Day3. Second and Final Stop.
After the disappointment of Doddabetta, we dragged our feet back to Ooty. It was around noon when we reached Ooty and our return bus back to Banglore was at 10:30 in the night. Which also meant we had loads of time in our hands. I dug into my pockets and extracted my Cellphone. I browsed through the list of places-to-visit stored in my phone and stopped at Katteri Falls. Now since I had no idea where Katteri Falls was, I started asking the bus drivers and conductors. Luckily they knew the place and how to get to it. Apparently there was no direct bus to Katteri. You need to first take a bus from Ooty and alight at Yallanali. From here another bus will take you to Katteri.
We did as told. Upon alighting at Katteri, we found ourselves all alone in the middle of what looked like a semi-jungle. There was not a soul around whom we could ask for further directions. All we could find there was dense vegetation, a tiny river/stream which we assumed is Katteri, a small bridge over it and lots of lotus flowers in that stream, which meant the stream was stagnant for most parts. Feeling a little uncomfortable with the whole situation we were in, we walked across the bridge admiring the yellow lotuses. And then we found something that made us a little more uncomfortable - a Photography Strictly Prohibited signboard!!! As if that was not enough, the place got a little more murkier when we found an Army Jawan walking in our direction. Feeling totally lost, we thought it better to ask the Jawan about the Falls and state our intention.
The jawan was quite receptive and told us that Katteri river just a few feet away drops from the cliff to form a waterfall. But it was a high security area and hence photography is not prohibited. Even entry to that area is conditional and subject to permissions from superior officers. When enquired about the reasons for such high security, we were told that the presence of a pumping station for an Ammunition Factory made the area a Restricted one. By now our stomach were in knots, but somehow we were determined to make this trip fruitful, after all the disappointments (the second one being the much-publicized Mohan's Store) of the day. Thanking the jawan we went in the direction of the Falls. By now we could hear the waterfalls approaching closer and closer with every step. We then reached the secured-area, where another army jawan was standing guard. What troubled the daylights out of me was the automatic machine that was chained to the jawan's body!!!. We nevertheless approached him and asked for directions from where we could view the falls. He told us that to view the falls, you need to go a full 4-5 kms downhill for a decent look. There was a bridge right at the head of the falls, where you could go and have a look, but photography was strictly prohibited.
When asked for permission to view this, we were asked a few uncomfortable questions like, who are you and where you are from? et.al. Obviously the jawan was doing his duty, but we felt a little uncomfortable and decided against going there. So we proceeded towards the foot of hill, from where we could get a glimpse of the waterfalls. The drizzle had by now turned to be full-fledged rain. We were already soaking wet but still went for it. We were really not sure if we could walk the 4 km stretch downhill and come back up again. After walking for about a kilometer, we got the first-look of the Katteri Falls. It was an amazing sight to say the least. A milky white stream of Katteri dropping effortlessly through the majestic Nilgiri mountains. It truly was a heart-stopping moment. The whole setup looked like a scene out of a well-cinematographed movie. The infinite expanse of dense-green-mountain-ranges, the omnipresent mist, the magical stream dropping hundreds of feet in a free-fall, the shower of goodness from the rain Gods, the sweet smell of moist earth, the Sun peeping out of the clouds from time to time to make His presence felt, all make you want to spend a lifetime admiring it. But it was not to be. We were woken out of our trance by the honking of an approaching TN state transport bus. It took a moment to register, but when it did, we seized this opportunity to hop into the bus to get to the bottom of the falls, thereby having to avoid the 4km walk down hill.
The bus dropped us off at the Selas Telephone Exchange. The building itself looked like a true British handiwork from the Dinosaur era. It was an old dilapidated building that has braved years of torrential Nilgiri rains. Turning back to the Katteri Falls, our hearts sank. The actual point where the water drops is quite far away from where we were, in what looks like a deep jungle. Getting there, is a challenge in itself. Add to that, the secured-area tag made us not venture there. After admiring the waterfalls from here, we started to walk back the 4-5 km stretch uphill. Amazingly though, there was no tiredness or exhaustion. The stubborn rain, the uphill climb, the exhaustion of the last three days of travel, the fear of catching pneumonia, the difficulty in breathing, nothing deterred our progress. We were having the time of our lives and we didn't want it to end.
After more than an hour of walking we finally reached the place, where the bus had dropped us off. And to our surprise we again saw the same receptive jawan we had interacted to when we first arrived here. We told him about our adventure for the last hour and he looked genuinely happy for us. We still had about 20 mins more to catch a bus back to Yellanali. When asked what else we could see around here, he took us to his check-post up the hill. This was where the Katteri stream originates. It's a spectacular location over here with the Katteri village overlooking the stream. Upon reaching the check-post, we found another jawan there. He was a Sardar and the other guy we interacted to, a Tamilian. Waiting for the bus to arrive we started chatting with these two jawans. They were very warm and receptive. We guessed they also enjoyed our company in this sleepy village of Katteri. The told us about how the Katteri stream is infested with large fish, some even weighing about 20 kilos. And interestingly, none of the villagers catch any fish, as they are all pure-vegetarian brahmins. This indirectly benefits the jawans since they get the best and the largest fish everyday.
Finally we saw the bus coming our way. But it first has to go to the sleepy town of Katteri, drop the villagers and come back. We nevertheless took the bus to see the village. The ride now was an amazing one. After wading through large shrubs on a slushy and bumpy road, we reached the village which was on a hill. The bus then started on a vertical incline up the hill. The road was so narrow here, that the mini-bus could exactly fit-in. Not even a cyclewala can stand in either side of the road, while the mini-bus is in motion. After a one minute stoppage, the bus started its detour. When we reached the army check-post, we waved out to the jawans who were intently looking to say Good Bye. When we saw them wave goodbye in return and their image faded away as the bus moved on, we knew we were leaving Ooty after making two nameless friends...
Getting-there: Ooty to Yallanali by bus. Another bus from Yallanali to Katteri.
Must-Do: A MUST visit place. And Pleaseeeee do NOT trash this place. Its heaven-on-earth. And so, lets keep it that way.
Must-Don't: Take pictures that can get you in trouble.
My Rating: 8/10