Day1. Ooty to Coonoor by Toy Train.
Ogling at Catherine Falls from the Dolphin's Nose has been the numero uno purpose of our short trip to Coonoor. The Dolphin's Nose is located some 16 kms from Coonoor Railway station. There are three ways of reaching Coonoor. First is to reach Coonoor by the World Heritage Monument Nilgiri Mountain Railway Toy Train, then probably hire a car or auto rickshaw and cover the places in a day. Second, you could take a local bus from Ooty to Coonoor and then hire a car/auto rickshaw. Third is to hire a car from Ooty and see the places in Coonoor.
You cannot come to Ooty and not take the world famous toy train ride. Hence we arrived at the station to take the tickets for the journey. To our dismay we found a long queue waiting ahead of us. To make matters worse, we heard that there were minimal tickets sold in each ride. To make matters still worse, the frequency of the trains is pretty low. The next train after the 9:15 ride is at Noon. We were almost resigned to the fact that we will not be getting the tickets and started thinking about Plan B. Luckily we got the tickets, but they were First Class tickets which cost a whopping Rs. 100 compared to Rs 4 for the Unreserved class. But we took it and off we were to Coonoor. The ride to Coonoor if nothing is very lacklustre. The views is amazing at times, but soon you get bored of it. The slow, shaky and creaky ride becomes monotonous and consumes a full one hour before you reach the final Destination.
Coonoor railway station, like the Ooty railway station is characteristically British. Amazingly they have stood the test of times, human exploitation and natural decay. Just as you walk out of the platform a swarm of cab drivers surround you. As a general principle I generally avoid such blood suckers and venture out of the Railway station before I start asking around. Exclusively hiring a cab would cost around Rs 400 for 4 hours (which I felt was a little on the higher side) and I was in no mood to share a cab with others too. Hence after a bit of loitering around, having some hot coffee and buying some Home-made chocolates we finally decided to take an auto rickshaw to see a few places around Coonoor. For Rs. 300 we were to see Catherine Falls from Dolphin's Nose, the Lamb's Rock, Tea Factory and Sim's Park spanning some 3 hours. A bit expensive, but at least we had the auto rickshaw to ourselves.
The ride to Dolphin's Nose is one to die for. Miles and miles of carpeted tea gardens keep you company all the way up. As you keep climbing higher and higher into the mountains, its get mistier and mistier. For most part of the climb the visibility is anywhere from 0 to 1 metre. But visibility is apparently not a handicap for our Auto Raja. He's been zipping through the mountainous terrain like Schumi does in Monaco. He obviously wants to show us Coonoor in 3 hrs.
My travel philosophy has always been "Starting early is starting right". But apparently this philosophy does not hold true all the time. Despite reaching Dolphin's Nose at a leisurely 11 AM we surprised to see that Catherine Falls, for which we had come all the way was blanketed by a thick layer of mist and fog. We could not even tell if there was a waterfall in the designated place or not. A few local vendors and our very Auto Raja pointed out to the general direction of Catherine Falls. But we could never be sure of it. We were already ruing the futility of the trip when suddenly a gust of wind blew over Dolphin's Nose, paving the way for a clear view of Catherine Waterfalls. It truly was a sight to behold. In vast expanse of green, the tiny stream of milky white seemed odd yet very earthly. Though a five second glance was all that was required to retain the image in our heads, the view was available for what looked like an eternity, to seep into every blood vessel of our bodies.After a few minutes of clear view the wall of mist was back. We took this reprieve to shop for some spices and Tea leaves.
Back from spice-shopping, the mist had cleared considerably now to get a more clearer view of not only the Catherine waterfalls but also the neighbouring Mettupalayam. A few Kodak moments later, the fog was back to haunt us (it was around noon by now) and we decided to bade goodbye to Catherine Waterfalls and head to our next destination - Lamb's Rock.
Must-Do: Try to reach here around noon by which time some of the mist clears. Buy spices and different varieties of tea.
Must-Don't: Throw caution to the wind and get adventurous. Littering.
Must-Buy: Tea leaves, Spices, Oils.
My Rating: 6/10