My last day in Bangalore, I had no idea where I’d visit next and no plans. However, as seems to always happen during travel, something came up at the last second: I was invited to spend a few days in Kotagiri with Davaraj, a friend of John and Solomon. I quickly booked my ticket and in a few hours I was on the road again, taking an overnight bus out of Bangalore. Next morning I awoke early, hopped off the bus in a city 30 km outside of Kotagiri, hopped onto the back of Davaraj’s motorcycle, then held on for dear life.
The ride up to Kotagiri was breathtaking. Kotagiri is about 8000 ft up in the mountains, so the crisp morning air bit deep into my hands and face as we raced around hairpin turns. The further up we went, the more the scenery changed. Although the Blue mountains are very close to the equator, by the time you get to Kotagiri the scenery has almost completely transformed from dense jungle to lush evergreen forest. Kotagiri and the surrounding area is largely a collection of tea and coffee plantations.
I mentioned to Davaraj that I was interested in seeing some wildlife in Kotagiri, and since he didn’t have any plans for the day, he took me on an impromptu sightseeing tour for the morning. Driving down back mountain roads we saw exotic birds, bison, deer, monkeys, as well as a flora as diverse as (and greener than) anything I’d ever seen before. It was an amazing experience. I hope someday to come back to the Nigiri mountains on a motorcycle and spend several days riding through the back roads with the crisp wind rushing rushing over my face and making my eyes water.
When we got back to Davaraj’s house in the afternoon, and I wrapped myself in like 5 layers of blankets and curled up by the fireplace to read Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” while sipping the best tea I’d ever had in my life. I didn’t realize how cold I’d been till I was in front of the fire. It took hours for the warmth of the blankets and fire to soak back into my bones. In the evening Davaraj’s wife made us chicken soup that absolutely knocked my socks off.
Next morning Davaraj and I woke up at 4am and hired a taxi to take us to a wildlife reserve in the valley, 80km away. The taxi driver, Davaraj, and I hopped on an elephant and made a morning safari trek into the jungle. We saw a peacock courtship unfold, stumbled across monkeys, buffalo, and other elephants. It was an amazing experience, but sadly I had a tough time enjoying myself because I felt bad for the elephant, who seemed like he tired of doing safaris and had to be prodded constantly by the mahout.
That evening I hopped on a public bus down to Coimbatore. It was a two hour ride down bumpy road and hairpin turns, and I got stuck in the very back. At one point I had to lean out the bus door and vomit. I learned there’s nothing quite like vomiting while staring down a precipice that falls thousands of feet below you.
In Coimbatore I boarded a private bus (much nicer) for Amritapuri. I got back to my room at 5am the next day, and plopped onto my bed, utterly exhausted. It’s amazing how much travelling on the road in India takes out of you. It’s rewarding, it’s exciting, it’s utterly beautiful, but it requires your complete and undivided focus, 24/7. It guess it’s sort of like life, in that sense. I’d recommend it to anybody who likes living.