Dr. Srutimala Duara
Yercaud - a less popular hill station in the South. It is a hill station situated on the Shevaroy Hills of the Eastern Ghats in the northern part of Tamil Nadu. One would rather opt for Kodaikanal or Ooty from Bangalore than Yercaud. Nevertheless, I wanted to visit this hill station. Hills always beckon me. The year was 2010. I was in Lonavala when I had spent a week in Mumbai with my friend, Kumkum. Belonging to the Northeast rich in rolling hills, Blue Mountains, lush greens and thundering waterfalls, Lonavala did not appeal to me much. Maybe expectation was a lot. And the crowd along with the heavy traffic, which I came to know, is part of the weekend trips, got on my nerves. Moreover, as we had taken the expressway, we did not even feel the rise till we were finally at the top – a three hour’s drive from Cuffe Parade in Mumbai. What was different for me was the view of the table-top hill. It was interesting to note the table-top flat peak, for all the other hill stations that I had visited so far are hills with pointed peaks.
A week later, again, I was in the hills. From Bangalore with my friend, Arunima, we took the morning 6:28 train to Salem. By 10:10 a.m. we were in Salem.
(Photo Courtesy: Author)
A comfortable train journey of not even four hours. We took a taxi that asked for Rs. 800, bargained and got it for Rs. 700, to Yercaud. It was just an hour’s drive and the rise is so steep that 6 km and you could see Salem way below. With 20 hairpin bends that mark off each bend with a sigh-post, we were soon up with a very pleasant weather. Couldn’t even believe it. Salem – just an hour away was so hot and then there we were in Yercaud, 33 kms away, and what a drastic change in the climate! The lofty hills of extraordinary scenic beauty are truly endowed with a salubrious climate.
We had our bookings already done in ‘Hotel Shevaroys’ through the internet and what a place! It is a sprawling property with a Chinese and multi-cuisine restaurants, cottages, normal rooms, spa, super-market, chat house, bird house, lovely walking area, plantations – a small hill station in its own right. Just a walk down from this property, we were on our way to the lake-side with parks on either side and the road leading to the entrance to the lake offer boating facilities. Quite a big lake. In Tamil language, "Yeri" means lake and "Kaadu" means forest. Yercaud has a lake located at its center, and hence the name. We spent a leisurely afternoon sitting on the bench, soaking in the atmosphere before we walked back to the hotel.
As I was exploring the acres of hotel land, the mist suddenly came down like a thick woolly blanket and covered everything – the tall trees that were clear a moment ago appeared hoary, the narrow tiled path that winded down cutting through the plantation ground became a misty brick ribbon. I lifted up my face for the kiss of the mist.
We took an auto to see the market that wasn’t very far from our hotel. The autowala said, “Madam, it is a very small market. What will you see? Everything we need come from Salem.” It was indeed a small market – if it could be called a market place at all.
The hotel said that the sightseeing taxi for three and a half hour would cost Rs. 600. When we were walking by the side of the lake, a taxi driver came up to ask if we wanted a taxi for sightseeing. He asked for Rs. 400, I bargained and got him for Rs. 300 for the next day’s sightseeing. This is the season when you could bargain and get a good deal, but in the so called ‘high season’ time, you would not get such a deal.
At 9:30 the next morning, we started our tour. We were taken to Shervaoyan Temple on a higher altitude with acres of open space. It has a viewpoint too from where we could see the far away hills and the valleys in between. We walked for a while, enjoying the cold breeze, and that too in July, against our face, before he took us to RajarajeswariTemple. Our next points were all viewpoints situated at different spots of Yercaud – Lady’s Seat, Gent’s Seat and Pagoda Point – all overlooking parts of Salem and valleys. The Lady's Seat offers a splendid view of the Ghats and the thick growth of trees lined there. From the Pagoda Point, the bald brown patches on the greenery below revealed what man has done to nature. The Rose Garden was a spacious park with patches of roses bound by squared hedges. A walk along the pathways was refreshing.
Our driver, Prem Kumar, then took us to Bhavani Singh’s Perfumery. The owner took us to his garden and showed us plants, explaining each and every medicinal herb that grew in his garden – brahmi, eucalyptus, lemon grass, lavender, geranium, aloe Vera, etc. and then took us to a room and explained the ingredients, uses and benefits of the different bottles spread out on the table before him. He showed the letters that came to him from different herbal institutes, scientists, individuals like Mahesh Bhupati, and even someone from Risa Colony, Shillong with orders for his herbal medicines and products. He has black panther oil for cold, cough, sore throat, headache, etc.; he has massage oil, mouth washer, brahmi hair oil, oil of citrodara for dandruff and skin problem, aloe Vera gel as an anti-wrinkle cream and lots more. I got a small bottle of concentrated oil of which a pin drop applied on the pillow could induce good sleep. It’s for my mother. All his products are chemical free. Interesting man with an equally interesting garden.
In the evening of our second day, the mist came down once again – this time for a short period accompanied by a brief shower. Who says monsoon season is not a good time for a sojourn in the hills?The hills take on a different hue in July with short spells of shower, less tourists, and good bargains. All you need to carry is a raincoat or an umbrella and a good pair of shoes, a lively self that is ready to walk in the rains if needed. And Yercaud is a quiet hill station for complete relaxation, far from the madding crowd. Its attraction as an escape from the heat and grime of the city rests not just upon its landscape of forest covered hill-sides, and coffee, cardamom and black pepper plantations, but also its very affordability, as against the more up-market Ooty.
[Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Publisher.]