One Day Trip to Ooty-Coonoor

Variegated Greens

On the 21st of March, 2002, I had been to Coimbatore to write a test at the Bharathiar University. The test got over at 1100 and I had almost a day at my disposal as I was booked to return home on the 22nd. I decided to spend some time sight-seeing as this was the first time I had come so far south.

On enquiring at the Tourist info desk, I was suggested a place called Shiruvani, sporting a small waterfall and a dam. It was about 37 kilometers from Coimbatore Bus Terminus; an allegedly half hourly bus service connected the place to Coimbatore. I was told that those buses had “SHIRUVANI” written on them, only in Tamil, as I later learned to my chagrin. However the Tourist Office fellow told me that on account of people using the Dam top as launch pad for the other world, entry to the top of the Dam was restricted.

I deposited my suitcase at the Railway Station cloak-room and arming myself with all the cash I had, my water-bottle, and the camera in my little back-pack, I set off. In the city-bus,I met a fellow Bangalee, who told me that Shiruvani would not be worth its while, because it being the lean season for the falls, not much water flow would be there. He also told me that they usually went to Ooty 2-3 times every year and that it was just 3 hours by bus from Coimbatore. I kept his idea in stow in the event a “Shiruvani” bus did not come.

I waited for a Shiruvani bus at the Terminus for some 20-25 minutes. Having by now discovered that everything except the license plates and the Bus Route No. were written in Tamil, and having confirmed that “Shiruvani” Buses had no Nos., I gave up Shiruvani as a lost case. Then I asked a bus conductor about buses to Ooty. He gave me direction and distance to the Long-distance Bus Terminus in incomprehensible Tamil ! However I did find it after some effort. As I reached that bus-terminus and boarded a bus preparing to push off to Ooty. It was about 1310 then. The bus eventually left at about 1330. On learning that the hills began some 60 km later, I promptly went to sleep !  When I woke up, Mettupalayam (41 km from Coimbatore) had passed, and hills had started. I cursed myself for going to sleep (though I had awoken at 0400 ). I was sitting in the bus along the aisle; I exchanged my place with a fellow who was sitting just at the bus entry, to get a better view for myself as well as for the camera. I took some 2-3 pictures from the bus, while it was moving, because the speed was very slow and I was shooting at a distance. Views were good, but more welcome to me was the dip in the temperature, for Coimbatore had been oppressively hot.

Rushing through the rocks

Then the bus stopped for some ten min at a place called Burliar, where there is a State Horticultural Garden. Just before Burliar Bazaar, a stream rushes under the road, I went to take a snap of it, there I met a few monkeys who grinned (or may be snarled) at me, I made a repartee and came back. The Coonoor Regimental Encampment (along the hill side) with their maidan and race-course. (Those Services fellows live in real comfort during their off-duty !!).We reached  Ooty bazaar at around 1640. The Ooty Botanical Garden was about 3 km on, and the Lake about 2 km from there. I was keen to visit them, but expecting both to close for the day within the next hour, I decided that I would give them the skip.

Tea Carpeted Hills

Down the Ooty-Coonnoor Road

Now as only two hours of daylight were left, I settled for walking along the main road and the short by-roads, towards Coonoor and then board a bus for Coonoor at nightfall and spend the night there. I bought bread, biscuits and a jar of jam at a shop, gobbled a pastry, seized a bottle of Nilgiri Eucalyptus Oil for my Ma, and set out. I finally ended up walking till 1930 , a distance of about 13 km. I wandered amidst pines, larches and streams and indulged myself in photography.I finished up the loaded film roll with a sunset shot through pines. My hand picked branches of pine, larch and one unknown conifer to take home.The very act of breathing mountain air was heady and the smell of the resinous conifers intoxicating!!

Red flowers

Hillside foliage

I explored the hill-sides along the road looking at flowers, trees and occasionally the habitations along the road,perched diligently on the sloping terrain.The panoramic views of the valley below enamoured me, though no Tourist Department had christened them with clichéd names. The Nilgiri Mountain Railway track was in full view from the road above and it was lined at places with quite a few stately pines !

Nilgiri Mountain Railways, Coonnoor

Lilac haze

When I reached Aruvankadu at 1930 ,it was already dark and my legs were crying for attention. But I told them to shut up and trudged on till I reached the Cordite Factory. Eventually a bus going from Ooty to Mettupalayam came, and transpored a grateful me to Coonoor, 5 km away, in just 15 minutes!

En route I had asked a local about cheap lodges in Coonoor, and he intimated me of one Shri Ramchandra Lodge, which was okay and was near the Bus stand. I enquired and took my lodgings there at Rs. 80 a day. Then I went to the Shri Ramchandra’s eatery and finding nothing better (all veggie, though I felt I could eat 1 whole chicken, somewhat like Obelix and his little Boars) had 3 very large Chappatis (smeared with ghee) with that ubiquitous sour tasting curry in which a few peas occasionally roamed, an almost bland (faintly sweet ‘n’ sour) paste of coconut and haldi and a spot of pickle which to me seemed to be made of minuscule capsicum like objects.I topped it off with a sweet resembling the Bengali goja but on eating seemed to be a mix of besan, sugar,  a little yellow food colour and very little else!

I went to a photography-shop and bought another roll of film (a Konica – Rs 80), and inevitably felt cheated (because the fellow asked Rs. 100 for a Kodak one, whereas they cost Rs. 65 and 75 respectively in Calcutta).

Twilight on the road,

Next day, I set out at the dawn. It was reasonably cold, though woollens were not a necessity, at least for me. It was however cold enough for your breath to condense before your eyes. My train from Coimbatore to Chennai was at 1340 hours, so I decided that I would walk towards Burliar from Coonoor along the hill road till 0900  and then board a bus for Coimbatore midway. I started off at 0630, and walked in the morning, exploring the Nilgiri mountain railway track (which at places runs near the road), took pictures of various trees in full bloom. There were many hair-pin bends on the road, I crossed about five. The view from each was subtly different.

Tea gardens and violet blooms

Just outside Coonoor town limits, I had the good luck to find a few giant pines, probably 100 feet tall. I chipped off a small piece of their old scarred bark and instantly the surroundings were filled with that incredible scent of the mountains, so different and refreshing unlike the choking smokes that our urban life provides.

At about 0905 I was near a roadside tea-stall, Burliar was still some 10 km away. So I paused there for some minutes, hoping to hop on to a Coimbatore bound bus,and one came within ten minutes putting an end to my first affair with the Mountains of Southern India.

18 Comments

  • A short but a refreshing trip indeed!

    True, the best thing you can do in such places is go for long and leisurely walks and soak in the sun and enjoy the beauty it offers…

    and I really missed those days, when we used to click only when we thought to click to capture something really beautiful to please ourselves…we could only had 36 shots and we need to preseve for the best moment always…then waited for some days…and might be few months to develop the same to see those memories…now, you just click, click and click, and then delete those unwanted shots…pathetic…It is also feel good whenever we flip those old albums…, instead of seeing pictures in our computers…

    Nice post & nice photographs…

    Regards

    • Nirmalya says:

      Amitava

      Very true about the shutter happy situation that digicams have inculcated in us these days … I roamed with my dad’s Yashica Electro 35 Rangefinder, and later a second-hand Canon AE-1 SLR, the charm of film is undying (and for many a professional important in terms of technicalities too) but the consumable cost differential for amateur shooters is significant, and digicams now rule the roost, somewhat sadly. And it has taken us away from soaking in the environs – as you so rightly pointed out.

      Take care

  • parveen says:

    good one.

  • D.L.Narayan says:

    Welcome to ghumakkar, Nirmalya. Absolutely loved your blog and the pictures too. It is amazing that you were able to recall the minutest details of a journey made over a decade ago. Was it so memorable that everything was embedded in your memory or do you take notes or maintain a journal? The pics are beautiful and do not seem like scanned images.

    You talked of the start of an affair with the Mountains of Southern India. Have you been to the Araku Valley? If not, you should consider visiting it the next time you are in India. It is not too far from Calcutta and is yet to be spoiled by tourism. http://www.ghumakkar.com/2012/02/25/araku-valley/

    • Nirmalya says:

      Dear Narayan,

      This was actually written a long time back, I just found it a year or so back in my old document folder, and posted on Ghumakkar – where it lay many a month, only seeing the light of day, and the warmth of all you splendid readers in the past week !

      I have been to Bora Guhalu, in 2000, on a college organized tour, there were about 30 of us, a couple of profs, and one of our monk members (I went to RKM run college). A nice trip in the late monsoon, the verdure was truly overwhelming … I remember hanging on the bogie door of the Kirandul Passenger, trying to catch pictures of waterfalls with my dad’s Yashica. But we didn’t make it till Arakku … it was too rainy even in that late monsoon, and we decided to go back to Vizag.

      But, yes I want to go back there, some day …
      Take care.

  • Surinder Sharma says:

    Very good post, nice description and photos. I know writing this journey gives you a lot of satisfaction, but me and fellow reader excited to read about latest travel done by you. In october I am visiting to Seattle and it will help me if I read through your blogs.
    Thanks and regards

  • nehashah says:

    Good post …. Even I have heard great things about this place.

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Welcome aboard Nirmalya.

    The walks, the smells and the sights are all refreshing. Never been there but heard a LOT about Ooty and Coonor. A drive through ‘South India’ might be a possibility during these winters. Look forward to hear from you.

  • Nirmalya says:

    Neha, Nandan, Parveen – Thanks!

  • Rahul Ranjan says:

    Its a nicely written content, a nice work done here. I like it very much a great piece of information is also given here. And also requesting to post some content who are not regular traveller as me. As a tourist I have only experience of Char Dham .

    • Nirmalya says:

      Rahul,

      Thanks for the words of encouragement. The trip you have done is also a very nice one. I have myself only done Badrinathji (2004, 2008) and Kedarnathji (2009). The yatra you mention is actually the “chhota char dham” in the mountains of Uttaranchal. This confusion is due to economic/commercialization gimmickry starting in post-Independance India. The real Chardham involves traveling to the four corners of our great country – Badrinath, Dwarka, Puri (Jagannath), and Rameshwaram.

      Thanks.

      • Rahul Ranjan says:

        ya you are right, its called chaota chardham or Garhwali chardahm. The actual chardham Badrinath, Dwarka, Puri (Jagannath), and Rameshwaram are the same destinations which are established by Adi guru Shankraya chaaya.

  • I have never crossed beyond Maharashtra so ‘South India’ is still pending. May be some day or as Nandan said may be in next winters :). I also liked walking on hills. Thanks for the nice post.

    • Nirmalya says:

      Roll on Deependra …. India is a country which needs many lifetimes to see in all its colourful glory – only thing I remember at this moment are those lines from the Bengalee poet Dwijendralal Roy –

      “??? ????? ????? ???? ???? ???? ????? /
      ??? ????? ???? ?? ?? ???? ????????”
      you will not find such a country anywhere if you search
      it is the queen of all nations, my country of birth.

  • Akshita Jain says:

    Nice Description. Ooty is really very beautiful place.

  • Manisha says:

    Nice Blog and pictures are also very nice. Love to travel Ooty.

    • Nirmalya says:

      Akshita and Manisha – Thank you for your comments. I have logged on into Ghumakkar after years to reply. I gives me great satisfaction that a description of a trip made almost going into 2 decades back now is still giving people reading pleasure. I had written down the trip details in 2002 itself, only to translate into digital in 2012 and post here (itself 7 years now).

      May the travel bug bite you all with more fervor.

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