“This blog is contributed by one of our readers, Dr. Gargi Mondal. Join her on a budget journey to one of the best places in Tamil Nadu, Ooty and find useful insights into places to visit near it as well.
COME MONSOON… IT’S OOTY…
You never know when the travel bug bites you! On a dreary weekend in August, without any previous plan, Neel and I set off for a weekend trip. Being budget travellers, we always avail the public transport safely keeping in mind the inconveniences of taking a much longer time than a drop off by car. On a Friday evening, we went to Mysore from Bangalore by bus which took us almost five and a half hours. One can go to Coorg, Ooty, Wayanad and ample other places from Mysore. One can also spend a day or two in Mysore also, a historical town itself.
In my utter confusion of which hill station to visit, Neel suggested we take a bus to Ooty, another five and a half hour of journey. So we started, sitting in the cabin of the driver, having a clear view of the front, not compromising any side of the road. Just after 15 mins of the start of our journey, we came across the Chamundi hills and a number of lakes above which we could point out the cormorants and the ibis. The weather was pleasant with the sun and the clouds playing hide-and-seek and also one or two bouts of drizzles. The Mysore-Ooty highway turns adventurous once it crosses Gundulpet. After this, starts the Bandipur Tiger Reserve maintained by the state of Karnataka which continues as the Mudhumalai Tiger Reserve in Tamil Nadu. One can easily see herd of deer, peafowls and wildboars on the wayside. One may also come across the tuskers and various colourful birds if cautious. And if one is lucky enough, the big cat may also be sighted who keeps an eye on the busy highway from the shrubs!!!
After the Mudhumalai Tiger Reserve, the road takes you through the misty, meandering paths over the hills, green coffee and tea plantations to the Queen of Hills in the Nilgiris. In the Nilgiris on your way, you come across the shrubs of the Nilakurinji flowers. These flowers bloom once in twelve years and many people in the villages keep account of their ages by the blooming of these purplish-blue flowers. These are the flowers which turn the hills into a mesmerising blue thus explaining the name, The Nilgiris. Currently, these flowers are not seen much in Ooty as they have been destroyed by the widely flourishing tea plantations. The last stretch of the road from Guddalur to Ooty offers the most breathtaking views. At times the route traverses through the dense pine forests allowing glimpses of sunlight through the trees or at other times it passes through the thick bamboo woods. The presence of small lakes and waterfalls amidst the landscape only reminds you of God’s bounty. Through this splendid road among nature, one becomes spellbound when he/she reaches Udagamandalam or Kovai, a tinsel town surrounded on all sides by the Nilgiris and the blue toy train chugging through it.
So! We have reached Ooty, one of the famous tourist places for the honeymooners; the hill station about which we heard for the umpteenth time since childhood; the shooting spot for so many movies; the hill station harbouring the highest peak in Tamil Nadu. We simply liked to walk about its busy as well as quiet thoroughfares.
After lunch, we boarded an auto to the Dodabetta peak which is located about 6km from the city. This peak offers a scenic view of the valley around it. Enjoying a hot cup of the Ooty tea along with your beloved in the clouds and drizzles with a raincoat over the body offers a heavenly experience. The place also offers hot pakoras, bread omelette, Maggi among other things to enjoy with the tea. The forests here give you a glimpse of birds like the tit and the Asian paradise flycatcher.
On our way back to the town, we stopped at The Tea Factory where we got a first-hand experience of how we a get a steaming hot cup of tea from the tea plantations after it passes through a long tedious process. One can choose from a range of flavours to buy tea packaged in different attractive parcels for daily use or gifts. Home-made chocolates are one of the other delicacies of this place. Our auto driver took us to a wax museum after this. The auto driver took Rs. 600 for this to-and-fro trip to Dodabetta along with waiting at the different places. Bikes or scooters were not available then for rent due to some administrative problem.
During the afternoon, we took a walk to the Botanical Garden. The stroll through the garden was a rejuvenating experience, walking through innumerable species of plants and flowers.
After freshening up at our resort, we went out for dinner at 9.30pm but to our surprise we found all the shops were shut down by then. We managed to get dinner at one small hotel, but the food was fresh, delicious and cheap. While returning to our hotel, we found we were the only people strolling beside the lake on a quiet, dimly lighted curvy road, hand in hand, reminding us of “Pyar hua iqrar hua..”
Useful Information: The toy train runs from Ooty to Coonoor railway station four times a day. The train takes one through the breathtaking idyllic hamlets of Lovedale, Ketti and other famous hill stations of Tamil Nadu. Many Indian movies had been shot on this train. On the way, one can see a number of streams of water flowing from the hills and greenery abound.
We stayed at a resort by the north lake road, getting a good view of the Ooty lake through our window. The Ooty lake is a tourist spot for boating. Next morning, on waking up, we saw few spotted bill ducks and common coots enjoying the early morning drizzle in the lake from our window. During our second and last day in Ooty, after breakfast we took a walk to the Rose Garden which houses hundreds of varieties of roses. Then we boarded a bus to Guddalur which is on the way to Bangalore. We alighted at Paykara, approximately 19 km from Ooty. We visited the amazing Paykara Falls there, 700m walking from the bus stand. Plenty of rain birds were hovering over the water body which is surrounded by hills on both sides. The vast stretch of the waterfall could be visualised only when the mist cleared. One can also enjoy boating at this place, approx 1.5 km from the bus stand. Car parking facility is available at the bus stand. After a hot cup of tea, we again boarded a bus to Mysore. While entering the Bandipur Tiger Reserve, believe me!! We sighted a Royal Bengal tiger in the shrubs looking at the busy thoroughfare, just approx 70-80m from our bus.
We got down at Bandipur to do a safari. Gypsies can be booked online or if one books earlier. On the day of visit, only buses can be booked. We booked two tickets for us and went for lunch at the forest canteen. After lunch, we boarded the bus and took a tour in the jungle. Though we were not lucky enough to spot a tiger or an elephant in this jungle ride, but we caught a glimpse of the red jungle fowl, the big mongoose, the monkeys, herd of deer, wild boars and a number of colourful birds on our way. The bus ride was for approx 1.5 hours. After our safari, we boarded a bus to Gundulpet from where we boarded a bus to Mysore. From Mysore, we preferred train to Bangalore though bus services are widely available. Finally, we reached home at 1.15am after a two-day fun-filled, lovely trip to Ooty with the tune in our mind “Aay zindagi, gale laga le…”
Photo Courtesy: Neel