Hogenakkal. After months of procrastination, I finally got to go to Hogenakkal falls, situated in Salem district of Tamil Nadu. After spending one full Saturday discussing how to reach there, me and Sukrit decided to rope in one more friend, Kiron from Bangalore. We were to go to Hogenakkal in his car. So we left to Bangalore by a Saturday night bus. The bus which had to reach Bangalore by 530, took its own pace, reaching Bangalore at 7 am.
We then head to Kiron’s home near Marathahalli in Bangalore, from where we leave by 11 am. Heading towards the Hosur highway, we have breakfast on the way. We have to make our way through Royakottai and Palacode , before we reach Hogenakkal. Passing through a few bumpy roads and a few tarred ones, we reach near Palacode when Sukrit expresses his desire to drive the car and Kiron agrees. As they exchange positions, a hissing sound from the bonnet catches their attention. We open the bonnet to find a leak. The coolant had been leaking with shining green droplets scattered here and there.
The need of the hour, to find a garage. So we drive slowly asking for the nearest garage. After every hundred metres, we would get to hear that there was a garage another hundred metres ahead. Having covered a couple of kilometers in the process, we finally reach outside a closed garage at around 130 PM. Luckily the gate had a number. So we call on that number and call the mechanic who says he would come in 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile we have our lunch, a couple of omelets and porottas. The next half an hour or so, went in waiting for the mechanic who would open much more than the bonnet.
He detects a leak in a tube carrying the coolant and corrects the flaw by cutting it short and connecting it back. He then opens the pandora’s box as he announces that the car was on a temporary adjustment and the engine would have to be opened once it returned to Bangalore. Following his guidelines of maintaining a speed below 60 km/h, we move on. Sukrit finally gets to drive. As we move ahead, we’re on a speedbreaker, with a bus infront of us. As we’re somewhere in the middle of the road and a bus from the opposite side approaches us with quiet a vengeance, we had to move quickly towards the left, eventually kissing the bus infront of us. Even though it was a soft peck, it was good enough to bring a dent on the bonnet. Shock part 2 for Kiron and part 1 for Sukrit. I was still at the back, enjoying and sleeping.
A few kilometers and we finally reach the valley where Hogenakkal is situated. The road downhill is a delight and the view is like a shy bride who slowly reveals her beauty. With many hairpin bends and lush greenery, it was a beautiful sight. But the waterfalls were nowhere to be seen. Monkeys all along the way also make for a good sight.
We reach Hogenakkal at 330 PM and now only have time until 5 PM, as we have to return to Bangalore to catch a 930 bus to Chennai. As we park the car at Hogenakkal, we are welcomed in true Indian style. With questions like “Sir Boat??” and “Sir Massage?”. The nagging questions continued as if we were deaf. Following the boards and being led adamantly by the boatman, we finally reach a stream where people are bathing and boats are moving allover. The boats here are quiet a phenomenon. They’re round in shape, made of cane, coated by a plastic layer, mounted by a layer of road tar. Though they may seem very rocky, they’re highly steady.
On the way, there are many masseurs who are known for their powerful massages. You also get locally fried fish there. But the crunch in time would only permit us a boat ride. Now it’s time to negotiate rates for the boat. The boatman says Rs. 600 per boat. He further says that he generally only takes 6 people so for even 3 people, it would be the same price. Finally after minutes of negotiation, we bring him down to Rs. 350 for the ride.
At first, you have to cross the stream and once you’re on the other end, you would have to walk a few metres downhill and descend a few stairs to finally reach the waterfalls. Meanwhile, the boatman would carry the boat on his shoulders all the way and we would again get on the boat near the waterfalls. Being off-season, the falls were not at their best. Nonetheless, it was a good sight.
As the boat approached the falls, the zephyrs and aerosol spray of water was truly refreshing. The tiny rainbows in the falls are also a delight. The boatman was talking a lot all the way about how the falls would be much more intense during august and that the song “Chinna Chinna Asai” from the film Roja was shot here. The good part of visiting the place off season is that you get to go even closer to the waterfalls. During August, all the small waterfalls would join to become one big fall and the boat would take you through a stream which goes in a totally different direction.
At a point, we ask the boatrider to stop for 5 minutes so we could take a shower under the falls. He refuses saying that he would charge Rs. 600 if he stops there. Already upset with problems of the car, we replied saying we would only give Rs. 300.
As our boat heads back, we see two boys standing on top of a steep and tall rock. We gesture them to jump down. They scream “pattu roopa”, ten rupees, to which we agree. Before we know it, they dive from approximately a height of 25 feet, and that too for just Rs.5 each. Unfortunately Kiron couldn’t get the camera on time; otherwise it would’ve been a great picture to add to this post. The boys then swim following our boat. We hand over ten rupees before we get off the boat.
As we finally get off the boat, we handover Rs. 300 and walk away. The boatman starts shouting abuses and returns the money saying that he would take nothing short of Rs. 350. We already had a bad day and we didn’t want to give in to his compulsions whatsoever. Having come all the way from hundreds of kilometers away and not getting to enjoy the falls because of a boatman’s ego was enough to add fire to our already existing fury. He threatened not to allow us leave the place if we didn’t pay him Rs. 350. We kept arguing why we were not ready to pay the amount.
Hours of futile argument continued before we remembered a tool that works wonders in India, namedropping. Having worked for the Tamil Nadu tourism department and with Sukrit still working for it, we knew the names of a few prominent people. As we took the names, we could see his face turning pale for a fraction of a second. Quickly managing to hide the fright from his expressions, he walks up with a pseudo-confidence saying “give whatever you’re giving” in a tone through which he was trying to imply that we were the adamant ones.
We atleast leave the place with the contentment of not paying him what he didn’t deserve. We leave Hogenakkal at correct 5 PM. The road uphill was beautiful as the sun was going down. The rays of the sun diffracting atop the hill was adding to the beauty of the valley, and off course, the monkeys too were there having a good time.
We drive our way through the sunset, reach Bangalore on time, have dinner and happen to catch our bus just before it leaves. Though the tour was not all that pleasant, I wouldn’t like to pass on the blame to the place. Hogenakkal is a nice holiday destination and is worth a visit if you stay at Chennai or Bangalore. In case you happen to go, do get a massage and do try the fish fry and let me know what I’ve missed.