Poombarai - Day 03

Continued From here: Poombarai - Day 02

 15th  January 2024 

I woke up early and went to the terrace in the common area to view the sunrise. I met the boy from Mumbai and a photographer from Kerala there. They were capturing the sunrise on their cameras too. We sat there and chatted for a while. The boy from Kerala (whose name I forget) told me that he had originally decided to check out the same day and leave but he changed his plans as he would join the Chennai biker to go watch Jalikattu that is happening somewhere near Madurai. Jalikattu, like Kambla  in Mangalore, is according to me a game that demonstrates animal cruelty and must be stopped. I wish not to encourage such games that involve instigating fear in animals by intimidation or whipping. 

Disha too joined the group and we all spoke about our future travel plans and life in general. Disha told me that she and Bhavesh prefer to give each other enough space and they often travel with their respective friends. She clarified that this also allows them to have individual experiences and thus make it interesting to share stories with one another. I completely agree with that thought. The idea that a couple have to do everything together is outdated. Such a compulsion, as I see among my friends, can be suffocating in a relationship.  Almost everyone I have met on this trip has been interesting and I seem to have gathered a new perspective from all of them. This is the reason I love travelling – To meet people and gain new perspectives on life. 

I bid farewell to Disha and Bhavesh who were leaving to Bangalore that day. They had hired a car from Bangalore and were heading back in it. Since Manan had to work, I decided to take a walk to the village of Poombarai and meet him at Jyothi’s cafe around lunchtime. The morning walk up to Poombarai was pleasant. On the way, I met the boys from my dorm (The Chennai and Mumbai ones). They had found a way down to the waterfall visible from the hostel. They had to descend and climb up a steep trail which took them more than an hour. They were sweating all over but their bright faces emanated joy of having accomplished a feat. I wished them luck and continued my walk towards the village of Poombarai. 

The villagers were in a festive mood. Loud speakers outside the temple played devotional songs. Men, women and children were all dressed in new clothes. Vibhuti (Sacred ash) was neatly applied between their eyebrows. Jasmine garlands adorned the women's hair. Every face seemed cheerful. 

Arulmigu Kuzhandha Velappar Thirukovil temple was crowded. There was a long queue outside to view the deity. As I had mentioned earlier, my friend Gowri told me that the Bhoga Sidda Rishi who sculpted the Murugan idol in Palani had sculpted this idol too. I sat at the temple premises for some time and observed the festivity. 

I then walked up to Jyothi’s cafe. Jyothi and her husband greeted me with a wide smile and mentioned over a casual conversation that I have now become their regular customer. I like building such associations when I travel. Though for a short period of time, I enjoy the human relations that are formed. I have said this often that when I travel, it is my interaction with the people that interests me the most, more than the views. 

I ordered lemon tea with less sugar and some Maggie. I sat on the terrace finishing the sketch of Guna caves. 

Manan and I were supposed to meet there at 1PM but there was no sign of him till 1:45PM. So, I decided to walk up to the restaurant where we had decided to eat that day. Unfortunately, they had not started serving food there yet and only had a store selling clothes and artefacts. While I was returning, I saw Manan. There was a Pongal celebration at the hostel that had got him delayed. 

Since Passiflora was still under renovation, we decided to eat at Trekkers cafe at the Poombarai junction on the main road. The burger I had was okay. After lunch, we headed back to the hostel. At the village market, I bought some freshly harvested garlic, including the single-pod garlic that Poombarai is famous for. 

At the hostel, a young couple were allotted two beds in our mixed dorm. The girl was clearly unhappy about this. She was perhaps unaware of the way the dorms work. She made gestures to show her displeasure with the decision. The boy tried to convince her in gestures and whispers. They left their bags on the bed and went out to the cafe to perhaps discuss this out.

After relaxing for some time, we decided to go to the secret waterfall located near the hostel. I think they call it Muthu waterfall or may be not. Perhaps this one is unnamed. It seemed like only the Zostel customers knew about this place. 

We walked down the road and took a deviation towards the waterfall as suggested by the hostel authorities. There, we met a villager who asked us if we were from Zostel. He asked us to pay Rs100 per head. When done, he asked us to follow him. We crossed an inactive electric barbed wire fence and followed a trail into the fields. Suddnely, I had a feeling similar to that from the movie “The Beach”. In the movie, when three young travellers fight all odds to reach a secret island, they are greeted by one of the inhabitants of the island and are led to the secret settlement and the beach. I felt like I was following him to one such secret destination.

Within a few furlong, we could see the waterfall. It was indeed a secret location as one could not have a hint of its presence from the main road. He directed us to follow the trail and went back. Manan and I were the only two people there. It was one of the best places I had visited in Kodaikanal after Poondi falls. We had carried clothes, so we changed and entered the waterfall. We relaxed there for about 30-45 minutes. It was relaxing and it surely felt like the best way to end the trip. 

After a refreshing shower, we returned back to the hostel. The sun had set by then. Manan had some work-related calls, so, I went up to the common area and sat there. Most of them had left and the hostel appeared dead. But I wished not to speak to anyone that evening. I had had my share of fun and conversations in the last three days and this was the time to sit back and relax, enjoy the views and reflect upon the experiences. 

We had dinner at the cafe downstairs – Pasta and Rajma- Chawal. Though there were some people around, everyone seemed to be happy in their small private groups. I spoke to the cafe caretakers and got the contact of a taxi driver. I called him and arranged for a pickup at 7AM. He told me that he would charge me Rs1500 for a ride till Kodaikanal bus stand, which was Rs500 less than his usual fare. I could have walked to Poombarai and then taken a bus but it would only delay my travel to Bangalore. So, in the interest of time, I had planned to take a taxi till Kodai next morning. That night, I went to sleep early. I had a fairly undisturbed sleep that night. 

Next morning (16th Jan), I got ready by 7am. The driver had already arrived. I gave Manan a hug and told him that I had thoroughly enjoyed his company and would love to travel with him again someday.

My taxi driver was a talker. He told me how the villagers had sold the land to these resort owners for a throw away price and now regretted it. All the properties around are now owned by outsiders, he says. Beautiful resorts are coming up in the location. I just hope that  the beauty of Poombarai remains intact and excessive development would not ruin its selling point. 

I was dropped off at the bus station. I had breakfast at Astoria restaurant and got on a bus to Batlagndu (Rs55) at around 8:30am. From Batlagundu, I took a bus to Dindigal (Rs31) and then another to Salem (Rs150). At Salem, I had lunch at a Sarvana Bhavan hotel near the bus station. The food was excellent. I always enjoy a well-made Vatha kulambu. I also tried some tender coconut halwa there and packed some for home. The bus from Salem to Bangalore (Rs201) departed at 4pm and I reached home by 10pm. 

This trip was amazing. I never expected to have so much fun at Kodaikanal. Firstly, the beauty of Kodaikanal took me completely by surprise and to add to that, the people I met during this trip made this experience extra special. Free-spirited Aflal, calm and composed explorer Manan, a down-to-earth and sociable Disha, a brave and friendly Eleonora have become inseparable from my experience and memories of Kodaikanal. I cannot think of Kodaikanal without remembering them and the joyful time spent with them. 

My Film on Kodaikanal and Poombarai Travel: