“Yercaud – a gem in the Eastern Ghats”
Nearly 2 months of hospital duty and being home bound for Toshu’s exams had made us stir crazy and it required just a nudge for running away for a couple of days to the hills. The heat this year in Bangalore has also aggravated my allergies. Called up Club Mahindra and the only availability at short notice was a room at Yercaud at the Lake Forest Hotel, which someone had cancelled (thankfully!) – the last we went to Yercaud was nearly 12 years ago and Ranga was not too keen yet a break sounded lovely and so…we confirmed the booking.
Left home at 7am as the check in time is 12noon and the distance of 229 kms should take only about 4 hours or so + breakfast stop break of say 30min. A 20min traffic snarl near the vegetable mandi close to St.John’s was the only aggravation in a near perfect road, beautiful NH7, the longest national highway in India took us straight to A2B which is undergoing some renovation, but the piping Pongal and dosa belied the fact. We then cruised on and reached Salem, where the cut outs of politicians, esp. AIADMK are so huge that it can practically get claustrophobic and the only thing you register as you drive into town is Jayalalithaa in various poses and sizes (not a very pleasant memory!). Yercaud is reached by taking a left at the second roundabout called 5 roads junction onto Sharda College Road and straight through till the ghats begin at the 21 km mark. 20 hair pin bends and a greenery which changes from brown to green by the time you hit the 13th hair pin bend, is steep in only small stretches and is a well asphalted 2 lane road, well maintained for which we paid an entry toll of Rs.15. You pay 3 tolls on NH7 of Rs.25 at Krishnagiri, Rs.48 at Thoppur and Rs.34 just before Salem, but this total toll of 200+ for to and fro is well worth the convenience. You can easily maintain an average speed of 100 to 115 throughout.
Reached Lake Forest Hotel which is just next to Anna Park, a children’s playground and facing the Yercaud lake. The hotel takes its name from the place – “Yeri” means lake and “Caud” means Forest. The hotel is marketed as an Eco Hotel and is leased from a Mudaliar from Salem District by INDeco Hotels and is an associate of Club Mahindra. A 60 room hotel, this is housed in a live coffee estate which once belonged to Henrietta Charlotte Rosario and the erstwhile Rosar estate is where today’s game room and a few cottages are, the bulk of the cottages are around this in the adjoining Eastlynne estate. The Reception can be easily missed as it is an unobtrusive table in a room full of antiques and collectibles of the Raj, which the CMD of the INDeco hotels apparently is passionate about and has taken the trouble to catalogue each item and preserve a legacy which can otherwise be so easily lost to the passage of time.
Our room was in the original wing which dates back nearly 150 years with modern amenities having been added on. Original antiques dot the room and the beautiful 4 poster bed was pleasurable for an aching back. A few snags though can be corrected – a pressure pump needs to put to increase water pressure in taps, good bedside reading lamps need to given, mesh shutters so that windows can be opened should be given to avoid mosquitoes invading and also so that rooms can be ventilated.
Reaching the hotel at about 12, we decided to order a simple meal and relax (after all that was the idea of the trip, right?) which we did and the food was good (the curd rice esp. is to die for!) but a 25% room service charge, really? – you bet!. That decided it; all our other meals will be NOT in the roomJ. We slept like logs and woke up only around 6pm. Got up feeling a little relaxed and in the mood to venture out. We walked to the lake and sat on a bench looking at the water in silence (the lake has boating till 5.30pm) and watched some deer in the deer park playing, their skins tinted a golden hue by the setting sun. Their innocent playful gestures in the cool evening breeze were a balm to our overworked minds and bodies and we felt ourselves relaxing. Went back to the hotel after a quick cup of Kaapi and strolled through all the memorabilia lovingly displayed at the reception – museum. Had a quiet early dinner and went back to the room where Ranga went to bed early whereas I read some, before crashing out.
Got up late around 7am and went for a walk along the quiet lake, marveling at the lack of traffic and people in this small village – town where people were still fast asleep. Feeling invigorated we returned to have a good breakfast amidst green plants. DO NOT MISS the freshly ground and brewed coffee – it is Manna from heaven. We drove to the Shevaroy temple, 7kms from the hotel, which is a cave which supposedly connects Yercaud to Tala Cauvery in Coorg! After 20 feet of bending and walking we reach the sanctum where the puja is performed and what hits you is the lack of crowds and silence. When I mentioned this to the Pujari, he said that’s because it’s a weekday and weekend is positively terrible when most of Salem descends on Yercaud by the busload. Well, we were glad to have missed that! We strolled around taking in the view and then decided to go to the official View Point “Pagoda Point” close to our hotel. En route we visited Ramesh Singh’s herbal shop and perfumery, where we bought some “Relievol” – an all relieving pain oil and a few other assorted things, chatted with this 3rd generation herbalist originally from Rajasthan and he took us through the history of the sleepy town which was a retreat for the British and some estates even today are maintained by the descendants of the British Sahibs who owned them. Bidding adieu to his wife and him, we drove on to Pagoda Point where though the view was beautiful, the amount of plastic and other garbage piled up was sad to see.
The mountain air makes you hungry and we started looking for a place to eat, we passed the renowned Montfort School, the main bazaar and ended up at the multi cuisine restaurant at the Shevaroy Hotel, an old hotel yet well managed and had a lovely simple South Indian thaali to the background of geese and turkeys cackling. Happy and a little tired we went back to Lake Forest. Rested for a couple of hours and settled down to watch the IPL which sadly Bangalore lost to the Daredevils.
We strolled though the resort, had an early dinner and sat in the garden watching fireflies, chatting and watching the stars in the crisp cool evening and started feeling drowsy. Decided to sleep early and start back early too.
We wanted to leave at 7am, but breakfast in Yercaud is leisurely irrespective of what is mentioned as the timings, the earliest was at the Shevaroy at 7.30am, which was only a couple of minutes from our hotel, so we went there and started our journey back home. We reached Bangalore in 3 ½ hours with a 10min coffee break and then it took us within the city, 1 ½ hours to reach home.
We clocked a total of 570kms and had used up about Rs.1500 worth of fuel at about 20kms/litre. Viva my lil buddy – the Santro!!
A great relaxing trip – we will certainly repeat it soon.