A Winter Vacation at Ooty

Christmas and New Year – the season of joy, the season of good cheer – also the season of holidays and hotels full of tourist families looking for a place to celebrate. Bookings for the season need to be made months in advance, and tickets need to be booked as early as possible. In short, to just have a trouble free fortnight, arrangements need to be made well ahead of time, with enough foresight to anticipate all possible problems. Deciding where to go is one of the biggest problems, for wherever one ends up, the chances of a whole lot of others landing up is also quite certain. Of course, with a five year old, going to out-of-the-way places is not really possible, and this year, we decided on Ooty and the Jungle lodges at K.Gudi. While the former was full of the normal tourist crowd, we managed to enjoy the weather and truly chill out. The latter however, was wonderful, being in the back of beyond, and meeting no others apart from the 10 other families at the resort being at peace with the world and feeling as close to nature as it is possible in these days of concrete jungles replacing those of trees, and humans taking up the space of animals.

From Ooty - K Gudi Dec 08

We started our journey the same day that Samhith’s school closed for the holidays, on the train from Kurla Terminus to Coimbatore, and found that practically the whole compartment was headed to Ooty, some like us by themselves, many others on guided tours. In fact, we even found one of Samhith’s friends in the same coach! The presence of so many kids in a holiday mood must have been a nuisance to the few people in the coach who were traveling on work and tried to catch up on their sleep, but to harried mothers like me, the presence of so many kids of the same age meant that they played together and stayed out of our hair! From Coimbatore, we decided to economize, and caught one of the many buses that ply regularly from Coimbatore to Ooty. There are buses every 10 minutes from the outstation bus stand at Coimbatore, and we found ourselves in comparatively comfortable seats. The journey took about 3 ½ hours, since he stopped at every bus stand along the way to pick up more passengers.

From Ooty - K Gudi Dec 08

If you are traveling with children, it is a good idea to plan your trip in such a way that you can board the mountain train to Ooty from Mettupalaiyam – the Mettupalaiyam-Udhagamandalam passenger (Train No. 662), which leaves Mettupalaiyam at 07:10AM. This is, however, a much longer trip – the journey takes almost 5 hours, with a stop of about 15 -20 minutes at Coonoor. The charm of this journey however is in the ride, the view, and of course, the steam engine which pulls the train up the hills. Tickets can be booked on the net in the usual way through http://www.irctc.co.in. Another interesting thing is that you can book tickets for the first class in this train which costs about Rs.140/-.

From Ooty - K Gudi Dec 08

Udhagamandalam – the name that is derived from the Tamil word for house of mountains – became Ootacamund for the British who found the original name unpronounceable. Soon, the name became even shorter, resulting in the two-syllabled name we all recognize – Ooty. The popularity of this hill station soon earned it the name – Queen of Hills – an appellation that holds good even today, people from all corners of India, and in fact, the world, converging here throughout the year. Of course, it is no longer the idyllic place it once was. Commercialization has taken its toll, making it a lot more tourist-friendly, but fast losing its identity. This year, for example, we were told that the temperature was far higher than normal for December-end. Global warming showing its presence, no doubt! Plastics have been banned on the Nilgiris, and one can actually see dustbins all over the place, but if you walk around instead of taking autos/vehicles as most tourists do, at every corner, one can see rubbish piled up, mostly comprising of plastic bags. Since the local shops no longer supply plastic bags, small or big, it is surely the tourists arriving from other places bringing in the eco-disasters. No bans are going to work till people show some responsibility themselves.

From Ooty - K Gudi Dec 08

We had booked ourselves at the Sterling Fernhill Resort, which turned out to be much like the other Sterling Resorts – perched atop a hill with a lovely view of the valley, well laid out, and quite comfortable. All we wanted was some R & R and it was a wonderful place for it. We reached the resort by 10 AM, but it was cold enough for us to take out all our winter wear. This was one of those holidays when we spent more room inside the room than outside it.

From Ooty - K Gudi Dec 08

Ooty was one of the first places we had visited when Samhith was a baby. He was then just a year old, and we had gone through the usual tourist circuits, bypassing only those places popularized by films, and which are crowded at all times with film buffs from every remote corner of India. This time, therefore, we decided to skip all the ‘sight seeing’ and head directly to those places which would appeal to Samhith.

From Ooty - K Gudi Dec 08

We spent the first day indoors, acclimatizing ourselves, and in the evening, went to the town, finding an auto driver with a mobile phone, ready to come whenever we called him. One of the first things we did was to buy scarves and gloves, the only things we had omitted to bring with us.

From Ooty - K Gudi Dec 08
Samhith wearing every kind of winter-wear!

One of the most important things in our itinerary was the mountain railway, which Samhith was eager to see. For him, steam and diesel engines meant Thomas the Tank Engine and his Friends, who appear in his favourite books, and are part of a TV series. On the second day, we went to the Ooty station and boarded the train to Coonoor. The second class fare at Rs.4/- seems to be peanuts, while the first class fare is about Rs.76/-. I wanted to travel by the first class just to see what it was like, but it was already full (there are just a few seats there, so if you want to travel first class, book in advance, preferably on the net). Thankfully, the coach which came for us was a newly restored one, and was almost as good as a first class one. The hour and a half-long journey to Coonoor was as enchanting as we had expected, and Samhith and I enjoyed every minute of it.

From Ooty - K Gudi Dec 08
The Railway Yard at Coonoor

From Ooty - K Gudi Dec 08


Samhith not being the least interested in tea or coffee plantations or interesting sights, we decided to return by the next train back to Ooty instead of spending a few hours in Coonoor. Here, however we ran into trouble, for the next train was the one coming fro Mettupalaiyam, and was already full. We had to jostle with the others getting in at Coonoor, and managed to find a single seat which I occupied, with Samhith on my lap. Shankar stood near the guard all through the journey. We decided to alight at Lovedale, which is nearer to Fernhill, and spent some time at the station waiting for our auto-wallah to arrive. Samhith found a lot of fir cones on the ground, and whiled away the time collecting as many of them as he could, as souvenirs of his trip.

From Ooty - K Gudi Dec 08

From Ooty - K Gudi Dec 08

The third day, we decided to head to Mudumalai, hoping to see some elephants. The most interesting thing about Mudumalai is the elephant safari. The safari has to be booked in advance at the forest Ranger’s office at Ooty, and we were unlucky in our attempts, as no safaris were available till the New Year. However, our trip to the ranger’s office was fruitful, for we learnt that the safari could be booked by phone, and the money could be sent by DD/MO. Here are the details:
Range Officer – Reception, Theppakadu: (042...

Range Officer – Reception, Ooty, Wildlife Warden’s office: (0423)2445971 and 2444098

E-Mail: wlwng@tn.nic.in

At present, the safari costs Rs.400/-. Dormitories, rest houses and log huts maintained by the forest department at Theppakadu (Mudumalai), Kargudi and Masinagudi can also be booked at the same contact numbers. According to the forest department, there are no night safaris being conducted, and those conducted by private resorts are illegal. However, there are various resorts in the vicinity actively conducting these night safaris.
In the absence of the elephant safari, the only option left for us was the safari conducted by the forest department in mini buses. These are conducted between 7 and 10 AM and again between 3 and 6 PM. Mudumalai Tiger Reserve is famed for its elephants, but we saw only one, that too, probably tame, for it was very near the forest guest house. The only animals we saw in the jungle were deer, and too, the common Chital or Spotted deer. Thank God that Samhith was happy with the deer and the lone tusker that we saw!

From Ooty - K Gudi Dec 08

From Ooty - K Gudi Dec 08

From Ooty - K Gudi Dec 08

From Ooty - K Gudi Dec 08

We had saved our final day at Ooty for the lake and boating. Accordingly, we took an auto to the town, and headed straight for the boat house, where we engaged a row boat with an oarsman, and spent a pleasant hour on the lake. Samhith not only enjoyed the boat ride, he was thrilled by the sight of deer in the deer park which overlooks the lake!

From Ooty - K Gudi Dec 08

From Ooty - K Gudi Dec 08

The lake seems to be the centre of the town, and we walked around the lake, visiting a couple of gardens which have been made into simple amusement parks with toy trains and other attractions.

From Ooty - K Gudi Dec 08


Another interesting place we visited was right opposite the lake, called the Thread Garden. Here, a miniature garden has been created, every flower, stem, leaf and blade of grass made with thread wound around pieces of stiff canvas. It was an interesting place, one worth seeing if you are interested in crafts.
Completing our four days at Ooty, we headed towards Chamrajnagar and K.Gudi, hiring a vehicle from the town. The two days we spent at K.Gudi deserve a blog to themselves, so look out for my next post!
Meanwhile, here are a few more photographs of my visit to Ooty.

From Ooty - K Gudi Dec 08

From Ooty - K Gudi Dec 08

From Ooty - K Gudi Dec 08
Women picking potatoes

From Ooty - K Gudi Dec 08
A dandelion -- there's beauty in everything!

From Ooty - K Gudi Dec 08

From Ooty - K Gudi Dec 08
Sterling Fernhill

From Ooty - K Gudi Dec 08
A tribal settlement

From Ooty - K Gudi Dec 08


From Ooty - K Gudi Dec 08


From Ooty - K Gudi Dec 08

From Ooty - K Gudi Dec 08

From Ooty - K Gudi Dec 08




Comments

  1. It is always same story during peak season. If you ask the wildlife warden office, they say all safaris are booked, you need to contact reception centre at mudumalai for any availability and if you contact at mudumalai reception center, they direct you towards ooty warden office. Best is go during non season

    Next time visit pykara lake and boating
    That is better than OOty lake

    you can see some of my bandipur mudumalai wildlife / bird pictures at http://www.wildlifesanctuaryindia.com/wildlife/
    Best regards
    Bala

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi

    Seasons Greetings to you. Thanks for sharing this wonderful post. At Jungle lodges, we have started a new blog where our guests could contribute and we would link the post to their blogs. We would really appreciate it if you can share this experience with us on the blog. Pls do drop in at http://junglelodges.blogspot.com or email us at junglelodgesandresorts@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  3. hey.. I lived in ooty for 10 years.. and reading your post brought back so many memories of home for me..:)

    ReplyDelete
  4. DO U WANNA GO FOR A TRIP WITH YOUR FAMILY,WE ARE PROVIDING GOOD PACKAGES WITH AN EXCITING PLACES SO GO A HEAD n CLICK HERE TO REGISTER FOR FREE AND ENJOY YOUR TRIP WITH YOUR FAMILY.
    ALL THE BEST
    THANKS

    ReplyDelete
  5. Good write up! Ooty has been commercialized beyond repair now! But it still keeps some little known secret places. Try Pykara and Red Hills! You would say Ooty can wait :P
    Bon Voyage!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! I have been to Pykara before, but that was before I began writing, so unfortunately, dont remember many details fit to write now... red hills, i have yet to visit

      Delete

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