Before writing about my recent trek to Vellagavi, I would like to take your attention to something which I feel very important. Ever since I began to take travel blogging seriously, I was very much aware of the impact my posts have on the places I write about. I had gone through the dilemma many times, whether to write about a place or not.
Nowadays, we all are traveling with a mindset to find out something unique and be the first to experience it. I would say, social media has changed the way we travel. We all enjoy the thrill and excitement of getting more likes and comments on every new post we put out there.
“Unexplored places and offbeat destinations” has become a trend in travel and tourism industry. Even multi-million corporates are looking to find new potential tourism markets. Ecotourism, tribal tourism, sustainable tourism are the hot topics in the industry. People are desperate to try something new all the time. As this trend is going up, it is time to think how it affects the socio-economic scenarios of those places which are coming up as new tourism hot spots.
For example, till recently, the Spiti valley in Himachal Pradesh was a less touristy and peaceful place in the upper Himalayas. The people of Spiti are very friendly and loving. But since tourism started to grow there, everything changed there. More people started to come and the valley became more commercialized now. The authenticity of the people and the culture will be lost very soon. Pollution is now a major issue in the valley. The Spiti river, the lifeline of the valley became a garbage dumping ground. I won’t be able to see the same Spiti valley again as it is when I visited last year. In few years, Spiti valley will become a typical Himalayan tourist place like McLeodganj or Manali. You know what I mean if you have been to these places.
To be frank, as a travel writer, sometimes I feel regret for being responsible for all in some way. Many times I was confused whether to write about some of my journeys. I know that, once it becomes known to everyone, the place which I love for its uniqueness and the people won’t be the same again. Everyone who travels may not have the same mindset. Some will be very careful not to do any harm to the environment and the people living there. But some are totally opposite. And it’s not in our hands.
If I write about these issues, those reading my blog will at least think about it and will be conscious about traveling in a better way. It is not at all bad to explore new places and new experiences. But we need to be cautious, we have to be responsible. We should respect the nature. Our journeys should not have a negative impact on the people. For example, if we go to a village and ask for a mineral water bottle, we are creating a demand for bottled water there. Shops will stock those bottles and people coming after you buy them. Next time, when you go there, you see plastic bottles scattered all around. This is what happens everywhere now.
With a belief that, everyone who reads this will think seriously about this, I introduce you Vellagavi, a small and beautiful village in Kodaikanal. A very remote village, not connected by roads. A village with good-hearted people. People there consider their village very sacred and do not use footwear. It is one of the best places I traveled recently. The trek to Vellagavi was a great experience. More than the mountains and nature, it was the people of Vellagavi, their affection and their innocent smiles that I cherish always. For two days, we were not outsiders, we became one among them.
Kodaikanal is one place I wish to travel quite often. Every time, it was not the same places and experiences. My love for the villages in Kodaikanal started after my visit to Kookal. A few years back, when I was with my friends in Vattakanal, we noticed a trail going down from Dolphin nose. Later found out that the trail leads to a village called Vellagavi. More information about the village and people there increased my curiosity, I was waiting for the right time for the trek to Vellagavi.
So as usual, on a weekend, I boarded the bus to Kodaikanal. One of my friends also joined me from Kodai. Started the walk from Kodaikanal, first reached Vattakanal. There is a short road from Kodaikanal to Vattakanal actually, it will take about 20 minutes walk to reach and can save you some money paying for the taxi.
Vattakanal is also an example of the changes unplanned and irresponsible tourism brought to a place over years. Two years back, when I first came here, this place was beautiful. Not many buildings, not much traffic on the road and it was beautiful. It is not the same now. Didn’t feel like spending time there at all. Brought some food from the grocery shop and started walking to Dolphin nose.
Dolphin nose is a major tourist attraction in Kodaikanal. You need to walk down about 30 minutes from Vattakanal to reach Dolphin nose. Till Dolphin nose, there will be people all the time. From there, we found the trail going further down and began our trek to Vellagavi.
The major part of the trail goes through the forest. The forests of the Western Ghats are magical. There are many flowers on the way this time. The sound and smell of the forest were peaceful as usual. Some foreigners were hiking back after visiting the village, they were struggling to climb those steep mountains.
Later, we started seeing the villagers collecting wood from the forest. With a smiling face, they welcomed us and showed the way to the village. The last stretch of the walk was little fast, we saw Vellagavi from a distance. There was a temple at the entrance itself, a big banyan tree on the side. I could feel the positive vibe of the village from the entrance itself, removed my shoes and entered the village.
Whoever we saw, greeted us and asked whether we need some tea. The kids immediately began running around, playing and made fun of us. We were invited to every house there. I should say, from some of the houses, we get the best views of the valley. They are placed at picturesque locations.
There are no roads to Vellagavi. The people of the village use the same trail to reach Kodaikanal. They have to come here to sell their crops and buy essential items. Further down from Vellagavi, the trail goes to Kumbakarai, a village at the bottom of the hills. We used that route for our return next day. Britisher’s used this trail to transport good from Kodaikanal. The trail from Kumabakarai to Kodaikanal is a famous trekking route, many people do this trek especially foreigners. This is also the part of trek route between Munnar and Kodaikanal.
The village of Vellagavi has 50 houses and more temples. Whichever direction you go, you find idols. These people came here during the time of Tipu Sultan and later formed an isolated community in the mountains. They worship many gods here. They consider their village very sacred. Till recently, nobody in the village use footwears inside the village. And even visitors are not allowed. But now, they don’t show any reluctance to outsiders.
People here are mostly farmers, coffee and avocado are the major crops they produce here. Every morning, few horses will climb the mountain to Kodaikanal to bring the necessary goods to the people. There is a primary school up to 5th standard, after that, they need to go to Kodaikanal or Periyakulam for education. Most of the young people in the village are working outside now. What I found very interesting here is that people are very healthy. Even a 90-year-old doesn’t look like that much old.
Found a place to pitch our tents little away. The night was stary, as usual in Kodaikanal, one of the main reason for my love towards this place.
The next day, started our trek down to Periyakulam. It was much steep compared to the trail from Kodaikanal. About 2 hours walk, reached Kumbakarai. And then back to our normal lives. It was another weekend spend very well. A new place, new people and some more memories.
Trek to Vellagavi, How?
You can do this trek in different ways. You can start from Kodaikanal, walk down to Dolphin nose and then to Vellagavi. If you don’t want to spend the night there, you can walk back and stay in Vattakanal.
The next option is as we did. Trek to Vellagavi from Kodaikanal, stay there for the night and trek down to Kumbakarai, then to Periyakulam and Dindigul. You will get buses to all major places from Dindigul. Both state transport bus and private bus services are available to Chennai and Bangalore.
Kumbakarai has a very small waterfall, once you reach there ask someone to show the bus stop and the bus timings. Buses are not frequent but available. Otherwise, you will get autos from there to reach Periakulam. From Periyakulam ( between Theni-Dindigul highway), you will get buses to Dindigul, Palani or Madurai. You can plan your journey back from any of these places.
I have seen few people trek to Vellagavi from Kumbakarai and then up to Kodaikanal. In this case, the trek will be a bit difficult, the trail is steep all the way till Kodai.
Food and accommodation
Food is not at all a problem here. The people of Vellagavi will not allow you to stay hungry. They will definitely invite you to have food from their house. They really care for us. Also, there is a cafe in the village. Murugesan who is running the cafe is ready to help you with anything all the time.
If you are planning to stay in Vellagavi village, tents are the only option. They are available in the cafe.
Trek to Vellagavi; few things to know
There is only one shop in the village. It is not a proper shop, a person runs it in his home. You may not get everything there, so it is better to buy them from Vattakanal before the start of the trek.
The village will go to sleep by around 7 PM, it will be quiet after that. So talking loudly and playing loud music is not good.
As I said before, there are temples and idols all over the village, showing disrespect to them may hurt the feelings of the people.
Nowadays, many trekking agencies are organizing two days trek between Munnar and Kodaikanal. The stretch from Kumabakarai to Kodaikanal is the one that covers on the second day.
For me, the only expense was the bus fare and the food. Since I carried my tent, saved some money that way. Excluding transportation expenses, the trek to Vellagavi can be done with a really small budget.
We cannot imagine a place where there is no road connectivity, but there are still people living in such places. They live happier than us. What I understood from the people of Vellagavi is that it is not the facilities that make our life happy, it is just the goodness of our mind.
Hope your trek to Vellagavi will be a great experience.
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