‘Wake up, wake up! Look outside.’ said Anusha. While my usual reaction would have been to kick her or question her sanity for waking me up so early, this time I was glad she woke me up. Through the creaky window of the TNSTC bus, I saw the beautiful full moon of Christmas day hiding behind the canopy of trees in the Bandipur forest. And the golden colors of the rising sun shone through the opposite window. After few futile attempts to get the scene on my camera, I sat back and enjoyed the view of the chilly winter morning.
The journey through the narrow and foggy roads of Bandipur and Mudumalai forests had few more surprises. We saw deer, elephants, monkeys, langurs and peahens in their natural habitat. There were beautiful wild flowers in varied colors throughout the way. As we passed through the Mudumalai tiger reserve, we had hoped to spot a tiger. The four hour journey from Mysore to Ooty through the green forests, with a variety of flora, was a treat to the eye and we crossed the Tamil Nadu-Karnataka state border near Mudumalai.
It was 9:20 A.M when we reached Udhagamandalam(Ooty) bus station. Since it was off season we did not have too much trouble finding a room. It had a decent view and was close to the market, bus station, Ooty race course, club Mahindra resort and other places.
We went around looking for bike rentals but we could not get scooters anywhere because of the pre-bookings during the long weekend. So we had lunch and walked towards the Botanical Gardens.
Botanical Gardens: These gardens, spanning 22 hectares, house myriad varieties of trees, flowers, shrubs, plants and ferns. A huge lawn surrounded by varied species of trees sits in the center of the garden. From the lawn it seemed as if the garden is just a continuation of the line of trees on the hills beyond. I could not recognize most trees or distinguish one fern from another in many cases but I’m sure that the garden is a botanist’s paradise.
Pine Forest and Kamaraj Sagar Dam: The Pine Forest is a continuous lines of symmetrically arranged pine trees. And home to countless monkeys. The downhill walk through pine forest leads to the waters of the Kamaraj Sagar dam. The waters were set amidst a backdrop of green hills and trees and blue skies, making the place look like a beautiful movie still. On the way up, we collected pine cones as our souvenirs.
On our way back, we couldn’t resist stopping at the Chocolate Museum. It was a small place showcasing different kinds of cocoa beans and describing the chocolate making process along with few equipment used in the process. The most interesting thing in the museum were the chocolates put up for sale. When we asked them why the home made chocolates in the market were cheaper, the sales guy just gave us some chocolates for tasting. We walked out with many boxes of delicious chocolate.
Ooty Lake: As soon as we entered, we saw a hustle and bustle of the large number of tourists and stalls selling food, toys and clothes. There was a toy train ride around the lake. We were the last ones to get the tickets for the motor boat ride after persuading the ticket issuer that we reached before the closing time. By the time our ride started, the sunset had begun. We were greeted by chilly winds from the surrounding Eucalyptus trees. The setting sun cast different colors on the lake before the lights from boat house gleamed in the night. After the ride, we went to the food court and savored the potato twister and pav bahji.
Thread Garden: It was opposite to the Ooty lake. It displayed a garden with numerous flowers, woven with different shades of thread and canvas. It was not maintained very well and took hardly 10 mins to tour the whole thing. But the effort put in to make the garden without help of any machinery is commendable.
We had dinner at the commercial road which had many food places like dominoes and A2B and went back to our room. It was very cold in the night in-spite of the layers of blankets we used.
Rose Garden: We started day 2 by visiting the Rose Garden. Our driver told us that it was off season then and the flowers were usually in full bloom during April-May. We went inside to find a well manicured three terraced garden with different varieties of rose plants and lilies. Most of the plants were flowerless but the garden had a nice view of the city.
Ketti Valley View Point: This view point is on the way to Coonoor from Ooty. It had a splendid panoramic view of the 35 villages below, the Nilgiri toy train track, various plantations and the green hills. The valley looked enormous.
Tea Estates: The route to the tea estates was through narrow, dark fog-covered road between a thick canopy of moss covered trees on the hills. Once atop, vast expanses of tea plantations covered the hills around us. Now and then, the green expanses were veiled by the passing clouds of mist till the sun revealed the greens and yellows of the tea plants, a wonderful sight to watch.
We then went to a Eucalyptus oil production plant where we got a 10 minute tour of how the oil was manufactured, different grades of eucalyptus leaves and the equipment used for production. Near the plant, there was a shop selling different kinds of tea powder: chocolate tea, elaichi tea, green tea leaves and ginger tea. We were given samples for tasting and the green tea was our favorite. They also sold some essential oils, all manufactured in nearby areas.
Lamb’s Rock and Dolphin’s Nose: We had to do a very short trek to reach these viewpoints. Once there, we saw the hills and the Coimbatore plains enveloped in mist. We couldn’t get a very clear view because of the mist. The Catherine waterfalls can be seen from Dolphin’s nose. Both the view points have almost similar views.
We took the cab back to Mysore, through the Bandipur and Mudumalai forests, this time at night. The eerie shadows of the huge trees danced on the road, in the quiet forest, as the headlights flashed on them.
The drive through the forests is one of the best parts of the trip.
How to reach Ooty from Bangalore? Costs?
We first took a bus from Mysore satellite bus station till Mysore at about 12:45 A.M. There are buses to Mysore every 10 minutes. We reached Mysore by 2:30 A.M but we had to wait for the Ooty bus till 4:30 A.M. The frequency of buses from Mysore to Ooty was not high. The total journey cost us about Rs 250 since we were using public transport. Once in Ooty, we walked or used local transport like autos and buses. Bikes were being rented out for 600 bucks a day but we couldn’t get them due to high demand on that weekend. We had to pay an entrance fee of Rs.20-Rs.30 at all places like botanical gardens, rose garden, chocolate museum and Ooty lake. Also, they took Rs.20-Rs.50 for camera/video cam. Hotels charged around Rs.2500 for four people. Local cabs charge Rs. 1000 for visiting and sight seeing in Coonoor and Rs. 3000 for drop at Mysore. Our driver told us that there were two routes from Mysore: Mysore-Gundlupet-Gudalur-Ooty and Mysore-Gundlupet-Masinagudi-Ooty. The buses travel via the first route and the second route remains closed at times as it is accident prone and has 36 steep hair-pin bends very close to each other. Most cabs prefer the second route.
You can check out the photo gallery below. Thanks for reading!