“Once you visit the place, you will start hating mankind for destroying nature!” my friend exclaimed on asking about Mannavanur, a farming village on the upper hills of Kodaikanal. His words held truth as I witnessed the roads covered in a canopy of pine trees and the dense jungle en route.
Read: Living the moment!
We had reached Kodaikanal a night before embarking on this journey. We made sure to skip the sightseeing places and rather explore the offbeat places in Kodaikanal. Hence, we spent the night in the hill city and left the place in the early morning.
Over the years, I have learned that the hills are not the place for sight-seeing activities. Instead, I love to explore the offbeat places that provide modest accommodation and food options. This, I think is the best way to experience local culture and cuisine as the hills unfold its vistas in silence.
Mannavanur had all the checklist for an ideal nature lover. As soon as I stepped down the bus, the fresh air of the hills welcomed us. I could notice a cluster of the settlement with terrace farms rolling down the hill slope. A local pointed us towards the homestay. Hand gestures seemed to be a better way of communicating with the locals as they hardly understood Hindi/English.
There were two food stalls in the village, a wine shop and very few options for accommodation. We stayed at the homestay which had just the basic amenities. The rooms were dark and somber. The walls were covered in graffiti of mushrooms, hills and random quotes. It was clear that the place was famous amongst the youth for psychedelic mushrooms.
After freshening up, we made our way to the Mannavanur Lake which is approx. a km walk from our homestay. The lake falls under the eco-park and there is a minimal entrance charge. In order to boom tourism, one can notice the fancy bridges, colorful huts, benches and wooden logs to sit and enjoy the natural vistas.
There were signboards signifying the trekking routes. I learned from the forest officials that prior permission is needed for trekking. Horse riding and boating are an added advantage. I could notice many families, presumably from neighboring villages/towns that had come for a one day picnic. I enjoyed the nostalgia as I saw few of them sitting under the shade of a tree, chatting and laughing their heart out as the lunchboxes were opened and the food was being shared.
Since we visited the place in February, the lake had shrunk and the forest was less green. I could imagine the place glistening in green colors during monsoon though.
Read: Tosh in monsoon
Nonetheless, we spent a dime’s worth for the food and stay with the view of the charming hills and that made the trip worthwhile.
How to reach Mannavanur?
Mannavanur is 35 km from Kodaikanal. Cab charges around 1500-2000 INR. There are local buses plying daily on this route but the frequency is less. The first bus leaves from Kodaikanal at around 8 in the morning. The ticket costs below Rs. 50.
Places to visit?
Mannavanur eco-park. One can also visit the Kookal and Poombarai village which is on the way to Mannavanur and within 20 km radius.
Where to stay in Mannavanur?
There are few basic homestays. The locals can guide you to few of them. We booked a room for 3 people at Rs.600. You can also visit the place in the daytime and return back to Kodaikanal.
What to eat?
There are two stalls just at the entrance of the village that cooks local delicacies (both veg and non-veg). It includes varieties of dosa, idli, vada, rice, and sambar. The price starts at INR 50.
Best season to visit?
Monsoon and post-monsoon period, i.e, June-October to witness waterfalls and utmost greenery. However, the weather remains pleasant throughout the year.