Not wanting to do anything by halves, Sellappan planned to arrive at 3am and then depart for Coimbatore at 5am. Unluckily for him, his bus was diverted and then he had to change buses… He was delayed until 5am. He must have been pretty tired, as he hadn’t had much sleep on the buses. Luckily for me, I got two hours more sleep than I had expected!
We got ready for the off and packed up all our bags from Salem and headed for the bus stop to go to Coimbatore. The bus to Coimbatore was quite busy, and took longer than it should have to get to Coimbatore. With this, and the dubious suspension of the vehicle, Sellappan wasn’t really able to get much sleep on that journey either. Somehow we got there, and jumped in a rickshaw to visit Naveen and Ashwini for a quick but substantial meal and to wait for Mohan (a different Mohan, Coimbatore Mohan) and Bindhu to arrive. I took the opportunity to have a nap while Sellappan caught up with two former colleagues who lived around the corner.
By 3pm we were all on the way to the Nilgiris hills with John Paul, Mohan’s friend, who drove us. We left Coimbatore behind and headed for the hills, which again seemed to rise suddenly from the ground, covered in vegetation. As we got closer to the hills the shops and concrete lining the roads gave way to tall trees which arched over us. Before starting the climb we stopped at a shop for refreshment and watched a monkey casually eating a packet of snacks sitting on a signpost. Looking up, another couple dangled from the shop front and yet more bounced around in the tree above the car park. Snack monkey finished munching and leapt up to join his friends.
Once we started to drive again the hill suddenly appeared and the hairpin bends started up too. Again, monkeys formed the guard of honour as we went up, with trucks and buses joining the flow of cars and bikes heading for the top. The further we climbed the more the temperatures dropped in the most welcome way. The other occupants of the car piled on the layers as we got to the top, but I was thoroughly enjoying the low temperatures! The journey was long and very winding, but finally the trees thinned and we popped out into Coonoor, the centre of which is built and a flat area surrounded by yet more hills. Naturally we had to stop for food, and so had a meal in the town centre.
Our plan for the evening was to have a campfire, but first we headed to the cottage where we were stating to dump our luggage and freshen up. The cottage overlooked a spectacular valley of tea plantations, which rose high above us on the other side. The tea came up almost to the cottage road itself, and was a stunning vivid green in the late afternoon light. Next on the list was a drive to the viewpoint Dolphin’s Nose. By the time we got there it was dark, and so we could only really see the edges of the hills by the moonlight, and the city lights far, far below. It was very peaceful and the air was very clear, with no clouds to obscure the stars above us.
We came back down from the vertiginous Dolphin’s Nose and gathered supplies for our campfire. When we got back to the cottage a nice fire had already been prepared for us, and so we gathered around the fire, lit it and chatted the night away. As we were eating at about 1am, three wild bison lumbered peacefully through the tea plants right next to us and off into the distance. Mohan, being a photographer, followed them carefully with Sellappan and John in tow to try and get a picture. The bison couldn’t have been more disinterested in our presence, and Mohan got a few photos of them to add to his collection.
The fire burned down by 3am, and we got some rest.