We packed our bags and jumped onto the morning train from Bangalore to Salem. We were on our way to Yercaud , a beautiful hill station near Bangalore. Three hours of train journey through the green pastures and rocky terrains brought us to Salem, where our driver awaited us to drive us to Yercaud. The drive through the city of Salem was uneventful, but very soon the road took a turn towards the hills and temperature turned pleasant. There were monkeys along the way, giant trees sheltering them with their canopies. The ascent to Yercaud was an one hour’s drive through lush green forests and plantations with 20 hairpin bends, the last of which brought us to Great Trails Yercaud by GRT Hotels, our destination for the weekend.
Our weekend stay at Yercaud was part of the Summer Chillers package, which gives a choice of activities to refresh you after a mundane week. We planned and scheduled our activities for the next two days over welcome drinks at the hotel lobby. The most exciting activity we found on the list was the night safari and off roading through the plantations and forests of Yercaud, which we scheduled on our last day.
After lunch we were invited to the cooking session with the executive chef himself. The cooking range was set out on the green terrace, overlooking the hills behind. The sun played hide and seek as we set out to take some serious cooking lessons. We were to cook two different dishes – one of fish and other of paneer. The chef explained the ingredients to us- whole spices ground together, marinated fish and paneer. We tried our hands on frying the fish. The fish was to be fried just the right amount. The aroma was captivating, and so was the taste of the food.After the cooking session the chef treated us to cookies and ‘Chukku’ coffee – a black coffee with ginger and palm sugar. A must try on a winter or rainy day, Chukku coffee also helped me cope with my sore throat.We spent the evening on our balcony watching the clouds move slowly across the hills . The balcony overlooked the valley and far away in the horizon, we could see the city.
Later in the evening, our dinner table was set on the sky walk, under the stars and overlooking the tiny lights of the valley. The dinner was amazing with a beautiful cake, crispy starters followed by the main course. The clouds hid the moon occasionally, the stars twinkled down and the lights of Salem city far away down the valley came on one by one, making the whole experience magical.
The next morning, we woke up early for a walk in the coffee plantations beside the hotel. The guide took us around the hill, as we came across several flora and fauna. There were several birds chirping early morning, monkeys searching for food and some really beautiful insects on the ground. The trees were taller in the denser parts of the plantation as though they were reaching out for sunlight. We returned in time for the breakfast buffet which was a good spread of North Indian, South Indian and English breakfast.
After breakfast we made our way to the adventure zone. The adventure zone at Great Trails Yercaud consists of a loop of zipline, Burma bridge and swinging bridge, taking you around trees. We had a great amount of fun as we ziplined across coffee plantation and put our best foot forward on the Burma Bridge.
In the evening, we had scheduled the tour of Yercaud along with a boating session on the lake. The car took us to the beautiful Yercaud lake. As we slowly paddled our boat in the still waters, along the large trees and a deer park, we could not but appreciate the beauty and the serenity of the place. Our tiny boat swayed gently to the waves created by the passing of the occasional motor boat. After the slow intake of the breathtaking beauty of Yercaud lake, we moved to the Servaroyan temple up on the Servaroyan hills, the highest point on Yercaud. The temple was located inside a cave; outside the temple were several food stalls, as hundreds of tourists thronged to enjoy the evening on the viewpoint. As we stood at the Servaroyan hills, our driver suggested he would drive us on the loop road. The 32 kms long loop road encircles Yercaud and goes through some of the most beautiful places in these hills. We drove through villages, plantations and forests and were back in the town in an hour.
After dinner, we awaited our most anticipated activity – the night safari into wilderness. A 4X4 SUV came to pick us from the hotel. After driving a few kilometres, the SUV took a dirt track into a plantation and halted at a point that offered a 180 degree view of the valley. We drove deeper into the plantation and awaited a bison sighting. There were fireflies for company as we switched off all lights on many occasions, to see a Bison. However with evening rains, bisons would have already retreated into deep forests and there was not one to be seen. We drove offroad, on very steep slopes holding on tightly to the SUV. Our night safari ended at Tipperary Estate plantation bungalow, built around 1900 by the descendants of Charles Dickens. After a cup of fresh plantation coffee, we were dropped back to our hotel.
The next day was spent relaxing by the pool side, enjoying the indoor games and spa at the hotel. As we packed up to leave, heavy clouds took over the afternoon sky. The first lashes of rains hit us when we were halfway down the hills. It poured heavily for a short while and then the sun was out, revealing beautiful colours in the hills.
We loved our weekend at Great Trails Yercaud by GRT Hotel. The Summer Chillers package is surely a great deal with a plethora of activities to refresh you.
Great Trails Yercaud by GRT Hotel
20th Hairpin Bend, Salem-Yercaud Main Road, Yercaud, Tamil Nadu 636602
Phone 04281 225 100