We set course for Yercaud from Chennai at about 8 am on Sunday, 13 Jul 08. The journey was very pleasant until 120 kms out of Chennai, thanks to the good, 4-lane, divided highway. We didn’t mind paying the Rs 40 in tolls, as the road was really good. However, there needs to be a concerted drive to educate the drivers on the correct use of the road and how to maintain lane discipline. After 120 kms the road was not too bad and the drive to Salem (about 325 kms from Chennai) was uneventful. We had a South Indian ‘meal’ at Salem and then started the drive to Yercaud (about 30 kms away). The drive was very picturesque and we saw a large number of monkeys on the way. There are 20 hairpin bends which add to the excitement during the drive. We drove in to Yercaud at about 4 pm.
Yercaud is situated at about 5000 ft above msl in the Shevaroy Hills, in the state of Tamil Nadu. Yercaud is quiet little hill station on the Eastern Ghats. While the rest of this region is generally dry, Yercaud presents a welcome contrast with its cool climate where temperature never rises above 30 º C and dips below 13 º C. During our stay, the temperature was in the 15 – 25 º C range. It is known as the poor man’s Ooty and is also less expensive than either Ooty or Kodaikkanal. This peaceful hill station is nestled among coffee plantations and thickly forested slopes and is a good place for plain relaxation, trekking and boating.
We drove straight into Star holidays Inc., a resort about 2 kms short of the main city centre. This resort has cottages, which are neat and clean and provide you with ‘value for money’ pricing. The stay at the resort was good. The cottage had a double bed, an inverter, geyser, television (128 channel cable connection) and running water. The amenities were adequate. The surroundings are very green and ‘just adequately’ maintained. The only drawback is the restaurant does not cater for very much, as the occupancy was poor – maybe because it was a weekday. Star holidays are located very close to the lake – the centerpiece of Yercaud. We walked down to the lake in the evening. The weather was really perfect after the Chennai heat.
We drove to the Kiliyur falls on the next day. The falls are situated at 3.2 kms from the lake. The road was narrow and winding down. There is a platform to park the cars about 0.5 kms from the falls. Do not drive beyond this platform as you would not find any place to turnaround on the steep slope before you turn cross country for the falls. The falls are approachable only through a narrow goat track that has very steep drops and roots sticking out above ground level. The ground was also wet in places. Please be appropriately dressed for a professional trek. It is doable if you are fit and ready for the adventure. The overflow water from the lake drops about 300 ft on this rock face which comprises the Kiliyur falls. On this occasion, the falls were a very a narrow stream. Monsoons, or just after, would be the right time to enjoy these falls. However, the path at that time would be very treacherous. On one side of the pathway is a barbed wire fence guarding a coffee estate - please exercise caution. I do wish people would not throw non-organic waste while enjoying the trek and the falls. There were a lot of wrappers and empty water bottles dumped on the rocks close to the falls.
Two views of Kiliyur FallsIn the evening we decided to do some boating in the lake. Pedal boats and row boats are available for hire in the lake. We hired one four seater pedal boat for Rs 95 for half an hour. We were nearly exhausted after about 20 minutes of pedaling.
Poonam trying to click Rajni, while being clicked herself
Thereafter, we visited the Pagoda point, Gent’s seat, Ladies seat and Children’s seat. The view from each of these vantage points is good. However, our civic sense leaves much to be desired, not that Tamil Nadu Tourism has made any provisions for collecting and removing garbage. Wrappers, bottles, plastic and waste are strewn around all over. The other thing – most Government signboards are in Tamil – really frustrating for people from other parts of the country, and abroad. Maybe Tamil Nadu tourism is not interested in opening this hill station to people from outside Tamil Nadu. However, looking at the commercial activity in terms of hotels and guest houses, it seems that the private sector is already gearing up for increased traffic in the future.
We had dinner at the Tamil Nadu hotel restaurant on the first night – satisfactory. The next night we went up to Hotel Grand Palace. The view from this hotel was beautiful – the hotel is located on top of the ridge; the rooms were better laid out, but more expensive. The restaurant was classy and the food was good.
The last place we visited before leaving Yercaud was The Sky Roca hotel. The location of this hotel is on the eastern rock face. Every room in this hotel faces Salem town. You can see Salem about 4800 ft below. At night the view from the rooms must be gorgeous – considering that all rooms have a glass front to the East. There are five classes of rooms. The most expensive suite comes with a private lawn, Jacuzzi and other frills – highly recommended for once in a lifetime celebrations. Rooms are expensive but then you pay for the location, the ambience and the thought put into designing this hotel. Worth a stay – though a little on the higher side for the pocket. The catering is by ‘Sam’s Kitchen’ from Chennai. We had breakfast – nothing very great, though the location is once again good.
Our drive back to Chennai was uneventful. Overall the trip was very relaxing and enjoyable. We would love to visit Yercaud again, though by train the next time. Yercaud to me means – just unwind and relax, away from pollutions of all kinds, and enjoy the weather – just perfect.