Well, after spending nearly 2 years in Tamil Nadu, I finally make it to one of the most sought after tourist destinations in the state, or in the country, for that matter. The plan was rolled out by my brother, Nitin's in-laws. Staying in Coimbatore and having their daughter come over for Diwali, Ooty seemed to be a great option for the festival. And I didn't mind butting in.
So on 16th October friday, I catch the night bus to Coimbatore to Nitin's in-laws place. I reach there at 8 in the morning. After cathcing up on some sleep and some amazing home made breakfast, we all hit the road at 11 am. Well, the 'WE' includes Nitin, his wife, her parents and her brother, Unni. And yes, me too.
Ooty to Coimbatore is nearly 100 kms. Well, officially, it's 98 but then we had a few extra kms to catch up. After a couple of kms, a mountain appears, which would later on lead us to our destination. As we start ascending the mountain, we are welcomed by monkeys. Passing through several hairpin bends, we make our way up. As we start going up in altitude, the air gets slightly chilly and ears start popping on and off. The Nilgiris is simply beautiful with trees, tea plantations and picturesque mountains enveloped in fog.
After a 2 hour ride uphill, we reach the town of Ooty. The crowded town made me feel like I had gone there to meet some relative. It was way more populated than anyone would expect a holiday destination to be. It looked like people who came to see the place over years, loved it so much that they decided to stay back.
So we first head to our hotel room on Wenlock Road, next to Cafe Coffee Day. We keep our luggage, relax, have lunch at a nearby restaurant known as quality restaurant. It was a nice buffet for a bit over hundred rupees. After that we head to our first destination in Ooty, the Boatclub. Built over the picturesque Ooty lake, surrounded by mountains, the boatclub offers you relaxing boat rides. As you move through the lake, on one side you could see a very small deer park where you could spot a couple of antelopes. As we ride on the boat, Nitin tries his hand at rowing, and he wasn't bad at all. Guess he could keep it as a back up career option.
Once we're off the boat, I see a board which says Bunji jumping. (not a spelling mistake by me.. that's how they wrote it) Fully charged, i run to get highly dissapointed to see a boy jumping on a spring mat with huge rubber bands attached to his waist. Anyway, Me, Nitin, Ananya and Unni head to Dashing cars. Here it was quiet different from the other dashing cars I had seen elsewhere. It had only four cars and the duration was longer. Upto 20 minutes, I guess.
So as we stand in the queue, waiting for our turn, a group of four who went before us play in a very interesting fashion. they go around in circles without touching each other. As though they're practicing driving in a round about, they jus keep going round in circles. When they leave after 20 minutes of redefining 'dashing cars', we applaud and cheer them for their great accomplishment. All the frustration however came handy once our turn came.
By now, it's already 630. Without wasting much time, we head to the Botanical garden. A large beautiful garden for people interested in flowers and botany. So if your planning to go there, do some research on botany. Or else just take a walk through the cool garden as we did. The temperature was dipping down and it was simply incredible for a poor soul who made his way from chennai. As the sun set behind the mountains, the place was jus getting lovelier and cooler.
As we head back, we stop at this place where I had spotted shawarma a while back. Shawarma, tea, snacks and then we head home. After a couple of hours at home, we have to move out for dinner. The cold was making us too lazy to move. it was an amazing feeling. I don't remember the last time i enjoyed being so lazy. But still we had to move out for dinner. We again head to the same restaurant we went for lunch.
As I step out before the rest, the hotel caretaker tells me about this 'Kebab Corner' which was a long walk from there as compared to Quality Restaurant. So during dinner itself, I make my mind to go to Kebab Corner after dinner for two reasons. one obviously is my quest for the ideal Kebab, induced by Khaled Hosseini's book The Kite Runner and the other was to enjoy a walk in the cold. Once dinner is over, Nitin, Ananya and Unni join me in the walk. Uncle really can't tolerate so much of cold, so they decide to go home.
The walk was a delight. That's the one best thing to do in Ooty. I was getting a deja vu of Mussoorie. Walking downhill, overlooking the lights of the town. As we reach Kebab Corner, to our dismay, no mutton kebabs were available. So we head back to our hotel room. A half hour in the Cafe Coffe Day before we finally go home. Hot chocolate and sizzling brownies seemed to be made for Ooty and so were the quilts, once we hit the bed. A good night sleep and the next day, we had to see whatever was possible before i reach Coimbatore at 8 PM.
Next morning, after a quick breakfast, we head to Dodabetta. Commonly known as the suicide point, the beautiful location is quiet a treat to the eye. Distant mountains filled with decidous forests, covered by fog appear blue, thus giving the name 'Nilgiris' meaning blue mountains. At that point, the tourism department has instilled a telescope. After a long wait, we were elated to see people getting on and off buses in the busy ooty town. Even Galileo would've never thought of such an amazing application of his invention.
After Dodabetta, next we head to the tea factory. I was hoping to see tea plantations, but it turned out to be just a factory Anyway it's a must visit if you want to get your friends something from there. At the factory they show the entire mechanism, which happens in five stages. 1, withering, where they dehydrate leaves, 2. Rolling, where leaves are cut and curled 3. Fermentation, where the colour of the leaves change and 4. Drying, self explanatory and 5. Grading and sorting to remove dust and other particles
Once you're out of the factory after seeing all these stages, your led to a shop where you get a free sample of tea and you get to buy flavoured tea. I buy a chocolate tea from there for my friends back in Chennai. Form the tea factory, the way moves in to a chocolate factory. A small cottage factory. Here they save us of an explanation of how it is made by showing a tray of liquid chocolate besides one with solid chocolate. Now don't ask me any doubts. We pick up chocolates from there and get going.
After lunch, we're not left with much time, so we plan to see Sim's Park in Conoor which happens to be on the way back to Coimbatore. Sim's Park is one of those amazing things that the British brought to India. Back in 1874, the British established this park and brought in exotic varieties of trees and plants from across the globe. Except for Antarctica, you'll find trees from all continents here. The different types of trees and their intriguing forms are a treat to the eye. The place, like the Botanical garden in Ooty, is a must visit for Botanists and people interested in Flora.
A couple of hours in the beautiful park and it's time to say goodbye to the Nilgiris. The drive down is amazing, the view breathtaking and monkeys hovering around yet again invokes a feeling of joy. Like all good things, the trip comes to an end in a few hours.
Before my trip, I had heard many people say that Ooty has lost its charm and that now it's too crowded. Well, now even I say the same thing. Having been to Yelagiri, known as the 'poor man's Ooty' earlier, I must say that a place like Yelagiri would be a much better getaway. However, Ooty and the Nilgiris have an unparalleled charm. And as John Keats said, a thing of beauty is a joy forever.