Dolphin's Nose in Kodaikanal, India

Kodaikanal is Cool…Literally and Figuratively

After our last hectic bus rides we treated ourselves to the tourist coach for the final leg of our journey to Kodaikanal.

The Church of St. Anthony in Kodaikanal, India
The Church of St. Anthony in Kodaikanal, India

We were told it would take under three hours as opposed to the five or so that the local bus took and was only $1 per person more expensive, so away we went. What we were not told was that the coach would stop at numerous tourist locations en-route making the trip take more than four hours and that in the end they would refuse to drop us off anywhere near where we wanted to be.

Check out a video of what an Indian tourist trap looks like. This is the Silver Falls, an area that mostly only rich Indians visit.

After the drop off and more than an hour of walking with our heavy bags we came across a hotel we liked and, despite the loud music echoing in the valley behind our room, we checked in. We soon learned the music was a part of the St. Anthony Day celebration and would continue for another day and a half. Still, we had a large room in a cool climate and were ready to relax for a few days.

On our first night we took a walk down the hill behind our hotel to the church that was the focal point of the festival and found the entire street lit up by colorful lights and parade floats. We watched as babies were blessed in brightly lit shrines and people prayed to Catholic symbols being paraded through the neighborhood.

The hills surrounding Kodaikanal, India
The hills surrounding Kodaikanal, India

Numerous locals came up to us to say hello and explain what was going on including the coordinator of the entire festival. He said the event was a two day celebration of St. Anthony with lots of church time and loud parades around Kodaikanal carrying holy relics to worship.

While at a restaurant the next day trying to escape the blaring music in our hotel room, we met Zack and Shira from Detroit who we would spend the whole next day with. This is especially noteworthy as they were the first Americans that we spent more than a few minutes with in the past two months.

Together we hiked around and visited Pillar Rock, which is one of the most popular attractions in the town, though we couldn’t even see it due to the fog. On a clear day you can climb to the top of these rocks and see for hundreds of miles; when we went we couldn’t get close and only saw the shadowy tip through the fog.

Pillar Rock, India
This is all we saw of Pillar rock and it was only this clear for a few seconds

During our time in Kodaikanal, we were approached scores of times a day by tourism agents offering treks to Pillar Rock and other landmarks. They advertised them as walks through nature and cost anywhere from $7 – $25 per person, depending on the guide. Carrie and I found this absurd, as Kodaikanal was easily navigable without help and the forested parts so heavily touted by trek organizers were often just a path right next to the main road. As such, we finished our time in town with one last guideless hike to Dolphin Point, which had amazing vistas and a rock jetting out that looked like a dolphin’s nose that you could sit on and take a cool photo.

Everywhere Carrie and I go we always try to eat at local establishments, even if we have no idea what we are getting. In Kodaikanal I found my favorite spot in all of India. For $1, Carrie and I could both fill up with an omelet, thick and delicious parottas (essentially super thick tortillas/chapatis) and a trio of amazing sauces: specifically tomato chutney, coconut chutney and chicken gravy. I ate there five times in four days and would love nothing more than to bring the whole restaurant back to the USA with me.

Finally, while on the subject of food, every Sunday Kodaikanal has a local fruit and veggie market that is unlike anything back at home. There are dozens of vendors selling the same exact things and everything was weighed out by old fashioned scales. Fried food vendors also line the sides of the market and you can get dirt cheap samosas or anything else fried. Mmmmm.