Poombarai - Day 01

Continued Form Here: Kodaikanal

 13th  January 2024

The bus to Poombarai was terribly crowded. There was no room to stand, let alone sit. Plenty of tourists and villagers had cramped into the metal box on wheels. I found some space but struggled to balance. On the footboard was a woman traveller from the West. The conductor scolded a few of us for carrying our bags. He asked us to give it to the people sitting. The bus took the winding road around the hills. In some places, it stopped due to traffic jams. I could hardly see outside the window. After about an hour and a half, we stopped at Poombarai. Many tourists got off here. 

Poombarai is about 1.8km downhill from where we were dropped off. During the walk, I got to speak to the westerner from the bus who had got off at the same place. Eleonora is from Italy and she is backpacking in India for 2 months. Since the Zostel at Poombarai was full, she had to stay in Kodaikanal. On this day, she had decided to explore the village of Poombarai. 

Along the way, I stopped at the view point from where the village, the surrounding fields and the mountains together formed a picture-perfect setting. Along the way, near this viewpoint is a small cafe run by a middle-aged lady named Jyothi. I joined Eleonora to have a cup of lemon tea there. The shop has a terrace which opens up to a perfect view of the village. 

The lemon tea, though a bit too sweet to my taste, was refreshing. The aroma of pudina leaves blended with the tangy taste of lime made the drink flavourful. Jyothi told me that she was building a room downstairs for tourists. She requested me to have a look at it. The single room with a kitchen attached would be a perfect place to relax, cook some food and enjoy the beautiful views. If only they can maintain some cleanliness around, I think this would be an ideal place for solo travellers. Jyothi gave me the directions to Zostel and told me, almost in an ordering tone that next time, I must stay at her newly-constructed homestay. I smiled and agreed to do so. 

Eleonora decided to join me on this walk up to the hostel as she had all day set aside to explore the village of Poombarai. Poombrari is famous for its Arulmigu Kuzhandha Velappar Thirukovil temple. My friend Gowri tells me that the Bhoga Sidda rishi who sculpted the Murugan idol in Palani had sculpted this idol too. The temple was crowded. The village appeared lively, ahead of Pongal – The harvest festival celebrated all over Tamil Nadu for almost a week. 


The farmers were busy harvesting garlic. Some fields had potato plants in them. The garlics of Poombarai are popular. The single-pod garlic grown here are known to have medicinal properties. I decided to buy some on my way back. 


The 4km walk from bus stop to hostel was long but fascinating. Eleonora and I discussed about our respective travels and about Italian cuisine, of which I am big fan. She told me that she does not like the pasta made in India. She notes that we Indians add all kinds of vegetables and flavours to it, while the pasta in Italy is basic and might have one or two specific vegetables. Eleonora works in Germany now and she makes Gelato for a living. She gets a few months off around winter during which, she chooses to travel around the world. 

Poombarai, a small village is now gaining a lot of popularity. Hostels and resorts have come up in this beautiful mountain village. Many locals have also converted their homes into a homestay. 

Zostel at Poombarai is located along the slope of a hill and it overlooks the beautiful mountains of Kodaikanal. There are a bunch of container rooms neatly arranged around the property, at various elevations. I was allotted my dormitory. Eleonora decided to stay at the cafe while I checked in. 

At the dorm, I met Manan who had checked in a while back. Manan is a young man in his early 20s. He is from Delhi and has been on the road for almost two months now. This digital nomad has been traveling from Kashmir to Kanyakumari on his Honda Highnesses bike and was on his way back up North. He is an engineer working in the IT sector and is allowed to work from remote location. These young men like Aflal (From Kodaikanal) and Manan represent to me the new generation of youngsters who want to head out and explore the world on their own. This gives me a lot of hope for the future of this country as I strongly believe in what Mark Twain said - Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness. I am therefore hopeful that due to the exposure they gain, the next generation will be open-minded and liberal than the previous. 

At the cafe, we spoke for a while with Elonora until she decided to head back to Poombarai. Manan asked me if I did like to join him in exploring the surroundings. I readily agreed. We headed towards Polur waterfall first. On the way, we had lunch at a small cafe run by a bunch of young Malayali men. The sandwich and coffee were good. 

Polur waterfall can be viewed only from a distance. If there is a route to get down to the waterfall then it isn't obvious or permitted at the moment. So, this visit was not very interesting. 

But on the way, at Poondi, we had seen a waterfall in between the fields. I decided to go explore that as it seemed like an offbeat location that no tourists seemed to be interested in. Upon enquiry with a local, we figured out a way to reach there. We had to cross a barbed wire fencing and follow a small trail leading up to the waterfall. It was a beautiful place. We relaxed there for a long time and had good conversation. I think, Poondi waterfall is one of my favourite places in this region as it felt like a discovery of sorts to reach there. 

Next stop – Munnanvur lake. We hoped to watch the sunset there but the officials were closing the place at 5:30pm. So, we were not able to spend a lot of time there. It is definitely a peaceful place to be around sunset. Trekking around this region was allowed previously but not currently. Perhaps with some contacts in the forest department you could still trek.  

We headed back to the hostel. In our dorm, we met a biker from Chennai. There was another man, who hardly smiled at anyone. All day he would sit in the balcony and smoke weed. With sunken eyes and a blotted face, he was almost always in an intoxicated state. 

In the common area, we met a young couple, Priya and Bhavesh from Bangalore. Pooja hails from Mumbai and Bhavesh from Rajasthan. Along with them was Prasad, a young man from Bangalore, who is originally from Udupi and a solo traveller, Shalu from IIT Trichy. 

We decided to play card games. Prasad taught us the game “Mind F*ck” which I had once played with the group of trekkers in Hampta pass. This is a very interesting game, especially if played with a bigger group. I must say that this is by far the best group of people I have met in a hostel in India. The hostel scene in India otherwise is rather dull. You will hardly find solo travellers. Most of them come with their friends or relatives. Manan was always complaining to me about this as he looked forward to speak and mingle with other solo travellers. Luckily, this evening we had an excellent bunch of people.

It was very cold outside and my woollen shawl wasn’t really enough to beat the chill. We had dinner at the hostel cafe. There are two young men from Assam who take care of the restaurant. Post-dinner, we continued our card games. We played bluff and Uno. Two other boys from Bangalore joined us and we had a good time - living in the moment. 

At around 11pm, we decided to head back to our respective dorms. I had had a long day and I needed a good rest. But two girls sitting in the balcony of the container house above ours were constantly murmuring through out the night. So, that night, I had a disturbed sleep. 

CONTINUED HERE: Poombarai - Day 02