What do you do when you are solo, working in a cozy little town thousands of miles away from home but in a naturally rich landscape? This was a question which would haunt me for months when I first came to Madurai. Then I found my answer when I realized that with such beautiful natural surroundings, who needs the typical urban trappings? And thus my Tamil Nadu adventures began. I would take a drive around town and explore the nearby hills, villages, coasts, and other towns. One of such exciting escapades recently happened to Sirumalai. This is a small cluster of hills near the Dindigul town.
It was right after the monsoon, with little traces of cloud and the landscape washed clean in the rains. I booked an affordable taxi from Madurai to Dindigul for a weekend drive to these lush green hills. At only a 2.5 hour-drive from Madurai, it made for a perfect day-trip. These hills and its surrounding region are still being developed for tourism. The only activities arise out of the eleven tiny hamlets tucked across the hills who form the major part of the population of this area. But I suppose that’s what keeps it raw and natural.
The Sirumalai Corridor
The highlight of this trip was the journey to Sirumalai. I knew it would be a hilly drive. But it turned out to be a complete adventure. The undulating or ghat roads but well-made roads snaked through the mountain forests. And as my driver pointed out there were at least, if not more, 18 hairpin bends on that steep road. The thrilling part came near a forest check post, which was surrounded by farmlands growing a variety of local fruits and other produce.
As the car continued further uphill of another 14 Km, the landscape changed from plains to mountains. That was when the hairpin bends started. Slowly we reached nearly 1600 meters above the sea level where I could spot the first population of these hills. Every bend would offer a panoramic view of the surrounding hills and the valleys below but each would be different than the previous one. I saw colonies of small huts, a village church, a temple, some vendors offering fruits and honey, fresh off the farms below.
Between the third and the fifth hairpin bend, I could see the Dindigul Rock Fort popping out of the hills. The temperature started dropping as we continued to climb.
Nearly after eight or 10 such bends, I stopped the car on a nice corner to get down and absorb the views and take a few memorable photographs. It was truly mesmerizing, the steep valleys below, the greyish blue sky above, and the sleek black road cutting through the green forests. It was indeed a wonderful color play of nature. By the time we reached the 17th bend, it was as cold as any other hill station. There was also a watchtower at the end of this hairpin turn. I got the cabbie to divert the car towards the tower for a 360-degree view of the Sirumalai hills and the valleys below, with the villages looking like little brown dots on a vast green canvas. We soon came back on the road, since there was one last hairpin bend to cover. There was a quiet little village here called Sirumalai Palaiyur juxtaposed with traces of affluence, in the plush villas and retreats for the urban elitists. There were schools and a couple of small resorts and a temple.
At the end of it all, there was a waterfall that added to the glory of these hills. Maintained and managed by the state forest department the Kutladampatti Falls is the star of the Sirumalai Hills. Fed by the heavy monsoon rains, these rapid falls had doubled up in their volume, speed, and intensity, making it appear powerful.
The climb down
On my way back, I wanted to explore the villages so asked my driver to stop by around the settlements. Except for a handful of lodging options, this entire stretch was devoid of any eateries except for a couple of local shops. The twists and turns of the drive had left me hungry and I refueled myself with panniyaram and coffee at a small tea stall with a thatched roof. Then I got the car to drive around and visit the farms. The villagers here mostly engaged in the cultivation of lemon, coffee, pepper, and plantain. The musty smell of the rain-soaked soil mixed with the pungent aroma of spices felt like a sensory treat. Refreshed and rejuvenated, I came back to town feeling glad that I got my job posting here.
- Always book a quality car in Madurai that can navigate the ghats.
- You can also reach Sirumalai through Natham 0 Km from Madurai city which is a shorter route.
- The actual ‘ghat’ section is 14 Km.
- If you have medical needs, carry all your medicines and other necessities with you, since there are no pharmacies or doctor availability until Dindigul.
Disclaimer: This guest post was written by Vijay C and sponsored by Savaari.com.