Long weekends in Bengaluru mean either of two things for most people - you either turn into Rip Van Winkle or rush off on a trip to wherever it is you decided 5 minutes after stepping out of the office. Sleep is for the weak, they say, and I couldn’t help but agree on this particular weekend.
The Date is 31st August, 2019. At 6 a.m. I find myself riding pillion heading out of Bengaluru. We managed to avoid most of the early morning rush but had to contend with the cold and the breeze. As we made it to the city outskirts, I never imagined I’d see the calm side of Electronic City one day. Before this revelation on this particular morning, I always imagined it as the side of Bengaluru which never sleeps. My chain of thought is broken as my friend who was riding the bike claims we needed to fuel up before hitting the highway at full speed.
Having topped up the tanks of our motorcycles, we felt our veins pumping with adrenaline. Consisting of 4 friends, two bikes and our big enthusiastic hearts, we set out on a much-awaited bike road trip. Our destination? Yercaud. A quaint little hill station in the Shevaroy Hills of Salem district in Tamil Nadu. Located about 205 kms from Bengaluru, it was a no brainer for a quick getaway destination. Well coming back to the ride itself, it was sublime. Crossing over from Karnataka to Tamil Nadu, we could feel the perceived temperature in the air and humidity increase ever so slightly with each kilometre covered. But the open and wide road of National Highway 44 completely made up for it. Cruising at about 100 kms per hour, I’d say the weekend was already beginning to look great.
The clock hands showed me 8-45 AM. We stopped over at the famous A2B along the highway for breakfast. It wasn’t surprising to see that almost everybody travelling along the highway, stop at this joint for their meals. A2B is renowned for its food quality and service, and this particular outlet was no different. Even ardent meat lovers don’t mind skipping over their protein for a meal at any A2B. So, after a filling meal and refreshing cups of coffee and tea, we were on our way again. The sun was shining a lot brighter, and the open road seemed to glisten as far as my eyes could see. We managed to capture a few shots of the hills along the road, and they turned out fantastic.
By 11 in the morning, we had reached the outskirts of Salem. Thankfully we didn’t have to navigate through the inner parts of the city to reach Yercaud. From here on out, Yercaud was about 30 kms away, so we eased up on the pace at which we were riding. Yercaud is to Salem as to what Mussoorie is to Dehradun, albeit the latter duo being the far more well known and scenic destinations. But this hill station in southern has its own charms. As we ascended up the hilly roads just bordering Salem, we knew we were close. At that point in time, I seriously contemplated taking the bus to Yercaud because my behind could not bear sitting on the stiff seat of the bike anymore. Buses run from Salem to Yercaud and back throughout the day and cost a mere INR 10, which is a great deal. Of course, it doesn’t scream luxury or convenience, but hey it felt like a better option than a sore bottom. Forgoing the bus turned out to be the better choice as the winding road ascending up the hill made way for some scenic views and the cool breeze hitting our sweaty scalps. The twenty hairpin bends were very enjoyable as well as we were on bikes and I wouldn’t have trusted myself had I been the one riding the bike.
The ascent felt like a short one as within 40 mins, we reached Yercaud. At first glance, the scarcity of tourist activity came to our notice. For a brief moment, I began to question if we made the right choice. But then again, I remembered we had chosen this location to escape the crowd, not follow it. The heart of the town, Emerald Lake, is where you’d find most tourists. Most of the recommended places to eat in Yercaud lies in and around the lake. Near the lake, you would find these small stalls and carts primarily selling fried vegetables along with other Indian snacks such as Maggi, bread pakoras etc. I particularly noticed how there was a wide range of shops in that part of the town itself. It was pretty hard to miss and not remember considering the only traffic circle in the entire town happened to be at that location.
We checked into our accommodation at around 1 in the afternoon. The name of the stay was The Silver Inn, about 2.5 kms from the town’s centre. The receptionist cum caretaker was well versed in English. The rooms were pretty spacious, and the inn was located in a quiet part of the town which was really appealing. After resting for almost 2 hours, we asked our receptionist for advice on the places to see and eat. We were delighted to know that Yercaud was small enough to explore within the span of 6-7 hours. Yes, one-fourth of a day. It’s that small!! Imagine it in this way, if you take the town’s centre, the Emerald Lake as the central point, all of the touristy locations branched out in different directions from it, each lying at about 5-7 kms away.
We chose Pagoda Point as our first location to go explore. It was decent and not very exciting, to say the least. There were some viewing points, some elevated, and you could overlook the valley. We indulged ourselves in a few games of balloon shooting and clicked a few pictures. This picture below could pretty much give you an idea of what you could expect for a view.
Our next location was Lady’ Seat. We saw some pictures online about how lively the place was in the evening, and we weren’t disappointed. A very small viewpoint at the edge of the hill and complemented by many snack stalls, the location was livelier than we imagined. Tourists thronged to get the best angles for their photos as the day grew older. But the true beauty of the location came out when it was well past 6 in the evening, and we could see the city lights of Salem. Oh and be careful of the monkeys!!
For the rest of the day, we went about shopping for some souvenirs. Yercaud houses some stalls where one can buy locally grown tea and coffee. We managed to sample some locally made chocolate and herbal products as well. Before retiring for the night, we set out to buy some alcohol for the night. Little did we know we were about to set out on a mini-adventure. Asking around, we found out that there were two places from where we could purchase our poison for the night. We chose to go for the more ‘fancier’ sounding and better-looking place on google. At first glance, the name TASMAC Mall Shop threw us off, as it sounded nothing like a liquor store. Google maps showed us that it was at a considerable distance from the town’s centre. As we followed the directions, we realised that we were going into an unknown part of the town where most people who were only looking to buy alcohol would visit. The shop itself was tiny but well-lit. It looked like we had found civilisation again after a long ride out into the middle of nowhere. No street lights, few houses and the constant sound of insects and customers shouting out their favourite alcohol brands. More surprisingly, it turns out that TASMAC is a government-run liquor chain. They were even ready to accept payments through their very own mobile application offering cashback incentives. With equal amounts of amusement and surprise, we got what we needed and headed back to our inn and after a hearty session of talking and dinner, retired for the night.
The next day started out well with a sumptuous breakfast at a cafe called Eggetarian. It serves a variety of egg dishes and is very budget-friendly. Keep in mind that the outlet does not accept any form of digital payment and is strictly cash-only. We ordered dishes like chicken and cheese omelettes and omelette sandwiches along with our morning coffee and tea. The weather was on our side too, not very sunny but warm enough so we could go about without the cold being too bothersome. After the hearty egg-themed breakfast, we decided to visit Kiliyur Falls. The road to the nearest parking spot near the waterfall is not well-maintained and quite narrow as well. It is advisable not to take large vehicles; otherwise, you could get stuck while going to and coming back. Reaching the actual waterfall involved a bit of hiking and conquering some steep man-made steps. We were greeted by the sight of other tourists happily bathing and engaging in risky stunts for the purpose of clicking pictures and videos. In all honesty, the waterfall wasn’t all that picturesque as we had imagined. There was a certain unrewarding feeling. But hey, it was worth a few photographs for the books, so, here you go.
Next on the list was Father’s and Children’s Seat (yes, the attractions make up a family of three). Unlike Lady’ Seat, these two locations required a modest entry fee and provided a more fabulous view of the valley. The gardens and walkways in Father’ Seat are well maintained, and there are certain spots within, where one can sit and admire the view.
After spending sometime looking around and clicking photographs, we headed back to the town to have lunch. It was a quick meal of chicken biryani, and as it was our last meal before we headed out back for Bengaluru, it gave me sometime to think. Yercaud didn’t really have much to offer in terms of quantity or quality, but it was a good enough destination to kill off one long weekend. A very laid back town with wonderful and friendly inhabitants, it is one of those places which you can never think of going back to. And this was not because it wasn’t worth it but because it left a feeling of satisfaction which would probably be ruined the second time around. As we headed back down the winding hairpin bends once again, I realised that sometimes the places which people don’t really talk about or frequent are the ones which leave the most simple and everlasting memories.