Evidently, there are quite a few people around who don’t seem to get anything to read… why else would they ask me to finish my Ooty trip series. Here’s another instalment about the trip for all those people out there who have the patience to sit through my posts.
And patience is a virtue I value… like a fish out of water values oxygen.
So, where was I? Ah… in the toy-train! The journey so far.
The train journey made up for the discomfort with the nice views around. Also, we were hanging our heads out of the windows to click pics (kids, please don’t do this… we are adults… adults are crazy and should not be let out of their asylums.) We were counting tunnels (they were numbered anyway! 16 of them) and oohing and aahing over every clump of trees and every trickle of water over the hillside. It wasn’t spectacularly beautiful, but for a desert-dweller like me whenever greens and blues dominate the landscape it is always a wonderful feeling. I spotted a few peacocks…some of which were sitting atop houses along the tracks. But, unfortunately I couldn’t click a snap of a single one… mainly because I was sitting in a seat that faced in the direction opposite to which the train travelled. By the time I saw a scene I wanted to click it would cross my field of clear view… and get obstructed by some tree/rock/bush.
At one point I heard my jiju shout and point excitedly at something… and when I looked it was our beloved bus racing ahead on a road that travelled parallel to the track at a distance. We knew it was our bus because it had ‘CeeCee’ written in huge letters on its flank. Aah… so our bus wasn’t abandoning us (or running away with our luggage!)
The first halt was at Kallar…
Here I made a temporary friend… a stray dog who sat on the platform, facing my window, for as long as the train waited at the station. It looked at me as if I were some long lost friend… and I tried hard to remember if I had accidentally caused a canine transformation in any of my close friends. Not that I was aware of, but if I have… I am sorry and I still love you.
After Kallar, the high-range rack-rail begins… which was indicated by a welcome board by the Nilgiri Mountain Railway.
The train being so tiny felt more like a private mode of transport than a public one. Also it made frequent stops other than at stations, especially if it was some picturesque view-point. We got off the train to click pics every time the train stopped to fill up its water-tanks. And the train’s driver had to hoot us back in when it had to leave. Wherever the train stopped there were monkeys… and not just the ones inside the train. They were quite bold from the constant exposure to us tourists. I had bought myself a cup of coffee at one of the stations and had drunk half of it and the rest had grown cold. I offered it to one little fella and he deftly accepted it with both hands and drank it all… bottoms up. And then he wanted more. Thankfully, some other passenger distracted him with a roti and he forgot about me and the coffee. Men, I tell you, doesn’t matter which species… they are all just the same!
After more greenery, semi-dried streams, rock-cut tunnels and viaducts, we pulled out of the wild and in to a more inhabited area as we neared Coonoor. The views changed from woodlands and rocky terrain to tea-estates and clusters of houses.
From Mettupalayam to Coonoor, we had passed 5 other stations… Kallar, Adderly, Hillgrove, Runneymede and Kateri, of which we had stopped at the first four. Adderly and Runnymede provided refreshments for the train and Hillgrove for the passengers. There is no stop at Kateri.
Finally, we reached Coonoor. The halt at Coonoor was longer. Here the steam engine that had pushed us until now was replaced by a diesel locomotive for better traction on the steeper climb from Coonoor to Udagamandalam (Ooty in short). It was fun to see the diesel engine travel on the same track as our compartments and then join us with a jolt. I even have a video. Er… I can’t upload it… it has me talking funny! And I don’t have a movie editor to replace my cackle with soothing music.
Once the diesel engine was ‘fitted’ we changed direction for a small distance to change tracks. Here the tracks again change to normal rail adhesion. The views from Coonoor to Ooty were mostly tea-estates, some pine groves, farms and orchards and clusters of multi-colored homes.
After Coonoor, there are four more stations before we reach our destination… Wellington (not the island, but the cantonment town), Aruvankadu (famous for the Cordite factory), Ketti (famous for Needle Industries Pvt. India Ltd. of Pony Needles fame) and Lovedale(of the famous residential institution – The Lawrence School.)
Finally, at about 12:30 PM we reached Udagamandalam (official name). Quite a tongue twister… ain’t it? Ooty is also known as Ootacamund (who ever thought that was easier to say!)
We poured out of the train… all stiff-limbed, backs aching and bums numb.
After a few quick snaps of the train and the station’s name board we got out of the station and dialled our bus driver… before he could answer we spotted our bus parked in the first slot in the station’s parking lot. Still, we called the driver as the bus was locked. As we were about to get in to the bus… I spotted our guest house (Papa being a central govt. official, we had booked the government holiday home). The holiday home was across the road from the station… some 200 meters away. And I had already scanned the web and downloaded the pics and also tried to locate it on Google Maps… so I was pretty sure the blue and light-grey building across the street was indeed our Government Holiday Home. There was no point taking the bus over so we first decided to walk over and check if there was parking at the guesthouse for a bus the size of ours.
The holiday home was no Taj, but it was neat and clean, airy, with large rooms and the best part was that it was peaceful, in spite of its proximity to the station.
We had booked two dormitories and two double-rooms. One of the dormitories was occupied and would be vacated only the next day at noon. We were a little worried as we were 18 in number, until we saw the dorm. The dorm was large with 8 beds arranged in twos in the four quadrants of the room. It had 2 balconies and 8 plug-points (this was very important to us… what with phones, laptops, cameras to charge and the kettle). Since the beds were paired they could easily sleep 3. The dorm had common bathrooms (separate ones for ladies and gents) but across the corridor, not attached to the dorm. The double-rooms (2 beds each) on the other hand, had attached bathrooms and a balcony each. All rooms were equipped with wardrobes / cloth racks, sofas and armchairs and dressers with mirrors. Since we were hardly planning to spend time in the rooms it was fine. We only needed the rooms to sleep in when we came back exhausted and to dress up in. And for us cousins, a place to play Uno, Monopoly and card games while the elders and the kids slept.
Did I mention… the temperature (according to WeatherBug, Google Weather and AccuWeather) read 23°C and yet it was damn chilly even with the sun shining bright. I was of course, delighted. We got to our rooms and unpacked and decided to go out and have lunch. The plan for the first day or what was left of it was to visit the Rose Garden and Botanical Garden within Ooty town area. We had decided to skip the Ooty lake as it was done to death in all the movies and a by glimpse from the train, it appeared to be a green cesspool. Sis and I had planned two different routes for the next two days… one to Mudumalai sanctuary covering the touristy spots to that side and the other towards Kotagiri covering the major spots en-route.
How the rest of the trip unfolded is a post for another day…
© Surya Murali