Living London, Loving Chennai

Monday, June 27, 2005

Salem / Yercaud trip log

This is a brief trip log of my visit with the missus to Salem / Yercaud on 25 and 26 June. I had to goto Salem to attend a close friends wedding, I thought I could club it with a trip to Yercaud.

We left Bangalore on 25th evening by bus around 5:30 PM. It was a TN state bus and as usual was a rickety old one. Apart from being uncomfortable, there was not much special about the journey itself. It was a very crowded bus with standees. The 200 kms trip took over 6.5 hours which tells the plight TN buses now.

We reached Salem around 12 in the midnight. Fortunately, comfortable and decent hotels are available across the road in Salem. We took up a room in Hotel Juha Residency on the main road.

26th was the friend's reception which was in the evening. Our plan was to visit Yercaud and spend the day in the cooler climes. Yercaud, often called poor man's Ooty, is a small hill station, about 1350 mtrs above sea level. It enjoys a pleasant weather of around 25-30 in summer days and nights are much cooler. Its main economic activity is coffee estates along with some pepper plantations and other forest produce. Off late, tourism has become an important source of employment and revenue here, although end of June is not the peak season here.

Yercaud is only about 30 Kms from Salem. Locals said I would get a bus every 5-10 mins from Salem but it is not true. You will have to wait between 15 to 45 mins to get a bus and the bus gets very full quickly. You have to have the skills of seat-catching in city buses to get a comfortable seat. Fortunately we did manage a convenient if not comfortable seat. The bus left for Yercaud at 9:30 am. For about 10 kms you can see the urban sprawl of Salem city after which the hill road begins. The 1000 odd metre height is climbed over 20 hair-pin bends. The surface of the the road is good although road is not very broad. As soon as we climb, we can see the Salem city sprawling on our left. This is no Manhattan or HongKong, but it is still nice. The bus takes about an hor and half to reach the top.

For tourists, the better place to get down is the Lake or boat house rather than Yercaud bus stand. The main attraction in Yercaud is Lake and all tourist infrastructure is available around here only. As we got down enjoying the chill breeze of the mountains, we were accosted by Taxi/Autos offering sight seeing trip. We chose the most persistent one and got ourselves an ambassador. He quoted Rs 350 but came down to Rs 300 and promised to cover all the sights in about 3 hours .

We started off with a trip to the Shevaroyan Temple, the presiding deity of the hills. On the way we stopped at another temple for RajaRajeshwari. Shevaroyan temple is located at the highest point in the hills. It is a small temple , a sort of cave temple. The views from the top are breathtaking, although it was a very hazy, misty day. There is also a TV relay station in this place.

Coming back from the temple, we visited 3 view points. Lady's seat, which has a telescope (Rs 5) is not worth it especially on the misty day. A little higher is the Gent's seat and they both offer view of sorrounding mountains and Salem City. The third, Children's seat offers good views of Yercaud town itself and the lake. There is a Rose / horticulture garden (Entrance Rs 2, camera Rs 10), which houses the children's seat. This is a pretty decent garden with coffee, guava, pepper plantations etc in a nice foresty ambience. The rose garden itself was ok, though the season and flower show had just got over. On the way, as part of customay shopping, we were taken to "Bhawani Singh Perfumery". We went thinking it was factory visit, but it was to the showroom. After sampling various oils and herbs they were making, we chose one herbal oil for cold and a bottle of honey. We were dropped off near the lake, where Hotel Malar in Shevaroy Hotel offers the best veg meal in town.

We also went for boating in the lake, which was fairly small and muddy. It is awaiting the rains for more water. While we were boating, another groups boat got stuch in the sand and one person from the boat had to get down in the middle of the lake to push it . There is also a small children's park named Anna Park and a deer park with a few deers, peacocksand rabbits strewn around, near the lake.

It was time to return to Salem. The return journey was a little more eventful. First, there was a big rush for the bus and we had to miss a couple of them to get seats. Then the bus itself had a major problem, one tyre was getting too hot and smoke and burning smell were coming from the same. The driver somehow managed to bring it till the plains and after a brief break for 20 mins, took it forward by a couple of more KMs. Then it totally stopped as the smoke increased and we had to take an auto from there to the hotel.

We also attended the wedding reception in Fair Lands, Salem and once again offer our best wishes to the couple.

I will upload some photos later to this blog and maybe in Webshots or Flickr too.


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