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Summer Delights in the Southern Hills – Part 2

Sayanti Mukherji

Continuing from the previous article on Southern Hills Stations which are also recommended for a visit during the warmer months.

Yearcaud

Situated at almost 5,000 feet near Salem, in the Servarayan range of the Eastern Ghats, Yercaud is known for its coffee plantations and orange groves. The nearest rail station and airport are at the industrial town of Salem. The town’s name is derived from the lake located at its center, Yeri meaning lake and Kaddu meaning forest, referring to the rich flora and fauna of the region. During the British time, the cool climate attracted Christian missionaries, who established many schools, like the famous ‘Montfort Anglo Indian Higher Secondary School’.

What to see

The lake at the heart of the little town is the most visible of tourist attractions. Walk to Pagoda Point for the experience, or the Lady’s Seat (a flat rock where, about 100 years ago, a British lady reportedly spent her evenings) for a panoramic view of the plains below, or the Killyur waterfall and the Seravaroyan temple atop the Seravaroyan hill. Remember, none of these places are anything special but the walk to these spots through the winding coffee plantation and hillside is a spiritually uplifting experience.

Yercaud is famous for the Kurinji flowers (Strobilanthes kunthiana) which bloom only once in twelve years. Their blue hues are what make the ‘Neelgiri’ neel (blue). The National Orchidarium, ranked the 3rd largest in the country is supposed to include a variety of orchids including endangered species, but in reality the upkeep leaves much to be desired.

There was a large British settlement here prior to the mutiny to counter Tipu Sultans forays resulting in number of interesting churches and bungalows. Check out The Holy Trinity Church if you are interested in colonial history. Ask the pastor, if he’s there to show you the marriage and death registers prior to the mutiny; they make an interesting read.

There are many short excursions and treks that one could partake from here. Treks are organized by the Chennai Trekking Club, www.chennaitrekkers.org. You can also call on Suhash Kunder to organize a hike, with camp fire and meal (Suhas 04281-222741)

Where to Stay

Many of the old British bungalows have been converted to ‘home stays’, including the ‘Mahindra Home Stay’. Apart, there is the ‘Sterling Resort’, and hotels – and the Tamil Nadu Tourist lodge.

What to Eat

Fresh fruits are aplenty if you are health conscious. Hotel Shevaroy serves a passable fare but if you want to tuck into some sumptuous cooking call Patsy Kunder, Suhas’s wife – ‘Kitchen on Call’ – 04281-222741.

What to Shop

Stop at the Bhavani Singh’s Perfumery Factory for therapeutic oils, and herbal products extracted from the rich flora and fauna of the area. Bhavani Singh 04281222563/006/ 04281-222360/0944357525

You can also pick up homemade chocolates, pickles and jams from Patsy after your meal at her beautiful home. Fresh local honey from the roadside vendors is also recommended.

Transport

The cool weather induces walking though you can ask your hotel to book you a cab, local autos are also available.

Yelagiri

A one horse town amidst four mountains Yelagiri has something timeless about it. The main inhabitants are tribal whose unique dwellings attract much attention.

The main idea of coming here is to unwind and take rambling walks even though there is a lake in the middle of the town fitted with boating equipments for those so inclined. The ‘Nature Park’ opposite to the ‘Boat House Rd’ is a much more attractive option for leisurely walks or you could be more adventurous and explore one of the trekking destinations, ask your hotel for details. Ensure you are wearing comfortable walking shoes and carry water as there is hardly any drinking water to be found en-route.

Where to stay

Le Auroville Resort – situated slightly uphill and away from the town, amidst lush forests; is a great place to stay if don’t intend to come down to town too often. There is also a YMCA, at the heart of the town with the usual YMCA facilities. Zeenath Taj - a resort spread across a large track of land with an orchard, is highly recommended. The staffs are hospitable and the food wholesome. The Sterling Holiday Resort- could also be considered for its lovely surroundings, excellent food and its Ayurvedic Centre.

Where to Eat

Plenty of eateries around the area but don’t expect anything fancy. You could try ‘Tandoori Hut’ on Boat House Road, for its tasteful décor and decent food with plenty of choices. Locally available fruits are of excellent quality especially jackfruits

What to Buy

Apart from local fresh honey and some special scented oils nothing else.

Transport

Closest train station is ‘Jolarpettai Junction’ connected to Coimabatore, Bangalore and Chennai or you can drive down from these two cities (150 km and 250 km respectively). From the station book a car to take you up the hill in an hour. For local transport, to use a phrase out of my childhood, bus # 11 – your own two legs.

 

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