Someone told me that Kodaikanal is known as the 'Switzerland of India' - I'd certainly vouch for the accuracy of that comparison. As soon as we reached the outer limits of the town, I felt the cool clean air flushing all the dirt, dust and pollution of India 'down there'- which for us meant 2 days in Mumbai, a 30 hour train journey and then an evening in Dindigul -out of my lungs. What a relief!
I can't praise the quality of the air here enough- it is not only clean, clean, clean, but also odourless, crisp, and
sort of vital: full of life. It makes you want to breathe deeply, fully, wholeheartedly.
We wanted to avoid staying at the hotels in kodaikanal and wanted a different truly unique experience. After spending just one night in the town, we went to begin our volunteering experience at ecostay farms. Situated a thrilling 2 hour drive from Kodai, the farm where we worked is in one of the most peaceful places I've ever visited. You have to drive through a huge pine forest to get there (reminiscent of Switzerland again) and past various small villages. I was mesmerized by the immaculate terraces of the rural areas we drove through- row upon row of neat lines of vegetables on red earth, sculpted by the lie of the land and testament to, what seems to me, an incredible amount of back-breaking work. The parcels of land were often separated by brightly coloured sarongs (who needs boring brown fences?) which added to the vitality and beauty of the place. www.visitkodaikanal.com
Staying on the farm certainly provided an insight into life in rural India. I'd hate to oversimplify but the healthy smiles and genuine warmth of the villagers we met both at the farm and when out walking certainly makes me question the wisdom of the trappings of modern life- all that we were glad to leave behind. www.visitkodaikanal.com
The best thing was waking up every morning to a beautiful birdsong melody and trying to identify the different calls and responses. Two or three times, in the middle of the night, I woke to a loud call that seemed to come from far away above the forest- it sounded like a person yelping for joy. I was tempted to put on my flip flops and go out in the moonlight to return the jubilant cry. On reflection, I think it was probably a very loud owl.The cooking and hospitality of the farm manager, Dorai, was also fantastic and heartwarming. Indeed, we were sad to say goodbye to the workers at the farm and the wonderful, refreshing simplicity of our stay there. By Roma Claudius. www.visitkodaikanal.com