Day 11 & 12 Ooty & Coonoor 28 & 29 September 2017

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September 29th 2017
Published: October 5th 2017
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11: Mysore—Ooty 28 September 2017

Post breakfast we drove to Ooty (a journey of 165 km/ 6.5 hrs approx). There were 36 switch-backs driving up the mountain and our driver Mohar was an excellent driver.

As soon as we arrived in Ooty, we went to the Savoy, the best place for lunch in the city. This was very British and of course was built and used by the British. It also used to be a hospital at one stage. The furniture and gardens were beautiful. Service was slow but the food was excellent. I even had the chief’s recomendadion of triple chocolate (mouse, icecream and chocolate brownie). I could not fit in the chocolate brownie so saved it for Mohar.

Called the 'Queen of Hill Stations' picturesque, green Udhagamandalam better known as Ooty is the most popular hill station in the South. The city is located in the Western Ghats at a height of 2240m,

Udhagamandalam is the headquarters of the Nilgiris district where the two ghats meet. Nature has been generous with this region which is by far the most beautiful in the state. Apart from coffee and tea plantations, trees like conifers, eucalyptus and pine dot the hillside in Ooty and its environs.

After meeting our next guide John, we began with a visit to the Botanical Gardens which were laid out in 1847. The picturesque gardens that are maintained by the Horticulture Department of the state, cover an area of about 22 hectares. The Gardens have well over 650 species of plants and trees, including a fossil of a tree, which is believed to be more than 20 million years old. The Indian visitors were always wanting to take our photo withthem and in this garden, was no exception. We were heading back to our car when it started to rain – good timing.

We then continue to Ooty Lake built in 1825 and is about 2.5 km long. It was very polluted but in days gone by, there used to be a lot of water sports held on the lake.

Finally, we finish off with a visit to Dodabetta Peak which stands at an altitude of 2,623 meters. It is the highest point in the district, making it possibly the best vantage point around Ooty.

While up there, we bought a locally made container of mixed chocolates. There are several chocolate factories in the district. What was the chocolate like – it certainly wasn’t Cadberies or Belgium chocolate!!

Our travel companion Beddie was having a birthday so we decided to organise a really special evening for her. Their hotel was on one hill in the city and our hotel was on another hill. So we decided to go to our prospective hotels for an hour or 2 and Mohar agreed to pick us up and take us the the King’s Hotel, the Gem Cave and wait for us. It was a lovely evening. I had arranged for a cake to be made for Debbie. She loved it. We went back to our hotels at about 10.30pm giving Mohar some cake as well.

A bit about Ooty:

Originally occupied by the Toda, the area came under the rule of the East India Company at the end of the 18th century. The economy is based on tourism and agriculture, along with the manufacture of medicines and photographic film. The town is connected by the Nilgiri ghat roads and Nilgiri Mountain Railway. Its natural environment attracts tourists and it is a popular summer destination apparrently. As of 201, the town had a population of round 100,000.

The origin of the name Udagamandalam is obscure. The first known written mention of the place is given as Wotokymund in a letter of March 1821 to the Madras Gazette from an unknown correspondent. In early times it was called OttakalMandu. "Mund" is the Anglicised form of the Toda word for a village 'Mandu'. The first part of the name is probably a corruption of the local name for the central region of the Nilgiri Plateau.

The stem of the name (Ootaca) comes from the local language in which Otha-Cal literally means Single Stone. This is perhaps a reference to a sacred stone revered by the local Toda people. The name probably changed under British rules to Udagamandalam from Ootacamund, and later was shortened to Ooty.

Ooty is situated in the Nilgiri hills. The name meaning blue mountains in Tamil and most other Indian languages might have arisen from the blue smoky haze given off by the eucalyptus trees from Australia bought by the British that cover the area or from the Kurunji flower, which blooms every twelve years and gives the slopes a bluish tinge. Because of the mountains and green valleys, Ooty became known as the Queen of Hill Stations.

Udagamandalam was originally a tribal land occupied by the Toda along with other hill tribes who coexisted through specialisation and trade. The Toda in the Nilgiris are first referenced in a record belonging to Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana and his general Punisa, dated 1117 CE. The Toda people were known for raising water buffalo. The Tamil and Badaga people known for farming activities.

Ooty served as the summer capital of the Madras Presidency; it was visited by British officials during the colonial days as a popular summer resort. Soldiers were sent to nearby Wellington (which we went through in the rack-railway Toy Train ride) to recuperate. Wellington is the home of the Madras Regiment of the Indian Army. After Independence, it developed into a popular hill resort.

Ooty features a suptropical highland climate so generally features mild conditions throughout the year. However, night time in the months of January and February is typically cold. Generally, the town appears to be eternally stuck in the spring season. Temperatures are relatively consistent throughout the year; with average high temperatures ranging from about 17–20 °C and average low temperatures between approximately 5–12 °C. We were in jumpers all the time we were in Ooty.

Udhagamandalam railway station is connected with Mettupalayam by NMR metre guage service. In 1882, a Swiss engineer named Arthur Riggenbach came to the Nilgiri Hills on an invitation from Government of India and he submitted an estimate for a line costing GB£132,000. The Nilgiri Railway Company was formed in 1885 and planning work commenced in 1886. The work on the line commenced in August 1891 and the Mettupalayam-Coonoor section of the track was opened for traffic on 15 June 1899. In January 1903, the Indian Government purchased the line, and took over the construction of the extension from Coonoor to Ooty.

Day 12: Ooty - Coonoor - Ooty 29 September 2017

No visit to Ooty is complete without the Toy Train experience. In the morning, we headed to the railway station to board the Toy train at 0915 hrs to Coonoor.

We again had fun photographing the locals and visa versa while we waitied for the train to arrive. It was punctual and we had set seats booked. The carriages had no central, lengthwise corridor so th bench seats went from one side of the train to the other. Ten could fit into each carriage but that would have been a real squeeze.

The Nilgiri Mountain Railway, built by the B was operated by the Madras Railway until 31 December 1907 on the behalf of the Government. In January 1908, the railway line was handed over to South India Railway. The line from Coonoor to Ooty was completed in 1908 which is the line we were travelling on. On 15 October, Governor of Madras opened the new railway to traffic. The Nilgiri Mountain Railway is one of the oldest mountain railways in India and was declared by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in July 2005. It is the only rack railway in India, and uses the Abt system.

The railway still relies on its fleet of steam locomotives which we saw at the Coonoor Station. For the past several years diesel locomotives have taken over from steam on the section between Coonoor and Ooty.

We arrive at Coonoor at 1025 hrs. Mahor was there to pick us up. Upon arrival, we were taken to a private, boutique Tea Plantation followed by Tea Tasting and lunch.

The 3rd generation owner took us out to the plantation where we learned that globally, there are only 2 types of tea bushes and that these bushes are a carmelia. He then took us into his beautiful, neat home and sat us down to tasting 6 different teas with different flavour and body. He explained that the differing tea is all to do with how the leaves are treated after they are picked. We also learned that green tea is exactly the same as black tea, from the same bush, but the difference is that green tea is not oxidised and black tea is. Further, there is no caffeine in tea, it is a teaffeine. To reduce the teaffeine by 80%!a(MISSING)ll that is required is to remove the water after brewing the tead for 1 minute and then brew it for the 2nd time which then has only 20%!o(MISSING)f the teaffeine. There is no need to buy caffeine-free tea’. However, our Google research tells us differently!!!!! The Tea Research Association in Calcutta says there is caffeine in tea.!!!!

Tom and I have been to 4 other tea plantations in different countries but we learned the most today.

Next, we were served a beautiful lunch at the tea-tasting table – mushroom soup, Indian/British mixed style chicken and caramel desert. Yum!!!

After lunch, we head back Ooty (an hour drive approx). We got Mohar to drop us off in the town so that we could wander around and soak up the atmosphere of this Dasara Festival holiday. We saw more car decorated with banana palms and sugar-cane and flowers. Many shops were also decorated. The streets were lined with stalls selling ‘stuff’that we didn’t bother to stop and look too long at.

We then spotted a new, clean coffee shop and had a lovely cappuccino before finding a tuk tuk to take us back to our hotel. The road to our hotel up the hill, was in urgent need of repair and the poor tuk tuk struggled at times.

We had an easy evening. Over 60 school boys arrived at our hotel so there was plenty of activity, music and bombfire which the hotel put on. It was very different to the previous night. We only saw 2 other people staying in the hotel.

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