Ian Lockwood


There’s Good Cheese in a Place Called Kodai

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Clouds condensing in the mid-elevation hills below Shembaganur as seen from Dolphin’s Nose. (April 2010)

How do you explain a place like Kodai? This was something that weighed on my mind before a recent visit with uninitiated friends during the Sinhalese and Tamil new year. There are several peculiar facets about the place: its founding by Americans (at a time when California still belonged to Mexico) in a classical south Indian civilization ruled by the East India Company, it unique ecology of shola/grasslands and the colorful community of artists, organic agriculturalists, zealous missionaries, environmentalists, educators, retired civil servants and others who make its lofty slopes home. For years it was a sleepy, pleasantly ignored hill-station whose few visitors were composed of honeymoon couples and school children. Of course that has all changed in the two decades since I left school. The town is more connected with the outside, crowded with building developments, trashed with consumer refuse and noisier with the din of tourists than ever. Yet there is still something that gives the place a very special aura…

Cheese is what my mind fixated on this time during our short stay in Kodai. Edam, Gouda, Havarti, Provolone, Camemberti, Feta and many more are all produced in this south Indian highland! The producers are lead by the Kodai Dairy and Cinnabar, but there are others delving into the art. Kodai cheese, along with fine memories and revived spirits, is what we returned to Colombo with.

For a brief review of the quirky aspects of a hill-station founded by New England Yankees in the south Indian hills see my Outlook Traveler (April 2005) article “Higher Ground.” The publishers have made the unfortunate editorial error of spelling Kodai as “Kodi” in a singular effort to revise it more closely to its pronunciation. For everyone else it remains Kodai.

Variations on the classic profile of Mt. Perumal viewed from Coaker's Walk (April 2010).

Nilgiri tahr (Hemitragus hylocrius or Nilgiritragus hylocrius) on a grassy outcrop on the western border with the Anaimalais. The image was taken with a borrowed point and shoot from about 200 meters away. It documents what seems like a growing population of these very rare ungulates in the outer Palani Hills.

Coming home through fine, undisturbed grasslands and shola in the western Palani hills near the boundary with the Anaimalai Hills.

Written by ianlockwood

2010-04-25 at 3:20 pm

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