Charming Coonoor - where grey-blue mists kiss the gorgeous greens

Tripoto
Day 1

Nestled among the verdant Nilgiri hills lies the quiet, underrated hill town of Coonoor - the second largest hill station of South India after Ooty. Situated at an elevation of 1850 mts in the state of Tamil Nadu, Coonoor is often considered a collateral or an auxiliary in a tourist's itinerary of Ooty. For us, however, this quaint hill haunt was a conscious choice and not one on the rebound. We started from Bangalore on a Friday afternoon in August at 3 pm to beat the traffic woes and managed to check into a modest hotel - SLV Royal Inn - at Nanjangud around 7.3 pm for the night. We deliberately ruled out a night halt at the more popular city of Mysore to avoid the longer route and heavier city traffic.

Day 2

Next morning we hit the road around 7.30 to leverage the cool climes and scant traffic and drove leisurely to reach the Bandipur Reserve Forest around 9 am. We were greeted by herds of deer, flocks of monkeys and a solitary moose standing undecided on the roadside while a small herd of elephants was seen feasting on the dense thickets nearby. The ongoing monsoons had painted the entire forest in rich shades of green which left us wonderstruck despite the fact that this was our fifth drive through Bandipur over the past few years!

Photo of Bandipur Tiger Reserve And National Park, Bandipur, Tamil Nadu, India by imru chak

Other highlights of the onward drive included a close-knit grove of tall eucalyptus trees looming high above, like sentinels of the skies, and large marigold fields in a riot of orange and green which made us wonder if Mother Nature had donned the tricolour!

Photo of Charming Coonoor - where grey-blue mists kiss the gorgeous greens by imru chak
Photo of Charming Coonoor - where grey-blue mists kiss the gorgeous greens by imru chak

We reached Ooty Lake around 11.30 am and soaked ourselves in the salubrious weather, complete with a bright sun, a cool breeze and resplendent flowerbeds - a balm for the weary city soul! We glided along the emerald waters of the lake in a motor boat and bought souvenirs, home-made chocolates (a delectable local specialty) and fresh spices from the numerous shops dotting the lakeside. Thereafter, we visited the Botanical Gardens and the Rose Garden where the array of colourful flowers, ornamental shrubs and arboriculture simply blew us away! We skipped the other popular attractions of Ooty as we had visited them twice earlier.

Photo of Charming Coonoor - where grey-blue mists kiss the gorgeous greens by imru chak
Photo of Charming Coonoor - where grey-blue mists kiss the gorgeous greens by imru chak
Photo of Charming Coonoor - where grey-blue mists kiss the gorgeous greens by imru chak

After a quick lunch we set course for our actual destination, Coonoor. The serpentine mountain roads, the steep curves, the nip in the air, the whiff of pine and eucalyptus, the wild ferns adorning the hillsides, the alternating play of sun and shade - all made it a truly memorable drive! At a distance we could see the crest of the Coonoor hills veiled by tufts of dense fog and clouds which kept moving hither thither, making for a mesmerising sight!

Photo of Charming Coonoor - where grey-blue mists kiss the gorgeous greens by imru chak

We checked into Sunvalley Homestay only by late afternoon - a beautiful property snuggled amongst sprawling tea plains and lush, green hills. We had booked the grand Starview Suite which commanded a magnificent view of the gorgeous Nilgiris and was equipped with the best of hospitality comforts and an extremely courteous staff, belying its tag of a homestay! We spent the evening in the spacious balcony watching the sun go down beyond the hills in a purple haze as darkness gently engulfed the sleepy town in its cold embrace.

Day 3

Nights and early mornings can be quite cold in Coonoor even in August and we cocooned ourselves in light jackets and shawls as we sipped on aromatic tea the next morning. Breakfast done, we set off to visit the better known tourist attractions starting with Dolphin's Nose, a vantage point atop the hills offering a panoramic view of the surrounding foliage, the precipitous drop, the deep gorges and the milky Catherine Falls gushing down at a distance, revived by the recent rains. Thereafter, navigating slightly inhospitable motor roads, we reached the base of Lamb's Rock which required a trek of about 700- 800 metres in order to reach the main view point. The surrounding hills, the endless realms of tea and coffee estates, the rolling Coimbatore plains and the thick, whispering woods together made for a breathtaking spectacle and erased all our trekking woes!

Photo of Charming Coonoor - where grey-blue mists kiss the gorgeous greens by imru chak

Next, we visited Sim's Park, a beautifully maintained park-cum garden with manicured lawns, exotic flora and a boating facility too.

Photo of Charming Coonoor - where grey-blue mists kiss the gorgeous greens by imru chak

Not too far away was the Tiger Hill Cemetry, a haven for some quiet introspection and soul-searching. We also drove around the campus of the elite Defence Services Staff College in Wellington Cantonment and were impressed with the air of military discipline and pride that pervaded the immaculate surroundings.

By this time we were quite famished and headed to 180 Mciver, a vintage colonial bungalow spread over a large area, housing a European style boutique restaurant. We had made prior table bookings anticipating the weekend rush and so, gorged on an unhurried, lavish continental fare served by an affable staff. This particular property had shot to fame after the recent big budget Bollywood movie Kapoor and Sons was filmed on its premises.

Photo of Charming Coonoor - where grey-blue mists kiss the gorgeous greens by imru chak
Day 4

Post lunch, we drove back to our hotel, happy to have covered most of the tourist hotspots of Coonoor and later, tucked into some gastronomic delights at the in-house buffet dinner!

On the fourth day, after sampling a sumptuous breakfast we headed out for a leisurely 'estate walk' in the tea gardens flanking the property. The hotel houses three Labrador puppies - the sweetest, friendliest, gentlest doggos ever - and we spent some time playing with them and giving them a parting belly rub!

Around 10 am we started back for Bangalore and after the necessary halts, reached home around 6.30 pm - tired but happy, recharged and rejuvenated from this exhilarating monsoon getaway!

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