Kodaikanal basically has one job and that’s to sit there and look pretty, and it does it incredibly well. It’s high up here, about 2100 m.a.s.l. so it gets pretty chilly at night which is basically a politer way of saying “Fuck my life, you could fashion diamonds with my nipples right now!” I’m not gonna lie, the long johns are out and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I congratulated myself on panic-packing for Nepal as I pulled on thick socks and base layers and that hat I bought that makes me look a bit special but keeps my ears nice and warm. I don’t deal very well with the cold, it doesn’t take much of a drop in temperature for me to try and cocoon myself in everything I own and wonder if they’ll ever work out a way for humans to successfully hibernate.
There’s a stretch of footpath in Kodai (as it’s affectionately known. Or known by lazy bastards who can’t be arsed to get the last two syllables out) called Coakers Walk which is soooo fucking gorgeous they’ve put a gate at each end and they charge you ₹5 (plus ₹10 for your camera) to walk down it, and you’ll pay it an’ all, because one of the advantages of being so high up the cold makes your nipples complain is, when India below wakes up to cloudy skies you get to get all emotional over this view. I’m not even shitting you, I nearly cried. Probably the hormones though ay. Yeah. Probably that. Anyway.
I kinda shuffled down Coakers Walk in an irritating stop/start stumble because every single footstep warranted another photograph. Sometimes you forget that such beauty exists, even in a place like India which is generally made up of a patchwork of stunningness. I don’t think I’ve seen clouds like this before without being in a pressurised metal tube with wings hurtling through the sky at high speed.
Eventually, once you do get to the end of the walk which would probably take about seven minutes if you weren’t busy filling up your memory card with pictures of clouds, you can carry on towards Vattakanal which is where I kinda wish I’d stayed. It’s so chilled out. The actual walks takes you past La Saleth Shrine which has several statues depicting the various stages of Christ’s crucifixion, from carrying his cross, to some other dude carrying it for him, the being nailed up and being holed up in the cave. They run up one side then down the other, but watch where you’re walking as you study them because there are steps and steps hurt when you trip over them. Yeah. I learn these things so you don’t have to.
You’ll also wander through a wooded area and past a small waterfall, it’s just an awesome little walk, and eventually you’ll end up in Vattakanal which basically consists of a few houses and shops, and a cafe called Altafs which prints its menus in English and Hebrew and has one of the best views you could ever ask for as you stuff your breakfast paratha into your facehole.
I ended up chilling there for a couple of hours, drinking tea and chatting to a bloke from Chennai who was travelling India, showed up in Vattakanal and never left. Fair enough, I could probably get stuck here for a while. Not too long, I’d freeze to death, but I reckon I could hang around for a while. He’s gone and bought himself a bit of land and he’s planting, amongst other things, banana trees. I thought it was a bit cold for bananas up here but his land is lower down, around 1000 m.a.s.l., and he told me that usually bananas grow at sea level and only a very specific kind of banana grows at altitude. They’re a tiny thing, very sweet and sooooo delicious. I’m addicted to them. I buy them by the kilo and sit there shovelling them into my gob one by one. And you know what’s interesting? Banana trees. They’re fucking interesting. I never knew this, but you can’t grow a banana tree by chucking a seed into the ground because banana trees don’t produce seeds. It’s not a case of burying a banana and waiting for it to grow. A banana tree produces a few little baby trees around it as it grows, so you need to take one of these baby trees and plant it, then that’ll grow, and produce some more baby trees around it, and so on and each tree will give you only one bunch of bananas ever so you might as well chop that fucker down once it’s borne fruit. So to grow a tree you need a tree and no, I have no idea where they came from in the first place. He told me that if you wipe out all the wheat plants, or rice plants, you can still grow more from the seeds. But if you wipe out all banana plants, that’s it. No more bananas. I can’t quite make it make sense in my head because that means there was no clear origin. They just kinda, y’know, happened. They’re magical trees that just materialised from joy and a need to have something to put with chocolate sauce. This clearly just increases their awesome rating by about infinity.
Another fun fact, if you look out towards Kodai you can see eucalyptus trees which were introduced from Australia by the British. Eucalypus are thirsty little buggers, they suck all the water from the ground and fuck all else can grow there, so where you see eucalyptus, you see a lot of eucalyptus. I walked through a lot of pine trees on the way here an’ all and apparently they’re not particularly good at sharing either. Also introduced by the British. Yep. Aaaand you know you’re getting old when you can say you had an interesting conversation about rocks with a banana tree growing yoga teacher from Chennai. There’s a formation close by called Pillar Rock and all the taxi drivers in town kept asking me if I wanted to go and see it so I figured I should. But if you’re out and about anyway you might as well walk it because again, the walk isn’t too shabby and it takes you through Green Valley View (which used to be called Suicide Point but hey, I guess that wasn’t as tourist friendly) and past the golf course where golfers and monkeys do battle over control of the green. The monkeys kinda win. Ok, so they get chased off, but they take the golf balls with them.
You’ll also wander past a wax museum. The last time I went to a wax museum I almost needed therapy but still, I figured this one wouldn’t have nightmare inducing statues of Michael Jackson doing scary faces. It didn’t. It was actually ok, I strolled around the ground floor past statues of people who have significance in India’s history such as Gandhi, a couple of Catholic figures and some Indian gurus. Just as I was thinking, yeah, cool, this place isn’t as traumatic as the last one, “Say No To Drugs” guy happened. Seriously? What the hell kind of face melting drugs are you doing, dude? Are you drinking bleach and smoking grenades? The rest of the museum has a three dimensional wax replica of Da Vinci’s The Last Supper, and a depiction of Krishna in a garden with gopis (cow-herd girls) which took over three years to make. It’s not bad. I mean, I have no idea who most of the models in there are so I have nothing to compare it to, but it breaks up the walk to this rock.
And yeah, this rock. Because it’s a tourist attraction, shops line the road selling random stuff and, of course, homemade chocolate. You can get hygienic quality homemade chocolate which is totes my favourite kind so I bought myself some, y’know, to keep my energy up for the walk home and all that. I’m not addicted. I can stop any time I want. And Pillar Rock is just that; A rock in the shape of a pillar and it’ll cost you two whole rupees to get in to see it. I’m assuming that the rock to the right is what we’re meant to be looking at, but I’ve no idea. The star attraction could well be buried under that particularly gorgeous blanket of cloud and I wouldn’t have a clue, but I snapped a bunch of photos anyway before heading back home.
Also, a visit to Kodaikanal isn’t complete without an early morning stroll around the lake with a brief stop at a dhaba for a chai and a bread omelette which I had purely to find out what the actual crap it is. So you know how usually we put egg inside bread and call it a sandwich? Well here they put the bread inside the egg and call it a bread omelette. It tastes like… well it tastes like something I want to learn to make. There’s onions and chillis and stuff in there an’ all, it’s opened up a whole new world of stuff conjured from complex carbohydrates for me.
And in other news, they legit serve thalis on banana leaves down here ay. The first time it happened I was on the canoe trip in Alleppey so I thought it was just for the tourists, but it’s an actual thing. Makes sense to be fair though, saves on washing up and you can throw it away and it’ll just rot rather than adding to landfills, or that pile of rubbish at the end of the road the cows are quite partial to ay.
Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu, India
Stayed at: Hotel Strawberry Park