Saturday, July 30, 2011


When in Kodaikanal (see my earlier post, On the road to Kodaikanal) be sure to take some warm clothing. The first is that it is a hill station, at a height of 7,200 feet. Which means that evenings are almost always guaranteed to be pleasant, if not outright chilly. Winters are colder to be sure. If it rains, and there are lots of that around, it is going to get cold. So there - carry warm clothing. Layers of clothing is the way to go; that way you can remove one layer without freezing your bones.

Among the different places to stay in Kodaikanal, the most well-known choice is The Carlton. We however stayed at The Fern Creek, a new addition to Kodaikanal. It is a small, boutique place, with seven swiss tents equipped with all the luxuries you would want in a swiss tent, including a faux-fireplace heater, Tata Sky digital cable, a bathroom that's better than what you find at many 5-star hotels, and so on. The property is not that big, spread over 1.5 acres, but with lots of greenery.

Shot in the evening, this is one of my favorite shots from Kodaikanal. The shoots from the branches make it look like a perfectly haunted tree, right out of a b-grade horror flick. It is also a setting in which the imagination finds a most fertile setting for its ruminations. It is no surprise that authors like Ruskin Bond have chosen to live all their lives in a hill-station, where the grass is green and the scenery pretty (to paraphrase a well-known song...).

This is a shot of a Kodai road as seen from inside the window of a car. It was drizzling outside, the windshield had raindrops streaking across the glass, and the wiper was not very effective, which is why the photo has this weird Photoshopped look about it. I chose this photo because I don't have another photo of these roads that looks as green and picturesque. The small cottage just off the road lends a nice touch to the picture.

Pine Forest view. Where countless Tamil, south Indian, and Hindi movies have been shot. Of stars running around these trees singing songs. Or forlorn heroines clutching trees and lamenting the loss of their loved one. Of lust-crazed baddies chasing rain-soaked-sari-clad heroines or starlets running for dear life and liberty and more. Or... you get the picture. The place looks a lot different with a busload or two of tourists attempting the same, well... almost the same.

Every time I see misty mountains, I take my camera and try and capture the multi-layered look, silhouetted look, like in the photos below. Lots and lots of mountains all over, behind each other, in the foreground, in the background, near and far - you do need an overcast day to get the best effect, though I did get a similar effect in the middle of the day, in the Zion National Park (Utah).

What works for mountains can also work for trees, high up in the mountains, on a misty, foggy, cloudy day.

What is a visit to a hill-station without sampling the local, supposedly organic honey.

When you are as high as in Kodaikanal (you can be high even on the plains, but that's not the high that I am talking about here), the clouds quite often are at the same level as you are. So for once you can claim to be walking with your head in the clouds and be speaking in a very literal sense.

This is a shot that could look even better with an ultra-wide angle lens. And yes, with lots of Photoshop tweaks. I did neither. The Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS SLR Lens that I have does not go beyond 29 or 30mm. This vista would really open up with a wider lens, like the Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM Ultra Wide Angle Zoom Lens for Canon SLR Cameras (on a full-frame sensor mind you), or better still, the Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM SLR Lens for EOS Digital SLRs will do just fine even when mounted on a dSLR with an APS-C sensors.

I shot this and the next few photos from Coaker's Walk (see how this path looked like in 1900). Coaker's Walk is a kilometer pedestrian walk that runs "along the edge of steep slopes on the southern side of Kodai". While the views on a clear sunny day are supposed to be stunning, the vista even on a cloudy, misty, drizzly day is no less spectacular.

One advantage of going in the winter months, or in the months after the monsoon, is that you have several small streams that form and result in several small waterfalls forming - you don't get to see these in the summer months.

And this is a most magical scene. I could not believe it when I first saw it - clouds moving over the horizon, climbing over these peaks, and then flowing downwards, as if weighed down by the water they were carrying, and after having made it beyond the peak, they lost strength and sank under their own weight.

Once upon a time, the tagline, "Your Only Resort In Kodaikanal", may have been true, but not any more I think.

In a place with such incredible beauty, it is jarring to the senses to come across a building as indescribably ugly as this one. The building is ugly. A huge block of concrete planted amidst this picturesque place. The paint color is uglier. And to top it all, look at the white appendage to the right of the building. All this seems to be the result of a careful exercise intended to remove all traces of beauty and aesthetics from the structure. That they were successful is painfully evident to the eye.

A milestone. Did I mention I photograph these?

Pillar Rocks
Among the must-visit sights in Kodaikanal. It is "8 kilometres (5.0 mi) from the bus-stand, is a set of three giant rock pillars which stand 122 metres (400 ft) high.[40] Managed by the Tamil Nadu Forest Department, The viewpoint can be crowded but is not commercialized. There is an excellent public garden adjacent to the viewpoint." [from Kodaikanal - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]
Now, I must add the following: "can be crowded" is a very subjective statement. The fact is that while there is a reasonably large parking lot outside the viewpoint, it can get crowded pretty quickly. Some of the locals were mentioning that peak tourist season, which is pretty much all the summer months, can result in tourist buses and vehicles having to park half a kilometer away from the viewpoint. The viewpoint itself is not very large, and even a dozen people can result in an almost claustrophobic feeling. Each tourist bus can disgorge 50 people, or more. So what do you do? Either go during an off-peak season, like November, or go early in the day, before 9AM. Either way, try and be at this beautiful spot before the throngs of tourists trek their way to this viewpoint.

Raindrops keep falling on my windshield. And what good are raindrops on your windshield if you don't capture them for posterity.

© 2011, Abhinav Agarwal. All rights reserved.