The morning was a blur of movement as we sped through a deserted Mumbai to the airport. It seemed as if the city had already emptied out for the Easter weekend. There were some queues at the airport, but we breezed through to catch breakfast at the food court. The plane was delayed on the tarmac; due to “VVIP movement”, we were told. The flight was a little rough with bouncy pockets of clear air above a horizon-to-horizon sea of clouds. After landing in Coimbatore there was a minor wait for our luggage, before we were out in the stifling noontime heat and into a waiting car.
The Tamil villages we sped through were a blur of coconut and banana orchards surrounding brightly painted little houses. It has been almost a decade since we came for a holiday to these parts, and as before, I am struck by the bright and dark greens, reds and purples contrasting with pinks and yellows on buildings. These are colour schemes which I only see on silk saris otherwise. From Coimbatore airport we sped towards Pollachi, and then to the Aliyar dam.
We stopped for tea just outside the dam in a little shop selling tea, coffee and the inevitable “tiffin”. In the last decade there has been an important invention: there is a kind of oven which was in use to boil water for tea and coffee. You can see it in the photo above. The fuel seems to be coir, the waste product from coconuts. Of course, one can use anything which is handy. Neat invention.
Immediately after this we entered the Annamalai Tiger Reserve, and the road started climbing up the Nilgiris. This part of the land suddenly turns green because of the water. The scrubland gives way quickly to forest. The milkweed disappears, and soon lanata begins to appear. The air is full of butterflies.
There are 40 hairpin bends on the way to Valparai. Everyone stops at the ninth to take photos of the lake behind Aliyar dam. As we climbed, the jungle gave way to tea estates: bright green interspersed with the purple of Jacarandas. The air was full of the smell of Eucalyptus and Jacaranda. We turned the last bend and saw a signboard announcing we had arrived. The remaining 9 kilometers still took us half an hour.