A Hillside Haven For Offbeat Travellers In Kodi

Representational image
Representational imageAjay Singh

Vattakanal, otherwise known as ‘Little Israel’, lies 7 kilometres from the popular Nilgiri hill station, Kodaikanal. Whereas rampant tourism has morphed Kodaikanal into an awkward mixture of Domino’s, Papa John’s and Subway wedging themselves into a town previously made up of old Tibetan restaurants, flower gardens, and ginger-honey-lemon-tea stalls, Vattakanal remains relatively unchanged.

Image Source: Julian Manning

You can sit back and watch the mist roll into the valley, breezes rustle through an ambling pear orchard, and clouds swirl into different formations while sipping on a cold coffee at Vattakanal’s laidback Altaf Cafe. The hillside hangout is peppered with pleasing paintings on the wall, from a celestial Albert Einstein to the ever-iconic Dali — these interiors coupled with the open-air mountain view offer a crazy vista of Perumal Peak on a good day.

Image Source: Julian Manning
Image Source: Julian Manning

After you’ve had a fresh juice or a Nutella crepe, the Dolphin’s Nose mini-hike is a great way to experience the area. Just take a left outside of Altaf Cafe and meander down an incline full of large stones protruding out of the path. Sadly, the footpath down to Dolphin’s Nose Viewpoint is full of litter, mainly multi-coloured Lay’s packets left by tourists who couldn’t care less about the well-being of this swathe of paradise.

However, the view at the bottom of the trail picks your spirit back up! Do note that you can be distracted from even the most gorgeous of views when a horde of disgruntled primates start growling at the scent of leftover Chicken Chow Mein wafting from your backpack. These monkeys tend to swarm the area, emboldened by tourists feeding them trash.

If you’re a bit of an explorer, you can continue walking down another smaller path from Dolphin’s Nose and head deeper into the valley. For the more ambitious, should a wee forest path strike your fancy, you can always trail blaze and puff on a nice hand-rolled cigarette under a canopy of eucalyptus trees — just don’t start a forest fire!

Image Source: Julian Manning

While there are many affordable guesthouses in the area, the best places seem to be the wooden cottages bordering the far side of the valley’s pear orchard across from Altaf Cafe. Of course, they run at a high price of INR 3,000, but if you could buy peace and tranquillity for a day, these cabins would be your best bet. Just remember, you have to book them a week in advance.

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