As the bus takes a turn around the sharp winding curve, I stick my head out of the window, awed. The breeze hits my face and my hair are in a complete disarray. No stress. Because nothing matters now. The view ahead of me is spectacular. We are en route Valparai in Tamil Nadu and it wouldn’t be wrong to call the journey, a stairway to heaven. With 40 Hair pin bends, at each bend nature unfolds a new surprise.
The Aliyar Dam, the islands, the hills and the clouds stooping down to kiss all of this.
At one bend, I see sprawling acres of tea gardens, at another, the serene Challakudy river flowing in calm glory and at another the sight of a gushing waterfall.
Someone in the background is talking about airplane journeys and how one misses out on sights like these when on an airplane.I can’t disagree.
I have a thing for winding roads.
The sheer excitement of the unknown at the next bend.
Valparai, 100 Kms from Coimbatore is a small hill station in Tamil Nadu, known for its tea estates. A little ahead is the Sholayur Dam and some breathtaking views of the Challakudy river.
We have checked in a bungalow,surrounded by tea estates and checked out of mobile networks.
The evening sky offers a palate of amazing hues.
As we wander amidst the tea gardens, watching the sun set, the fluttering tea leaves against the backdrop of the orange-blue sky is a sight to behold.
The chirping of birds is incessant. Janhvi rattles off names of birds, as and when she spots them.
Tea estate workers have now begun their journey back home. The fragrance of freshly cooked Avial and Rasam is wafting in the air.
Its time to call it a day.
Its not everyday that you wake to the sun breaking over tea gardens.
At the breakfast table, I rant that its been a while I have had Medhu Wadas. After breakfast (read sumptuous South Indian breakfast) we are off to explore the dense, evergreen forests of Valparai.
Valparai, is a part of the Annamalai range of the Western ghats. The area is known for wild elephants, Sambhar deer, barking deer and also leopards, along with a host of birds.
After an hour, we are being led by Mr. Philip to one of the best experiences a Nature lover can ever have in Valparai. The drive is bumpy and the sights are breathtaking. Coffee plantations on one side, with bright red coffee pods sparkling in the sun.
Peppercorns hanging from trees, protected in green pods.
Nature’s motherly way of nurturing its creations. The drive had it all: deep gorges with flower beds, tall trees with honey combs, the sighting of a barking deer and a point beyond which cars couldn’t go.
Picture this: Breathing in the fragrance of orange orchards mixed with the scent of coffee, watching a magnificent waterfall gush in full glory and eating freshly plucked oranges.
Could it get any better?
My question is answered exactly 15 minutes later.
We reach a perfectly hidden, nestled in the hills, pristine waterfall.
What a find! I am now peacefully sitting on the rock, feet dipped in the cold water, listening to the song of the nature.
On our way back, Mr.Philip stops at a bungalow. While I get lost in the beauty of the flowers all around, suddenly a very very pleasant sight welcomes me: The sight of piping hot Medhu Wadas and lemon honey green tea. Breakfast rants aren’t bad at all!
At lunch I wonder what to rant about next.
We are now gearing up for a fast jungle trek in the Manamboli forest to spot the lion tailed Macaque. Another scenic journey to the lush green forests and the exciting possibility of sighting the Great Indian Hornbill.
But nature had other plans.
We lost our way.
Could it get worse?
My question is answered exactly 15 minutes later.
That awesome feeling when you stumble upon something by chance.Totally unplanned.
It was a scene ripped out of an Enid Blyton book. Surreal views of rocks in green waters, hidden clusters of trees, some logs submerged in the waters, white sands and pebbles. A perfect hide out for the famous five.
I try frantically to click pictures and capture this beautiful phenomena in my lens.
Pictures, Alas weren’t doing any justice to its beauty.
I decide to put my camera aside and enjoy this moment. Losing ways couldn’t be more beautiful.
The next morning, I know I have just a few more hours before returning to the concrete jungle.
I wander around the tea estates, watching the sun rise over the river. It is an unusual feeling. An unusual sadness of leaving a place. Of knowing fully well that the next morning I will be welcomed not with the sound of the whistling thrush , but the honking of the cars.
The adventure still hasn’t ended. We are once again on the hairpin bends. Remember me talking about the excitement of whats on the next bend?
Seek and you shall find.
And we found the rare Nilgiri Tahr, the state animal of Tamil Nadu, patiently giving us time to click it as it grazed.
An hour later as we approach Pollachi, the phones started beeping again. I sigh as I stick out my head out of the window.
The breeze hits my face and my hair are in a complete disarray. No stress. Because nothing matters now.
The fragrance of the tea gardens is going to be with me for a long long time.
How to reach Valparai:
Nearest Airport: Coimbatore.
Nearest rail head: Coimbatore.
Regular buses from Pollachi, 65 Kms away.
Where to stay at Valparai: STM Tea estates Bungalow.
For extremely clean rooms, a comfortable stay, homely meals and spectacular views.
Address: 17, Sholaiyar Nagar, Upper Sholayar Dam, Valparai,Tamil Nadu-642125
I have a few thank yous to dish out:
A big thank you to Mr. Philip and the entire staff of STM bungalow for their warm hospitality.
To Pravin, the local who helped us find our way to something so stellar.
Doreen and the entire gang for being such a wonderful company. Of carols and crazy song sessions around the bonfire.
Janhvi for letting me see birds with binocs and not through my lens.
Sudha for a glorious video at the falls and Firoza for capturing me at the tea estates.