A friend of mine called on a Friday evening and told he will take me to a beautiful village if I come to Kodaikanal. I never say no to offers like this. Unplanned journeys like this usually turn out to be the most memorable for me. I travel frequently to Kodaikanal but didn’t hear about this place before. The village name is Kookal. The last thing he told before hanging up the call was to come as earlier as possible.
Next morning, I was on the bus to Kodaikanal. Finding an empty window seat in bus always makes me happy. I really enjoy looking outside feeling the wind through the window. The bus was moving through the hot plains of Tamil Nadu, the people here with their hard work turned these land a better place for agriculture.
Reached Palani, then another bus to Kodaikanal. It’s about 100 km from Palani. Vast stretches of wind farms can be seen on both side of the road. Wind energy produced here contribute to a major fraction of the state’s power consumption. After some time, I could see mountains in front of us. The roads went forward, all the way to the Western ghats. The temperature began to drop gradually.
Kodaikanal is one of the busiest tourist places in South India. Tourists come throughout the year, equally preferred by honeymooners, backpackers and casual tourists. The magic mushrooms which grow in the Kodai hills attract lots of international travellers also.
Reached Kodaikanal bus station by evening. My friend has already sent the location details. I have to reach Kookal. After enquiring at the bus station, understood why my friend told to reach as early as possible. There are no frequent buses, I had to wait 2 hours and it was the last bus.
It was getting dark. The bus was fully packed. Our bus moved out of the town, uncovering the fog in front of us. All I could see in the light from the bus was the trees which lined both sides of the road.
I asked my fellow passengers more about Kookal. Everyone in that bus was from the remote villages on the far away Kodai hills. They come to the city for job. They told this year the rain is less, so they can’t grow crops in their fields. Each day they travel hours to come to the city. The people were very friendly, since I was the only outsider in that bus, everyone was keen to know my purpose of travel in that bus in such an unusual time. They were surprised when told my destination was Kookal village. Soon I realised that the bus was not going exactly through Kookal, have to get down in the middle of the forest and walk few kilometres. They warned me not to go at this time, there are higher probabilities for an encounter with the bisons.
The bus entered the village Poombarai after an hour of travel through the forest. Most of the people alighted there. The roads were almost empty other than some trucks occasionally coming in the opposite direction.
After some time, a boy sitting in front of me turned around, told that I had reached. Thanked everyone and got down off the bus. It was pitch dark and I was in the middle of a jungle, shivering. I was relieved a bit looking up at the sky, it was clear and stars were shimmering. My friend was supposed to be there, but he only showed up after some time. Luckily, no bisons this time.
Our cottage was in a picturesque location, top of a hill with the view of Kookal lake. The view when woke up in the morning was a total bliss. Without any second thoughts, I walked down to the lake, enveloped by mountains on three sides and a valley on the other. A blanket of mist was spread on the surface of the lake. Few birds were out in the water looking for their breakfast.
At a distance, I saw Kookal village. Many small houses on the top of the hill, smoke coming out of the chimneys. The village is surrounded by farmlands, beautifully arranged in steps over the entire valley.
Walked towards the village, everyone seemed busy beginning their day. Houses were built in lines. There are walkways going in between these houses. There was a temple at one side. Found out a tea shop, I was longing for a hot tea in that cold morning.
There are villages further to Kookal, huge eucalyptus trees lined both sides of the road. Women walked past me, rushing to their houses carrying piles of firewood on head. It was a pleasant day, first rays of the new day sun fell on the valley.
Kookal was peaceful, a beautiful village, away from the city. The best place to explore the nature and life in the hills. Kodaikanal is not just all those cliche tourist hotspots you find in the brochure of any tour company, there is much more here. You have to set your mind free and explore. The magic of Kodai will show up at the right time.
30 km from Kodaikanal town. Taxis are available (approx. rate 1500 INR). Buses are cheap but not frequent. The bus timings can be checked from the Bus stand. Always good to reach your destination before dark.
The best thing to do here is to spend your time on the banks of the lake and explore the village. Guides are available in the village itself, they will take you to some beautiful places on the hills.
Few cottages are available in and around Kookal and provide very basic amenities. It is better to reserve in advance.
Also read about, Nirmala City: An offbeat travel destination in the Western Ghats
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