A Trip to Ooty
I have been frequently visiting hill stations in India ever since my dad got me an internet connection. I was in standard 7, in the year 1997, when for the first time I googled out The Himalayas and came upon hill stations like Nanital, Shimla, Manali, Srinagar, Gangtok and Darjeeling. Till that age I was only aware of two hill stations in India that can be accessed or reached, Darjeeling and Shillong. About Darjeeling I often used to hear from my mom but I never paid an honor to her valuable dilation as I had an idea that it is the nearest hill station from Kolkata. Thus I lacked interest. Whereas Shillong, a hill station not from the Himalayan ranges, was often reverberated in my nightmares just when the geography exam knocked my door. 'Damn..', I could still recollect how I used to picturize the beauty of Cherapunji when I used to bone up the words from Meghalaya chapter. Nonetheless, from the mighty words from my geography book to the surreal images I came across on google, day by day I started to grow as an awaited, demented and adventurous traveller and realized I was actually a fool who lacked knowledge on such beautiful destinations in India those can be easily reached. 'Mom...I want to go to Manali...'. It wasn't a request but I, at the age of 14, made my parents aware that I started to gain knowledge. As I grew older and brainier I discerned that I have been dumped by my dad till that age just when I came upon his travel albums of Jammu & Kashmir, Sikkim, North of Uttar Pradesh (currently Uttaranchal), Nepal and Himachal Pradesh. 'Aw my Gawdness...!' I realized in standard 7 that all these destinations are easily accessible ever since the Pandavas dominated the country. I was fooled; I was kept in dark... 'Thank you...dad!' It was because of him that I could nail in my stingy brain that hill stations in India not only nestles on The Himalayas but are also spotted beautifully on the Eastern Ghats and Western Ghats. Till that age I had the idea that South India is nothing but it’s all about beaches and mind-numbing temples. Heard about the Nilgiri Hills but I never figured out whether it could be reached. But after the inauguration of google on my assembled PC I also came across hill stations like Arakku and Yercaud on the Eastern Ghats and Kodaikanal and Ooty on the Western Ghats. Wayanad, Munnar, Coorg and other hill stations which have marked as alluring hill stations in India today weren't spotted in the map of Indian tourism at that time. Hence my eyes, day dreams and white hopes were on Ooty since 1997.
It was during the winter of 2010, I got my first job and realized the importance of a salaried person at that age of 24. I was seeking responsibilities like spending handsomely on my girl friend, walking into multiplexes and hit the big screens, trying out different liquors secretly and spending some opulent time savoring delicious dishes. All of a sudden, as far as I can recall, one of my colleagues joyously shouted out, 'going to Gangtok...'. Luckily that guy achieved an incentive tour after his brilliant year ending performance. His Gangtok excitement cued my childhood Ooty dreams. That night I googled out length and breadth of Ooty and lucked into information...how to reach, where to stay and what to see. And to figure out the cost... to me the word was, 'budget', when I gave a call to a travel agent. 'dada... er theke aar komatey parbo na... discount'er opor discount diye bollam apnake... (bro... I can't cut down the cost further...I'm offering you with discount over discount)'. I was numb then and for that moment I decided to hang up the call. I was actually planning a budget trip to Ooty and my budget was approximately 7000 for 3 days. I was then my own travel forum and started to dig into train fares, budget hotels in Ooty and cost of sightseeing in Ooty. It stood around 6700. I called up my cousin sister and brother, Esha and Utsha and make those travel freaks aware of my planned but unorganized Ooty trip. Luckily my aunt gave them the permission and we were on our heels to board the Coimbatore Express from Howrah Railway Station. We were down the steam whistling tracks on 11th of November 2010. It was hard to believe how fast the two nights were spent inside the sleeper class of Howrah-Coimbatore Express. My budget trip to Ooty but more than that it was my Childhood day dream trip as well as white hopes were all coming to reality.
On 13th morning, as far as I remember it was a Saturday morning but more importantly it was a different morning far from my abode of pollution and filthiness. We were right on the foot of Western Ghats on a pleasing winter day. Unluckily I couldn't feel the romanticism being with my cousins but my sixth sense started to propel with bygone cherishable moments... '...she could have tried at least...' The poor lover boy in me started to miss his girl then. 'Swairik... what now? How are we going to hire a cab?' Esha asked. I smartly replied from my wispy idea, '...its simple...keep open your eyes and clean your earholes... someone will shout out, Ooty!Ooty!Ooty!' Esha and Utsha gave me an unusual but an effective look that made me to realize that I should have planned an organized trip to Ooty. For an hour we waited for a cab and in the meantime I got informed by a local that buses to Ooty ply frequently. Anyways, at around 11 am we boarded a semi-luxury bus and headed for Ooty.
'Aapke pyar mein hum savarne lage...' I kept on listening to this romantic tune from the movie Raaz and kept on droning the titillating lyrics up the way as we acquainted the meandering paths in the Western Ghats. Esha was lucky enough to get hold of the window seat and Utsha was sandwiched cozily between us that led him a drowsy journey. My eyes were wide open to catch the beguiling beauty of the nature what I had framed in my mind from google images. Slowly we encroached upon the secrecy of the dense forest sated with teak, sandalwood, rosewood and bamboo.
All that I have studied that this part of the country is under the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve and one can encounter the wilderness spotted with different species of birds and animals. As I was aware of my bad lucks, so I had no interest to seek the wilderness and hence I kept admiring the nature which was then easy to capture. All of a sudden we were lost amidst a strange mist and slowly the weather started to behave in its own way. For a second the sun peeped and for minutes the clouds played their own games. For a second I could take hold of the dewed nature and the meandering stream flowing deep down and for minutes I had to keep my window pane close because of the upwind. A unique aura of romanticism was layered deep in the forest.The bus came to a stopover where we had a cup of coffee each. The ten minutes stop somewhere in the Western Ghats fetched me to click hundred of snaps. I wondered then that the invention of Digital Cameras intruding the life of reel cameras gave birth to a lot of photographers and such destinations are paradise to them. I was among them. From insects to dew drops and from spider webs to bee hives I captured every breath of the nature. We started off and the last scene that I could sight before I felt asleep was of a deer that crossed our way. 'This is how beauty and beast plays in heaven and hell respectively. There in such paradise deers and different species cut and run our way and here in the city we can only expect an omen following us after a cat cut and run our way.'
I woke up. Rather Utsha woke me up and I couldn't believe my eyes. 'Awe glory...' I reached my childhood dream. The nature once again fetched me a smile. I looked at Esha but she was rather busy sighting the beauty of the town. Patches of houses amidst the evergreen forest were spotted like heavenly abodes and the panoramic view of the surrounding hills from the mighty altitude dilated a natural canvas. The bus finally came to its final stop and we were right on our energetic heels. It was around 2 in the afternoon and as usual I had to take the responsibility to look for a budget hotel in Ooty's colonial aisles. Anyways we stepped in Hotel Maneck Residency where we decided to nest ourselves for the next couple of days. This is one of the best budget hotels in Ooty, located in the Main Bazar and we were lucky enough to fit together in one deluxe room. After having lunch we decided to go for a walk in the market that arrays with shops of tea and coffee, handmade chocolates, arts & handicrafts and artificial jewelleries. '...Nuh! Not on the very first day.' I hold myself on buying some artificial jewelleries for my girl friend and decided to move forward. We headed towards the Subramani Temple which was quite close to the market. ‘Dada… khub boring jayega eta…cholo onno kothao jai...jongol’er dikey (Bro… this place is quite boring…let’s go somewhere else…into the woods)’. I was glad enough to hear this from Utsha but we found Esha having keen interest towards the idol. We had no other choice but to wait for her.
At around 4 pm we headed for Ooty Lake after taking the direction from a local there. The lake is an additional beauty of the natural ambience. The tranquility of lake dwelling amidst the forest beholds an unspoken bond. Esha and Utsha decided to take a boat ride on the lake whereas I kept myself busy admiring and capturing the beauty of bountiful nature surrounding the lake. By late evening we came back to the hotel and went over some local cuisine in the menu card. Actually to me… except rice, whatever was mentioned in the menu seemed similar to me as far as South Indian taste goes. After going through the menu as well as the price, we preferred to order the usual South Indian delicacy, Masala Dosa. Well… Dosa in this part of the country is more of sizeable than what we usually have away from the South Indian terrain. The dinner was quite heavy and palatable.
The cherished day break alarm woke us up to invite the bracing mountain zephyr along with the fresh beam that fell upon our dewed window pane. We hurried to dress up within 30 minutes. It was cold enough that led me to make two pegs of Rum before we headed for Connoor. Our driver was a typical south Indian who seemed like an alien to us. Our communication and interaction with the driver was only possible through directions in the local map, names of the tourist spots and sign languages. Somehow we made him to realize that we wanted to head to Droog Fort and thereafter to the Emerald Lake.
Some kind of misunderstanding aroused when the driver came to a stopover and what he actually wanted to say us was that access to Doorg Fort was possible only by foot. Hence we had some physical exertion to reach to the top which was definitely worth of it. ‘Esha just hold your breath and check this view from here…’ I sounded out. ‘Wow!’ That was her reaction and Utsha’s eyes were curving outward. The bird’s eye view of the lush green rolling mountains layered with patches of clouds allowed us to vow towards the nature. The ruins of this fort simply dilated the era of Tipu Sultan on one hand and the location took hold of some eminent captures through my lenses. After roving the history within the ruins of Doorg Fort we came down to our cab and headed for Emerald Lake.
The name itself justifies the place. The picturesque surroundings, amidst the evergreen forest, the tranquility and the freshness, totted up as a place of complete bliss and delight and peace. In addition, I occupied myself to capture each and every sparkling ripples forming on the lake as well as the surrounding hues of the nature. Just before we were about to leave the place a whistle like sound made us to mull over for a moment. ‘Ah! There she goes…’ Utsha pointed out in excitement and we took hold of the heritage coach, the toy train, which was rolling on its narrow tracks into the woods. It was an implausible sight that paid us a tribute on our Ooty sightseeing. The plethora of the nature that I grabbed on our sightseeing in Ooty made me aware that why Ooty nestles as a Lover’s Den. After sighting couple of waterfalls on our way we were back to our hotel by evening and as usual the pleasant weather couldn’t hold me back to make my gilded spirit splashed with soda. ‘Hey…you pretty cousins…wanna taste this liquorsque ambience? It will surely take you to another world of Ooty and thereafter your meandering thoughts…’ Before I could blabbered further… ‘Oh! Just shut up. Don’t irritate me with your unholy nonsense…’ Esha moaned offering me some peanuts. ‘… I want to try out…’ Utsha let out his enigmatic emotions and there I got a company.
The following day, late in the morning we headed to Mudumalai National Park that nestles down at 1000mts from Ooty. The enchanting trip of 2 hours down the Western Ghats heeled us to draw close to the endangered lives of the evergreen forest. I have heard about this National Park before from few of my friends and they said it is actually a tiger reserve. But I wasn’t counting to catch a sight of a tiger… as I said earlier, ‘I don’t have that luck.’ Anyways we decided to trek inside the forest with a guide who took us to some unexplored spots, mostly unknown to leisure travellers, from where we got some impressive view of the natural ambience. We were frequently encountered with elephants and spotted deer and hence I was lacking interest to sight more of it. ‘Are there any other species in this forest?’ I threw up my frustrations on our guide that made my cousins to laugh around. As this was my first jungle trail, I wasn’t aware of one rule, which ‘patience’ was and that the guide could only suggest me. So I did. ‘How would I know that this sort of dedicated patience will actually be worth of it?’ Yes! We were lucky enough to catch a sight of three different endangered species – flying squirrel, hyena and wild boar. We couldn’t grab a close sight, as the guide didn’t allow us, but the brilliancy in their freedom held us with a jaw-breaking sight.By late evening we came back to our hotel and there it was time to pack our bags. Certainly our trip to Ooty was unorganized but the hatful time spend in the nature’s lap still ruminates in my mind. Though I made my budget trip to Ooty successful but to me, I actually got hold of some luxury moments spend with my cousins deep in hues of Western Ghats.
By Swairik Das
Best SeasonWinters, October to June
LANGUAGESTamil, Telugu, Kannada, and English