Two weeks after our trip to Vattakanal, I am still trying to figure out the best part of our trip. Whether it was the feeling of fear and excitement while sitting on the edge of a cliff called Dolphin nose or the quiet time when we were sitting on a rock called echo point with no one around and the only sound was of the wind hitting our faces, was it the amazing night which took me back to my childhood days when we used to sleep under the stars on terrace because of frequent power cuts or was it the interaction with our host in a homestay who is living the exact same life which I have dreamed of for my own retirement. I think it was one of those trips, where picking out one is a pure injustice.
So, this time we (my wife Anu and I) decided to explore a small village called Vattakanal, a non-commerical neighbourhood of Kodaikanal. I heard about this place as a nice hideout from the crowd which offers a great view and it is just 8 kms away from Kodaikanal.
Bike Trip, A default option
This was a bike trip which is a default option now a days for majority of our trips. Infact, we did only one non-bike trip in our last 25 trips after we purchased our Harley. It took us a while to get back the stamina for 500 kms ride after a break of 2 months. So, after warm up rides of 100 (Nandi Hill), 200 (Shettihalli Church) and 350 (Hampi) kms, we were all set to get back to normal.
Road Condition and Ride
A well-maintained 4 lane highway from Bangalore to Dindigul, which contributes to 80% of our route to Kodaikanal, makes it a perfect option for a bike ride. Even the last 100 kms after Dindigul, which is a single lane road, was also great with very less traffic. The scenic beauty around just compensated for the less speed. It took us 8 hours including breakfast and snacks breaks to cover 470 kms from Bangalore to Kodaikanal.
Sunrise at Vattakanal
We woke up at 5:00 am that too on a holiday, packed my camera bag and tripod and walked through the forest, shivering in the cold. But in the end, those colorful clouds and first ray of the sun made it all worth it. A serene sunrise is major attraction of Vattakanal, but you have to put some efforts to witness it.
Tip : Use Photoephemeris for the exact timings of sunset and sunrise to plan accordingly.
Trek to Dolphin Nose
This is small trek of 30-35 mins to reach a rock extending into the valley resembling a nose of dolphin.
The starting point of the trek is beside a popular place, Altaf cafe which is at the end of Vattakanal village. This trek is a complete buffet in itself. It provides :
- a nice option to burn some calories in the morning. Tip : Make sure to have good walking shoes as path is very uneven.
- an amazing view while passing through pine forest.
- adrenaline rush in the body while standing right at the corner of the cliff looking down.
- spend some quiet time with nature (this may change if you will go later in the day but at early morning we were the only ones at this place).
A memorable evening
After an amazing sunset with colorful clouds, we thought of roaming around but it was too dark with no street light due to some electricity fault. It is also not recommended to roam around the forest area at night due to presence of wild animals especially bisons, but street dogs were sufficient for Anu to force us back to our homestay 😛 and thats how our day ended in Vattakanal at 7:00 pm. A nice ginger tea followed by a simple yet delicious dinner with our hosts and a great discussion about some n number of different topics over the dining table made our evening memorable.
Sleep under the stars
After dinner, when we thought we are done for the day, we decided to take a walk on the terrace before going to bed but we ended up spending next two hours there. I think, the last time I saw these many stars in the sky was back in the childhood days, when there was no power backup at my home and we used to sleep on our open terrace. It was really cold outside in Vattakanal but the view was so mesmerizing the I couldn’t resist taking out my camera and tripod. This was my first attempt to star photography and after multiple unsuccessfull attempts, I ended up reading a full tutorial right there. The final image was above my expectations and made me really happy as a photographer.
The stay options in Vattakanal village was little expensive as per our budget. We found one homestay at Rs 1400/night on the Vattakanal road around a km away from Altaf’s cafe on Airbnb. This stay turned out to be the best part of our trip. The host is a retired Merchant Navy Officer who lives with his wife and daughter. They have a separate room with a wide open terrace offering a nice view (above shot of the stars is from that terrace).
It was a great experience to interact with Vinod sir who has endless stories from ships. We discussed his travel experience to different countries, cafes, mechanics of ships, setting up solar panels, conservation of energy and even C++ :P.
Altaf Cafe is the most popular place in Vattakanal village for food. It mainly offers Labanese and Italian food and targeted Israelis, his major section of custoemers. There is another nice cafe called Shola Cafe on Vattakanal road. We mainly ate at our homestay who serves delicious food with organic vegetable grown at their own backyard.
Say No to Mushrooms
Altaf Cafe got this bad publicity overtime, as a place offering mushrooms (which makes you high) in Vattakanal. Recently, a number of tourists died after having mushrooms due to some mutation in them. There is now a police check post right at the entry of Vattakanal village and they check every tourist in and out, primary for the mushrooms.