Seven of us planned to celebrate the bday of one of my cousins in a different way and planned the trip to Hampi. However, due to the Hampi festival, we had to change our plans at the last minute.
We had booked an XUV500 from Zoomcar for our drive and it was available for 2 whole days & only 420 kms for the amount that we had paid. Last minute bookings were made at the TTDC Hotel Tamilnadu, overlooking the Yercaud lake and we zoomed off.
The tamilnadu checkpost road tax had a big queue, thanks to Sabarimala season and the guys at the checkpost were actually like robots.. fast and efficient. The amount was paid and we stopped for breakfast at what was originally a Kamat and is now Adhith Bhavan - after Hosur. The breakfast place was too crowded, thanks to the amazing marketing that those guys did at the first toll gate - we were given a bottle of water with the pamphlet of the hotel and some tissues. This small but good gesture on their part made wonders and we had to wait for a table. This was the first time I saw technology being used in a good way - the waiter took the orders on a mobile screen and the orders were relayed immediately to the kitchen for preparation with the table numbers.
I was happy driving and the road was excellent. One thing about the road to Yercaud is that there are no direction boards to direct you to the place until you venture inside Salem. The option is either to use GPS or ask people the route till you see the only directions board at a junction in Salem and to reach the Junction, you are bound to ask directions.
The road from Salem to Yercaud, a distance of 27 kms - was initially being repaired for the first couple of kms and then, the road is smooth. It is a single lane road and it would be best to follow lane discipline. You are asked to pay a toll for the road after the first of the 20 hairpin curves, post which the drive becomes all the more exciting.
Just like any other place, there are idiotic people who honk unnecessarily and create chaos in a smooth road. More than 60% of the weekend crowd at Yercaud is from Bangalore. I did not follow them but was more keen on enjoying the road peacefully. The XUV500 is such an amazing car to handle.. it took the hairpin bends like a breeze and within no time, I had crossed the first 5.
The road was being repaired at a few stretches and if you are behind a truck or some such heavy vehicle, God give you patience to stick behind him as you will rarely be allowed to overtake. The first 1000 feet above MSL has a lot of monkeys waiting for tourists to feed them.
The views of the ghats are amazing and the only pity is - there are no lay-byes to stop the car and take photos. The photography has to be done only through the window of the car - which is not that good an experience.
Of the 20 hairpin bends, the last few are almost together and have a tougher incline. These few hairpin bends are in the midst of Tea plantations and Orange plantations. Though we did not venture into any, we saw boards that suggested the same.
At Yercaud, you are welcomed by the Yercaud lake, which has a boating option. The entry to the lake is Rs. 20/- and the boat hire is an extra charge. The water is clean and does not stink as it does in Ooty. Be careful while you are on a pedalo.. the drunks will be keen to race with you or to test if you know swimming. If you are not comfortable in a pedalo, you can take a ride in a motorized boat or ask for a row boat in the lake. A boat is allowed on hire for 45 minutes and you will be tired paddling within 20 mins. Take your time and ensure that the boat is returned within the stipulated time - else you will lose your deposit.
Post the lake, you can go to the Ladies Seat, the Gent's seat (or the Pagoda Point) and the children's seat - a park under construction. Be prepared to pay for all the tolls for any place, from parking to photography. We visited the gent's seat and then, spent a lot of time at the children's seat / the park. The sunset view here is to die for. Post the sunset, visit the Ladies seat and take a look at the lights of Salem. You can also see the winding road and the headlights of the vehicles make the view mesmerizing.
There are very few tasty hotels and be prepared to compromize on luxury. The rooms to stay are comfortable. You could stay outdoors for longer and even for late night star gazing. The sky is very clear. The only issue for us that it was January and freezing cold.
After celebrating the birthday and having a lot of fun, we had a blissful sleep without any mosquitoes - Kinda surprising as the hotel overlooked the lake of still water.
The next morning, we pushed our lazy selves out of the bed and went to Montfort school - a school where Chiyaan Vikram studied. The school was open for visitors as it was a Sunday. We could have also visited the Kiliyur falls - we were told that the falls does not have water and is almost dry. Post our visit to the Montfort school, we visited a temple - the highest point in the Eastern Ghats. The road to the Shevarayan temple is a part of the famed loop road. On a clear day, you can see Mettur Dam from the view point. We were not able to. We also visited a botanical garden - it contains a glass house and also is home to an orchidarium.
We headed back to Bangalore around lunch time, had lunch at Salem. Parking at the hotel for Salem is an issue and the hotels which have ample parking facilities are not visible from the Salem Main road.
Be braced for increasing traffic from Krishnagiri itself and it took us more than 2 hours from Krishnagiri to Rajarajeshwari Nagar though we took the NICE road. Overall, a trip with lasting memories and a wish to be able to spend a lot more time at Yercaud.
This is a must-visit if you want a relaxed weekend.