The day started with a nice breakfast at the cottage in Coonoor, and we drove a not unsubstantial distance to M——- and then yet further with a new driver, Arul, to a top secret location what we had been given special permission to visit.
The drive itself was incredible and the ground fell away from us as we climbed higher and higher through the neverending tea plantations. It felt like every time we reached a plateau we went around another corner and found yet another set of hills to climb.
We stopped many times along the way to take lots of photos of the gorgeous views, and on one of our stops a school bus stopped too, and monkeys appeared out of nowhere looking for food. They definitely found some bits and pieces from the children, and the back door of the bus was left open. You guessed it, one monkey who had been sitting on the roof of the bus got the courage to swing in for a closer look. It was swiftly chased back out!
The top secret location was indeed very beautiful and we were only allowed to visit for a short time. In addition, we were certainly not allowed to share any photos we took online, as the area was not to be turned into a tourist spot. We took plenty of photos for ourselves, and took a long (actually too long for the guard’s liking) wander and admired the beauty of the place. It was incredibly peaceful, though a family did arrive by car and make a joyful racket for a while! The smallest girl came over and spoke to me, asking where I was from and grinned a lot.
On the way down again we stopped at a viewpoint which revealed the state birder with Kerela, as well as Arul’s land where he grew tea and sold it on to a processing factory. He also had a mast on his land and the company that placed it gave him rent. Arul invited us back to his home and when we got to his village we parked up and all went down the hillside through a cluster of impossibly-balanced, brightly-painted houses that clung together on the hillside. Once we got to Arul’s house we all had a cup of his very own tea. This tea was delicious, with less sugar than usual and no masalas to change the taste. It was still milky, but so, so delicious. I don’t think you could get fresher either! We also had some snacks that were sugary and a cross between scones and puff pastry, these were to be dipped in the tea. Sound familiar?
Arul accompanied us back up to the road and on the way a cow dangled its head over the walkway. Arul told us it was his cow, and when we got to her he gave her a pat, which elicited a loud moo and a shake of the head.
John took over the driving again and we left Arul behind at home. We got back to Coonoor well after sunset, after a lot of impromptu Tamil kareoke in the car, and ate at the restaurant again. I felt completely drained that night – the roads aren’t exactly easy going – and was extremely happy to arrive at our sleeping place for the night, Bliss homestay. It was very nice inside and the proprietor was very welcoming. I didn’t think about anything other than getting to sleep!