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Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Ootacamund – Udhagamandalam – Ooty

View of Ooty city center from top of Mahindra Resort - The Derby Green
A summer trip to Ooty is a coveted vacation for many. We were lucky to go for a very good vacation there in mid-April. There are many advantages in taking an early summer vacation to this place, but there are some disadvantages too. Depending on one’s priorities, it may be a good time to visit Ooty, as it is not as crowded as peak summer of May. One can see every tourist spot at leisure and there is less traffic jam around this time. At the same time, the full summer has not set-in. Hence flowers are not aplenty. One can see more buds in several places, including the Rose gardens and the Botanical gardens.

Bus stand and race course - with Resort buildings in foreground
We wanted to have a relaxed visit without crowded activities each day. Hence, we visited only 4-5 places over the 4 days we stayed there. We were lucky to stay at Mahindra Holiday Resort in the center of the city, with help of a friend who has a membership & was willing to help us use their time-share. This is an ideal location for traveling to each tourist spot. The view from the resort, over the Bus-stand and Race-course is superb. The facilities at the Mahindra Holiday Resort are very good. This facility was opened only in 2010 after being taken over. This is the erstwhile Dasaprakash property of the yester-years, overlooking the race-course and race-club.

Starting from the first evening, the initial reception was a little delayed. The people vacating rooms may have left late, or the team was not able to handle all such rooms – this caused a delay in check-in for us. We even decided to go to a hotel to have some food, as we were famished. They suggested Hotel Nahar in the center of the city, which has couple of Pure Vegetarian restaurants. We finished our tiffin-cum-dinner in the late evening and returned for check-in. We settled in to the room and watched some programs on the Cable TV. Our son enjoyed a bit of games in the games room. Chess, TT, Carroms, PS2, Wii were all available, other than art-classes.
Pykara Lake boating - very low water levels
Extra scaffolding leading down to the low water levels
On the first day, we decided to go to the Mudumalai wild-life sanctuary. At that time, we heard that due to drought none of the animals were coming out & the sanctuary was closed till more water comes through – which would mean May / June. So, we decided to visit the Pykara lake in the afternoon. It was an easy drive of about 15 kilometers. At the end of it we found that the water levels here were very low as well. The Tamilnadu Tourism board had to extend the jetty deeper into the lake using wooden extensions due to the very low level of the water. We took a motor boat ride and just as we boarded the car, it started to rain. The guide had said that local rains do not help – but rains in higher mountains feed the lake, which was lacking. On our return we relaxed in our rooms as our son enjoyed the daily bon-fire and the games organized by The Derby Green people (the name of the Mahindra Holiday resort).

Ooty Botanical Gardens
The next day was slated for a trip to the botanical gardens. The Ooty botanical gardens are set over a sprawling area and are maintained very well. There was not much crowd when we entered, as we went early in the morning (around 10 AM). We took our time in walking over the entire gardens, covering the slopes, the glass house and the various settings of small waterfalls and fountains. Very tall trees are found bordering the back of the botanical gardens. The variety of flora can be enjoyed at leisure over a few hours. We decided to take some rest in the sprawling lawns, when we found that that crowd had swelled quite a bit. When we left the area, we found the parking was an issue and big queue was found in front of the ticketing booth. We have always tried to be early to each spot & found that it is best way to cover the tourism areas. Crowds seem to wake up late and drop in from late morning only.

Inside the Glass house
The third day we decided to relax and watch some horse racing in the race track. We watched one full race, including the traditional display of horses in the paddocks prior to the race. There is not much crowd, now-a-days, as the popularity of horse racing and betting has gone down. Hardly 100 to 200 people were found in the big race-club enclosure. In the afternoon we decided to take a high-level view of the Nilgiris from the highest point, Doddabetta. The day was nice an cool and the skies were clear. It was not clearn-enough, though, to be able to see Coimbatore city from there. We viewed Coonoor & ooty from there. There were really scenic cloud formations on that day. Then we headed back to Ooty and visited the enormous Rose Garden. The variety of roses were amazing. At the same time, the number flowers were less. May would be the time when all the roses would be in full bloom. Bon-fire, games and dinner at the resort had become a routine – an enjoyable one at that.

Photo taken by our son from Doddabetta - was quite scenic

Rose Garden - some different roses
Hotel Nahar’s restaurants were the prime fare for us, when we did not take food at the resort. All the days, we took break-fast at Hotel Nahar’s fast food restaurant. We would recommend this for all vegetarians. Probably stay at Hotel Nahar would also be a good choice, for those who are not able to get a booking at The Derby Green. After breakfast on the fourth day we decided to spend time in Coonoor, especially the botanical gardens there, called The Sims park. We took a taxi to Coonoor after having booked for first class tickets in the train from Coonoor to Ooty. We enjoyed a small boat ride in the Sims park, in the mini lake there. We also had a good time climbing down and up the landscape of Sims park, which we covered in a couple of hours. The glass house and nursery were closed and hence we decided to finish up before lunch.

Coonoor to Ooty - going over a bridge
We had lunch at the small vegetarian north-Indian restaurant outside Sims Park then headed to the heart of city. We tried to shop for some trinkets and souvenirs, but found nothing of interest. We bought home made chocolates & some bakery items from an old shop before heading to the station. At the station, we found the first class waiting room locked & met the Station master. It seems it is kept locked until someone asks for it to be opened. We found that the room was OK, but the attached toilet was dirty. We complained and got it cleaned quite quickly. While we waited it started pouring heavily. It was quite a heavy rain and it stopped just before the train was to leave Coonoor for Ooty.

We had the first row seats and had a great view of the path ahead. The engines are attached to the rear and the conductor was in front of us signaling to the rear-engine. The train trip was really beautify, especially as the weather was cool. There was mist in some areas and some of the mountains were covered by clouds. It was really beautiful to enjoy the curves, the tunnels, the scenery and nature from the first row seats. After we reached Ooty, we walked back to our resort as it is half-kilometer away only. After spending further time in the resort, we left for Chennai the next noon. We took a stop over at Salem, just like we had done on the trip from Chennai to Ooty, before reaching Chennai the day after.

If anyone would like further information / tips, write in comments and we will reply.


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