Although bus terminates at Kodanadu View Point and then starts from here but we will rather walk to the shack cum restaurant where we had dosas.
Some ladies were picking up the tea and they try to speak with my wife Vimla but due to language difference talk did not go very well. Only thing that I make out of the failed conversation is that they were telling to my wife that she looks like a certain South Indian Film Heroine.
It was barely 1 kilometer from View Point to here but it takes us more than an hour.
Because of these captivating views.
On the way I pluck some wild growing tea leaves and lemon grass leaves from the curb.
Nilgiris Mountains are full of tea estates but also tea plants have escaped the cultivation so grow all over as wild. Unfortunately drinking green tea is not popular in India but Chinese people drink mostly green tea. One of my friends in USA is suffering from chronic arthritis and suddenly he had no pain in his knees and he wandered about how this could happen. Then he discovered that whenever he drinks green tea his pain goes away. Then I studied more about green tea and it is indeed useful in rheumatic pains.
The tea we buy is roasted. You can visit a tea factory and watch yourself. Tea is first crushed (in such a way to retain its juice) then it is roasted. That is the tea we drink. If you just boil tea leaves; it won’t work this way and won’t give you any flavor. Even to make green tea, leaves must be crushed and then dried in such a way that juice retains. Many times in Ooty, I ask for just hot water at tea shops and there I crush some wild tea leaves in my hand and add it in the water to make green tea. New studies also indicate that adding milk also kills all good character of the tea.
Lemon Grass, I love lemon grass tea. The main benefit of Lemon grass is that it gives the smell of lemon but without any sourness in it. In India it has no culinary value but it is a major ingredient in Thai cooking. Some leaves of it in any curry makes it yummier. It is considered antifungal. Once I added a leaf of it in the bottle of Pepsi and drink came to sudden boil and then tasted amazing. So whenever I drink soda I add some leaves in my drink (anyway I am not a fan of cola but on my very long walks sometimes I drink coke etc.) In Nilgiris, oil is extracted from Lemon grass and this oil is much used in rheumatic massage oils and also in perfume industry. I learned that when two fragrances are added, hence makes a third fragrance that feel entire different from its parents ingredients. People began growing it in the shady places in Punjab because it adds to the taste to homemade liquor that they distill illegally.
Again I got drifted from what I was saying. So I have some wild tea leaves and some lemon grass in my pockets. We arrive at that same restaurant or rather shack. I ask the lady to crush all leaves and make us tea. She is confused but due to language barrier she does not ask much but makes us the tea. She brings 3 cups two we take and third one is for herself. She takes a cautious sip and her face explodes into smile. In Tamil she says that this is the most tasteful tea she ever had. Another woman comes and she offers her some of this tea and now we got two more admirers of this milk-less green lemon tea. If you add a pinch of kala-namak into it and then you will see the further wonder.
Some words about Nilgiri villages. All villages are scenic here; these are not haphazard maze of streets and homes above each other but are neatly planned.
Since these are mountain villages so stairs at each block go above and then straight streets intersect these stairs. All houses are whitewashed; roofs are interlocked roofing tiles of orange color.
Each village shares water taps arranged in such way to provide accessibility to each home. Water is usually picked from some virgin water source from high about the mountains, it is brought in the small concrete tanks and from there it is distributed to the village by gravity. The reason the villages are made in the planed way is that most of the villages fall under the ownership of some Tea Estate and at least one person in each household works in that tea estate.
Women are mainly breadwinners of the family whereas working men are a rare commodity in the mountains. Men can be seen lined up at liquor shops at day or night. Liquor is very expansive in Tamilnadu.
Each village has a temple near the road. Temples are very colorful and very neat. Within the perimeter of each temple is a small nine planets temple (open or roofed).
Deities of all grahas are arranged around the supreme planet Sun God. This concept is never seen in North India. New generations of Shani temples are coming around in each locality and people visit there in worship there belief that Shani Devta is the cause of their all troubles.
But in South Indian nav-graha temples area, Shani Devta is already incorporated within each that temple hence no need for separate Shani temnple.
Gautheria (Wintergreen) This plant has also escaped cultivation and grows wild in Nilgiris; a very aromatic plant. Once you learn to identify it then it becomes a god gift. You just want to keep smelling it. A little bit of it can be chewed but it is bitter. Wintergreen oil is sold in Ooty. It is also a main ingredient in rheumatic pain balms.
If you visit Ooty, never forget to purchase following oils:
1. Eucalyptus Oil
2. Wintergreen Oil
3. Lemon Grass Oil (Cetronella Oil).
4. Clove oil.
Take just any thin edible oil (like canola oil), mix all these above oils into it.
70% Canola Oil, 10% Eucalyptus Oil, 10% Wintergreen Oil, 5% Lemon grass oil, 5% Clove oil. Now you get the super oil for rheumatic pains. This will just beat up any other oil sold in the market and will only cost you a fraction of the price. You can make a balm of it if you heat up some wax (just enough that it melts) and add some of this super oil.
Another plant that is being cultivated in the gardens and also it is escaping cultivation now. This is an extremely beautiful plant; Beautyberry. First time when I saw this plant, I was spellbound. I didn’t believe if this is a plant or someone threw colored porcelain beaded necklace on some shrub. I was in the bus to Kodanadu view point. From there I walked just to meet this plant. I found it and plucked some of its berries and to my amazement it was the fruit of this plant.
I was unable to find the name of this plant and this year when I visited North Carolina Arboretum, in the Smokey Mountains, near Ashville. There I found its name. Callicarpa is the botanical name and beautyberry is the folk name.
Beautiberry plant originates from America. Local natives in USA and Mexico use its leaves as insect and mosquito repellent. In 2006, researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Products Utilization Research Unit in Oxford, Miss., found that extracts from beautyberry leaves indeed repel mosquitoes.
Eucalyptus trees in both pictures are Eucalyptus Globulus, came from Tasmania (Australia). Leaves are filled with aromatic oil. This eucalyptus oil is the base of many famous brand-named perfumes. It is also an essential base of almost all rheumatic-pain balms and ointments. Local people drink the tea of its leaves on the onset of cold and sore throats. Eucalyptus oil is also used in Vicks, Iodex and many sore throat lozenges and drops.
In this and previous post, there is a waterfall crashing down from the vicinity of Ranganatha Pillars. The brook that forms this waterfall passes through the village of Illada that comes in our way from Kotagiri to Kodanadu views point. Some times I begin my walk from Illada and some times from Keradamuttam. This brook then goes towards Curzen Tea estates and then at the edge of Nilgiris it makes that spectacular waterfall.
Another handsome tree that we see in Nilgiris in the tea estates is Copper Beech Tree. Some collector brought this tree from Japan and then more trees were planted with grafting. These trees becomes huge and can be seen from far away.
Since tea plantations need shade in the heat of summer so trees are planted withing the tea gardens. Same trees provide the wood for fuel that is also required in plenty to roast the tea in the factories.