Imagine living out your childhood fantasies of small, dear English cottages, a crackling fire-place to keep you warm in chilly nights, lush green lawns with summer blooms peeping out from the grass, lady-birds, butterflies, fresh mountain air,blue skies, and Pine Forests! What better way to refresh andrejuvenate the senses, than plan a quick getaway to the Hills in the summer months, and return with a complexion and buoyancy which is the envy of many?
Ootacamund or Ooty,(now Udhagamandalam) is one of the many British-era hill-stations, which still has an old world charm about it. Located in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, it’s altitude is 7,350 feet above mean sea level. This also means that like all other high altitude places, the weather gets unpredicatably rainy, and carrying an umbrella with you is an unspoken rule, especially if you happen to be a tourist.
Ooty is a busy town, and the main commercial center is the Mall Road. The main must-see sights of the quaint hill stations are: the Botanical Gardens, the Bee Museum, the Ooty Lake, Doddabetta Peak, and a drive to the pictureque, verdant valley of Coonoor, known for it’s tea estates and herbal medicinal remedies. The Ooty Botanical Gardens, aged around 150 years, is still beautifully maintained, with rolling lush green lawns, beautiful flower beds and trees that come with a history.
The place bears a regal look, Ooty is famous for it’s bakeries and chocolates: again a legacy of its British Raj Days. The chocolates and cheese are of very good quality, and it is a mystery why Ooty chocolates are not marketed more fiercely. One should not forget to mention the famous Ooty vegetables, known for it’s flavour and freshness. The vegetables are marketed in the smallest of south Indian cities and carry a brand name of the place they hail from: “Ooty Vegetables”; just like “Ooty Chocolates”. The soil of this lush green hill station, is so fertile and the climate so salubrious, that the most casual of gardeners reap a bountiful harvest.
Up a little further, lies the scenic Coonoor- known for it’s tea estates; a sight for sore eyes. Row after row of tea hedges line the hill sides neatly, and many tea shops urge you to taste the vast variety of tea that is sold here; Herbal Tea, Masala Tea, Chocolate tea, Plain tea, Mint Tea and Mixed Blend Teas. Somehow, the ambience of the place adds so much extra flavour to every sip! Do buy a few sample packets for home. In the tea plantations, you will be shown locales of many film-shooting spots here and you will be able to recall the names of the related Hindi movies.
The fresh air of Ooty and Coonoor have an instant calming, soothing, and almost balm-like quality, that soothes the senses. The greenery and fresh mountain air is just what the doctor recommended . I’m sure, that one visit to this pristine hill station can add energy and zest to the most weary soul. Do visit Doddabetta; the highest point in the Nilgiris. It stands around 8500 m above sea level, and the best part is, that there is no climbing involved here; one can just drive up easily and soak in the atmosphere over a cup of steaming tea or coffee. There is an old telescope tower here, and for those who care, can view the major areas that lie on the hills below.
The Savoy Hotel, now known as the Taj Savoy, is an excellent place to re-live the days of the British Raj, when many a Lord and Lady came up to this fine place called Ootacamund, and made it their summer getaway. Like it’s northern Himalayan counter-parts, (like Mussoorie,Simla, and Darjeeling,) Ooty still carries an air of reality, grace and poise. Famous residential schools like Lawrence School and Good Shepherd, who have a good deal of history going around them,are still much sought-after by parents who are affluent and desirous of giving their children the best of school-life, with an atmosphere to matchFor those with a flair for adventure, don’t miss out on the famous Bandipur and Mudumalai National Wildlife and Game Sanctuary: these lie on the way to Ooty,and should not be missed. There are efficient forest staff, offering the best amenities for the avid traveller and wild-life and nature enthusiast.
You will discover that one trip is not enough, and would love to go back once more to Ooty, the Queen of the Nilgiris.
Article by Ruma Sen