The Drive From Mysore – Beginning of the Trip to Ooty
The drive from Mysore to Ooty via Gudalur is fascinating. The route traverses through towns bustling with daily life. Then, there are two tiger reserves to be crossed – one in Karnataka (Bandipur) and the other in Tamil Nadu (Mudumalai) – offering chances of wildlife sighting, though mostly deer, monkeys, elephants and peacocks.
En route, at some places huge bamboo trees bend to create a natural canopy while at other forest of tall eucalyptus trees compel you to stretch your neck and look up in an attempt to see the top of the trees. Not to forget, the vast expanses of tea gardens that fill lush greenery all around and rolling hills with dense vegetation adding their own charm.
The scenes are varied – from day to day to interesting and from beautiful to absolutely stunning.
It was through this route that we made our way to the popular hill town of Ooty. Not surprisingly, our expectations from our trip to Ooty had enhanced.
Reaching Ooty & Exploring its Markets
It was getting dark by the time we reached Ooty and since it was December, there was also a chill in the air. The hotel guy informed us that the day before had been really cold and we were lucky to arrive when the weather was pleasant. Smiling at our luck, we checked into our rooms and immediately got out to explore Upper Bazaar – the market at Commercial Road which was a walkable distance.
It was big with popular brands as well as local shops occupying space. Instantly noticeable were the woolen stuffs – scarves, sweaters, cardigans and jackets. There were Adyar Anand Bhavan and Dominos – two places we visited for our dinner. Then of course, there were numerous shops selling chocolates. We picked up some, saving our chocolate shopping for a later time.
Day 1 – Trip to Ooty
The next day began with planning out the day’s activities. We had figured out that our points of interests fell on different routes. While Pykara Lake & Waterfall, Wenlock Downs and Pine Forest were on one route, Doddabetta Peak, Tea Factory & Museum and Botanical Garden were on the other route. Avalanche Forest Reserve and Emerald Lake were entirely on different route. We decided to cover the set of attractions on the first route, starting from the farthest point – Pykara Lake and waterfall – about 25 km from our hotel.
Pykara is the name of the village as well as the river which is held in reverence by the Todas – the ethnic group of the Nilgiris hills in Tamil Nadu. The dam constructed on the river created a backwater which formed into a reservoir lake. The river also forms a series of waterfalls, the last two of which together form the Pykara waterfall.
It took us around an hour to reach Pykara Lake. The place had few people around and just one boat in the lake then. It looked serene and beautiful. Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation Ltd offers boats (8, 10 and 12 seater) for 20 minutes ride in the lake. Also on offer are speed boat rides for 10 minutes.
We opted for the former and began our journey in the placid lake surrounded by Shola forests. It was a peaceful ride with only the sound of the boat engine, the water, and clicking of the cameras breaking the silence. While returning we saw another set of tourists enjoying the thrills of speed boat ride.
Two different experiences to choose from! Back at the boat house, we sat down near the restaurant to savour the beautiful view of the lake while enjoying tea in small steel glasses.
While the lake gave more or less a relaxed visit, the waterfall demanded extra effort. The lake was reachable by a car till the very end, which obviously was not the case here. Two kms from the lake, the car dropped us at point from where there were two options – either walk up to the main entrance gate of the waterfall or wait for the sole battery car to take us there.
The latter was high in demand with elderlies and those with kids already ahead in the line. We split up into two groups and availed both options. Walking down amidst clean and beautiful scenery is never a problem so we happily strolled down the path.
At the entrance, the feedback of few returning visitors informed us of low water level – immediately bringing down our expectations. In any case, waterfalls are best post monsoons. This one was modest but the views around were again beautiful. Relaxation here was a bit difficult as monkeys all around ensured that everyone was alert. The toughest part was climbing back the step to reach the entrance. What was easily done while going down left us breathless on our way back up.
Back at the starting point of the battery car, we fed ourselves Maggie, Jhalmuri and cold drinks to get back our lost energy.
Our next stop on our trip to Ooty was Wenlock Downs . It is large grassy meadow and is famous as Shooting Point. Two of its points – 6th Mile and 9th Mile have been spots for numerous film shootings. From down below, at the entrance, you see a curvy track amidst the grassland leading up to the top. People either walk up there or hire a horse to take them up. Mostly, we saw people opting for the former.
As you reach higher level, the beauty around begins to unfold and from the very top, the views are -simply put – amazing. Just sitting down there and experiencing the vast expanse of beautiful Nilgiri hills around, the fresh air and the open sky above was invigorating. The houses with farms, the winding road below and just enough people around added a wonderful variety to the views.
Pine Forest, next on our list, was unfortunately closed for some reason. So we did the next best thing we could – got down at another area full of pine trees close by and took a stroll down. It gave us a pretty close idea of the real place. The tall Pine trees are always a delight to take a walk through.
Tea & Chocolate Factory
With time left in our hand, we decided to visit the tea factory. The tea factory is situated en route to Doddabetta peak and also has a chocolate factory within its premises. The tea factory is rather big with guided tour available. The tour elaborates on the process of tea making and the outlet sells a variety of tea – from masala to green, cardamom, ginger, chocolate, white and oolong.
The chocolate factory and outlet is comparatively smaller, however, there is no dearth of chocolate variety available. There are rum & raisin, fruit & nut, fig & honey, caramel truffel, cashew truffle, roasted almond, dark chocolate, coffee chocolate, hazelnut truffle, butterscotch nutties, rice crisp nutteis, milk chocolate as well as sugar free varieties available.
We spent considerable time trying to figure out which ones we should buy. If you want to buy it as a gift for someone, there are packs available for that too.
Our last stop on our first day trip to Ooty, Doddabetta means Big Mountain. At 8640 feet, it is the highest peak of the state of Tamil Nadu and lies at the point where Eastern Ghats meet the Western Ghats. Approach to Doddabetta Peak was through a narrow, forested and not so good road.
The parking area was full, buzzing with people and vehicle. A little ahead, local shop stalls selling food, clothes and other items took up space on both sides of the way that led to the peak. At the ticket counter and even inside, there were a whole lot of people. This was the most crowded place we visited on our trip, perhaps indicating its popularity with visitors.
From here, you can have a good view of the surrounding areas – Ooty town, Ketti Valley, Avalanche dam, etc. There is also a telescope house for better viewing option. However, since it was hazy, the getting a good view was a distant dream, so after sometime roaming around we decided to return.