Happy New Year, Pongal, and Sankranti to all of you. By now, I have published more than just a handful of articles describing my travel experiences giving the readers the impression that I travel a lot. We travel to explore new places only once in a while, though my travel wishlist is endless. There were no school or college excursions during my childhood. We have traveled to very few places before my marriage. In my childhood days, we used to go to Chennai during school vacation to stay with my grand parents and other close relatives. I will write on my childhood memories separately. Coming back to the travel topic, I find that when most people are content taking a handful of family photos to publicize in their profile pages, we take photos which will cover lots of details of a location.
We did not plan or book in advance to go to top notch tourist spots, and so we were sure that we would not get rooms to stay at any of those spots during the holidays. So somebody from my husband's office suggested a place known as Yelagiri in Tamil Nadu. It is not such a well known destination like Kodai, Ooty, Nilgiris and can be considered a poor cousin to these famous spots. We searched the website of Yelagiri hills and found out that there was a lake, a Nature Park, a couple of temples and a trekking spot. It depended on what our preferences were.
So, early in the morning we started on the road. Yelagiri is about 150 kms from Bangalore. We took the Hosur Road towards Chennai (NH46) and turned at Krishnagiri. Once we reached Vaniambadi, we could see the majestic mountains from a distance. After passing the toll gate, it was a slow and pleasurable drive on ghat road with lot of sharp turns. The forests and valleys on both sides are worth a watch. You can stop at convenient points to enjoy the nature. Plush and green and slowly ascending, we felt we were in the lap of nature once again. We reached Yelagiri Hills before noon.
After parking our car, we went to a spot known as Punganoor lake and a park adjoining it. It is an artificial lake where tourists are taken for boat rides. We did not go for the boat ride as there was a long queue. We walked in the park and enjoyed the mountains surrounding the lake.
A view of Punganoor Lake
If you had been to the hill stations like Munnar, Ooty, Coorg, Wayanad, etc., you will feel that this hill station is only moderate. From there, we went to Nature Park which was nearby. It is one of the major tourist attractions with Musical fountain played every night. It is not a very big one but well maintained.
After having a good buffet lunch at a restaurant, we headed to Swamimalai which was about 3 kms ahead. This is recommended for people with an appetite for trekking. There were no signboards to that place and one will get there with the help of locals. We were surprised to note that we had to pass through a small village to reach the starting point of the Swamimalai hills. The trekking path is easy as there were granite steps constructed long ago which leads to the temple atop. The distance is about 2 kms. Expect lot of puffing and panting as we city animals are used to only getting in and out of the lifts. What we consider to be a big thing to go up the hills, the locals who go to the temple do the 'trekking' everyday. Stop in between to enjoy the beauty of the surrounding forests and the sounds of birds. The temple is managed by an old priest and is tucked between the rocks. After we crossed the temple, there was a big boulder to which a narrow rusted ladder is attached. It was an adventure climbing the ladder and one has to climb the ladder to get the full view of the valley below. The trekking adventure back and forth will take 2-3 hours. After that, we retired for the day.
A tree that can be used for ghost movies!!!
As the famed Vellore Golden temple is about 60 kms from Yelagiri, we decided to finish our trip by going there. This one is at Sripuram and it is built by an organization known as Sri Narayani Peetham. It is spread over a sprawling area of 100 acres and if not for the purpose of devotion, it is a must visit for enjoying the architectural beauty, especially the sanctum sanctorum which is painstakingly done with gold plating. It is headed by the spiritual leader Sri Sakthi Amma who is a man! One thing we found hard to digest is that Goddess Mahalakshmi looked to be overpowered by this spiritual leader. Everywhere we found more of his images than that of the main diety. The pictures or photos that you get there have this Sri Sakthi Amma standing in front of Goddess Mahalakshmi. When you want to ask the locals for the direction to the temple, you have to mention 'golden temple' instead of 'Mahalakshmi temple!' The cameras and cell phones are not allowed inside and so the images below are borrowed from Google. There are a lot of colorful stalls where one can spend ample time. After that, we headed back home. It was a short & sweet, relaxing vacation.
One entrance of Vellore Golden temple
The above image is borrowed from Google.
P.S. Even if you missed booking rooms in advance, you need not worry. There are enough good hotels with good accomodation and even during peak season, and getting a room was not a problem for us. I'll post some more photos.