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The Greening of the Blue Mountains

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Kurumbadi in the Nilgiri mountains in Tamil Nadu welcomes visitors with bouquets of wild flowers blooming on both sides of the narrow twisting mountain road. It is almost as though nature is celebrating the fact that there are still little nooks in the famous Blue Mountains that have not been sacrificed at the altars of progress and development. And it is reassuring to know there are still large swathes of land in the Nilgiris that exude the ineffable charm that first endeared the region to the British.

Yes, these were the very same hills that Lord Lytton, Viceroy of India from 1876 to 1880, described to his wife in a letter: “It far surpasses all that its most enthusiastic admirers and devoted lovers have said about it.” If Lord Lytton were to visit the hills today he would still be enchanted by Kurumba Village Resort which is located in Kurumbadi a few km outside the more popular hill resort town of Coonoor. A rich fragrance spikes the air betraying the fact that the property is nestled in the midst of a spice plantation. The resort’s airy cottages are bright with Kurumba tribal motifs and the lush forests framed in their large picture window give guests a sense of being one with nature.

Nature is ever present here and caresses one’s frayed nerves like a soothing balm. Even the resort’s open-sided thatched roof restaurant is washed by the cool forest breeze. Here one awakes to the flirtatious calls of the Nilgiri Whistling Thrush and other exotic birds. Even as the morning mist danced like a flimsy veil in the wind across the forested mountains slopes, one sets off on a jungle trek. Woodpeckers tapping on trunks of towering trees, the creaking of bamboo groves nodding in the breeze, the chirruping of birds, the grumbling of distant waterfalls, the gurgle of forest streams … the forest regales one with its morning raga.

Seek out a rocky outcrop and admire nature’s canvas of wild greens that unravel against the blue sky; delicate flowers that blush under the jealous gaze of thorny leaves; the rays of the morning sun streaking through the branches and glinting off the strands of spiders’ webs…

Green is the theme once more as you drive through the tea estates of Upper Coonoor to the waterfall-streaked vales around Dolphin’s Nose and Lamb’s Rock, strolled through Sim’s Park and admired its imposing churches and colonial buildings.

Top of the day at Tranquilitea, a delightful little tea lounge that snuggles in one corner of a stately colonial cottage. Here in a very ‘propha’ Raj style atmosphere, you indulge in an enchanting tea tasting ceremony where the manager reverentially poured different kinds of tea from glass decanters into elegant glass cups. Between sips of the classic brews, ranging in colour from dark red to light honey yellow, you munch on crunchy almond cookies and brownies made in house.

You are served another generous helping of Raj nostalgia when you board the Nilgiri Passenger which recently chugged into UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. The little toy train wheezed and coughed, belching great columns of smoke into the air as it snaked through the mountains: slithering through narrow passes and tunnels, clinging to the edge of deep cliffs and crevices, rattling over archaic bridges… As you gaze out of the windows at the forested slopes of the mountains shimmer in the warm glow of the setting sun and you will find the Nilgiris wooing you with the intensity of a spurned lover. And in all probability you may find yourself falling in love with the Blue Mountains all over again. Fact File
The closest airport is at Coimbatore.

Kurambadi lies on the lower slopes of the Ooty- Mettupalayam Road that snakes through pristine forests dotted with a tea and spice plantations.