Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Nilgiris - Why the Queen of Hills should be on your itinerary

So you have been there, done that - ticked off Ooty in your list of sightseeing places and cribbed about how it has become polluted, noisy and touristy,  rather than a picture perfect , quiet hill station. And then , you have told yourself, after seeing the traffic and the milling crowds, that you are done with the place for now. Well , if that is what you have been thinking, then its time to revisit your decision and the destination. And I will tell you why, but before that , a little bit of flashback .

Ooty and the Blue Mountains were always on my annual list of holidays ever since I was two years old . Dad being an old Lawrencian would never look at any other hill station besides Ooty (it took me 17 years to visit Kodaikanal) and when I was probably 4 - 5 years old , he even wanted to settle down here . I still remember a quaint wooden house  with a colourful garden blooming with roses, dahlias and gladioli where we stayed briefly . My last family holiday to Ooty was almost 20 years ago when I was finishing school .

I had hoped to join my folks last month as my father headed to his alma mater, Lawrence School at Lovedale for the 50th anniversary of his batch, but I had to cancel my plans. However  I had recently visited the Nilgiris and realized that I had rediscovered the hill station all over again. I now understand why my father is rather passionate about it .There is more to Ooty Tourism than just a few scenic views.


1. The Biodiversity . Much has been written about the Nilgiri biosphere , so I am not going to get into a naturalist mode. Just that the forests, the mountains, the lakes , dams  and some of the hidden spots in these regions are reasons enough to get here . I am not just referring to Mudhumalai or Singara or Masinagudi here. While some of the reserve forests may need permissions to enter, you can just drive down the path or just walk around them.  I have seen some pristine shola forests recently and I have told myself that I must make an annual visit every year, just to discover a new stretch of forest and hidden paths .

2. The birds -  There are so many endemic birds out here and sometimes, just a walk in the Botanical garden in Ooty or the Sims park in Coonoor is enough to sight them . Sometimes the birds will just be sitting on the pathway and or a rock near you .I almost sighted close to 75 species of birds and I was not even birding seriously . Some of them were the nilgiri flycatcher, the fan tail, the chestnut headed bee eater, Tickells blue flycatcher, the Eurasian  black bird among several others..
3.The wildlife - So,you are not into birds  , but the wildlife may definitely tempt. I got lost while trying to get to Long wood shola and entered through one of the forest paths which eventually was closed to public.  Barring a few private houses, we were driving through a dense shola forest and then we started walking ramdomly. My driver shuddered on a seeing a snake glide into the shrubbery , while I was trying to get a better look at it.  A little while later, a local walked by , telling me to be careful, as they had spotted a family of tigers here with cubs. In another instance, I was birding in this dense private forest that belonged to a friend beyond Mettupalayam, when we heard such loud grunts of sloth bears that I actually shuddered . The gaurs are everywhere and locals say that these usual shy creatures have become a bit aggressive of late. Elephants in Masinagudi are of course a regular sighting and if you are lucky, there is the Nilgiri tahr.


4. The flowers - So, you are not into birds or the beasts.  But you just cannot ignore the flowers here . Almost everywhere you see them bloom . the colours are so vivid that you can just get lost into them..There are so many parks and gardens here that you can easily get lost here.

5. The quaint hill stations - Forget Ooty , just go beyond it and see some quaint hill station. Some of the popular ones are Kotagiri and Coonoor,but there are many quaint ones that lure you as well

6.The mountain railway. - As a kid, the toy train was a great favourite of mine and even today, I would love to explore Nilgiris by rail . It might be a full day affair , but its well worth the slow and long journey . I was in Lovedale station , where I  saw the locals painting the board - the pride they took in their little station is a strong contrast to the way we treat our own stations in the city .


7.The culture  - Colonialism is almost everywhere - in the clubs, churches, bungalows, homestays, plantations, railways, the schools  - the British have left their legacy behind .Its ok to have a bit of a colonial hangover here. Just look at this beautiful pipe organ in an old church in Coonoor - it still plays by the way



8.The Tribal culture - Nilgiris is home to several tribes, including the Todas .  The Toda mund for instance in the Ooty Botanical garden  is a must visit to understand their lifestyle,  beliefs and even to buy a few of their famous embroidered shawls. The weather in Ooty can get rather cold sometimes, even though its usually very pleasant, so looking cool in these shawls may just help you make a fashion statement as well.



9.The little chai stops on the mountain roads - There is tea everywhere . Yes, its sad that forests have given way to tea plantations , but some of these plantations are centuries old and are handed down by the British . there was coffee here as well at one time  , but now its usually tea plantations that have carpeted the slopes of the hills ..Sometimes you see meadows as well and wish you could just roll on them  . So, if you are tired and need to refresh yourself, just stop and drink a hot cup of tea and buy some eucalyptus oil for your aching limbs
.

10. Home made chocolates - Now, this is something that I will never leave Ooty without ..who wouldnt ?



28 comments:

Mano said...

so when are you visiting next?

Sneo said...

Awesome. Like the article.
I went to Ooty just twice and felt both times that the city and boating+ horseriding area are completely skippable. But the estate I stayed at was uphill and a colonial guest house too.Walking around the hosts estate itself was the Ooty that called rather than the town below that sold us boating and popcorn.

Anu said...

finally, a completely different take on ooty! i ve been there twice now, but wouldnt mind going again., on our last visit, we enjoyed walking around lovedale and had a leisurely ride on the toy train instead of rushing on with the crowd... since we wanted to get down at lovedale, even the guard was helpful and allowed us to ride with him :)

जाट देवता (संदीप पवाँर) said...

सारी तस्वीर जानदार रही

Mano said...

I think you just left out one thing ..the aromatic oils ...'Nilgiri Thel' et al .I feel so proud to be in this place after reading your article. I would recommend the following site to know more about THE NILGIRIS (this is what it is called)
http://www.nilgiris.tn.gov.in/

eleven said...

Visited ooty for the third time last month. Drove on bikes from Blore to Ooty and Coonoor. The drive was good thru the forests and all that. Spotted an Elephant in Madumalai!
Botanical garden gives me a feeling of lalbhag, so I avoided that :P
Sim's park was one thing I liked apart from the view point, shooting point etc.
It's better to head towards chikmangalur, kemmangundi, kodachadri etc rather than ooty if we want to enjoy nature without "tourists everywhere" :P
Good write-up!

Asha said...

thanks for the armchair travel to ooty :)

Tamanna said...

About time I went to the Nilgiris.. I keep thinking about it, but the whole crowded hill station bit used to nip it in the bud.

I will write to you soon about this.

Also.. "Its ok to have a bit of a colonial hangover here".. So, so true. There still are some places that you can't imagine without the colonial hangover.

Loved the post!

Jeevan said...

However how many time we visit, it never fail to rejuvenate and refresh through the chill pristine atmosphere. That’s fabulous details and pictures about Nilgiris. Lately we tired avalanche and upper bhavani backwater area getting permission from DFO and it was an exciting ride into the forest and learns about the region and the countryside of ooty on way was awesome. Wish to be back there always.

Priyank said...

Hi Lakshmi! I've never been to the Nilgiris, so thanks so much for the tour!

AJEYA RAO said...

Nice account, I recollected my trip there last year.

Nisha said...

I have been there once ... train & boating .. all done but I still felt it wasn't enough. Saw some chocolate making small factories as well. But your post gives us a different perspective.

These are the place where we should go & absorb them slowly.

sandeep said...

nice and 'a little different' list lakshmi :)

Priya said...

Its been a pretty long time I was back ther. Good write up and get to know the facts again.

magiceye said...

on my list next time am nearabouts there!!
lovely post!!

Rahul Sharma said...

going there next next Wednesday :)

Adil said...

Nice article, but whats your name?! I cant see it anywhere. Your Dad was my class mate if he was up this year celebrating his 50th as I was too! We were together for 5 days & had a wonderful time. Would love to know whose son you are?
Adil Gandhy

Nick Horsburgh said...

Great Stuff! I too am an Old Lawrencian, and would dearly like to know who you are! Do get in touch, or leave a contact address, please.
Warm wishes,
Nick

Ajit said...

Very Very Very Nice photography.

Any travel lovers wish to visit to Kolhapur, Maharashtra please read our blog at http://kolhapurdarshan.blogspot.com

thanks.

karan said...

i also want to go to ooty.......

nupurmukeshmehta said...

hey...i am nupur...i first visited ooty way back in i think in september 1980 to admit my son to cliff school...considered the best feeding school for lawrence school...lovedale at that point of time and ofcourse to register my son for admission to the lawrence school ..and as u may have guessed the rest is history...my son shreejay vin 95 and daughter krishnaa 2005 are both from cliff and lawrence...so as u rightly guessed our yearly holidays always always were the same as the founders at lawrence...that is till 2003...we migrated to canada in june 2004 and i am sad to say have not visited niligiris since then...my son did visit the school with his better half whose dad incidentally is an old lawrencian during his honeymoon... i terribly terribly do miss my yrly visits...and there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the
niligiris is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places on earth...

Pathtrekkers said...

I love Ooty too, specially for its Chocolates and the evening when the blue haze envelops the Mountains. Coonor is also a beautiful place to spend some time - 19km south of Ooty, this town is where the Toy train changes onto rack-and-pinion track pulled by a steam engine. Coonor is quieter than Ooty and is an atmospheric hill town with a sprinkling of Raj era bungalows.

There are a lot of other ‘pucca’ reminders of the influence of the British including: the Stone House bungalow, private schools, the Ooty Club and the racetrack.

Just one drive down from Ooty there is a place called Masinigudi towards Masyre, its a National Park. Highly recommended, last time i was there we went on an evening Jeep Safari and got charged by 3 wild elephants, scared the hell out of us. Next morning we spotted a pair of Leopards just outside of our hotel.
Park is known as Madhumalai National Park.

Pathtrekkers said...

and guys one more thing about Ooty :

On the road towards dodabetta and the botanial gardens, there is a Cafe Coffee day,to its left is a general store--- people LOVE that store! the best chocolate in ooty, and other touristic stuff as well !!!
and king's cliff is 100% on their game for dinner.... their chicken tikka was so good, that me and my group had to visit hospital.

Shivya said...

Lovely post and pictures! I managed to get away from touristy Ooty and go to Kotagiri & Kodinad, both of which offer spectacular & isolated views of the Nilgiris. Add that too to your itinerary next time :)

anmol:D said...

i love the birds , nice shots ;)

Deep India said...

Very well framed blog, nice information on Ooty with beautiful pics. Keep doing good work!

House in Chiang Mai said...

Love the blog and great pictures. I miss India so much.

Anu said...

Just came across your post. Most fascinating. I was born and brought up in Lovedale - so your post brought back many memories!