Mom had come down to spend a few days with me in Bangalore. I had been planning to take her out for some time but was not sure about the place as it was raining almost everywhere. Sakleshpura, Madikeri, Munnar, Alleppey, Pondicherry, Ooty had all been on the list, but the fear of monsoons was thwarting my plans. Numerous blogs later, Coonoor seemed to be the safest option. Also, the fact that I had never been there despite two previous trips to Ooty, made me take a calculated risk.
Next task was to plan for the accommodation. It took another online-marathon through numerous sites before I could decide on a decent place. Tea Nest resort was the best I could come up with my budget, time and availability constraints. I was surprised that most resorts were booked at this time of the year. In a way it was gladdening that people are travelling much more these days unlike earlier times when monsoons usually meant deserted hill-stations. Booked a cab and packed bags before hitting the bed in anticipation of a lovely journey the following day.
Cometh Saturday morning, mom and me were off for a much needed break. We started at around 8 AM from BTM. By 9, we reached Bidadi and took a brief stop for breakfast of hot thatte idlis and sambar. We next stopped in Mysore for tea. The roads got worse after that but the maize farms and banana plantations kept the lag away. We stopped for lunch before Bandipur forest. As we gradually neared the reserve area, the effect of the monsoons became palpable.The greenery of the forest, chirping of the birds, touch of the cold wind, all added to the effect. The deer and the monkeys made their customary appearance every once in a while. Finally reached the Bandipur-Mudumalai (Karnataka-Tamilnadu) border. We had a small and funny (mis)adventure too, when a monkey tried to get into our car as it had sighted a poly-pack on the back seat. Another hour of jungle views through Masinagudi and finally we were in to hill-station zone.
Finally, the majestic hills of Ooty made an appearance before us. The 35-pin-bend road was lurking ahead. We swirled right and then swirled left and this went for half-an-hour before we were well and truly into Ooty territory. But it was getting late and the clouds were looking ominous. So, we decide against taking any stops at Ooty and proceeded to Coonoor. After sometime, my GPS gave up and we completely lost our way in Coonoor trying to locate the resort. It was just before sunset that we finally reached. And yeah, take my word, the place was definitely worth all the trouble. I should put in a word for our driver who played really calm through all this unlike a few others I have come across in the past.
The resort had six rooms, each named after a tea such as green, lemon, silver tips etc. Ours was Chamomile. The main entrance looked out to a deep valley that had the hills staring at us. They were absolutely vertical, like a wall, playing hide and seek with the clouds emanating from all directions. There were tea gardens all around, impersonating neatly crafted green carpets, reflecting the last sunrays of the day. We could also spot a tea factory on top of a nearby hill. It was getting dark and cold and we had no other plans. We took a small walk around the gardens followed by some tea. Dinner was served around 9. Our only next option in the cold night was to hit the bed.
I woke up at 6:30 in the morning, to my own amazement (even 7 is a challenge for me). It was chilly. I stepped out and took a small walk. The lawn in front of our room was heavily dew-soaked. Birds were already making a start to their day. The first rays of the sun were painting the sky in golden and pinkish hues. Freshly-blossomed flowers added a lot of colour to the garden. I was glad for the clear weather. After clicking a few pics we finished our breakfast and then started off for sightseeing in Ooty. Our first destination was Doddabetta peak. It was very windy and extremely cold at the top as expected. But whoa! I could spot a lot of people having ice-creams. The weather being clear, we could catch the distant views of Mettupalayam and Ooty city from the peak. After spending an hour there we moved to Ooty lake. The reflections of the surrounding tall trees had painted the lake waters in green. The place was bustling with crowd. Some of them were taking horse-rides around the corner. We were planning to take the pedal boats but the rains disappointed us. Had lunch in the city and then moved back to Coonoor by 3:30.
Our next visit was to the Coonoor railway station. The station building looked straight out of a story book. We had booked tickets for the toy-train from Coonoor to Ooty. The train arrives from Mettupalayam and leaves Coonoor by 4:30 PM with Ooty as the final stop. It has five bogies. Surprisingly enough, the engine is at the rear end of the train and in fact pushes the train up the slope. I had seen numerous pics of this train earlier and had often desired to travel on it. So, it was a grand feeling when I finally got to travel on it. I had booked first class tickets since few of the blogs said that the second-class bogies get crowded and we might not get good views. The train chugged along at slow pace, navigating through picturesque forests, tea-gardens, culverts, tunnels and fairy-tale themed stations. We reached at the Ooty station by 5:45. On our way back to the resort we stopped in the city market and got some chocolates, spices and oils. Evening was spent with pakodas and tea, followed by dinner.
Another bright, cool morning welcomed us the next day. We had Pongal and nice crispy dosas for breakfast and then left the place. It was a good stay complemented by some courteous staff. Dolphin's Nose was our first target for the day. The roads leading up to it were very scenic, winding up and down through tea estates and good views. Then we went to Lamb's rock. But it had become overcast by then and so could not see much there. On a fair day, one can catch amazing views of the steeply receding hill slopes. That was it for Coonoor. We started back for Bangalore and decided to spend some time at the Botanical Gardens in Ooty. They have a good collection of trees from all over the world. The park is well-maintained, beautifully manicured and tidy all around. On the way back we could see the 9th Mile but could not get down as the clouds had started pouring by then. We took the Gudalur route as the other road was jammed due to some accident. Again, the route was truly scenic, meandering through dense jungles of eucalyptus trees standing tall and mighty, asserting their authority over the passersby. I slept off for some time only to wake up near Theppakadu. We were lucky to spot peacocks and also an elephant taking a bath in the river.
Being Monday, the highways were not too crowded. It was 10:30 by the time we reached home. And that's how it concluded. Another trip to Ooty, another assortment of beautiful memories, and yet another promise to come back again.