Sunday, 24 Dec 2006: Disaster at Pollachi! January 12, 2007Posted by Arun Rajagopal in India, Indian Railways, Travel.
The 6628 Chennai – Mangalore West Coast Express snaked into Cannanore at midnight. Got ourselves seats in a first class coupe, as AC and sleeper classes were full. We reached Podanur Junction in the wee hours of morning. Had to change trains and board the metre gauge passenger that would take us from Podanur to Palani. A hundred people gathered around the station building to board this train and the railway authorities held back the train by over 20 minutes to allow everybody to entrain.
Meanwhile I requested the driver of the metre gauge passenger if I could take a snap of the train, only to be flatly refused. We got ourselves first class seats on the passenger train which was headed by a Ponmalai-based (ex-Golden Rock, Trichy) YDM4 which turned out to be a mother of a smoker. Both I and my buddy hung out of the train snapping up the scenery – a million hues of green! We soon made a grand entry into Pollachi Junction. Devoured the yummy vadas (rice cakes) sold on the platform. Ventured to take snaps of an incoming passenger train.
Was promptly booked by the duty station master, who was joined by the driver of our passenger train who complained that I still took pics in spite of being warned by him. The duty SMR turned a shade red when he asked me if I was a terrorist… I tried to bask in the glory. He finally asked me to show him my ID. He cooled down once he saw my innocent mug shot in my passport. Forget about causing terror, he must have made out that I can’t even kill a fly properly. For all the uninitiated rail fans out there, it’s illegal to shoot trains in India, especially on railway premises. You can get booked / get your camera confiscated / or cool your heels behind bars, if you get caught by the Railway Protection Force (RPF). And rail fans still continue taking snaps of trains on Indian Railways. Just visit http://www.irfca.org/ to see for yourself.
Got back into the train and winked at my friend who was busy munching dal vada. We were soon on the ‘rails’ snapping up windmills on the way. Reminded me of Netherlands… the weather was amazing with fog and sunlight playing hide n’ seek.
We reached Palani around 11am. Got to the bus stand and found that the next bus to Kodaikanal from Palani was hours away and that the ride on the government bus was guaranteed to be uncomfortable. Dindigul or Madurai is a better place to get to Kodai than Palani, as it offers you more connections via bus. But as our luck would have it, we soon ran into a couple and an Israeli tourist and teamed up with them and engaged a taxi. If there’s one car that can take six individuals and tons of luggage up to Kodai on a trot, that’s the hardy Hindustan Motors’ Ambassador. The ride on the Palani Hills was pretty exciting as we climbed up the gradient to get to Kodai. The mercury plummeted and fog descended on us. We reached Kodaikanal around 3pm and enlisted the help of a guide to get a room in MYH Green Mountain Lodge. Owing to Christmas & New Year, rooms were very difficult to get in Kodaikanal. We signed up for a full day guided tour of Kodaikanal the next day, followed by a forest tour the day after. We went for a walk around the Kodaikanal Lake, and then took a horse ride.
My steed acted like he would throw me into the lake any minute. My friend got an amazing beast, a 10 month old stallion named Rahul, who was so friendly and docile. Posed for pics with Rahul and then walked the entire perimeter of Kodai Lake which is around 5kms. Went to bed early. The chilly climate did its best to keep us quite awake.
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