My Coonoor Chronicles
Feeling a little better once we had left the chaos of the city roads for the picturesque Bangalore Mysore highway, we took a quick break for some tea and snacks at one of the Kamat eateries that line the highway. These places always serve quality food at a decent price. Getting back into the car, we drove past Channapatna, Mandya and even Mysore without facing any traffic at any point.
Driving through never-ending forests of Bandipore, we finally reached the foothills of Ooty around 12:30. And after those negotiating those 37 hair pin bends and encountering droves of tourists ( May being the peak tourist season), we finally reached Ooty around 1:30 pm. Quickly covering a few of the usual tourist hangouts (all of which were packed to capacity and required one to stand in an incredibly long queue), we settled for lunch at the Planter's Paradise, a centrally located restaurant. It is one of the few good places to eat when in Ooty as other options can leave one with a bad taste in the mouth. Food was predictably good and well priced. Service was quick and I was amazed that they could manage to keep it up given the staggering number of folks walking into the restaurant.
|Ooty Botanical Gardens - Anyone game for a song n dance ?|
With food in our bellies, the tiredness of the journey finally kicked in. Desperate to reach Coonoor for a siesta, we battled the traffic rush which was unbelievably high due to the confluence of the tourist rush and an upcoming election in TN. But it got worse when one reached Coonoor, much of this sleepy town being designed to handle single lane traffic and nothing more. And since our destination, Lamb's Rock, was situated right next of one of the most popular sightseeing spots of Coonoor, we had to battle it out with others who were eager to return back to Coonoor/Ooty after visiting the spot.
Finally, after witnessing traffic queues that could put Bangalore to shame, we managed to reach the villa. Situated in a tea estate, it looked straight out of a dream. Standing in the tiny patch in front of it, I could only manage stare at the beauty that surrounded this place. To use a much abused expression, it was 'fifty shades of green' and a few more that I could spot around me. Buffeted by the undulating slopes of the tea estates on one side and a awe inspiring Shola forest on the other, this place was situated right in the lap of Nature.
|Tea estate in front of our stay|
|The cozy vacation stay|
While one would expect such places to be enveloped by a deathly silence, it was far from quite. The air was rent with the cries of cicadas and a million other insects. This cacophony quickly changed into a strange howling once the winds started blowing though the leaves of the statuesque trees. Being so far from the main town, there were very few lights to be seen and when the fog suddenly descended upon us, even they dimmed out. A primal fear gripped me at the moment but it was mingled with a sense of exhilaration. Something like being cast out of civilization but at the same time, of being ensconced in a cozy capsule. Maybe it was the effect of the villa which was just so warm and cheerful.
The villa had a kitchen which was stocked with all necessities. If you are a pasta lover, I strongly recommend you to carry some pasta, olive oil and a few herbs when you visit this place. But since we were not carrying anything and also being extremely tired, we had an early dinner ( takeaway from Dragon restaurant ) before dropping dead. And slept for the longest time. Waking up around 7:30 in the morning, I was captivated by the dazzling blue of the clear sky. Brewing a cuppa for myself, I took a short walk in the tea estate and came across some over-enthusiastic bees who did not look like they would take kindly to my strange presence in what was obviously their territory. Taking a cue, I beat a hasty retreat and settled down in the tiny patch of a sun-kissed lawn with a Murakami.
Once kiddo was up, it was hard to contain him inside the house. The cozy tent pitched in the lawn proved to be a magnet for him but what made matters worse was the presence of the four-legged furry friends. The shenanigans of Blackie, Puppy, Socks and Pepper were too much to resist. The breakfast was on the house and we were a bit disappointed with what turned up at the table.
A quick shower and we were ready to step out for some sightseeing. A short trip to SIM's park turned out to be good hike as it is landscaped onto the slope of a hill. The pretty flowers, the ancient looking trees and the small lake built in the center of a garden are the major attractions of this place.
|Wanted to hug this grand old tree !!|
The next point we visited was Dolphin's nose. Nice view but nothing spectacular. View points like these are the usual suspects in any hill station down South. However it was the ride to this place which turned out to be the best part of the trip as we took a breathtakingly beautiful circuitous route through the tea estates of Coonoor. Yes, it did remind me of Munnar and the song 'Kashmir Main Tu Kanyakumari' from Chennai Express.
|The waterfall at the distance !|
|Yours' Truly striking a pose !|
The final stop was the tea factory. It was a quick tour and one ended up much enlightened about what goes into a making of India's favorite beverage. Chai point could not have put it any better than when it claimed that 'India runs on Chai'. And yes, as always I ended up buying every possible variant (read organic,green, masala, ginger, etc) of the beverage.
|How cud I resist this one? Anyone ready to pop the question?|
Wrapping up the sightseeing as quickly as we could, we traveled back to the villa. But before that, we stopped for a quick lunch at the Orchid Boutique Hotel. Inspite it's reputation, he food was a complete letdown.
Back to the villa, we settled for a siesta to recharge our batteries. And just one hour prior to sunset, we set out for Lamb's rock. This short walk through the forest canopy was most exhilarating. The thunderous clouds gathered in the sky had darkened the path more than usual. And the chatter of the birds and the insects felt scarier than any of the sound effects in the horror movies. It was enough to send chills down one's spine. But once we reached the point, the throng of tourists broke the spell that had been cast on us. Within a few minutes, it started drizzling and we had to beat a hasty retreat. Half walking, half running we managed to reach our stay but not before we had been drenched completely.
Once we had changed into dry clothes, it took a few cups of steaming hot tea to warm us up. Arranging the dinner turned out be another nightmare as it was raining quite a bit. Inspite of being situated very near to the 'De Rock' hotel, the hosts do not have a tie-up for the meals ( can't really blame them as the place is actually a B&B kinda thing. Chk it out on AirBnB ). That proved to be the only con of staying at the "Welaro'. Finally the dinner arrived late and we called it a day.
The next morning I rose quite a bit early to spend more time amidst the lush greenery of the tea estate. I wanted to capture as much as I could of the awe inspiring beauty that surrounded the place. But then, time is a tricky thing and soon it was time for us to make a move. A quick shower and breakfast later, we were ready to hit the roads by 9. As if on cue, our furry friends too turned up at the doorstep to bid adieu to us. It was a tearful moment as kiddo had become rather fond of one of them.
|Striking a pose - Baby and Blackie !!|
Since we had started early, we manged to avoid a lot of traffic driving through Ooty and down the hills. A pit-stop at Planter's Paradise for breakfast and a short halt for lunch at Empire restaurant on the Mysore-Bangalore highway helped us reach Bangalore in good time ( just before 5 pm ). Yet another eventful trip had come to an end but the memories would stay with us for years to come.