Droog: if you're game for aching muscles, writes SUBHA J. RAO
THE NAME sounds ordinary enough; but don't underestimate Droog. When the photographer and I start off from Coimbatore on a pleasant Monday morning, we have little inkling of what the place has in store for us. Driving up the Mettupalayam-Conoor Road, our car takes a detour on the last hairpin bend to touch the road leading to Glendale Estate.
The state of the road is a portent of things to come. But we ignore it, much to our discomfort. Turned back by construction workers, we take the longer road passing through Silas to reach Nonsuch Estate en route to the Pakkasuran Hill View Point, the watchtower at Droog. Travel books refer to Droog (2000 metres MSL) as home to a crumbling fort constructed by Tipu Sultan.
That should have got me thinking. Tipu and I don't seem to gel my last trip to one of his forts (Sankari Durg) had to be abandoned half way.
Undeterred by such thoughts, I am game to start the climb, brand-new trekking shoes in place, to take in the view from the peak.
Even before we reach Nonsuch, the locals tell us the road is bad. But, after sitting through a 3-km long bone-crunching journey on a road that has more pebbles than mud, we decide nothing can be worse.
Droog proves us wrong. Travel books measure the distance to the peak at 3 km. But, since our car is unable to climb a road that was and is now a part-time stream, we walk it from the Nonsuch tea factory. It is a never-ending climb (about 7 km and two-odd hours to the top).
After half-an-hour of inching up the steep incline, we refresh ourselves at a hillside stream. The cold, sparkling water keeps us going for a while longer by which time we reach a Tantea estate, the last stop for any vehicle.
After that, it is a trudge to the top. There is no semblance of a road and you have to plant your feet firmly on the ground to avoid a free trip on
Nature's sliding board. The sight of cheery-looking everlasting flowers that dot the stretch is some balm to your over-worked muscles. I initially resist the offer of a stick from an estate worker; but soon seek one. That helps, to an extent.
But, the watchtower is still elusive. It is afternoon by now and mist is swirling all over me. I feel like I am in the midst of one big dream sequence.
Visibility has dropped and we decide to spot the tower from where we are. After a 10-minute wait, the mist covers parts and the peak seems achingly close, but our feet refuse to move forward any more. Taking in the view from our post through the camera, we make our way down disappointed. Those who have been to the top say the scenery from there is a sight to behold. What greets you at the watchtower is a view of the Bhadrakaliamman temple at Mettupalayam, the Bhavani Sagar and Pilloor dams and the remnants of the compound of a fort built by Tipu Sultan.
To ensure you get to see all this, leave early. Reach the summit at least by 11 a.m.
After that, the mist determines your plan. If you're lucky, a tractor that passes by every four hours to pick up tea leaves might give you a lift. Predictably, our luck deserts us yet again.
How to get there: Drive up the Mettupalayam-Coonoor road and take a diversion at the last bend. Keep driving through the Glendale, Parkside and Nonsuch estates till you reach the platform where they weigh tea leaves. From then on, it is a steep climb through shrubs and forests.
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