That fresh breath of air, that heavenly view from a peak amidst the clouds, or the serene beaches with the sound of waves crashing the shore. Travel is the one thing that keeps us alive and gives hope to live this magic called life. From being to places we have never been to, to talk to strangers we have never known, travel is something that constantly reminds us of how small we are in this world. Now, of all the time in the world, it is not right to talk about travel. Considering the Coronavirus pandemic that is going on all around the world, the best thing we all can do is to stay at home. But I'm pretty sure about how everyone is longing for this lockdown to end so that they could grab their backpacks, put on their travel gear and disappear in the woods again. Until then, you can relive those travel moments with this blog, which I'm sure everyone can connect with. This blog is about a trip that my friends and I did days after the new year of 2019.
It was three days past the new year, and that's when we decided to take a trip to one of the not so popular hill stations in Tamil Nadu, Yercaud hills. Though Yercaud is somewhat familiar with the locals of the state, it is comparatively not famous and popular like the other hill stations, Ooty and Kodaikanal. Yercaud also is quite small and has only limited destinations for tourists. So, why Yercaud? My friends and I always have a thing for the unexplored places, those places where only a small set of people have set foot on, those places which have limited access, those places which are not overcrowded by the tourists, those places whose roads are not taken, yet. If there is one thing I could recall and smile about now when I think of my college days, it's the numerous trips we had on our bikes. My friends and I always preferred traveling on our bikes to explore places, solely for the amazing experience it is.
We filled our bikes with fuel, checked the air on the tires, packed the essentials, and were all set for our journey towards the hills. We planned a two day trip to Yercaud by starting early on the first day and returning by dusk on the second day. It was the 4th of January 2019, time at 5.30 am, I started from my house towards the place where I would join my friends. It's always a beautiful feeling when you wake up early, all geared up to do something your heart wants when others are fast asleep. The early morning chillness with almost no one on the roads makes you realize what kind of an odd yet daring choice you have made to live your life. It was almost 6 am when we started our 4-hour long(that's what Google Maps said so) journey towards the Yercaud hills from our hometown of Trichy. We were a group of four for this trip, and we traveled on two bikes, two on each bike. As always, that inexplicable feeling of cruising on our bikes, against the cold wind that usually is in the early mornings, is something every single person in the world should experience.
It is always an amazing feeling to wake up before the sun, that too while riding the bike headed for the hills. We were cruising on our bikes when the sun slowly rose on the east side. We saw the sun as he woke up from the horizon shining through the grass fields that were on the side. I wish we had the time then to put our bikes to a halt to take a look at how beautiful and magical the sunrise was. But we were on a schedule and we did not want to be late for ascending the hairpin bends in the hills. On the four hours long journey, we made our first pit stop after an hour and a half for our morning food.
We halted at a bus stop which was quite empty at that time, so we all took our places comfortably and opened the bag. Thanks to our pre-planning, we had bread and jam enough for the four of us. Time is always crucial in such rides because once you lose time, there is no coming back. So, we prefer to have our food on the way like this during the mornings to save time, and also the effort of searching for a decent restaurant.
We finished our breakfast and resumed the journey on our machines towards the hills. Sun was up, and it was that time of the morning where people come out in groups to tea stalls and graze through the newspapers to know what's up with the world. Luckily, our route towards the Yercaud was not entirely on National Highways, we needed to ride along the much smaller state highways. The sight of villages and the not so robotic village people were pleasant to watch along the ride. We continued cruising towards Salem, a city that is located at the foot of Yercaud hills. It was around 9.30 am when we reached the city, and we all deserved a break. After a short 10 minute break, we headed towards the hills, all ready to tackle the mighty hairpin bends. We crossed the Forest Tollbooth approximately 20 minutes later and started ascending the hills. At around 10 am, after riding through pretty decent roads, we reached our very first destination, the 60 feet bridge.
60 feet bridge is a famous pit stop on the Yercaud Ghat road that takes us to the top of Yercaud. Along with the main road, there is a very old bridge made of steel to the side of it. This makes for the pit stop and is quite famous among the bike riders, and tourists in general. This place also gives one a panoramic view of the beautiful city of Salem. We halted there and took a little stroll along the rocks for a few minutes. Though the place was not that vibrant, I did click a few pictures including one where the sun glares through a little peak. When we came back to our bikes, we were greeted by the curious creatures, the monkeys. They looked at us like they wanted to know what we were doing in their territory. We stood there for a while, and also I managed to click some portraits of the beautiful monkey. There were no surprises because they are the usual kind of monkeys one encounters on hill stations. We bid them farewell and braced ourselves for the adventure that awaits us, in the form of hairpin bends.
Yercaud has a total of 20 hairpin bends that start right after we take a turn from the 60 feet bridge. The roads are well maintained, which makes up for amazing riding experience. We rode slow, also enjoying the spellbinding nature that's on the sides. Yercaud's hairpin bends are not that dangerous compared to other hill stations, but one always needs to proceed with caution. It took us almost half an hour to reach Yercaud after winning over the hairpin bends. As soon as we got to the top, the chillness kicked in which made us realize where we were. We booked a hotel the previous day, for that night's stay, but the check-in time was noon. We were well aware of the fact that we would arrive early, so we decided to cover a famous spot before checking into the hotel. We headed straight to the Yercaud Lake, which also had a boathouse in it, providing boats to go on the lake. There is also a small Eco-tourism park, also known as Deer Park, located on an island within the Yercaud lake. Initially, we thought of taking a boat to go on boating over the lake, but things turned out quite differently.
Once we reached there, we checked and realized that the price for the boats, even for four of us, was way too expensive. We did not think it would be a clever spend, so we dropped the idea of boating, and went to the lake for solely clicking some pictures. The lake was quite empty and looked so calm, maybe it will get crowded by the evenings, we thought to ourselves. I explored the place, went near the boats, and experimented several shots at different angles. Boats with manual pedals made some interesting subjects, in which I also loved the harsh shadows caused by the scorching sun. While going for the low angle shot of the boat, I noticed some weird plant that grew over the lake. With the sunlight shining over the lake, the water plants made some amazing green textures against the black backdrop. Then the idea of an Eco-tourism park on an island excited us, and we thought of exploring it. The park was within the lake, connected only by a wooden bridge from the mainland. As they say that life is full of surprises, we didn't know what was coming for us.
Our expectations were quite low for the eco-tourism park, but we were taken by surprise. We were welcomed by the screaming of peacocks inside a huge cage, with their vibrant feathers glowing with the sunlight. I got into full wildlife mode, stretching, bending, and even crouching to get the perfect shot. Next, there were these comparatively small cages, with super cute rabbits in it. There were a lot of rabbits inside of a single cage, and the photographer in me didn't miss the chance. I also noted some spotted deer, lying on the ground unable to withstand the scorching sun. Park also had some slides and swings for children to play, and the park looked apt for people, especially the elderly to go for their evening walks. There was also a watchtower which gave a beautiful view of the entire lake. We clicked some portraits for ourselves around that tower and returned to our bikes.
It was almost noon, and we were hungry considering how early we had our breakfast. So, we finished our lunch at a hotel near the lake and headed straight to the hotel. The hotel was located in an almost forest-like area, which took us quite some time to locate it. The hotel as a whole was small, but it did have some spacious rooms more than enough for the four of us. We rested for a while, checked the view from the hotel before planning on the next location. We didn't come all way from Trichy to just rest in our rooms, so we started on our bikes for the next spot.
Our next spot was Lady's seat (I know, the name is weird) which is an observation tower offering a panoramic view of the valley. Lady's seat is accompanied by Gent's Seat and Children's seat, all of them being watchtowers offering scenic views. There is also a telescope at Lady's seat through which people can look at the valley. We reached there around 4 in the evening after making a few stops in the middle to photograph some interesting street scenes. Once we reached, we were spellbound by the breathtaking view from the Lady's seat. We spent some time there clicking amazing panoramas until we got distracted by the tempting smell that came from the local eateries next to the viewpoint. We sat down on the creaky chairs they had put for the customers and started munching everything and anything that was made. Maybe we got distracted by all the eating, that we almost forgot about the closing time of Gent's Seat and Children's seat.
One needs to walk some distance from Lady's seat to reach Gent's seat, and some more distance from there to reach the Children's seat. But by the time we reached Gent's seat, it was almost closing time and we were denied entry. We called it a day and returned to the hotel for the rest that our bodies deserved. Not sure how time passed, but it was almost night and we went out for our dinner. Initially, we thought of having dinner and exploring the nightlife in the city a bit. But the temperature was so cold that we couldn't even step out of our rooms. We decided to wake up early the next day to witness the sunrise, so we set the alarms and went to bed. It was definitely not easy to wake up in such a cold morning, ride the bike, to go witness the sunrise. But we had already decided Pagoda Point as the spot where we would witness the sunrise. After battling against the cold temperature and the laziness that comes along with it, we reached the Pagoda point around 6.30 in the morning.
Have you ever felt like that the only reason you have been alive all your life is to witness that particular moment? That magical moment, that takes your breath away. That magical moment, that makes you question the reality. That is exactly how we felt, standing there and watching the sun slowly rise behind the mountains to shower its rays all over the valley. We stood there awestruck looking and wondering how beautiful mother nature is! It took us a couple more minutes, to come back to our senses and to pick up the camera to start shooting. We knew then that what we were witnessing was nothing short of magic, and no camera could do justice to it. Anyway, we tried capturing the mystical sunrise over the valley as real as possible. We also noticed settlements on the valley with even a temple near it, on top of which the sun rays was showering. I managed to capture several images with the same horizon so that I could later stitch them into a panorama. There was also a watchtower at the Pagoda point which gave a slightly different kind of view. We captured the surreal moment as much as possible and headed back to the hotel.
We only had one location to visit before returning home, and that was the seasonal Kiliyur falls. We checked out of the hotel and headed straight to the falls. Though Kiliyur falls is one of the famous tourist spots of Yercaud, it is neither easy nor advisable for everyone to give it a try. One needs to climb down more than 200 steep steps spanning a distance of almost 2 kilometers to reach the falls. We did manage to reach the falls after a while, but the trek took a toll on our bodies. We were tired by the time we reached the falls and to our dismay, there was only a little water flowing through the rocks. Though it was disappointing, we were undeterred and used it as an opportunity to shoot those silky long exposures of the falls. Though the surrounding was calm and peaceful, there was nothing much to do there. So, we did the tiresome climb up and started our journey back home.
From having breakfast at a bus stop to witnessing the magical sunrise at the Pagoda point, the trip was nothing short of a lifetime experience for me. Though a lot of things didn't turn out as planned, we stood undeterred always getting the best out of every situation. And I guess that's one life lesson each one of us will remember forever. At these demanding times, being locked down in our homes all day, we all should stand undeterred without losing hope. We all should wait for things to get better so that we can pack our bags and travel again. Until then, stay home, stay safe.