The journey to the quaint and sleepy village of Mannavanur in Tamil Nadu is quite exciting. The sun struggles to seep through the thick pine trees on the sides of the picturesque road and you could find verdant forest beyond rows of pine and eucalyptus trees. The forest won’t instil fear in you but gives a feeling that is surreal. You could see boards with photos of bison and tigers on the way and also warning boards signalling sharp curves and gorges ahead. Though the road is narrow, you can drive safely on the stretch.
King of valleys
There would be a lot of surprises awaiting you if you take some detours after reaching a popular tourist destination. When you reach Kodiakanal, forget about the beaten path of Coaker’s Walk and Bryant Park, and try to head to some nearby exotic places tucked away in the hills. And two such places are Mannavanur, which is 32km away from Kodaikanal, and Poombarai, which is 19km from Kodaikanal.
After driving for a long while on the road leading to Mannavanur, you will reach Poombarai where you could find many houses and farmlands. It is worth noting that people of Poombarai practice terrace farming to cultivate various vegetables.
Lots in store at Mannavanur
The signs boards announcing that the Mannavanur Eco-park, goat farm and lake are nigh will greet you as you get nearer to Mannavanur. On the right side, a board makes known the presence of Kookal Lake. The farm of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, which comes under the central government, could be seen on the left side while reaching the Mannavanur village. The farm is a feast for the eyes as it spread across hundreds of acres of land. The entry fee to the farm is Rs 20 and on one corner of the farm you could find the Mannavanur lake.
After spending some time at the farm, you can drive towards the charming Mannavanur village. The farmlands are alluring and valleys are replete with pink and yellow flowers. Mannavanur farmers also follow terrace farming technique to cultivate carrots, French beans and cabbage.
Mannavanur scores poorly in cleanliness and the workers’ houses are arranged in a haphazard manner without any planning. This hamlet would remind one of the Muthorai Palada village, which is 9km away from Ooty, though the latter is spick and span and well planned.
A walk through Kookal village
A 5km drive from Mannavanur village will take you to the pleasing Kookal lake. The road leading to the lake is amidst forest and the lake emerges where the jungle ends. Kookal lake is a small water body and looks breathtaking from a distance. A viewpoint and a natural cascade could be found near the lake.
Terrace farming is also the norm in Kookal and the farmlands of the region look awesome. While walking towards the Poorakal view point, you could see some mesmerizing vistas on the right side. You could also see hills and a river flowing through it. You can trek down from the Poorakal view point. While walking you should mind the rolling stones and never try to climb the rocks on the sides of the pathway. After trekking for a while, the valleys become clearer and the gorges deeper which can unsettle you.
If you want to stay and enjoy nature’s bounty, there is a modest facility with a few cottages run by Sunil Panigrahi and his wife Nandini, both IT professionals and native of Odisha. Sunil who travels a lot bought close to 1.5 acres of land in Kookal five years ago. After the Covid pandemic subsided, Sunil moved to the modest house in Kookal and started working from home. Sunil’s aim was to create a facility whereby his family members could stay at Kookal for a while. Undoubtedly, Kookal is a place that creates magic through mist, vistas and a cool climate.