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Monday, 29 January 2018

Ooty as a winter destination (a guide to offbeat Ooty)

   Initial apprehensions about the weather were there.We were sceptical more about the rains in Ooty than anything else.This was my fourth visit to the hill station.In all my previous visits I have encountered rains ,or cloudy weather in Ooty.However the chill was what we were looking for.So Google showing temperature of about nine  degrees at night ,was actually thrilling.


  Ooty comes with a deluge of nature.Having known this ,we decided for Ooty despite all the crowd .We decided to visit some of the places which were a little offbeat,and so less crowded.So in this trip the very first day we spent at the places in Ooty like the botanical garden or the Boat house.The next 2 days we spent venturing a little away from Ooty ,to  Conoor and the lakes.

   WE  had the Nilgiri Mountain Railway in mind this time.However being the  year end holidays,tickets were not available.We were told at our hotel reception that we can get tickets to the unreserved compartments if we are ready to stand in queue early morning at the railway station.But getting up early in a winter morning ,during a vacation!!The Idea did not seem to work with us.The least you can do is view the tunnel through which the train passes from a observatory located on the way to the Dodabetta peak.It is the tunnel where the song sequence of Sharukh Khan was shot in the movie Dil Se .

The tunnel, P.C.my nine year old

 We did not go to the Dodabetta Peak this time since we had been there in our earlier visits.It is the highest peak in south India.One can get a stunning 360 degree view  of the surrounding peaks and valleys from there.

 The best way to explore the town  in winters is to walk down the footpaths.Click pictures and walk down leisurely with your family.For me that is the perfect way to spend a holiday.

As we walked down the roads we came across this fruit shop and tasted the passion fruit for the first time.There were a few more varieties of fruits quite unknown to us.What better way to know a place than experimenting the local food.


  Notwithstanding the crowds and the numerous buildings that have come up here to support tourism,a distinct aura of the colonial era still seeps in.The many churches  or the buildings of the British period when Ooty served as  a  Summer resort for the Britishers ,can still be seen.Then the homemade chocolates and the chocolate museums,were all over the place!!!Though I could not convince myself with the quality of the chocolates,and felt that the taste has gone down with the years.

Be it the change in ones interest with time, or my years of travel blogging, I saw Ooty in a little different perspective this time.The homemade chocolates,the pleasure boating or even  the omnipresent smell of the aromatic oils could no longer entice me.It was only nature in its raw form that thrilled me .Further more ,I feel Ooty has lately started showcasing something that had never been targeted at the tourists till now.It is the Toda tribe and its lifestyle!!I found this rather interesting.Replicas of the Toda huts were built at different places and trips to the Toda villages were also being conducted from places.We could not find time for it this time ,will try in a another visit.
The Toda tribe is the original tribal people of Ooty who resided in the mountain slopes till a Britisher bought a piece of land from them and built a  summer resort here.

Places in Ooty

If you are a first timer at Ooty you can buy a ticket to the boat house or the Ooty lake .Go for boating in the lake or enjoy some family time on the lawns .

.Take few hours for the Botanical Garden or simply walk around cross the flower lined roads.

You can also while away some time at the Botanical Garden.sit on the lawns of this place under huge trees ,munch on some carrots bought at the gate  or simply click selfies with your families.Though the place is a good one to bask in the sun in the winters ,it could not hold me back for long because I wanted to run away from the crowd.

Offbeat destinations from Ooty

 So the second morning we decided to drive out of Ooty.There are quite a few places within 20 to 30 km around Ooty .We took the road which leads to Kotagiri.With no particular destination our sole aim was to drive along the roads and enjoy the pleasant landscape.We drove slow as I stopped to click the flowers at almost every possible place.The sun was out and the rays reflected from the well manicured tea gardens.

We were looking for a break when we  noticed this open space with an array of small shops selling something.It was an unique experience to sit snacking right beside the road against a back drop of the tea gardens in the valley .Though it was not labelled as a view point,it looked like one.Small surprises like boiled titar eggs  or the regular bhel kept us busy.My daughters got their all time favourite Magi ,steaming hot.

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 I have always been a bigger fan of the roads than the destination,and the roads here are more than beautiful .The amazing variety of flora and fauna of the Nilgiris is what can beckon me again here.

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On your way back take a break at the Tamil Nadu tea gardens to the left of the road.Sip hot tea or coffee  in the fog and get your hands on some varieties of tea leaves to take back home.Back home we are regulars with black tea.Initially the shop selling tea here did not seem to have the correct tea leaves for us,but later we learnt that the Orthodox Variety of tea is meant for black tea.Still curious to know how it derived this name.

To me Ooty is all about nature. If it is not the tea gardens then its the flowers everywhere.If the pine forests are out of sight then i guess its the eucalyptus and the bamboo plants that give you company.

 After several rounds of google searches and enquiries at the hotel reception we decided to head for the Emerald and the Avalanche lake.These are two lakes around 30 kilometres from ooty .The roads are good enough to ensure a smooth drive  through the villages.Towards the end of the journey their are some abrupt gradients ,which can make it a little tough drive.The Emerald and the Avalanche Lakes are two lakes beautifully located in the valley.They are basically the same water body with a bridge in between.We parked our car beside the Emerald Lake and walked down to the water.This is a serene place much in contrast to the crowd in Ooty.IT is best visited for photography,or spend some time sitting beside the lake,basking in the sun .it is best to visit these places with your own food ,since thee are no shops or other eateries at these places.

Conoor can be visited as a one day trip from Ooty.It is extremely scenic,with the forests and the tea gardens on the mountain slopes.The misty slopes with tea gardens will keep you engrossed for long.In Conoor on can visit Dolphins Nose or Lamb's Rock ,though they are merely view points.You can also visit Sim's park .It is a park with a good collection of trees of different species from across the globe.
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The Drive Down Ooty

 The drive to Ooty and back is  factually more enchanting than the place itself.There are two roads to Ooty from Mysore.The first one is via Masinagudi,while the second one is via Gudalur.The road through Masinagudi is less picturesque and steeper.The drive is actually tougher on this road,but it is a shorter one than the road via Gudalur. The Masinagudi road is nearly 30 km drive whereas the Gudalur road is a 50 km drive .The latter is  a much more scenic one and the one with gentler bends.No matter which road you take you are sure to pass through the Bandipur and then the Madumalai Santuary on the way.
Enjoy the greenery of the forest and be on the look out for  the herds of deer .You might come across an occasional herd of elephants.I zoomed in for this flock sitting at a distance from the road.


 Stop for a tea break at the beautifully located tea shops along the road.You can also take  a pick of the many oils sold ,like the almond oil ,the eucalyptus oil and more.


While driving to Ooty we had taken the Masinagudi route,but on our way back we took the Gudalur route we explore another route.
There are two main attractions on the Gudalur route from Ooty.First comes the pine forests,a marvelous spot by the roadside with a lake at the far end.A steep gradient from the main road through the pine trees takes you to the lake. Fortunately all the lakes had a very good amount of water owing to a bountiful monsoon this year.

Then comes the Pykara Lake,with an adjoining Dam.We could not make it to the Lake due to time constraints.I would suggest that you plan accordingly so that you can visit these places,as they are far more pleasing than the places located in  Ooty township.

A drive back to Bangalore ensued with spectacular scenes all along the way.We took few breaks ,one at  a very picturesque location of the Tan Tea Estate.We noticed a sign board on the main road of a jail,and visited a unique jail little off the road.Read more here An ancient Jail in the Tea gardens.
the drive further takes its course through  Eucalyptus and Bamboo forests.The forests here are so dense that the roads are pretty dark in daytime.

Bandipur sanctuary follows soon .We took lunch at the Nisarga Dhama inside Bandipur .Beautiful surroundings but I cannot vouch for the food.
It was still a long drive to Bangalore ,and I was already waiting impatiently to upload the pics on the computer.

Stay options
We stayed at the Tamil Nadu tourism hotel .It is a beautifully located place with a variety of rooms of all budgets to choose from .Karnataka tourism too has its property in Ooty .Otherwise ,YOu have a wide range of places in Ooty to choose from.It is not difficult to get a booking even during the tourism season,considering the number of hotels here.
the Tamil Nadu Tourism hotel had its own food,I can rate it as moderately good.Though it is necessity when you dont want to go far at night in the cold.
To name a few more places,we tried out the Thallassery Biriyani place.It was a good option .For vegetarians ,The Adyar Anand Bhavan lies right in the heart of the place. 

We visited in the month of December,it was comfortable during daytime though the temperature dropped sharply after sunset  .Fortunately it was not foggy or raining this time ,we enjoyed the clear skies and the bright sunshine.


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