Yelagiri - The Cardmom hills


This was another of the plans which was planned a while back but did not realize. We were hesitant will it be good ? Are we going to like it ? It may be hot or it may not be. There were many reviews varying in opinion on the net. Finally I and Prem decided to give it a try due to alluring trek to Swamimalai in the vee hours. Prem was determined to drive on good roads! This was the option which was nearest. 6th April 2:00 PM we set off to Yelagiri from Koramangala.

After wading through the busy traffic to electronic city, we were greeted with refreshing winds on good roads with scarce traffic. We cruised along, enjoying the scenic views and occasionally cursing the drivers who did not follow the lane discipline.We took breaks at Krishnagiri and just before the winding roads to Yelagiri. We were little early and started climbing the hairpin bends close to 5pm. After 10th hairpin bend we found a place to park the car and enjoy the view.

So far it was going as per the plan and we reached Yelagiri around 5:45 and our plan was to get a place to stay then go to the boat club. We got attracted by the posters of Rhythms resort which offered a lake view and followed the directions. Only to find that it will be ready for occupation in another 10 days. That was just the beginning of search. Some people told us there was accommodation available and then retracted and some told us it was not there and then showed us some not so good rooms for exorbitant prices and some right way told that is not available. So we set off to Rainbow Resort. We traveled along the not so motor able roads in the interiors. We thought we lost it .. then again asked for directions and some how we managed to find it after couple times moving back and forth. The first guy out there showed us a nice room which can accommodate 4 people easily. As we were just two we were not too convinced to take that. Soon arrived Mr. Bernard aka Rajesh and offered us to show some dingy rooms for a lesser price. We saw those rooms and found it bright and manageable for a night. Only to realize that there was no fan(which was not a problem due to cool breeze) no tiles on floor and no wash basin either.

Rajesh talked about his past, his farm over a cup of coffee we were having in the vast open space infornt of our rooms. We were told that there will be a night trek and party all night with bonefire and music. It was then I recalled the reviews read on about the resort. But then it had happend and this was the only guy who could give us accommodation with a "smile", "hospitality" and lots of talking about stuff all around the globe.

We spent the evening with the pretty costly drink Rajesh managed to get and discussing the possible reason for bumble bees getting attracted towards tube light. There was no conclusion to discussion with too many possibilities coming out. There was also discussion if were right on rushing through the night on our coorg trip. In the night we ate homely food with rasam being truly relished and then we walked to take some clicks of the moon. Disappointed with the cancellation of night trek we slept waiting for the morning trek. The weather was cool in the night and it got colder towards morning.

Next morning some how managed to get up at 5:15 AM, and started off to Swamimalai at 5:45. We reached the place around 6:15 but we were late and the sun was already coming out. We parked vehicle near temple and hired a guide who fell upon us and we were not able to decline.
Though the guide was pretty old, he was much faster than us. Path was clearly visible and through out there was steps. Here and there we stopped for watching the birds. Guide was very enthusiastic about showing us the bee hives("Thena" in Tamil) and digging by bears("Karadi" in Tamil). Though initially he had told us that there were bears, we understood that only after seeing the digging. This discovery made me wonder what will happen if a sloth bear suddenly emerges out of the dense bushes flanking our path! There were plenty of bul buls and we sighted paradise fly catcher too. We were torn between watching the birds , finishing the trek before sun becomes too harsh and then there was the hunger factor. On the way were worried not to see anybody else trekking on the way. After nearly an hours trek we reached the top. On the top there is temple and plateau to to watch the the surroundings. One has to climb to the plateu using the shaky iron ladder. I guess the view would have been much better just after monsoon or as Rajesh said Jan/Dec when there is sesame flower bloom in the fields below the hills.

After spending couple of minutes on the plateau we started climbing down. Half way through we started meeting other trekkers. Though it was not an Olympic race we were rejoiced to know that we were the first to reach the peak that day. Also there was a doubt in the mind if we had really climbed Swami-Malai or some other peak, all that was put to rest by the inflow of the people. When we reached temple where we had parked our vehicle, only thing that was on our mind was breakfast. Based on the suggestion of driver of the tourist vehicle behind us, we went Hotel Hills and were disappointed by the food. We thought we will have coffee at another place and reached Hotel Yelagiri. Yet again we were disappointed know there was no coffee available there.After making couple of STD calls we were back at the resort.

At the resort Rajesh gave us directions to find the guide (Thatha) who will take us around the forest. It was a eucalyptus forest devoid of animals and birds. But it was dense all around with thorny bushes.We had a pleasant walk with almost next to silence under the shades occasionally meeting bunch of children who were collecting dry woods. Only thing that was making noise was our foot steps.
Back from the walk we took bath and some simple homely lunch. Then we were back on the track to Bangalore.

For those planning to visit

To find how to go and what to see check out "Yelagiri on"

When to go ?
Though Outlook traveller suggests that its all around the year, I would say its best after the monsoon and till may be Jan. If you are going after Jan plan such that you reach the place in the evening and do all the activities in the next day morning and you can leave before the sun gets hot in the afternoon. There is cool breeze in the evening and it gets colder by the night. We slept without the fan and started feeling cold around morning. Afternoons can be hot during the months Feb to Apr. Post monsoons it is supposed very pleasant climate. Compared to Ooty(1858 m) , Kodaikanal(2089m) and Yercaud(1500 m), Yelagiri is situated 1410 m above sea level.

Stay and Food
Though we were visiting their on off season period, almost everybody turned us down for the accommodation. Then if you see the search the net lot of complaining about accommodation too. There is Hotel Yelagiri, Nigress, Hotel Hills and Sterling Resorts. Most of these also have their own restaurant. It is advisable to book in advance. When were searching for stay, some initially said rooms available then backtracked or some said no and then showed us pricey options which not worth that much money. If you are planning a early morning trek to Swami-Malai, ONila might be the closest. Then there was Rythms supposed to open in couple of weeks, offers a lake view. There are also home stay options, if you inquire at the shops or STD booths you can easily find one.
We stayed at Rainbow Resort in a room with limited facilities surrounded by forest and enjoyed the stay thanks to a walk through woods in the morning (The resort also also provides rooms with more facilities). The food served though simple was much better than we tasted else where in Yelagiri. We always had Rajesh to talk about this and that and always smiling at your help resort staff.
Outlook Traveller recommends Hotel Diana at Hotel Hills as the best option for food, but we did not like the breakfast and it was not worth the price as well. The food at Hotel Yelagiri was better but there was no coffee/tea served on that day. To sum it up be prepared for food or stay not matching your expectations if you are not lucky.