The monotony of our corporate jobs clubbed with the pressures of deadlines led my friends and I to wish for an escape somewhere close to our city – Bangalore. We didn’t want to drive for long and targeted a place no more than 150kms from our city. After much deliberation, we decided upon Hogenakal Falls in the state of Tamil Nadu which was roughly 130kms from Bangalore. It is a waterfall carved out by the continual flow of the Kaveri river which forms breath-taking gorges which makes Hogenakal such an iconic place to visit.
As we crossed the border from Karnataka to Tamil Nadu, the terrain didn’t change much but the culture started showing signs of a new nativity – people wore a different style of lungi, the construction of the houses changed in design and colour and of course the language changed completely. The three-hour drive to our resort turned to a 4-hour drive owing to the several stops that we made at scenic spots with the backdrop of lush green mountains.
We drove through the mountains and fields to our farm resort with acres of land to its name but a simple building with a few rooms and a small pool. A handful of staff helped us settle and took our order for dinner by noon, as things were difficult to procure after sunset in this small village. We spent most of our night by the pool along with some drinks, laughter and music.
The next day we had a hearty breakfast and set off for Hogenakal falls which was about 50kms from our resort.
Throughout our journey, I kept looking to get a glimpse of the river but I couldn’t see a drop of it the whole time. All we could see was mountains. Even at the entrance of the falls, it just never looked like we were close to any kind of a waterbody despite Hogenakal being a series of numerous waterfalls…
After waiting for a good 45 minutes for our tickets, we hopped into a circular boat famously known as ‘coracle’ assisted by the boat man – ‘Manjunath’. We quickly decided with him that we will call him by a shorter version of his name – ‘Manju’. He agreed with a smile.
We sat on the coracle and sailed off. A coracle is a unique boat which is made with bamboo and can be made within a day if the raw materials are available. Interestingly, the coracle is steered using a single paddle. It can carry 5-6 people at once. However, the coracle ride is possible only when the waterfalls are not too full. During the monsoon, the waterfalls have such strenght that a coracle could not cope. Hogenakal falls are shut during monsoon and the best time to visit is right after the monsoon when the river Kaveri is in its full spate.
On the way to Hogenakal, the river Kaveri is joined by many tributaries and becomes larger than its original size. When it drops, it creates myriad waterfalls cutting through the rocky terrain. As the river flows between the mountains of rock, it forms a rocky gorge.
Even with the language barrier, Manju managed to explain to us that the word ‘Hogenakal’ can be broken down into two parts – ‘Hoge’ meaning smoke and ‘kal’ meaning rocks. When the water drops from top, it seems that smoke is rising out of the rocks. Hence, the name ‘Hogenakal’ meaning Smoking rocks!
As our boat passed through this gorge, we spotted men from villages sitting on the rocks and fishing. Also, one can see lots of harmless monkeys hanging around scouting for human food that they have grown to love in India. We also spotted some boats moving to and fro the gorge, selling chips ans cold drinks etc. We were simply glad to find some munchies as we were tired from all the waiting in the line for the tickets.
After passing by numerous falls, the river turns southward and leads us to what is called the Mettur Stanley Reservoir. Here, the river suddenly spreads over a wide area of sandy beaches. It further flows through the Mettur dam to create a 60 sq mile lake called Stanley Reservoir. This was built in 1934 to improve irrigation and hydropower facilities in the area. The river at Hogenakal is fenced on one side by Karnataka while on the other – Tamil Nadu.
We sat on the sandy mountain and spent time swimming in the river for hours. Of course, it cost us extra to keep Manju waiting. We relaxed here till the sun hung in the sky while Manju kept coaxing us to leave. The spot was so good that we found it difficult to leave but we decided to listen to Manju. Back on the boat, the evening wind started giving us the chills.
On our way back, we took a different path and sailed to a rocky shore where many vendors were cooking fish and other snacks. There were masseuses who were offering oil massages. We sat there for a while – drying ourselves while looking at the beautiful gorge of river and the waterfalls. There was silence and a realization that the trip had almost come to an end.
Next day was a Monday and we had to get on with the reality of our routine lives. However, the breath taking Hogenakal left us feeling quite rejuvenated.
Thanks to filmmaker/writer: Rohina Singh for writing this article and taking the amazing images.
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