Feel of the country in Yercaud - Published in the Sunday Herald on 19th January 2014

Feel of The Country in Yercaud

It is very difficult to believe that a mere twenty two kilometres from chaotic, noisy and lively Salem, at a height of 4970 feet, lies Yercaud , a quaint hill station in the middle of Shevaroy Hills in the Eastern Ghats. Yercaud,  the "jewel of the south", is not as well known as Ootacamund or Kodaikanal and therefore spared the ravages of droves of tourists but it is a very popular hill station because it is relatively less expensive and has comfortable weather conditions throughout the year. The temperature does not cross 28 or 29 degrees in summer and does not fall below 13 to 14 degrees in winter.

Tracing its etymology to the Tamil term 'Yer' meaning lake and ' Kadu' meaning forest, Yercaud, literally means the Forest around the lake and is believed to have been inhabited first by the tribes from Kanchipuram when Tamil Nadu or Thondai, as it was then known, was invaded by Telugu rulers. We know about Yercaud from the time Sir Thomas Muroe discovered it on 1842. Planters made a beeline after David Cockburn set up his own plantation with coffee, pepper, orange, apple and other citrus fruit plants imported from South Africa.
A 22 kilometre, forty five minute drive from Salem on a fine ghat road is one of the USPs of Yercaud. This drive is best done in the morning so that you can ooh and aah over the twenty, scary hairpin bends, the beautiful scenery and the clusters of baby monkeys and their families.

You know you have reached Yercaud when the lake appears. This is quite a sight - a serene body of water ringed in by mysterious beautiful hills and dotted with colourful boats. There are other sights too in  Yercaud. The Lady's Seat, perched up on a precipice gives a vantage view of the hills all around, the sunrise and the sunset. It is named so because the ladies of the Raj would sit there and pass the time of the day soaking in the sun and the beauty with a pair of binoculars. At the Botanical gardens, the Orchadarium and the Rose gardens you can see the diverse flora and fauna of the Shevaroy Hills right down to the insectivorous pitcher plant. The Killiyur Falls into which the lake empties out is another beautiful sight, if you can manage the trek. The view from Pagoda Point and the Karadiyur Point in Karadiyur village, 12 kilometres from Yercaud are worth a dekko.

For those who swear off the traditional sight seeing spots, Yercaud offers many small streets and bylines through which you can amble gently, soaking in the quaint colonial bungalows, stop by and tease a butterfly and quaff a cup of tea from the chai kadai (shop) in the typical olde worlde thick glass tumbler. Or you can pick up some absolutely fresh green peppercorns, bite into soft avocados and taste some uncommon fruits right off the trees in the plantations. Then you can get into the car and drive around the 32 kilometre loop road which starts at the lake and ends at it - a road straight out of the picture book complete with the canopy of trees.
Most visitors gravitate to Yercaud in the summer but it is the monsoon and winter have that I have enjoyed Yercaud the best, with the clouds swirling all over the hill station, coming into my room and bringing with it the fragrance of the rain as it hits the hills around. To snatch that let-up in the rain and  walk down the roads that are totally mud splattered may not be everyone's cup of tea but the greenery awash with rain and the mist closing in is not something to be taken lightly! Yet, if you are the type to want to remain warm and dry, you can still pull up the chair to the sit out and watch the clouds and the rain till Kingdom come.
Give Yercaud only three days - you will not need more. Just three days and you will come back feeling happy and peaceful and completely recharged!


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