The second morning of our stay, after a sumptuous breakfast, we set off to explore Ooty. The travel desk recommended splitting the two days, one for Ooty and its environs and the other for Coonoor. We got some recommendations for places to visit from the desk and the van was ready to depart at 930 am.
One of the must-do items on our list was to ride the Toy train between Ooty and Coonoor. The travel desk asked us to be at the railway station counter around 8 am to get tickets for the first train at 9:15 am. Since the locals use this train to commute, several tickets are held back for sale on the day of. We could have made reservations online through the Indian Railways website but that would mean having to create an account and log-in. Plus, having to spend time putting in a dozen names wasn’t an appealing task. Eventually, we decided to take our chances the following day and instead started the Ooty tour.
Ooty being a haven for all things tea related, our first visit was to The Tea Factory and Tea Museum . Located near the Doddabetta Tea Factory, the factory lays out the tea manufacturing process in simple steps. Signage and boards along a walkway make it easy for the visitor to follow the steps. From withering the tea leaves, to crushing them in the Rotorvane, from the CTC machine (cut, tear, curl) to the fibromat process, one can see it all. At the end, we enjoyed tea samples before heading out. There is a small chocolate factory and store adjacent to the Tea museum. They offer a wide variety of chocolates, some of which we tried.
Our next stop was at the expansive Government Botanical Garden. Spread over 55 acres, the garden is lush green and sparkling with the bold colors of its many flowers and plants. With small ponds dotting the landscape and well laid out walkpaths, the garden is a visual delight. There is a small Japanese Garden upon entrance to the left that is pleasing. Futher on, the fern garden dazzles in its verdant setting. The large glass house is home to a myriad flowering plants, so captivating in color and shape, displayed in a mesmerizing array. The vast expanse of gently sloping lawns in the main garden is a delight. We saw people of all ages relaxing on the lawns.
A twenty million year old fossil tree trunk and a replica of a Toda hut were a couple of special attractions. The Todas are the original inhabitants of the Ooty area, who called this area home, long before the arrival of any other settlers. The Toda hut is built using materials of the land, and is an art piece in itself. Unfortunately, it was being used as a storage for the small shop selling their goods. So we couldn’t explore it in full.
With respect to entrance fees to many places in Ooty, we noticed that an extra charged was tacked on for all cameras, whether a still or a video. However, mobile phone cameras were not charged as such (except at the wax museum). We paid in cash at all locations.
As if we hadn’t had our fill of gardens, we stopped next at the Government Rose Garden. Built to commemmorate the centenary of the annual Ooty flower festival, the garden was opened in 1995. Landscaped over five separate terraces, the garden offers sweeping views of the town. Many viewpoints, gazebos and walkpaths have been created to capture the beauty of the terraces well.
For lunch, our driver took us to the Paradise restaurant in Elk Hill. The menu was vegetarian only and included both South Indian and North Indian selections. We enjoyed the fare and set off once again.
This time, we made our way to the picturesque Ooty Lake. Created nearly 200 years ago by capturing the waters from the mountain streams in the existing Ooty valley, the lake is completely man-made. It offers a variety of boating facilities including pedal boats, row boats and motorised boats. By the time we reached, the rain was coming down with some force, so we debated whether to even get out of the van. Eventually, some of us went out and took a ride on the motor boat, a 15 to 20 minute ride around the lake. On a warm day, this lake is filled with people paddling and rowing their way across.
By then, it was almost time to get back to the hotel. But the children had other ideas. They wanted to visit the Wax World Museum we had seen earlier in the day. So we made a quick stop there. I had little hope that the museum would be worth the money spent. Boy, was I in for a pleasant surprise. Albeit small, the museum had several lifesize creations, from Jesus to Gandhi to RT Tagore and Mother Teresa and many more famous politicians, leaders and poets. I was impressed by the likeness of the statues to the people it depicted. Work painstakingly done! I could only get a couple of photos here before the staff asked me to stop. Apparently, mobile cameras can only be used if paid for earlier.
Back at the hotel, it was time to hit the Tea Kadai for spicy tea and snacks. Later that evening, we had a grand time in the ballroom, enjoying some lively Karaoke and entertaining the small audience with some stellar singing. We created so many fun memories of our time together, memories to cherish for years to come!
Ooty being a hill station, its a good idea to dress in layers and carry warm clothes like jackets and an umbrella. It tends to rain off and on throughout the day. A good camera goes a long way. Tea, chocolates, aromatic oils, we bought a few as souvenirs. Needless to say, the chocolates were eaten in a matter of minutes. The rest we took back, to savor another day, in far-off lands.
There were some places we weren’t able to visit on this trip but have seen in the past and are worth a visit.
- Doddabetta Peak. The highest peak of the Nilgiris mountain range, the access road leads to an octagonal tower at the summit with beautiful views of the suroundings, viewed through telescopes. The access road was under renovation and closed at the time of our visit.
- Northeast from Ooty is Kodanad. Situated on the eastern edges of the Nilgiris range, this area is famous for its many tea plantations. The Kodanad Viewpoint provides enchanting views of the surrounding valley floor.
- An hour northwest of Ooty, along the Gudalur Hwy, are the Pykara Waterfalls and boat house. On the way back to Ooty, one area to visit is Wenlock Downs 9th mile shooting point where many movies have been filmed. Further east is the Pine Forest shooting spot, where one can ride horses along the waterfront
- Southwest of Ooty lie Emerald Lake and Avalanche Forest Reserve which we havent visited but are supposed to be scenic.
Join us tomorrow for a day trip to Coonoor.