Saint Augustine put it a thousand year ago that the world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page from that book. So last month my family and I went to explore those other pages of the book by visiting a hill station. Living in Tamil Nadu for five years, we have already visited magnificent temples and beaches. So my father wished that this time he will drive us up a hill. My mother and I were quite tensed because this is the first time we will be driving up a hill but somehow my dad managed to convince us. Therefore we started our voyage from Tiruchirappalli to Yercaud with anxiety and curiosity.
Yercaud is located on the Shevroy hills of the Eastern Ghats at around 1500 meters from the mean sea level. It is administered under Salem district administration of Tamil Nadu government. The region is easily accessible by all modes of transport. Till Salem one can come by train or flight. But from Salem bus stand or railway station one need to board TNSTC buses or book a cab as per convenience to reach the summit. Like many good places in our country even Yercaud was also discovered the British government as a retreat location during the scorching summer. Even Ooty was developed by the British for the same reason. However Yercaud is way cheaper with lesser crowd and hence it is also known as the Ooty for the poor.
Demographically the place was initially inhabited by tribes until tourism and cash crop industry brought others into the hills. Majority of the people speak native Tamil language and indulge in the aforementioned industries. Education and hospital facilities are there up the hill which makes the place self sufficient.
Coming back to our journey, my father smoothly drove till the foothill of Yercaud where we had our lunch and then the arduous roads began. 20 hairpin bends needed to be covered in hilly road before we could reach the summit. However at the advent of the first bend all our tensions melted down as we got a sight of the greenery down the horizon. We also saw wild mother monkeys looking at us with their young ones. But there was nothing to worry as they were not ferocious as the ones in other tourist spots as they sat quietly looking at us hoping to get some food. After reaching, we went to our pre booked hotel to take rest. In the evening we roamed the nearby market and enjoyed the cool breeze from the lake. We also pre booked a car whose driver name Imran would help us in sightseeing and also act as a guide. To our surprise, Imran told us that is will take the entire day to visit everything as we thought that Yercaud was known only for the hills and cooler climate.
Next day we woke up in the morning at 5 and got ourselves ready. Later Imran came on time and we left our hotel with excitement. He had already choked out an itinerary which he handed over to us. First he took us to a Servanarayan temple as he believed that taking the blessing of god keeps his clients healthy. True secularism indeed! The temple was actually inside a cave and that’s why it was very cold inside. The priest in his broken tried to explain my mother that the temple houses Narayan and goddess Kaveri. After offering prayers next we went to another temple which was little away. This temple named Lalita Tripura Sundari temple was a little away from the first one. This is manmade temple with marble floors and modern amenities.
Now with temples were over Imran took us to the Kiliyur falls but as we went in a dry season the flow was very limited. He told that during rainy season when water flow is high people also participate in river rafting sport. Hence he recommended that for adventure sport enthusiasts Yercaud is most suitable in the monsoon. After this we went back to the Yercaud Lake which in the morning is allowed for boating. There is also a fountain in the middle which works in the evening showing light shows. So we booked a boat where my parent and I along with Imran went for a 30 minutes paddle boating. The lake is quite big but the water level was lesser. It is because the Kiliyur falls was running dry whose water feeds the lake. After boating we did our lunch from a restaurant. Speaking out restaurants, the Yercaud has many places. One can find all types of food ranging from south Indian dishes to Jain dishes to any Chinese dish one wants.
After lunch Imran took us to the other part of this hill station which is at an higher altitude and houses looking spots, vegetation and wildlife. On the way to a looking point we got a glimpse of the economy of the region. The area has numerous coffee and rubber estates. Imran even stopped the car to show my mother actual coffee beans. The estates employ the local population and are heavily guarded against wild animals. Other cash crops grown here on commercial basis includes cardamom, figs, apples and black peppers. We also saw wild variety of sandalwood and oak enroute. At last we reached lady’s point from where one can see the entire Salem city. Imran also helped us see the famous Mettur dam which happens to be the lifeline of agriculture in northern Tamil Nadu. From there we went to another looking spot named Pagoda point. This place also provides us with the view of Salem city. Also we saw monkeys and peacock in the wild. This place also houses a stone temple dedicated to lord Rama. The administration has made beautiful arrangements for tourists with local shops run by the locals. By the time we saw all these, sun was on its course away and Imran advised us to return before dark as hilly roads can be tricky even for experienced drivers. After having a eventful day we had diner and our bodies retired to our beds.
The next day we were going to see the annual festival of Yercaud for which the locals were tremendously excited. We have all heard how well flowering season in the Nilgiris is celebrated. Thousands of tourists both domestic and foreign come to watch the flowers bloom. Similarly during the summers, Yercaud also has the same flavor with colorful flowers all over the hill top. Moreover the botanical garden also grows some of them in their own area which is open to tourists. This is not widely known to the outside world but for the locals in Salem district this place is second to none. Hence we witnessed the beautiful horticulture exhibition in the botanical park. We also saw insect eating pitcher plants live for the first time. One can even see them grow in the wild there. The locals, who were volunteering, took earnest interest in showing us the herbal plants and explained their good impact on the body. Several stalls were put up to showcase the same. There was even a dog show which pulled huge crowd. Thus on this day otherwise sleepy suburb was glowing with enjoyment.
Also read for other less crowded travel destination!
Although it was beautiful place and will go on to be renowned to be one of India’s prominent tourist destinations soon but I was feeling lousy after seeing how irresponsible tourists were littering the lakes, roads and the greener environment. Those who plan to visit the place must keep in mind the environmental impact of unsustainable tourism. Thus one must focus on greener and sustainable tourism practices. The locals were vocal against people who didn’t respect mother earth as for the former tourism industry brings food to their plates at night. Hence to all those hill lovers, I would say the place is worth visiting and the conditions won’t disappoint you in any way. Hope to see more people visiting Yercaud enjoying the less crowded and serene environment in the near future.
Author: Sourjya Ray, Trichy, Tamilnadu