A weekend getaway to Yelagiri
What do you do on a rainy weekend in a city, when flooded streets and chaotic traffic wouldn’t let you enjoy the rains? Well, if you are like me, you would find yourself a ride and get out of the city. Driving my bike didn’t seem like a good idea in that weather so I booked a Chennai taxi with a reliable driver and headed towards Yelagiri.
The mini hill station, sitting quietly in the Vellore district is one of the most beautiful places to spend some time near Chennai, and also my favorite. Being at a little higher altitude also makes it pleasant and lets you enjoy the cooler weather. I have mostly been there for short treks and camping trips, but never solo or to experience a quiet time and enjoy the solitude. So, this trip turned out to be quite special. I paid attention to every little thing around, which one often misses when traveling in groups.
It was a drive of nearly five hours. Escaping the city roads took some time but once I hit the highway, it was a smooth ride, and the rains had also subsided by then. After 230 Km and multiple hairpin-bends later, I reached the greener and quieter countryside. The weather, the landscape, and the serenity seemed perfect for a relaxed weekend, away from the grind.
Whenever I had visited Yelagiri earlier, I mostly resorted to the camping grounds, so I never quite knew the inner workings of the town and what it had in store for its travelers. The hill station is a cluster of 14 tiny hamlets and Athanavur is the main town. En route, I noticed orchards, rose gardens, and valleys flanking the hilly, winding roads that passed through the settlements.
A quiet weekend in the country
The next two days went something like this-
Taking a long walk through the luxurious trails.
There is an entirely different kind of joy in walking through trees and unknown forest trails. So, one of the days, I took a long walk through the nature park and into the neighboring woods. The park is quite touristy though, with musical fountains and aquariums. But once you cross it, and land at the outer fringes, you can see the forested lands which open into cliffs with amazing views.
Sailing along the Punganur Lake.
This is perhaps the best part of Yelagiri. The sprawling water body, surrounded by imposing hills and lined with quaint retreats on the banks was the perfect spot to have a day picnic or simply sit by and enjoy the day. I took a boat and sailed along the calm water, while it drizzled intermittently. When I landed on the other side, I found dirt roads that led to a small, unnamed waterfall. Parts of the trail were almost covered in dense overgrowth of shrubs and bushes.
Spending some time at the farms.
I enjoy visiting farms and seeing farmers at work. It is deeply comforting and refreshing to be up close with the source of our daily meals. Each of the 14 hamlets of Yelagiri has small farmlands growing beans, lentils, and jackfruits. There were also a few apiaries and silk farms. At a short drive from my resort, I landed at the Mangalam village. I walked through the fields and orchards, watching farmers tending the fields, dredging the rainwater, and collecting honey.
When you are in an exquisite place, you would forget how time flies. For me, those two days went by like a dream, making me want to stay back, perhaps forever. But one must be back to their realities. But Yelagiri will always remain like a work of art for me, where I can walk into whenever I want to escape my reality.
If you want to go for serious trekking expeditions, then definitely do the Swamimalai Trek. Sitting at 4338 feet, it offers an exciting climbing experience through rugged trails and forests. Always opt for camping overnight at the forest grounds. You will need a permit from the forest department for camping and touring. If you are a beginner, then join a professional group, because some segments of this route could be quite steep and difficult.
For culture lovers
If you are visiting Yelagiri in the summer months, don’t miss the Summer Festival organized by the state tourism department. You can book tour packages which also include the same. The event has flower shows, cultural programs, art exhibits, and food festivals with local produce, and more. It makes for an incredible opportunity to expose yourself to the local culture.
For group travel
If you are traveling with big groups or family, always avail a comfortable and spacious tempo traveler in Chennai and make your journey comfortable and convenient.