Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Ooty, Tamil Nadu

Exactly 62 years ago when British Colonists returned India to its rightful citizens, they also surrendered a few remarkable places that they had built from scratch. So prominent was their creation that till today, they stand testimony of time, heritage and a multitude of human exploitation. One such place that has braved years of human pounding is the beautiful and misty Ooty. Beautiful and misty are the two words you'll hear continuously in a series of blogs on Ooty and Coonoor coming up here.

Ooty a.k.a Udagamandalam, to start with is a bag packer's ultimate nightmare. Much of the blame should be attributed to the inadequate public transport system. There's only one train service here - The Nilgiri Mountain Railway - plying between Ooty and Coonoor covering 5 stations including Lovedale, Ketti and Aravankadu. The bus service is minimal, as some of the places-to-visit are not on the route maps of either the State Transport buses or the Private Transport buses. The problem is more evident in Coonoor. The auto rickshaws costs a bomb. Some guys even charge Rs.50 to cover a 1km stretch!!! So the only option left is the private-tours-and-travels services. You can either exclusively hire a vehicle or (thankfully) share the vehicle with others. The downside of such guided tours is the deadlines you need to follow and the nasty stares that you tend to get from co-passengers for causing a delay in coming back, as we found out.

The second spoiler about Ooty is the HUGE number of tourists, almost rendering me say that Ooty has gone past its sell-by date. Huge influx of tourists in itself would not have been much of a botheration had there not been the vast majority howlers among them. Yes, every 500 meters you would hear a howling mob from their Tata Sumos and Toyota Qualis' shattering the peace of this sleepy town. Or worse you may see yourself caught in an ancient jeep with 8 noisy screaming, shouting, howling girls.

Ooty is a perpetual cool (as if that's a surprise) place. The Railway Holiday Home (thanks to an Indian Railway spouse) did not even have a hook for the ceiling fan. The solitary heater and hot water geyser is a life-saver in this place. Its cold and misty in the mornings, afternoons and evenings. The nights are just freezing. I do not want to imagine how its going to be in December.

Ooty is plastic-free zone but the never-ending swarming tourists bring more than their own share of plastic trash and litter the places. Some of the places we visited were so trashy and stinky that we were too tempted to cut short our 3 day trip.

Despite all this, Ooty is a must-visit-once place, especially if you live somewhere in South India. A trip to Coonoor in the World Heritage Monument Toy Train to watch Catherine Falls from Dolphine's Nose, the vast expanse of the Nilgiris from atop the Lamb's Rock, the beautiful shooting locales of Ooty, the breath-taking (literally too, if you are not cautious) Pykara Waterfalls, the perfectly alligned Pine Forests, the drive through Mudumalai Forest Area and to top it all a visit to Katteri Waterfalls makes the whole trip worth the effort. The bad memories and experiences are pushed into the background. What remains in the memory is the beautiful and misty locales of this age-old hill station.

Must-Do: Carry enough warm clothes, shoes, socks, bathroom slippers and the like.
Must-Don't: Take Ooty off the tourists' map by littering the already trashed-up place.

My Rating: 6.5/10 (Down-Rated after second thoughts)

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