Variety

A cool 48 hours in Ooty

POOJA JALAN | Updated on February 03, 2011 Published on February 03, 2011

Pykara Lake.

In full bloom: A flower show in Ooty



Udhagamandalam, popularly known as Ooty, is the picture-postcard destination where the sun perennially plays hide-and-seek with the clouds. Quaint houses perched atop gentle mounds exude cosy warmth in the chilly weather. Adventure, history and culture come together in this popular hill-station, where one dreamy day blends into the next.



Day One

8 a.m. — Breakfast at Hot Breads

Be it freshly baked croissants, yummy chocolate pastries or delicious cheese puffs, you are spoilt for choice at Hot Breads in the town's Charing Cross area. Crisp or chewy, flavoured or plain, fluffy or flat, choose from an amazing range of breads and a mouth-watering assortment of other bakes such as pizza, burger, brownie and hot dog.

9 a.m. — Doddabetta View Point

A winding road climbs up to Doddabetta, the highest mountain peak in the Nilgiris at 8,652 ft. Here, surrounded by hills covered with verdant Shola trees, you get an excellent view of the countryside below. With the wind whipping your face, you can glimpse the Hecuba, Kattadadu and Kulkudi peaks. An observatory here allows you to view the whole area through a telescope, for just five rupees. Warm up with the piping hot cups of tea and delicious corn-on-the-cob sold here.

10.30 a.m. — Botanical Garden

Rare tree species such as cork, paper bark and monkey puzzle stand tall amidst a vast variety of flowering bushes and plants in myriad hues. The highlights here are the fern house and a fossilised tree which is 20 million years old.

The crescent lily pond framed by scarlet flowerbeds is beautiful. The annual flower-show in May is a major tourist attraction. “At one show there was a 60-ft airplane decorated with 8,000 roses and a toy train decorated with flowers,” recalls Catherine, a frequent visitor.

1 p.m. — Lunch at Pine ‘n' Petals, Hotel Sinclairs

This stylish restaurant serves Indian, Chinese and Continental cuisine in a setting that is a throwback to the colonial era. “The fare will remind you of home-cooked food,” says Dipak Halder, General Manager, Hotel Sinclairs. The tandoori delicacies are popular here.

3 p.m. — Ooty Lake

Tucked within the Nilgiri hills, this man-made lake dates back to 1824. Framed by eucalyptus trees on one side and a children's park on the other, you can go for rides on the paddle boats, motor boats and decorated shikaras available here. Pony rides and stalls selling roasted peanuts, spiced mango and farm-fresh carrots are the other temptations on the lakeside.

4.30 p.m. — Tea Factory

The two-storied building has a Tea Museum that explains the entire tea manufacturing process — from the gardens to the packing carton. Visitors are also treated to a cup of hot milky-sweet Nilgiri tea flavoured with cardamom.

“You must savour the tea, not gulp it down,” explains the factory guide. Do remember to buy a packet of the special local tea on your way out.

7 p.m. — Dinner and Drinks at Taj Savoy

The stylishly furnished Cantebury bar blends chic design with an unpretentious cosy atmosphere. The classy ambience and soft music make Cantebury one of the most happening places in town. After a few drinks, enjoy a barbecue dinner beside a bonfire.

Day 2

7.30 a.m. — Toy Train

The quixotic toy train running between Ooty and the nearby town of Coonoor proves that small is indeed beautiful. The one-hour ride provides breathtaking views of forests, sloping hillocks and verdant tea gardens. Don't forget your binoculars.

9 a.m. — Breakfast at Gateway Hotel, Coonoor

Housed in a former English bungalow, the Gateway Hotel serves a hearty buffet breakfast. Fluffy idlis and golden crisp dosas are popular picks. The piping hot coffee is delicious. “We also serve puri bhaji, delicious pancakes, muffins, omelettes and fresh fruit,” says Muralidharan, Operations Manager.

10.30 a.m. — Pykara Falls

The locals call it the ‘Filmy Chakkar' — scenic areas that are popular locations for film shoots. The serpentine road begins with a rolling golf course and the adjacent Gymkhana Club. Further on is a man-made pine forest and the Kamaraj Sagar Dam, where the film Roja was shot. The 9th Mile, a grassy hillock, is the most scenic of them all. Just round the corner is Pykara Dam and the Pykara Lake.

12.30 a.m. — Toda village

The Todas are an indigenous tribe of people who live in windowless barrel-shaped huts made of bamboo, grass and cane. Only men are allowed inside the conical temple decorated with motifs of the sun, moon, serpents and buffalo head. Shop for the homespun Toda cotton shawls called putjikuzhis.

2 p.m. — Ooty Town

Head back to Ooty town and drop in at Kingstar Bakery, famous for its locally made chocolates. The shop opens only at noon and the chocolates are sold out before sunset. “Select a few chocolates, I will charge you a special price,” says the shopkeeper, adding the catch line, “Only for you”. Some of the other bakeries in town offer scrumptious nankhatais, namkins and the popular Queen Cake and Coconut Ball. At the municipal market you can shop for essential oils like eucalyptus and lemongrass, fresh fruits including strawberries, mulberries, peaches and plums, and delicious honey.

4.30 p.m. — Wellington Gymkhana Club

Tee off in the company of retired army officers and other gracious folk at the steeply inclined golf course. “A couple of shots and you will get used to the hills, and start enjoying the challenge,” says Lt Col T.M. Ghai, the club Secretary. You can savour a peg of whiskey at the club's bar.

6 p.m. — St. Stephens Church

With its huge wooden beams that were brought over from Tipu Sultan's palace in Srirangapatnam, this is Nilgiris' oldest church. The attached cemetery is the resting place of John Sullivan, the founder of Ooty.

7.30 p.m. — Dinner at Shinkows

The authentic Chinese cuisine on offer here includes signature dishes like Yong Chow fried noodles, Pineapple Chicken and Chilli Beef.

Getting there

Air: The closest airport is in Coimbatore, which is three-and-a-half hours away by road.

Rail: The Nilgiri Express leaves Chennai at night and reaches Mettupalayam early the next morning. The Nilgiri Mountain Railway takes you onward to Ooty in about five-and-a-half hours.

Road: The Coimbatore-Mettupalayam-Coonoor-Ooty road is well maintained. Ooty is 284 km from Bangalore.

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Published on February 03, 2011
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