Monday, September 9, 2013
The State Highway No.78, from Pollachi to Valparai (வால்பாறை, not வாள்பாறை, as I had thought of it earlier), is the best way for a tourist to get to the tea plantations there. The 64km highway starts climbing soon after the Azhiyar dam. It is quite a well maintained road and after a while, one starts seeing the tea plantations, even if they are broken in parts by the shola forests.
To reach the hill-tops, which are at around 1200 metres, the road navigates 40 hairpin bends. We were advised to watch the hairpin bends 7 and 9 very closely. Not much to do with the driving, but for the view. Bend #9 is much more sweeping than the others and there is a little platform abutting the curve, where one gets a panoramic view of the Azhiyar reservoir and the hills around. A board there also talks about possible wild animal sightings there. We were excited about that possibility and were looking forward to Bend #9.
The earlier bend was therefore quite a surprise. As the vehicle slowed down, we saw what we thought were donkeys on the road. With horns? There were a couple of them by the roadside and when we recognized what they were, we had to jump off and take pictures; here is one, of the Nilgiri Tahr, the State Animal of Tamil Nadu!