Amidst hectic days of 4th semester University Exams and fighting through the pressure of studies and family advises,we four friends Harsh, Ajit, Sanjeev and I decided to utilize the following semester break exploring the Southern part of our Incredible India. The plans were made and the destination was decided to be the Queen of Hill Stations i.e. Ooty which is a beautiful picturesque hill station town in the Tamil Nadu state located in the Nilgiri range of hills.
We all found some time during our exams and carried out a sort of research on the internet and started deciding the route to follow , searched trains between various stations , made the hotel bookings and booked the train tickets thanks to the irctc ltd. website of Indian Railways. The final route decided was Jodhpur-Mumbai-Pune-Coimbatore-Ooty. Except Ooty the remaining places were not meant for visiting else served just as the junction from where we had to change our trains for the next station. All plans were made and we had a clear picture in our mind of the upcoming trip and the waiting became more difficult. Everyday we used to check the status of our tickets in each train and would request god to get all the tickets confirmed, we would discuss about the kind of food we are going to have each day like it should be veg or non veg , we discussed about the things and requirements needed during the travel,as it was a rainy season we had to be more careful and needed to carry polybags with us, eatables for the journey and so on the eagerness increased day by day and we just wanted to live our so very well planned trip.
Finally the day came and after taking our last exam it was time for us to start our journey. We packed our luggage and took all the necessary and precautious items for the journey. Fortunately all our tickets got confirmed and we were really happy. On the evening of 11th July we four amigos took our berths in the train coach and the train slowly moved out of the bustling station of Jodhpur and our journey started towards our first destination Mumbai in evening.
We all were very comfortable with the train journeys as we lived in hostel and mostly used trains to visit our homes during breaks. So the train journey was subtle and we all were having a great time gossiping and enjoying the view outside. Train journeys are always wonderful if you are adaptable and good observer of different characters around. The weather outside was rainy and it was constantly raining. We had sound sleep and the night passed very comfortably.
Next day we had very long stops at various flag stations which delayed our train but we were not worried as we would have sufficient time at Mumbai station for our connecting local to Pune. But something unexpected and unplanned happened. It rained heavily in Gujarat and the railway tracks at Surat station got flooded and the trains got stuck. Our train had been waiting at the Utaran station for almost one and half hour. We got scared of missing the next connecting train and decided to bypass Mumbai and reach Pune directly for our next connecting train to Pune. We decided to leave the train in Utaran and started searching for an auto rickshaw for Surat, stuck in the heavy rain outside ruined Utaran Railway Station. Not even a single one was ready to drop us till Surat as the roads were flooded. Finally we managed to convince one auto rickshaw and for a generous amount of money he dropped us outside Surat railway station. We and our luggage were all wet. After analyzing the worst condition of Surat station we decided to take a cab to Pune as very little time was left for us to reach Pune station to be able to catch our train on time. The cab drivers taking advantage of the situation were asking for heavy amount of money without any guarantee of dropping us on time at Pune which was confusing us. Our hearts were ready to pay but our minds were not. After wasting a lot of time we realized that now it was impossible for us to reach Pune on time. Finally we decided to cancel all the connecting confirmed reservations. But we never lost hope and were determined to reach our destination i.e. Ooty.
We enquired for a bus to Pune at Gujarat Roadways bus stand and got four seats in the same as it was going to take some other long route which was clear and not flooded. We took lunch in Surat and struggling with the Gujarati language managed to board the bus on time for Pune. We were fully wet and it was still raining outside. We were feeling cold and also started stinking but managed till the bus stopped at a roadside dhaba at around 11pm. It was very dark and we managed to change our clothes in the dark forest behind the dhaba, had some biscuits with a hot cup of tea in that chilling weather and continued our bus journey when after a kilometer we realized that we left the common polybag which was protecting our cell phones and wallets on the table at the dhaba. After informing, requesting and paying extra to the bus driver we managed to get back to the dhaba. The dhaba staff and awner were good and fair human beings and we recovered our belongings and went ahead to our remaining overnight journey to Pune.
During our sound sleep around 4am in between our journey to Pune we heard a loud bang and suddenly got out of our sleeps. We realised that our bus met with an accident with another bus and the other bus went into divider and got the front damaged causing human casualties. Sight of an old lady lying on road with blood dripping on the road from her head and many other injured people at 4am in the morning was a horrifying and depressing sight. The driver had few arguments with the people outside and took us to the bus stand where we realised that we have reached Nasik. The driver decided to end the journey there only due to damaged windshield of the bus and refunded us our remaining amount. Then we took another Maharashtra roadways bus to Pune and reached Pune after a long , tiring , scary and adventurous journey of almost forty hours.
We decided to get freshen up at a friend's flat in Pune and got the tickets booked for the volvo in evening to Bangalore from where we will have to take another bus to Ooty. After taking rest in Pune we boarded the volvo to Bangalore in the evening.
After a very comfortable overnight journey we reached Bangalore in morning and headed towards the bus stand from where we had another seven hour journey in Karnataka Roadways volvo to Ooty. We passed Mysore city the "City of Palaces" and Srirangapatnam the "City of Toys" in between which were very beautiful towns and saw the famous Mysore Palace which is said to be one of the most famous Tourist attraction in India just after Taj Mahal.
Before starting with the hilly part of the track the bus stopped at a restaurant beside the highway and we had a very tasty and light lunch. The track became more beautiful and we started climbing up the hills. We passed through Bandipur Tiger Reserve and saw the camps and elephants and rides all set to take tourists for the tiger safari. The weather became more chilling and the clouds appeared on the track. The landscapes were breathtaking and we felt refreshed even after travelling continuously for last three days. The ups and downs of the hilly track was surely giving the feel of upcoming hill station and we were having a lot of fun with that feeling.
At last we reached Ooty which was just like we thought and imagined. It was a beautiful town with lush green hills all around and we reached our guest house by an auto rickshaw. The guest house was a private property and we got it booked through some contacts. It was situated little outside the town in between the calm and serene hills loaded with flora of infinite kind , colour and shapes covered with the thick blanket of fog.
After checking in the beautiful and comfortable room and having a cup of coffee we got freshen up and had delicious dinner of local non veg delicacy. We unpacked our luggage and hanged the wet clothes near the room heater and washed some of them to remove the bad odour. Then we went to snooze in our cozy beds with warm blankets.
After having a south Indian breakfast next morning we boarded a local taxi which we got booked by our guest house for the local sightseeing of Ooty. The driver's name was "Kutty" which rhymed with the place "Ooty". He was a person full of life and a very professional guide. He not only took us to various spots but also told us about the history and importance of the place. He was very sound in his knowledge about the city and was fluent in hindi language too. Language was not so big issue for us as it the town was a British settlement and english was easily understood by the locals to some extent. Local sightseeing included spots like ooty lake, wax museum, thread garden, botanical garden, dolphin's nose, strawberry plantations, tea plantations, tea tasting, cordite factory, needle factory, suicide point, dodabetta(south India's highest peak). Kutty also introduced us to various plants that were widely used as pain relievers and for manufacturing cosmetics like sandalwood, eucalyptus, lemon grass, etc. The town was prominently green and picturesque and the shallow clouds were adding to the beauty of the place. One could feel the hue of the cloudy environment.
After reaching guest house after a full tiring day we ate dinner and again occupied our beds for a sound and warm sleep.
Next Day after a healthy breakfast and hot cup of coffee we decided to walk to the market area of the city and do shopping for family members. The main market here also had the clock tower popularly known as "ghantaghar" which is present in almost every Indian city. The market included hundreds of handmade chocolate shops which was another Ooty speciality like the tea and coffee. We got almost four kg of chocolates in total of different flavors mixed together. We also bought the famous pure "filter" coffee and had a lot of cups of coffees at different places. We also tried many local sweets and bakery items at different bakeries in the market.
The market was bustling even in the cloudy and rainy weather and a cup of coffee added to the heavenly feel which made us drink almost 6-7 cups of coffee till the end of the day. It gets dark very early and we moved back to our guest house for dinner and warm sleep.
Next day we got tickets booked for the famous Toy Train journey from Ooty to Coonoor. The train pulled by diesel engine was fast and the track was mind blowing. The train passed through various bridges and long tunnels carved out of the mountains. It was a great experience and a must do thing once in your lifetime. At Coonoor we went to a church near the station and took a stroll in the markets of the city. Had coffee and boarded the train back to Ooty and reached guest House.
After a heavy breakfast and checking out of the guest house it was time to say goodbye to this beautiful and mesmerizing hill station. We boarded volvo back to Bangalore from where we had trains to our respective homes for the remaining holidays. It was a memorable and very adventurous trip for us and we will never forget this so very planned trip of ours.