Cloud-kissing peaks, ultra-dense forests, rushing streams, breath-taking view of valleys, miles and miles of tea and coffee gardens. Ooty offers this and more… says Nasrin Modak
At an altitude of 2,240 meters, sandwiched between the scenic states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala, Udhagamandalam or Ooty is a mesmerising treat with pleasing tempratures that even drop to lows of 0 °C during winter. So as you go up the peak amidst the blue haze of clouds, you cannot help but notice the fantastic landscape with hills and plateaus covered with tea gardens, conifers, eucalyptus and pine tress. Its just picturesque!
At Mettupalayam, hop aboard the ‘Nilgiri toy train’ and experience an enthralling ride through curves, tunnels, forests, valleys, waterfalls and tea gardens covering five stations in just four and a half hours. No wonder Mount Stuart called this whole route ‘one long botanical debauch’.
Through the train’s large windows, breathe in fresh chily winds as you see a spectacular spread of rice fields, rocky terrains, viaducts and tunnels.
The coaches of this century old journey are still hauled up by steam engines at just 10.4 km per hour, perhaps the slowest in India but with Mettupalayam at 330 meters to Ooty at 2,200 metres it is certainly a steep incline.
The Peak, Lake and Garden
Fall in love with yourself atop the Dodabetta Peak; at 2,623 meters, it is the highest in the district. Grab your cameras and click some astonishing pictures of the valley. On a clear day, which is extremely rare, you can even get a glimpse of the plains of Coimbatore and the highlands of Mysore.
Avalanche, is best for trekking and trout fishing. Hire rods from the trout hatchery and get set for a good catch. About 20 km from here, go trekking to the silent valley of Upper Bhavani from Bangithappal via Sispara to view some undisturbed wild habitat. You’ll get to see some splendid and rare trees in the thick forests of Glen Morgen.
Laid out in 1847, the Government Botanical Gardens is a paradise with more than 650 species of plants, trees, rare ferns, shrubs and a tree fossil that’s more than 20 million years old. Click pictures next to the landscaped Map of India or outside the Italian garden.
Then there is the Boathouse Lake, an 1824-constructed artificial lake that attracts large number of tourists for paddle and rowing boating. It has a railway running along one bank. The atmosphere is extremely serene.
With an elevation of 1000 metres, the 321 sq. km Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctury is fun to see on an Elephant’s back.
The journey on an uncemented road will take you through the tropical evergreen forest to see animals and birds like the elephant, gayr, tiger, panther, spotted deer, porcupine, minivets, hornbills, jungle fowls, python, flying lizard and wild dogs, all of who are roaming in their natural habitat.
Don’t miss the Moyar waterfalls, the Chief Minister’s watchtower, Ombetta swamp and the Theppakad elephant camp. Spend more time here to enhance your chances of spotting flora and fauna and capture some wild actions on your handycam.
Food and Shopping
You’ll find national and international cuisines here but you might want to sample the local bakery’s sinfully delicious fudges, buns and cakes. The handmade choclates are simply scrumptious. Try Hot Breads’s sandwiches and look for some wood-fired pizzas, that taste heavenly.
For shopping, bargain heavily at the Charing Cross markets. You’ll even find some Toda tribal girls selling local handicrafts for real cheap. It’s a steal deal. The Spencers store sells its own Planter’s Special cigars.
Fairs & Festivals
Plan your trip around one of the many the fairs and festivals in Ooty. The Tea and Tourism festival is hosted in January, then the Thaipoosam and the Bokkapuram Mari Amman Annual Festival are in February, the Ooty Mariamman Temple Festival is in April, the Coonoor Mariamman Temple Car Festival is somewhere around April-May and the most awaited Boat Races and Boat Pageantry, the Flower Show and the Summer Festival are all in May.
That’s when most people flock in. The Ootacmund Derby is the climax of the season and attracts top jockeys from all over India.