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Yercaud: the Jewel of Eastern Ghats

Yercaud hill station Tamil Nadu

Braving 20 hairpin bends from the Salem Junction Railway Station post an overnight train journey from Mahabalipuram, I reached Yercaud, a small and misty hill station in Tamil Nadu. Known for its coffee and spice plantations, Yercaud is an ideal destination for a blissful vacation amidst the beauty and tranquillity of nature. Once a summer resort for the British, the place was cleared for coffee, pepper and orange estates. The hill station’s Tamil name was spruced up to Yercaud (yeri – lake and kaad – forest). Rested at 4,500 ft in the Shevaroy Hills of the Eastern Ghats, its unhurried pace is perfect to curl up with a book or do nothing, and that’s exactly what my plan was when I visited Yercaud. But the small and quiet hill station has enough to keep one occupied including boating, off-roading, plantation trails, stunning viewpoints, old colonial structures, gardens, parks and more.

After the serpentine roads, I needed some rest which I got at INDeco Lake Forest Hotel, a colonial heritage hotel built around East Lynn Farm, the historic coffee estate that belonged to a lady from Brazil, Henrietta Charlotte Rosario, in the early 1800s. Her old bungalow still stands high amidst the 60-room restored property. I would instead like to call it a museum hotel as every part of it is carefully crafted. Rare collectables adorn the restaurant that serves some relishing Anglo-Indian dishes. What is noteworthy is that not a single ounce of fresh wood has been acquired from the forests for the creation of the property. Condemned wood and wooden structures from palatial buildings in whatever form are continuously collected, restored and re-used.

Vegetarian Dorai Curry at INDeco Yercaud

My first encounter with Yercaud after a hearty lunch was the Loop Road. An Englishman traced the 32-km road in 1824 and since it starts and ends at Yercaud Lake, hence the name loop road. I was accompanied by Sahana Steve, one of the owners of INDeco Lake Forest Hotel. As the car drove at nearly 20kmph, the pepper vines went past by and the view of the Eastern Ghats was unparalleled. Sunlight filtering through the trees made me forget that I am carrying a camera and I simply soaked in the quietness which we city dwellers crave for.

Tipperary Estate Yercaud
Tipperary Estate, Yercaud

The sunrays started softening as I reached the Tipperary Estate, a heritage bungalow, which also organises daylong trips to its estate. I saw the most beautiful sunset from the porch of the bungalow, which also gives an amazing view of Salem city downhill. After an aromatic cup of strong black coffee and a walk around the estate, I spent some silent moments at the Big Lake. Also known as the Emerald Lake, the Big Lake is human-made and is surrounded by the natural, scenic beauty of the hills. While I would have loved to do some introspection, it was time to witness the pristine serenity of the 184-year-old sacred site – Holy Trinity Church with the backdrop of the sun going down the horizon.

Holy Trinity Church, Yercaud
Holy Trinity Church, Yercaud

As if all this was not enough to fill my heart with contentment, my dinner at INDeco Lake Forest was all things nostalgic. I relished a wood-fired oven pizza while watching the Casablanca with a bonfire on one side, as it tends to get cooler in Yercaud after sunset even in March, and rounded up the day with a cup of warm and frothy cappuccino.

Yercaud was a filler between two destinations during my 15-day-long southern sojourn. Had I known the calmness the place will fill with me earlier, I would have tried to squeeze in at least one more day for this tranquil hill station. But I had to leave, and I left the place with a promise to come back soon.

Text and Images by Supriya Aggarwal

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