Ooty - Go Heritage Run 1

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December 23rd 2016
Published: February 16th 2017
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A trip with the promise of a views of a beautiful hill station, a 15 km run and a chance to sharpen my photography skills. Three of my favourite hobbies and how could you say no to that ?

I read about GoHeritage runs while browsing through the run events in India. I was intrigued and decided to check it out. I found out that GoHeritage runs were started by GoUNESCO, a group funded by UNESCO to increase the awareness of heritage sites. They had hosted a number of runs at Heritage sites in India previously and I thought I should give it a shot this time. It being in Ooty just made it all the more compelling as Ooty is one of the very popular hill stations of South India and I had not previously traveled there.

I booked my slot for the run along with the bus tickets to Ooty from Bangalore. I decided to take the Airavat Club class (Their motto - "Sleep like a baby" and they don't disappoint :P) bus from Karnataka State Transport which are very comfortable. For lodging, I chose Garden Manor for the first 2 days which was located very close to the Botanical Gardens near the heart of the city and Hotel Lake View for the last day. I reached Ooty 2 days early as I had to collect my bib for the run on Saturday and to have time to roam around the place. The hotel was pretty close to the bus stand and I took an auto to the hotel after the bus reached at around 7 in the morning. My check-in time was 10 am but the hotel staff were gracious enough and let me freshen up in a temporary room. I then booked a taxi for all the days so that I could travel around easily. The plan for the day was to visit the Avalanche lake. After having a decent breakfast, I was on my way to the lake. The traffic near the city reminded me of the crazy Bangalore traffic but it eased off as we moved out of the city. The lake was about 30 km from the city and on the way I was able to city the Emerald lake which looked supremely scenic with the surrounding greenery. By the time we reached the checkpost, it had started raining heavily. The Avalanche lake can only be viewed when you book a safari which is run by the forest department. They provide the bus, jeep or van depending on the number of people. Due to the heavy rain, it was very difficult just to go to the ticket counter. Thankfully it subsided in a while. I had initially opted for the bus which had a long wait time but then met a few folks who were waiting for 2-3 people to fill their jeep. As that would cost me the same and would start earlier, I decided to join them. The safari's first highlight was the Cauliflower Shola which gets its name as the canopy of trees on the hills when viewed from a view point resemble a cauliflower. Post that came the Thalai Bhavani which is considered to be the source of the river Bhavani. It also has a Bhavani Amman Temple. And finally to top the views came the Avalanche lake. Though the lake had less water as it was May and the rains were yet to fill it up, that did not make the sight less appealing. The Lake glimmered with red sand surrounding it on its sides

Sim's Park
and hills giving a green upper border to it. After admiring it for quite a while, we decided to head back. On the way back I got acquainted to a kid with his family who kept entertaining everyone throughout the return journey. From the checkpost it was back to the hotel. By the time I reached my hotel, it was around 6 pm. I ordered dinner at the hotel itself and then decided to rest as I was pretty tired.

The next morning, I got up at around 8 30 am and got ready quickly. The plan was to first visit Doddabetta and then collect the bib from Lawrence School. Doddabetta turned out to be a dampener after all the hype as it was overcrowded though it had some good scenic views. Even the tea there did not match the expectations. From there it was to Lawrence School at Lovedale which had the exact opposite effect as that of Doddabetta. I was so stunned by the school's location that If the school would have accepted me there, I would have surely joined it then and there. The campus is of 750 acres with some amazing scenic and
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Sim's Park
architectural displays. The surrounding is very peaceful without the din of the city. With the bib collection out of the way, the plan for the day was to cover Coonoor. The main places there are Sim's park, Dolphin's nose and Lamb's rock. I started with Sim's park which turned out to be a photographer's paradise. It has been maintained really well and has a variety of flowers and birds. I hit the jackpot thanks to a small drizzle which resulted in water droplets accumulating on the flower petals. The photos speak for themselves in this case 😊 Dolphin's Nose and Lamb's rock are both view points offering differing scenic views of Ooty. Lamb's rock had a view of green hills forming a V boundary to the city with cloud patterns at the top in the blue sky. At Dolphin's Nose view point, I was able to see Catherine falls which looked stunning with the hills surrounding it. To add to its splendour was a rainbow again thanks to the drizzle. On my way back, I tried out a Foursquare recommendation, The Culinarium for evening snacks. It was a pretty good bakery with some great desserts (aesthetically great and tasty). I
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Dolphin's Nose View Point
tried the strawberry chocolate cake which did not disappoint.

Race started at 6 30 the next morning. The route was easily one of the most beautiful routes I have been on. It started at the main ground of the Lawrence School and passed through their gardens and in front of an old medieval styled church. Then it led to a forest like path for about a km which opened to lush green pastures and provided a view that was breathtaking. Post the view was a climb through a dense region for about a km which was breath-taking. We then came out into a road within the campus which then led out of the campus. The next leg of 5 km took us up a hill for half that distance which was filled with some stunning panoramic landscapes. By the time we finished admiring the lush green hills with blue skies and white cotton like clouds sandwiched between them, we had almost completed the climb. The descent was pretty easy and the end of it led to the next 5 km leg which was a meandering road through the countryside. This route had a few plantations with Eucalyptus trees and some other plants. Finally we ended back at the main ground of Lawrence School. It was a pretty eventful run where I struggled to find a good way to run with my DSLR strapped to me. Still I do not regret carrying it for the non-timed run as the route definitely deserved a DSLR. The organization of the event was great and I have been a regular attendee of the Go Heritage runs post this.

After taking some rest, freshening up and checking out of the hotel, I started off to Needlerock View Point at Gudalur in The Nilgiris. It was about 40 Kms from my hotel and I reached there by about 12 pm. The place was comparatively empty as it is pretty far from the main city. It was a short walk to the top and the overall 360 degree view was amazing from the top. The green hills extending on all sides with the breeze blowing on my face was something worth savouring. From there I moved on to Pykara Waterfalls which was about 20 Kms from Needlerock View Point. This was a pretty crowded tourist spot with a number of shacks and shops on the way to the waterfalls. As I had gone there before the monsoons, the waterfall was not something spectacular though it was pretty well maintained and scenic. The places to eat there were not very good and hence after having some orange juice, I proceeded towards the Pykara lake which was about 2 Kms away. This lake too similar to the Avalanche lake was surrounded by red sand and formed a very picturesque view. There was boating available (motorboat) which was well worth the wait (was pretty crowded too). At the lake too, there was nothing to fill my appetite and I had to settle for a milk shake. After all this, I still had time and thus on the way back decided to head to the super crowded botanical garden. I had my lunch on my way some hotel on the way suggested by the driver. The botanical garden ticket queue itself was very demoralizing. But somehow I braved it and got it. Inside, it was decorated beautifully though there wasn't much space to move around. After viewing all the decorations which included trains, birds etc (flowers were arranged in those forms) and capturing the photos I returned to check into Lake View Hotel. Hotel Lake View was definitely a very well located and maintained restaurant. There were cottages here which was located next to a lake. For the evening, I headed to my room to watch the IPL cricket league final. RCB sadly lost in a very close encounter but it was still a great match. Next day after checkout, I visited Ooty lake which was a pretty big lake. There was boating available there also though here it was a pedal boat. With most of the must see places covered, I caught a bus back to Bangalore in the evening.

This was my first Heritage run and I totally fell in love with it. Its a great concept to promote tourism. As the run is untimed you can take as long as you want enjoying the amazing scenic routes throughout the run without worrying about the competition. It felt great carrying a camera on my run (though I am still researching on what would be the best way to carry it) and record the route on it. My recommendation, give it a shot if you are a casual or professional runner. The peaceful environment with the small crowds compared to the hustle and bustle of the city or the throng of people in a city is certainly refreshing.

Ooty as a tourist spot is pretty famous and it is very difficult to get places with less number of tourists. The flower show in the Botanical garden didn't help in this regard either. Ooty is undoubtedly blessed with natural beauty with stunning views though the timing might probably be better after the monsoons probably during Aug-Sept-Oct. It is very accessible by road from nearby cities and Bangalore.

On the whole a great trip and an even more great run.

Additional photos below
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