This summer, I was invited to spend a few days with friends in a farmhouse in upper Coonoor. All I knew about the town was that it was regarded by people to be a perfect hilly getaway. “Ah, Coonoor…”, they would sigh, in tones otherwise reserved for an Indian classical music concert or the stone temples of Hampi. I went, not looking for anything in particular.
To rejuvenate me was the challenge I threw at this pretty town, which had red tile rooftops, surrounded by hills and tea and coffee plantations. There were, of course, the usual attractions: A stop at Sim’s park — a peaceful oasis of manicured lawns and more than 1,000 plant species. A potter around Dolphin’s nose, oddly named, for the chief inhabitants of this lookout point are horses and monkeys. The last and perhaps most remarkable part of the trip is a visit to the tea factory for a guided tour of the fragrant processing plant. Outside the factory, a shopkeeper calls with characteristic persuasion in his voice, “Spice up your life in Coonoor.”
On a morning walk, at first, all I could see were tea pickers plucking leaves in the vast plantations. But gradually, my eyes open to the wonder of it all. Set against the cobalt blue of the sky and the red dirt tracts of land that we pass, it could easily have been a Van Gogh painting.
Villagers, with teeth as big as palette knives and cheeks as red as apples, emerged from houses painted in primary colours. They stare curiously at the little procession we make via their homes to get to the fields on the other side. It seems to me that they live as much outside their homes as in them, perhaps feeling as at home in the world as indoors. I carry this joyful thought and now when people say, “Ah, Coonoor…” and sigh mysteriously, I understand more precisely what they mean.
How to get there
By air: There are many flights from major airports to Coimbatore — the nearest airport is about 100 km away from Coonoor. From Coimbatore airport, hire a taxi.
Where to stay: You could stay at hotels that can give you a taste of wonderful farm life and also an organic cheese-making setup