As day breaks our bus begins to wind it’s way up a precipitous mountain road toward the Kodaikanal hill station. Our pilot applies the horn judiciously at each corner, continuing the cacophony which all passengers aboard had endured for the past six hours. The man seated next to me hacks and coughs and for every 100 feet we climb appears to double his efforts to exhume a lung. My only consolation comes from the knowledge that further back in the bus Nuriel and Amit, a couple of travelers from Israel, were suffering through the same ordeal.
I met Nuriel and Amit on a bus out of Mahabalipuram and they were quick to fill me in on their plans to make for Kodaikanal: a sleepy, mystical town drifting high in the clouds where the very fabric of time itself seemed weaved a little looser. Expectations are not wisely held in a country such as this, however we were sold on the dream and made our way up to find it.
Far from disappointment, the view took our breath away and the cool restored a sense of sanity I hadn’t felt since I’d left New Zealand. Popular among tourists both Indian and foreign, Kodaikanal offers a welcome respite from the sweltering furnace of the plains below.
On the left: The tourist season not quite arrived, we joined the local shopkeepers in a highly competitive game of Carrom. Essentially a flat version of pool.
To the right: Having climbed up my leg, a lizard eyes me cautiously as I eye it right back in Bryant park.
One of the many lookouts on the hike down from Kodaikanal. 10 minutes later the entire scene is enshrouded in clouds. Our guide informs us he planned it so.
After a couple of restorative days, I linked up with a Frenchman by the name of Nicholas and we decided to embark upon a guided hike back down to the plains.
A curious fellow, our guide gleefully smoked and nattered his way down the mountain. Leading us from vista to vista, enthusiastically snatching our cameras to take all assortment of creative photography. To call this a goat track would sing perhaps too high a praise and we often found ourselves skating down the loose, rocky outcrops instead of walking.
Descending from on high, the heat rushed up to greet us, delighted to enter us into its boiling embrace once again. Hiking through hill towns and farms of avocado, coffee and cocoa accessible only by foot, we eventually arrived on the flatlands only to be promptly tucked into a ragged rickshaw. As we bounced and clattered our way to the local bus depot, I was relieved just to be seated after a long day on foot. Truly, India is a country where ones sense of comfort learns to loosen considerably.
On the left: the path out of Vattakanal.
To the right: Language proves an adequate barrier when I inquire as to whether this species of spider is poisonous. The guide merely beams and tells me to take a photograph. I keep my distance.