office hours were proceeding, the excitement for travel was increasing. After dinner, I started from my office and caught the bus from the pickup location. I became weary off by that time, so as soon as I got my seat, I went into deep sleep. A great day was waiting ahead in the queue.

Receiving the mountain’s call

Photo of Kodaikanal Lake, Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu, India by Vaibhav Kashyap

Mannavanur! An exquisite date with the Mountains

At 10.00 a.m., Berin, one of the Exoticampers (those who join Exoticamp event), who was travelling with his family in a car, picked me up from the BSNL office. The way from Kodai to Mannavanur forest range is 35km long, but a stretch of 7-8 kms have bad road, so it took us another 2 hours to reach the campsite in Mannavanur. We reached there and from a far distance I got a glimpse of those pitched tents on the campsite. The geographical location of the campsite was speaking about its own beauty-

A series of the terrace farming mountains, adorned with the greens and the more of the carrot-saffrons were guarding the lush green meadow; and that meadow was hosting the campsite, backed by pine forest and echoed by the gurgling sound of the nearby water stream.

Campsite guarded by the giant pine trees

Photo of Mannavanur, Tamil Nadu, India by Vaibhav Kashyap
Photo of Mannavanur, Tamil Nadu, India by Vaibhav Kashyap
Day 2

The Treacherous Trek day

Wee hours have never been so calm as it were. I woke up to the chirping of the birds, between the two mountains, I could see the red aura on the top when the earth was about to give birth to a new day. The campfire was still holding that spirit to fight away the darkness, and I, cornered myself from the human race, standing near the fire, watching the aesthetic work of god.

A misty treat

Photo of Mannavanur, Tamil Nadu, India by Vaibhav Kashyap

The summit: Mannavanur Lake

After a continuous trek for 3.5 hours, we reached the summit. There was the placid lake, in the swampy area, all guarded by the pine forest of Mannavanur forest range.

Blue Skies, Green Water, Red Earth

Photo of Mannavanur Lake, Mannavanur, Tamil Nadu, India by Vaibhav Kashyap
Day 3

Back to the mountain city

Early morning, I woke up, and geared up for the mountain city again. After breakfast, I boarded on the SETC bus to Kodaikanal. With the help of local buses & hitch hiking, I covered all these beautiful places in the city.

Photo of Coaker's Walk, Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu, India by Vaibhav Kashyap
Photo of Pillar Rocks Road, Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu, India by Vaibhav Kashyap
Photo of Guna Caves, Dindigul, Tamil Nadu, India by Vaibhav Kashyap
Photo of Pine Tree Forest, Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu, India by Vaibhav Kashyap
Photo of Guna Caves, Dindigul, Tamil Nadu, India by Vaibhav Kashyap
Photo of Green Valley View Point Walkway, Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu, India by Vaibhav Kashyap
Photo of Silver Cascade Falls, Kodaikanal Ghat Road, Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu, India by Vaibhav Kashyap

This picturesque view gave me goosebumps, and a perfect breakfast for the soul. Apart from soulful meal, I had filter coffee (famous South Indian coffee) along with the gulp of cold breeze.

En-routing Kodaikanal

Photo of #CoffeeWithTripoto Kodaikanal: Billion Stars Hotel by Vaibhav Kashyap

Next 1.5 hours, the bus was en-routing the mountain road and was enjoying the hairpin turns, so did we. At 9.00 a.m., I reached BSNL exchange office (near Kodai lake), the drop point.

A walk around the serene Kodaikanal lake, the aura slightly touched by the sunlight, the sky full of restless birds, the water body with the paddling ducks and the song of silence, wasn't it a perfect morning start?

Happy go camping

As I reached closer to the tents, I met other jovial campers. It was quite exhilarating to meet all the travel enthusiasts there. Through talks, I came to know that a few of them had hit the cross country roads, while a few had conquered the expedition to Mt. Everest.

Post an introduction session, I checked into my tent and got ready to take a dive into the cold water stream. Though, water was cold enough to chill down the spine, but it was quite rejuvenating to take a plunge in. After spending pretty much time out there, I had authentic mountain food served well by the organizers.

A dive into the cold water stream

Photo of #CoffeeWithTripoto Kodaikanal: Billion Stars Hotel by Vaibhav Kashyap

A couple of hours before the evening, we started to ascend for a small trek of 3 kms toward a land laden with lush green long grasses. Crossing the water stream, finding a way through the pine forest, we proceeded. After trekking for an hour or less, I saw the huge land, which was full of green, guarded by the pine trees all around, a few horses were the guest of honor.

A place few miles away, where there is no illusionary life race, but the rendezvous of your soul and you; a place where there is no honking of human-made disasters, but the music of nature; a place which is not having what you want but have all what you need.

Photo of #CoffeeWithTripoto Kodaikanal: Billion Stars Hotel by Vaibhav Kashyap

When the sun was about to kiss the earth, and the sky was about to adorn with the twinkling heavenly bodies, we reached back to the camp. Soon we set up the campfire and sat around, resting amidst the nature stay, we were served well with the high tea.

A meeting with the people from the various places, but with the same passion, always bestowed with the endless storytelling session. It’s always been a great experience to hear travel stories of the strangers on the go.

I sometimes wonder, how a partially introvert person could turn into an extrovert, on while solo travelling. Maybe that's the perk of being on a solo trip, it brings the glittering person out of a dull corpse. Indeed, Travelling is that magical catalyst which converts an inert gas into an effervescent one.

Photo of #CoffeeWithTripoto Kodaikanal: Billion Stars Hotel by Vaibhav Kashyap

After dinner, I was staring at the sky, wondering how rich is the sky to have all those diamonds; yet I was there standing under no roof but I felt like being a guest in the billion stars hotel.

Photo of #CoffeeWithTripoto Kodaikanal: Billion Stars Hotel by Vaibhav Kashyap

The night was getting cold and the sheet of dew and mist started prevailing the aura. Now, it was the time to check in to the luxurious suite of billion stars hotel.

Post breakfast, we started the day long trek to Mannavanur lake. It was an overall 12 kms trek, 6 up-6 down, our trail had terrace farms, pine forest, water streams, and the big lake at the culmination point. Treading across the jungle, choosing the path by listening to the stream's sound, analyzing the wild shrubs on the way made us feel into the wild.

Photo of #CoffeeWithTripoto Kodaikanal: Billion Stars Hotel by Vaibhav Kashyap

A dream house, high up the mountain, kissing the blue sky with the embellishment of pearl like beaded clouds around the neck. And a fine cocktail of gurgling water stream and soul soothing rhythm by the silence of the valley makes my heart skip a beat.

Travel makes you go through many halts before the destination, where you might not get the answers to your questions, but definitely you will get what you need to be asked within. Sitting for a small fraction of daytime there, beside a placid lake, I went along an introspective journey.

Around 3 p.m., we started back to the base camp. Within 1.5 hours, we reached back to the zero. After having gone through moderate trek for the day, we had a luscious meal prepared by the locals.

Although we didn't want to go back, but now it was the time for wrapping up. We set off the tents, rolled over the sleeping bags, stuffed the backpack, and we piled up the memory bag with a lot of wonders. It was a lovely experience to meet all like-minded strangers, to create a new travel story with them. After bidding adieu, all the exploring feet scattered apart towards their next destination.

The unplanned

When the sun settled down and the dusk prevailed, I reached near the Kodaikanal Lake. As this mountain city is a major tourist attraction, one need to reserve for accommodation in well advance. My latter half journey had just begun, so firstly, I had to find an accommodation place. I went one after another many hotels, but not a single room was available anywhere. I was facing the consequences of my decision of not to do any prior bookings.

After many of these rejections, I gave a stop to the search and then grabbed food near bus stand area. Having no certainty about where to crash in for the night, I thought of all the possible steps that I could do, like either to sleep in the bus stand’s waiting hall full of mosquitoes or to catch government state transport bus to Chennai. By this hour of giving up on the latter journey part, I decided to take bus to Chennai.

Suggestion: As there is no direct government bus from Kodaikanal to Chennai, one can do break journey in this way: Kodaikanal ⇒ Batlagundu ⇒ Dindigul ⇒ Chennai.

I missed the last bus to Batlagundu, so, I went ahead by share-cab. Even though my Tamil speaking was not good, I had a quite good talk with driver in Tamil. I told him my scenario, then he helped me out by arranging a lodge room down off the hills, in Batlagundu. It was the cheapest possible room one could get with the basic comfort. For the upcoming morning, I made a plan to do sight-seeing in Kodaikanal.

The journey to Kodaikanal had come to an end, I started back to Chennai the same night.

Kodaikanal- The princess of the hill stations is a must go place for all the mountain lovers. See you back soon Kodai!

Disclaimer: The cover photo & some of the pictures used here are captured by Lenz Xpressions - a Berin's Click & Anbu Raja - the Exoticamp photographers, the rest pictures are captured by me through Moto g3.

Keep Exploring!