My first introduction to Kotagiri was through someone who had lived there and claimed that it was the prettiest place in the Nilgiris. Having visited Ooty and Coonoor earlier, I was surprised I hadn't heard of it. My interest was fuelled years later when I read an article about Longwood Shola, one of the few remaining shola forests in the Nilgiris, and saw that name again — Kotagiri. In the summer of 2011, I visited Longwood and explored this little-known town.
The Kodanad View Point was the high point of our trip, literally. Tea estates sprung up from the clouds on either side of the route in an unending expanse of green. We saw a lot of uniformed men on the road and learnt that Kodanad was Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa's summer retreat. We reached the view point after having heard for a few minutes the driver and guide debate about the number of rooms in her bungalow. A few plain clothesmen (who informed us they were Jayalalithaa's guards on their day off) suggested we wait for a while -- and in about half an hour, the mist lifted, unveiling to us a view that exhausts superlatives.
The Mysore Plateau spread out before us, the green of the Thengumarahada forest extended up to the soft velvety mountains (the "folding hills"), the Rangasamy Peak stood out like a guardian, the mighty muddy-green Moyar river flowed through the plain and the white lines of the Catherine Falls cut through the brown rock. We took in this scene in a meditative silence. Suddenly, I saw two brown moving blobs in a clearing.
"Elephants!" I yelled, waving at them impulsively. "Haha," said the men politely, "you're seeing cows." Grabbing the camera frantically, I zoomed in, and one could see that they were quite unmistakably a bunch of elephants strolling in the sunshine. We took a couple of photos, and before we knew it, a thick fog descended on the mountain and the view was gone.