Tuesday, May 26, 2009
'Rhumba' (very) Fine at Yercaud!
Spent quite an eventful trip at yercaud and was back last night. Travelling with little kids is a problem and on top of that having to deal with an ex-half armyman who is unwell, and impatient and prone to shouting orders at the drop of a hat (ie my father) is a challenge that only the kind hearted Mr can take up.So, off we went amidst much confusion, everyone pushing and pulling in different directions. The first problem was acquiring a wheelchair, which was solved quite easily at Bangalore city railway station. Baba was whisked away by the wheelchair route with ma following behind and we reached the platform within minutes of each other.The train was on time. We were off to Selum from where Yercaud is a 1 hour drive up hill from Selam town. The train reached on time at 9pm. Thereafter the trouble began...there were no porters at Selam at that time. One sickly looking fellow was already engaged. The Mr searched about for one, because we needed him to get the wheel chair for baba. Baba could hardly be contained screaming for the Station master with ma trying to calm him down. The Mr at last acquired a wheelchair- he had to deposit his identity card! This is how our disabled are treated at our railway stations! No wheelchairs and the path which wheelchairs take, long and winding over the rail tracks and really dangerous sometimes.There is change needed here!Then we were deposited in a safe place on the other side of the station...another thing the way out for wheelchairs lead out to a god forsaken part of the platform from where it is difficult to get any vehicle (must speak to Mamata didi about this)! The Mr sped off to return the wheelchair. A kind gentleman had helped ma while crossing the tracks with the chair, he hung around and was joined by a second gentleman who even summoned a taxi for us on his phone, they also scolded the lone porter who had by then arrived after completing his previous chore. By the time the Mr arrived after depositing the wheelchair, the taxi had arrived.
Hotel Ganesh mahal acted like a balm to our frayed nerves. The service is good, we had already had sandwiches on the train so we just had to flop down on the wonderful bed! The next morning revealed a surprise, Selam town, that had smelled like Agra the last night was transformed as the line of hills became visible at the horizon in the morning light! We were bathed and ready by 9am and off we went on a taxi (rs 800) to Yercaud.
The Yercaud lake has been taken over by the tamil Nadu government and the only hotel on its banks is the Hotel Tamil Nadu, the Mr had made an e-booking for us over there. The buildings are sprawling with cottages dotting the slope. We had opted for the rooms which had a view of the lake.The boating was also entirely under the control of the Hotel Tamil Nadu people. I think it is a wise idea not to do any boating on Sundays because the whole of South India descends upon the lake on that day!! Yercaud is a convenient weekend getaway! The rates are also higher on Sundays and the lake over crowded with boats of all shapes and sizes! We were kept standing in the line for over 20mins when I in typical Delhi/ Calcutta fighter cock woman style started demanding an explanation for our long wait! Till I kicked up the storm, everyone else was waiting patiently with nary a complaint while the women at the counter chatted and laughed and occassionally handed out a ticket or two to the sweating and weary line stander! They were so shocked at the outburst that they began to issue me a ticket bypassing the poor man who was standing in front of me with two kids, mumbling something about rush and shortage of boats! In any case the public must be told why they have been made to stand in line for so long said I firmly! Finally I did manage a row boat for the mite and me. The Mr and the brat had gone off in a two seater because that's all that was available. We did manage to take the row boat ride together though.
There are many view points in an around Yercaud. On the first day Baba refused to budge from the lake side in the morning so we took an auto to Shevaroy temple, the highest point in Yercaud. There is an intriguing cave temple there and one can see the whole of Yercaud town from the plateau top. The brat took a camel ride with her father. There are some giant wheels and small mary go rounds there and of course the camel which look quite out of place in this high land! The Tamil Nadu government has handled the tourism prospects of Yercaud pretty badly. There are trafic jams on Sunday and we did not spot a single policeman. When I asked at the hotel reception why this was so, the person there first made an excuse that there aren't enough police men and then added " they are busy looking after the VIPs"!!! There is a camel ride near the lake too and cycles for hire but no place to cycle in!On our way back from the Shevaroy point we also visited the Rajarajeshwari temple. Not noticing the 'no camera' sign I clicked pictures of the shiv idol near the entrance and the five faced Ganesha, but no one came rushing at me in rage, like in other temples.
In the evening Baba decided to join us in exploring two other points- the lady's seat and the gent's seat. The former is the more famous of the two and therefore more crowded. We had a view of the famous hair pin curves by which we had ascended the mountains. Baba made us pose for an 'instant photo' of the family which has come out pretty well! The gent's seat is higher than the lady's seat and has a closer view of the hair pin curve mountain side. We witnessed a beautiful sun set there. Then we went for some essential oil shopping at the Bhavani Singh factory store which has oils to relieve joint pains, sinus problems, etc. Then we went for a wholesome dosa dinner at a hotel nearby.
Breakfast was complimentary at Hotel Tamil Nadu and had idli, vada, poha, upma and dosa. We forgave the canteen guys for not bringing the tea on time... Full with the breakfast we hired a taxi to give the town a second look, this time with baba in tow. So first was the trip to Shevaroy point, Rajarajeswari temple, then Pagoda point- which had a completely different view then a quick round near Montford school and back to the lake in good time for the boating escapade. In the evening it was again the 4 of us for a round at the rose garden- children's seat which had yet another view of the hair pins- and the lady's seat. We missed the telescope views at the Lady's seat every time due to mist. On the first day there was bright sunshine but we were too late for the telescope and the next 2 days were misty...so...we had to rely on the naked eye! The children's seat is the cleanest and according to us, affored the best view of the hairpin curves. It has a ticket system and can be approached from the rose garden. After these points we headed back to the lake where we were met by Ma and Baba. After the mandatory coffee we retired for the day. Dinner was at Tamil Nadu Hotel and Baba declared that "Hotel Tamil Nadu IS THE BEST" (and bayonet in the backside of those who do not agree!!!), the Mr mumbled something about bad service and the rest which resulted in another loud assertion of the superiority of this hotel after which the Mr gave up! The food in this hotel was really good, and its proximity to the lake made it easy for Baba to walk there and observe the milling crowds.
We had watched the thrilling semi-final of the IPL the previous night which the Bangalore Royal Challengers had won, now we hoped to see them win the final...of course our hopes were crushed. We planned to attempt the trek to Killiyur falls on the last day at Yercaud. Bright and early the next morning the Mr and I set off for Killiyur falls- there was no water there (as the monsoons have not arrived)-but it would be nice morning walk site as it is unspoilt. This treking business is the Mr's idea, I would rather curl up with a book at children's seat, but I decided to venture out with him, secure in the knowledge that Ma would look after the sleeping kids. It was only a kilometer long trek, the path goes steeply down the mountain side to the base of the falls. We took an auto for the 2km ride upto the start of the path. " Rhumba down" said our auto man...off we trudged down the mountainside. There were sounds of chirping birds and the distant sound of water from a shallow stream that fell from high up in the slopes. An irate cock crowed at us for a bit, and then relented. I went down panting and puffing, but I was happy to reach the rocks at the bottom of the hill. I also managed to clamber up with the help of the Mr and am still living to tell the tale, that's an achievement for someone as unfit as me!! We wraped up the trek by 7:45 and were back at the hotel by 8. The brat bawled for sometime when she came to know that she had been unable to get up for the trek (she had slept pretty late), but calmed down when we promised another boat ride. After the huge complimentary breakfast we went off for the boat ride- no lines at the booking counter and pure bliss on a nearly deserted lake!
On this last morning we decided to visit the horticultural garden and orchidarium, which had been closed on Sunday. The orchid garden was a pleasure to explore even though it is not blooming season. An entire day can be spent here with ease. Then we took ma baba to the children's seat for the view. After some last minute shopping we headed off for Selam at 1pm. it was a roller coaster ride down hill and we reached rather fast. We had lunch in Selam and waited at the railway station waiting room. This time we found a very efficient porter who did a good job of bringing Baba to the waiting room and making him board the train.
While coming back the train was an hour and a half late and again at Bangalore we faced the wheelchair problem. The porter said that a train was standing at the platform from where the wheelchairs were brought and it would be difficult to get one before 11pm when that train is expected to leave. Baba became agitated and started shouting "wheelchair" at the top of his lungs, when he saw that the word did not conjure up the chair he agreed to walk some distance. After walking the length of the platform the porter finally dumped the luggage on a trolley, made baba sit on it and pulled it along to where our taxi was waiting. The inference from these strange occurances is this- the railway administration only expects the disabled to travel in the mornings, a little late at night, and the whole system works against them. Baba observed this morning that not only was he the only disabled person around but he was also the most elderly. So are we them making the conditions at our railway stations so hostile that the elderly and the disabled are unable to travel by the rail? Baba enjoyed the journeys and showed a lot of courage and faith in the Mr and me to agree to travel on the train with us in this condition. He has also started making plans for a holiday at Pondicherry next May! That revelation is going to give the Mr some sleepless nights! Anyhow, Baba's "bhaloi laglo Yercaud" (Yercaud was good) made us feel happy and increased our enjoyment of the place.