Drive to the Sahyadris
1 Feb 2017: Day 32 (Kotagiri and around)
We woke up to a chilly morning in the Nilgiris and warmed ourselves with a hot cup of aromatic tea before driving down to meet Aggal Sir and then proceeding to Sim’s Park at Coonoor. While it was still misty, Sim’s Park turned out to be a treasure trove for birds and we soon spotted a flock of Nilgiri Wood Pigeon followed by a Indian Blue Robin and a Black-and-orange Flycatcher. Other birds sighted were a couple of Scaly-breasted Munias, Emerald Dove and a Bar-winged Flycatcher Shrike among others.
We then drove down to the Doddabetta Peak and within minutes spotted the Black-chinned Laughingthrush foraging along the trail close to where vendors were selling fruits and handicrafts. The trail was also productive for other birds like the Black-and-orange Flycatcher, Nilgiri Flycatcher and Indian Blackbird.
We returned to Kotagiri and had a delicious lunch at Hotel Kasthuri.
A 5 minute drive from Hotel Kasthuri brought us to a private property owned by one of Aggal Sir’s friend. It was here that we sighted a Kashmir Flycatcher along with a Painted Bush Quail.
In the evening, we went to meet Dharuman Nanjan Sir and were wowed by the beautiful setting of his home. A carpet of fallen flowers on the walkway welcomed us while the many herbs and spices spread a wonderful aroma around his house and the bonsai’s crafted for years presented us with a visual treat. He took us to his favorite birding site just opposite his estate where we spent the rest of the evening birding and spotted several birds like the Nilgiri Flycatcher, Lesser Hill Myna, Blue-capped Rock Thrush and a Speckled Piculet.
We returned to our cottage only by nightfall and got a chance to spend some time with Vyjayanthi, the caretaker of the bungalow and an excellent cook. She served us some amazingly tasty rasam, sambhar, rice and vegetables for dinner.
2 Feb 2017: Day 33 (Kotagiri and around)
We took it a little easy today and spent a lot of time in the bungalow gardens enjoying a freshly brewed cup of tea while appreciating the beautiful Nilgiri hills that surrounded us. Vyjayanthi served us an equally delicious breakfast and soon we lost count of the number of dosas and idlis that we finished off.
At around 0830 Hrs, we drove to Kil Kotagiri and picked up Chandru from his office, an avid birder who took a day off from work just to accompany us for birding. The main target for the morning was a male Kashmir Flycatcher and to try our luck finding it, we drove to a nearby pine forest. Luckily, it did not take long before we spotted the bird perched on a branch of an uprooted pine tree. However, a few clicks unsettled the bird and it flew away into the dense forest.
While we had spotted most of the birds of the Nilgiris within one day, a very important bird was still missing, the Nilgiri Blue Robin. We asked Aggal Sir for his help and he gladly took us to the Longwood Shola Reserve Forest where the bird was spotted recently. Aggal Sir picked up the call of the bird in a few minutes of reaching the forest and we tracked it down to a small forest patch next to a stream. A few more minutes of tracking and we spotted the bird quietly perched under the shade of a tree.
In the evening, we returned to Dharuman Nanjan Sir’s home and trekked to the highest point of his estate reaching a hill top from where we had amazing views of the Nilgiris. To add to the beauty, we got an opportunity to spot a Shaheen Falcon hunting and a Black Eagle soaring on a thermal.
Later in the evening, Dharuman Nanjan Sir took us around his plantation and explained us about the many native plants, herbs and spices that he grows and the many uses of them. It was then we realized why the Tamil cuisine gets such unique flavors. He then invited us over to his house and treated us to some amazing Nilgiri tea and also explained us the many intricacies of tea tasting and what makes a tea good. The rest of the evening was spent discussing about a multitude of issues ranging from environment conservation to long term sustainable development.
After an excellent evening, we went back to our cottage and relished on the delicious dinner that Vyjayanthi had cooked for us.
Aggal Sivalingam: Aggal Sir has lived all his life in the Nilgiris and knows the place in and out. We gained a lot of knowledge while in his company and as a bonus, got to see all the important birds of the region within one day. Apart from birding, spending time with him gave us a sneak peek into the life of the locals, their traditions, beliefs and of-course the amazing food.
Contact: +91 94 86 53 0021
A vintage bungalow converted into a homestay, Peak View Cottage is a very comfortable place to stay and explore the area. Set amidst the Nilgiri hills, the rooms are spacious yet cozy and the bathroom is large with all facilities. The caretaker Vyjayanthi is a very nice lady and an amazing cook.
Phone: +91 944 355 4025, +91 4266 271 025
Please feel free to ask us any question that you may have about our time at Kotagiri. Also, stay tuned for details on the next leg of our road trip.