Ooty: Queen of the Nilgiri Range – Ooty, India
Ahem. Now fellow Booties may think that I have sold my soul to the devil. But, believe you me; sometimes it is nice to be a tourist. Even if for just two days.
Bangalore, where I currently reside, was boiling hot. “The hottest summer in 15 years,” screeched one newspaper. With temperatures touching 37 degrees Celsius, it was just refreshing to sit in an air-conditioned office and chill. But that is not exactly my style.
Ooty was the answer. “Just an overnight bus ride away and the bus ride is cheap,” said my more experienced colleagues. So, I escaped to the cool, cool hills. True, it was difficult to sleep during the bus ride, though the seats were comfy and the passengers well behaved (and unlike the experiences of most Booties when it comes to bus travel, there were no goats or chickens being ferreted on this super deluxe KSRTC bus).
Stupid me. I had not imagined the wind would be so chilly, so I shivered and stared at people all warmly dressed up in woolies. Fortunately for me, the bus driver did need his cup of tea every two hours at least. He kept stopping for brief moments at hillside tea stalls. Stalls were actually built on mountain slopes, while most of them prepared tea on kerosene stoves, or wooden fires, one even sported a Nescafe coffee machine. Really swanky for this bit of rocky, almost deserted terrain of Nilgiri Ranges.
Early morning brought us to the Ooty bus station. Apart from a lot of horses, there were a few auto drivers (fortunately for me, as my stiff limbs would not co-operate had I to ride a horse). However, it was the smell of fragrant tea that made my day.
Did I tell you that Ooty is famous for its tea? I did bring back loads of it, cardamom tea, masala (spice) tea, orange flavored tea and even chocolate tea. And lots of home made chocolates. While it is a tourist destination, Ooty is also famous for its tea and spice plantations and home made chocolates, chocolate fudge, white chocolate, strawberry chocolate, nut and fruit chocolate, and slabs of bitter chocolate. My mouth is still watering.
A short auto ride away was the resort where I was to spend two days of bliss (I think they were short staffed during this busy season, or else the service would have been better. So I shall refrain from naming the resort at present). However, it did offer a glimpse of the lake and yes, it had its own herd of cows.
Moo-moo, the Brown Cow
Moo-moo the brown cow was soon my favorite. And where did she graze? In the children’s playground!
I managed to find a great auto driver, Shiva. He spoke flawless English, and was a careful driver on these steep, curvaceous roads that dotted Ooty. Ask for him, if you ever get to Ooty.
The first day was spent seeing the usual spots. Both of the botanical gardens, sprawling sights of lush green laws and ancient trees, did wonders to my soul. As did the famous rose gardens with over 1,000 varieties of roses. The lakeside was crowded; it is best to avoid it.
Various viewpoints dotting the hillside offer neat glimpses of the villages and tea plantations below. One is Dodabetta – the highest peak of the Nilgiri range. A telescope is provided to see some sights. Unfortunately, crowds thronged this place, and I barely managed to see glimpses of an ancient church – over a hundred years old, a tribal village, and a steam gauge railway. Of course you can use this telescope only for a tiny fee.
The second day, I shopped like crazy – tea, chocolates, and even quaint leather shoes. And sent all these packages back home. I roamed the streets trying to absorb the culture, but almost everyone I ran into was from Bangalore city.
Of course, after being a good tourist for two days, I did fellow Booties proud. I disappeared to Madhumalai Wildlife Sanctuary, equipped with backpack, boots n all that gear. But now that is another story.
How to travel from Bangalore: Directions. Bookings can even be done online through this site of the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation, or details of the nearest booking center in Bangalore are provided at the click of a button.
Details of Ooty: 2,623 metres above sea level, it is an erstwhile British hill-station and continues to be one to date.
Sights to see in Ooty:
Botanical Gardens:These sprawl over 50 acres and lie on the lower slopes of Dodabetta, which is the highest point in Ooty.
Rose Garden: With over a 1,000 varities of roses that bloom throughout the year.
Tea plantations: Your hostel/hotel would be able to arrange a trip.
Cooner: another nearby hill station
Madhumalai Wildlife Sanctuary: one can easily spot bison, spotted deer, elephants and, if lucky, a tiger!
If you want more information about this area you can email the author or check out our Asia Insiders page.