Travel Tales From Nilgiris – Coonoor Sightseeing

The day after our trip to see the fantastic views from Upper Bhavani lake, we took it easy and spent the morning taking in the sights around Coonoor: Dolphins Nose and Lambs Rock. They are all in the same area almost along the same road and can be pretty much covered in a morning.

The morning was clear and we wanted to make the most of the sunshine.We drove out after breakfast.

Dolphins Nose
A long winding road out of Coonoor, through thick sholas and road-side tea gardens, led us straight up to Dolphins Nose. The verdant hills beckoned us. It was green from the tea gardens, thick sholas, silver oak trees and even moss and grass thanks to recent rains.

We saw Law falls from here and Coimbatore plains below. Do pay for the use of telescope as the guy will show you a native tribal hut camouflaged to human eye. Be ware of monkeys – they are aggressive and will snatch food from your hand. I bought passion fruits at the vendor and the monkeys started following me waiting to see if I will feed it to them.I ran to the car to store them while we wandered around.

Terraced tea gardens

Law Falls

Monkey eating human food

Sholas and tea gardens

Harvesting Tea
Around here, we saw a lot of folks harvesting tea. They were all super busy in their work, but allowed us to take turn harvesting a few leaving and posing for pictures. It is backbreaking work ; plucking the leaves, filling in sacks, hauling them to trucks. I don’t think I will take my morning cuppa so lightly. Its hard work!

Harvest time

Harvest time 2

Next to Lambs Rock

Playing in tea garden

Lambs Rock
We drove down to Lamb’s Rock which is also known as shooting point. The views here were more or less the same as that of Dolphins nose and as it was more crowded we didn’t stick around for too long. We could have easily skipped it.

View from Lambs Rock

Private tea estate near lambs rocsk

Needlecraft
There is another place we could have skipped in Coonoor -Needlecraft. Advertised all over Coonoor as the place for hand-embroidered linen,we wanted to check it out for gifts. This place is run by two snooty women who don’t give a damn about customer service and sales. They are probably doing this out of boredom with no real need for selling their wares. The embroidery is beautiful but not extraordinary or worth the steep price.

Their garden is exquisite. Rambling country style-in full bloom.I could have spent the day there if only the owners were more co-operative. The kids were antsy by now wanting to play again.

We headed back to the resort for lunch and for an afternoon of Spa-time. If you stay at Taj resort in Coonoor, don’t miss the spa. Getting a shirodhara massage on a cold rainy afternoon next to a roaring fireplace is an indulgence you cannot afford to miss in India. Am sure you are gonna love it!

Stay tuned for more travel tales from Nilgiris. What to shop, what else can you see, flowers…

Travel Tales From Nilgiris – Toy Train Ride

The third day of the trip was actually the highlight of our trip in Nilgiris. In the morning we had a ride in the toy train from Coonoor to Ooty.

Varun was absolutely elated. He simply couldn’t wait for the train to arrive at the station. This is what happens at Coonoor station an hour before the actual journey.A train comes up from Mettupalayam to Coonoor. Two additional coaches are attached to this train at Coonoor.Tickets for these coaches are sold at Coonoor station 40 minutes before the train departs. You may need to reserve in advance  in high season, but we could walk in and get tickets on the fly.

The train ride was fun with kids. Looking out of the windows, screaming when in a tunnel, breeze through your hair, and amazing vistas – farms, gardens, eucalyptus and oak trees. Every conceivable shade of green. Lantana was blooming and nodding along with grass and other brush. It was pleasant and a new experience.

The actual trip in a pictorial format below. Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

At Coonoor Station looking forward to the train trip.
At Coonoor station

Train tracks leading the way to Ooty
Train tracks

Trees from the train window
Trees from train

Little colorful villages below
Views from train

Choo….choo train
Train Chooo choo

Tea gardens across the valley
Tea gardens from trian

Views of Farmland in the valley below
Farms from Train

Finally, after about an hour, at Ooty station
At OOty station

And ready to play…
Palying at Ooty station

We had to drag them out of the train station into the car so we could continue to Upper Bhavani Lake Exploration. Rain threatened and they reluctantly agreed with some kicking and fussing.

Stay tuned to see the Upper Bhavani lake vistas – they are simply mind-blowing.

Travel Tales from Nilgiris – Ooty Highlights

After a long day of travel and visiting the Tea factory in Coonoor, we slept early and woke up refreshed ,ready to take on the mountains.

The plan was to go to Dodabetta peak and other sites along the way. The  basic sights outside of Ooty. After breakfast we headed out towards Ooty, ooh-ing and aah-ing at views along every turn. More tea estates, cute bungalows and roadside fresh vegetable sellers with just pulled carrots, radishes on sale. Seriously, Ooty has to be the root vegetable capital of India! The colorful carrots, radishes, beets have never looked so inviting and fresh in India!

Carrots for sale

Doddabetta Peak
Views ofOoty below

The dark clouds parted making way for sunshine and every now and then a light drizzle added to the misty weather around us. The kids were bundled up and cosy. After about an hour from Coonoor we reached Dodabetta, the highest peak in the Nilgiris. It was windy and super cold. We just had lame wind cheaters and hurriedly bought fleece caps from a hawker who made most of the opportunity by selling cold weather clothes from the trunk of his car.

Us at Doddabetta

Doddabetta peak telescope house

We almost ran from the car to a tea stall on the peak who was making brisk business on this cold windy day. We wandered around, chased the kids who kept warm by running around and even went up the tower that had the telescope to take in views below. Clouds drifted in and out revealing and hiding the Ooty city below. It was a bit like being in Switzerland minus the Alps, snow and crowds.

Cloudy misty peak

Oh, and the plump dahlias and marigolds and a host of other flowers at the top were envy inducing.

Nilgiris Tea and Chocolates
Nilgiri tea and chocolate

After an hour or so we headed back to the car and drove back towards the city stopping en-route at Niligiris tea shop for another round of tea. Kids had chocolate. It’s an experience to sit amidst tea gardens and sip hot tea. And variety of tea like masala tea, green tea, cardamom tea, even chocolate tea! We definitely OD’ed on tea and chocolate while we were here. Luckily all the walks and chasing Varun helped with keeping the weight piling on.

Pykara Lake
Boating at PykaraLake

Next stop on agenda was Pykara lake. It was cloudy but not raining hence we decided to make most of it and went boating. The kids were cold, but were thrilled about going out on the boat. there are no views here to talk about but if you want to have a boating experience while in Ooty, this is probably a better bet than Ooty lake ( which is very crowded). I didn’t like this spot as much.

Pykara Falls
pk2

Our driver recommended going to Pykara falls from here and I didn’t really have any hopes. But we went along nevertheless. This was a surprise for me. Although the monkeys here are aggressive, the falls were very beautiful. These are the kind of falls you can sit on rocks on and enjoy levels of falls all around. The water was brown due to rain run off but I really liked them. They had an earthy, down to earth quality about them without boasting about being the widest, tallest, most visited or one with most water. Arum leaves nodded in the light breeze, couples walked hand in hand to the falls and odd visitor sat by a burning log to keep warm. It was a bit slippery due to rain and moss and we had to keep an eye out on Varun to ensure he didn’t slip. We returned to tell the tale without any accidents.

By now, we were all hungry and headed to a “dhabha” or a road side eatery for lunch. It looked clean so we ordered food which to our surprise was very fresh – dal, curry, rotis and rice. We were set. We got some bhaajis or fritters from a neighboring stall as appetizer while waiting for our food to arrive. It starting pouring heavily and we contemplated sitting there over lunch and prolong it to tea to wait it out. But as if on cue, rain stopped after we had lunch and we could step out to take in more photos of the scenery in rain.

Photosession us

We left Varun in the car and wandered around to get some couple photos 😉

Nine Mile Stop
9 milepoint

Our driver prodded us to go to another “tourist” attraction on the same road -the nine mile stop. It is so-called as it is 9 miles from Ooty and is a popular spot for movie shoots. It’s an overview point. You have to climb a small hill to get to the top to the view-point but the rains made it very slick. We managed to make it to the top with Varun who as he was cold pulled his cap over his face and proclaimed he is a Spiderman. Things kids do!

Varun as spiderman

Vipul ran around taking photographs while Varun and I huddled closely to keep warm. The wind was wild on this exposed location and we were pushed by the wind. Varun and I headed down and soon Vipul and other’s joined us. Back in the car we were warm and happy.

Getting tired of the cold we headed back to our resort in Coonoor, even though there are additional attractions ( Pine Forest, Six mile stop) in this area. Back in the resort we sat by the fireplace enjoying some more hot tea while the kids played around.

eating by fireplace

Latter that night there was a bon-fire where we sat, joked and had drinks.

Wildas fire

It was another awesome day of sightseeing, great scenery and amazing company. The evening and night were spent at the resort- resting and charging for another day ahead!

As we headed to bed that night we couldn’t help but wonder how beautiful Ooty must be when the weather is better in early summer months of March and April. Sun soaked hills and valleys would be the perfect getaway – no wonder it is called the Queen of the Hills. We dozed off dreaming of the scenic vistas and great company counting our blessings for being able to enjoy this!

Travel Tales from Nilgiris – Coonor – Part 1

Wouldn’t you want to wakeup to these views day after day?

gardens

Last week we travelled on an impulse to the Nilgiris – mountain ranges at the intersection of three south Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka. Things fell into place on the prior weekend and Wednesday morning found us onboard flight to Coimbatore – the nearest airport. Two hours later we were on a winding road amidst blue-grey tinted mountains, acres of tea gardens and smelling the fresh air laced with the heady eucalyptus.

Tea gardens

Taj Gardens

We reached the Taj resort by afternoon, rested and then in the evening headed to highland tea factory for a tour. We saw how tea is processed, sorted and packaged. The lovely ladies in the factory have to be vary of the tea dust that flies everywhere and wear scarves for protection.

Highland tea factory

Tea factory

Lady at tea factory

Filling tea in bags

It was serene and calm; not very crowded given the rainy and cold climate with the onset of monsoon. A bit like Seattle in Spring. We were not geared for the cold and had a rain jacket to keep warm. Even for Varun we didn’t have any warm clothes on hand. We made a beeline for the stores to buy some corduroys and denim pants for Varun and a couple of jackets.  They were very useful in the trip.

For four days we woke up to chilly mountain air, lightly drizzle, beautiful blooms, lakes and waterfalls and acres upon acres of rolling hills dotted with tea plantations. We took a ride in toy – train to Ooty and spent evenings by a roaring fireplace – a novelty for me in India.

Abundant flora, greenery , chirping birds everywhere and solitude if you skip the tourists hotspots. I don’t remember all these wonderful things about Nilgiris from my childhood visit though I distinctly recall the tall eucalyptus trees and the cabbage sized colorful dahlias.

The place is lovely -in fact perfect destination for early monsoon.  We went to bed early tired from the travel but with excited for the scenery to unfold in days ahead.

Stay tuned for more travel tales.