I love walking on the mountains so all my posts are themed at the places where I love to walk. Of-course Kotagiri is my favorite walking area.
We (I and my wife) left the hotel at 8am. Had a cup of tea in the bazaar and then caught a bus going to S Kai Ghatti (that’s how this place is spelled by natives) This place is just 6 Km I avoid walking on this stretch because of truck traffic hauling tea from the factories. At S Kai Ghatti road splits up into several roads so traffic leans out. Also from this place there begin ways to several valleys. Today I decided to visit Kotada Estate. I walk in my luxury; walk a little, then drink tea from local shops then read some pages of a book that I usually keep it with me. Or just to sit at some ledge by the road and gaze at the utterly green scenes. Since S Kai Ghatti is the focal point so plenty of buses are available for here.
At 9 am we are at S Kai Ghatti. I take tea at Mr. Srinivas’s small restaurant. His whole family knows me because I stop here for my tea and snacks for years. Another advantage here is that they server me hot tea. It is a tradition to shake up and aerate the tea by pouring it from one container to another. This cools the tea down. I always have to yell to tea makers not to shake it for me. So I learned some Tamil;
I always tell them: Hatha naa maar, cheeni hila.
Means that don’t shake the tea, mix sugar with spoon.
So we have tea and yummy vadas at Mr. Sriniwas’s small cafe. Tea is just 5 rupee and vada too is 5 rupee. Quite inexpensive. Tea is very tasty in these hills. They don’t boil tea and water together but both are boiled in separate containers and mixed them while serving.
Here is the picture of the tea shop of my friends.
After we had tea we walk. Today we are walking to Kotada estate so we took the road that separates from the Kodanad road just in front of tea shop. For one km, road passes through a dense acacia forest at the left. At the right side one can glimpse lush green tea gardens and distant valleys. Just to have fun, I always break a stem from acacia to use it as datoon. These acacias are not that viciously thorny like we have in North India. Thorns are gentle. After one km. and after 2-3 hair pin bands, road opens up to a wide valley.
From here the village of Quinsholai is visible. Road descends till that village and then it rises again but we take a short cut that passes through tea gardens and then it catches up the road again. There we rest on the grass for a while and then walk again to the village of Honnatea. Scenes are breathtaking. A tea factory appears after a road bend and factory at left side itself is so pretty that it merges into the rest of the scene. After factory valley opens up and one enters in the town of Honnatea. Here we always stop for lunch at the first restaurant on the right side of the road. Restaurant is just about the one of the first structures of this village. Food is yummy. It is a typical South India meals on banana leaf for only 30 rupee for all you can eat.
Lemon grass grows all over the way so I always keep some leaves in my pocket. I prefer black tea flavored by lemon grass. After I buy my tea I put those leaves and the result is marvelous aroma of lemon but without lemon’s sour taste. Sometimes I put lemon too in my tea if it is available.
Village of Honnatea is small but one can see other villages on the hills around it. At the end of the village road splits. One way goes to Solarmuttum and other to the left goes along the brook towards Kotada Estate. Both routes I love but today I decided to visit Kotada Estate route so I take right branch.
Road passes through lush jungles along the brook. Not much to see for next 3 kms except the sound of water and air. Route is quiet lonely with very little traffic. Whenever I arrive at this point it is always about 1PM. Suddenly we come out of jungle and from the ridges we can see valleys and Kotagiri town far away but it is short lived because route again enters into jungle for 1km then a village comes (I don’t’ remember its name). Some tea shops serving tea and pakodas are here. At lunch hours lunch too is served at one shop but quality is not so good.
I am a herb enthusiastic; I can identify (or rather want to) many herbs. This road section is full of Brahmi Booti (Hydrocotyle Asiatica). On my each trip I chew a few leaves. Also grows Rauwolfia Serpentina. Once a while I see a Viper snake in the bushes and I only wonder that if a snake bits me then I will chew Rauwolfia as emergency measure till I find proper medical facility.
After we pass the village road descends. A wonder happened we enters into a somewhat dry area. A sunny valley. It might be raining in Kotagiri or in rest of Niligiris but this valley stays dry most of the time. View are breathtaking. One can see Kotada Estate that is still 6km. Since this is a dry area so more coffee grows here. Tea is lean. One can watch the scenes of Bhwani Sagar lake, Mettupalayam and even to far away Coimbatore. Road descends and flowers grow on each side of the road. After the village about 1km there comes a lone tea shop just by a tea factory at the other-side of the road but higher up on the hill. I never miss having tea here. The usual black tea with lemongrass leaves.
I sit on the ledge facing the valley and enjoy the tea in the gale of fresh air that is just like air-conditioned atmosphere. Not too cold not too hot.
As road descends and makes some hair pin bends, scenery intensifies. Once and see the plains of Erode and Coimbatore. Distant hills are visible. Air is so fresh and fragrant that one feels lighter.
Here comes a small hamlet and a tea shop is available but at this point we have no desire for tea so we walk on to a bus stop that is near bye. From here road goes to a village that is a halfway walk to Mettupalayam. Once can walk to the base of Niligiris. Further 1 km on this road is the gate of Kotada Tea estate. It is very tempting to enter in the gate but a sign says that it is private property and tress passers will be prosecuted. But bus goes inside the gate to the end at the Kotada Estate offices and Factories. I always took my chance and entered in the estate. Security head is Mr. Sebastian. He was very rude to me but then he became my friend and now on I enter in the estate. Or just anyone can enter in the estate and if asked by security personals then you can reply that you are visiting the offices regarding the organic tea etc. etc. Visitors are forbidden but traders are not. But public buses go there.
Folks it is evening. I am at Kotada Estate and will be catching the bus to Kotagiri at 5PM.
There are other spectacular walks around Kotagiri. All my walks begin from S Kai Ghatti. One walk is to Kotadad View point, other is to Solarmuttam and there are more. But a glimpse into one is sufficient because I have to post many other experiences on this website.