Aishwarya Rao
Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but the places and moments that take our breath away - Anonymous

This weekend half a dozen of us headed to Valparai, in the Anamalai ranges 3500 ft above sea level. A town that is almost isolated. Surrounded only by staggeringly beautiful greenery! Following a sumptuous lunch at Pollachi and a stop over at Aliyar dam, we drove uphill. 20 of 41 hair pin bends further was the accommodation we had arranged for earlier this month -an unpromoted private bungalow that belongs to one of the numerous tea companies that dominate the area. We were welcomed to a connoisseurs' tea + biscuits session that no hungry flock would have refused.

Our bungalow was a sheer delight - private, peaceful and with all stylish comforts we hadn't quite anticipated. Of all the amenities available to the visitor it was the unpretentious and magical touch of our full time cook Chandran that gave hospitality a new meaning.

The next morning we explored the tea factory, a discreet animal retreat called "Poothotam" and traveled up to Mudis, the highest peak in Valparai. On our way down, we stopped at the small and friendly town and grabbed some chocolate ice creams. By this time the sunny landscape had transformed into a notorious stage for the rains above. We then retreated in a hurry, listening to some Rahman melodies, awe struck by the beautiful moment when the falling drops teased the canopy of leaves above us.

The little time we spent at Valparai was intoxicating to say the least. The eager staff, the inaccessibility to Internet/cellphones, the breathtaking beauty of the small, clean and green scenery left us wondering why weekends couldn't be longer and more frequent...

The stage for this spectacular drama was however set much earlier. After a rugged overnight journey, we reached Coimbatore early Saturday morning. Our first stop was undoubtedly Annapoorna's for a delightful breakfast. Taking advantage of the clean and well maintained toilets, we freshened up and directly headed to Isha Yoga - located in the Vellingiri foothills. The Isha Yoga center acclaimed for its clever combination of ancient Yoga principles and modern science was a spectacular sight. As we sat in an ageless silence inside the humongous dome, an unexplained calm settled over us. There is a beautiful energy and vibrancy about the place that any one who is interested even a little bit in the path of personal exploration is certain to enjoy. I am not sure if it was the profundity of the moment, the dip in the sacred water or the time of day, but we were starving hungry. Following lunch at Gowri Shankars in Pollachi we headed to our ultimate destination - Valparai. Our last stop on Saturday before we reached the bungalow was the Aliyar dam.
Despite the unpleasant heat, the Aliyar dam was full of travelers and locals who were promptly diving into the water that runs inside the park, thronging boats in a mood so festive and so unnatural for some of us who believe we are too sophisticated to enjoy an unassuming cone ice cream on the top of a dam under the unpardoning spite of the afternoon sun.

WHERE: Weekend getaway, small town, staggering scenery near Coimbatore
HOW: Take a train/bus from Chennai and reach Coimbatore. Hire a cab in Coimbatore to avoid depending on local/public transport
TIME: March-November when it is certain to rain intermittently during the day. Forest department also allows entry into certain areas during this peak season.
MUST CARRY: Glares, Caps, Water Bottles, Anti-motion sickness tablets, Summer wear
Aishwarya Rao

Breakfast in Basavangudi, coffee on MG road, visit to National College, dinner at Kamath hotel listening to a soulful kutcheri, prayers at Ragi guda, sloshed evenings at Firangi Paani, hot paranthas from a friend's kitchen, Taste of Rampur, ice cream at Corner House, Changeling @PVR, fire at Forum mall, lunch at Shanti Sagar, coffee with besht friend, shopping at Blossoms, paani puri on Brigade road, The Lord of the Rings, magazine store, coffee at Barista, Midnight's children, vodka at Vaayu's...