- Submitted by: Florien, India
- Submission Date: 14th Feb 2007
On 1 Jan this year we flew from Bombay to Coimbatore from where we took a Call Taxi upto Coonoor. Spent the night at Hotel Vivek - nice room at half rates. That was the coldest night - below 0C. The next morning we walked to Syms Park, a botanical garden encompassing an entire valley. We were most fascinated with the majestic tree ferns growing like weeds. On our way back we negotiated a taxi to take us to Ooty showing us around Dolphins Nose and Lambs Rock on the way. Not surprisingly, we enjoyed the infrequent but dense patches of montane evergreen forest along the way more than the touristy view points. Checked into the Hotel Tamil Nadu at Ooty - excellent off season value @ Rs 500 for a huge double suite The location too was good being on a hillock just off the heart of the city, with a garden and valley view, minus the noise. However, dinner was disappointing stodge. The next morning we woke early and enjoyed the entertainment provided by scores of barbets, bulbuls, shrikes and wagtails in the flowering bushes outside. A couple of not so friendly monkeys threatened to enter our balcony ! After a decent breakfast, we walked to the Botanical Gardens, spending around 4 hours there, although botanically Syms Park was more interesting. The Toda settlement at the top of the Botanical Gardens is interesting, if overrated. And their shawls are definitely overpriced. Had lunch at one of the bakeries on Commercial Street and later sampled the scrumptious fudge at King Star. We then walked to the Lake and took a ride on the Mini Train which gave us a good view of the part of the lake that is overrun with water hyacinth. Some labourers were trying to clear them. The hyacinths were so dense at some parts that the men could stand on them as though it was solid ground ! This is obviously a serious problem which must be tackled before the lake eutrophies. We strolled back to the bazaar area, taking in the unique Thread Garden on the way. This is an artificial garden where all the plants, including leaves, flowers, stems etc are made of thread. Quite a sight. Bought the mandatory spices and aromatic oils from the Upper Bazaar, though we gave the ubiquitous home made chocolates a pass after one taste ! It is amazing how every establishment including the plumber, electrician, mechanic and probably bank, all sell "homemade chocolates". Negotiated a taxi near the Bus Stand to take us to Pykara and Mudumalai the next day. By this time we were ready for a hearty dinner and Hotel Blue Hills on Commercial St did not disappoint, both in taste and price. Picked up some yummy wafers at Bangalore Hot Chips to have with our post dinner drink in our room. The next morning after enjoying birds and breakfast, we set off for Pykara falls. The roads are horrendous but the scenery along the way, especially the Wenlock downs and at Paye Mund are fabulous. We spent quite a while at Paye Mund huffing up and running down the grassy dales. It was a beautiful day, cobalt blue skies, crystal clear views of the surrounding mountains - Mukurthi peak and lakes. Further along the way we saw some beautiful orchids in a small patch of shola forest. Pykara falls is truly spectacular, but marred with litter. I can imagine how bad it must be in peak season. We spent some time there and walked downstream through the forest till we encountered human excreta and did a quick about turn. We headed back on the same route till the turning downhill for Mudumalai. Imagine our delight. The entire hillside was covered in the fag end of once in 12 year flowering kurinjipooh (Strobilanthes), as well as lantanas, assorted big and small daisies, and puff ball like white blooms. Mudumalai was a bit disappointing. The part we were shown was mainly scrub forest and we only saw hares and assorted deer, whereas I remembered dense evergreen forests and wild elephants from 20 years ago. We did however see plenty of scarlet minivets, shrikes and other unidentifiables. On the drive back uphill to Ooty, it was pitch dark and the car had a puncture. Stepping outside while the driver changed the tyre we were thrilled to observe a myriad diamonds glittering in the heavens, without any light pollution. We went back for a satisfying dinner to Hotel Blue Hill. The next morning, we sauntered upto the Main Bus Stand and negotiated a jeep to take us to Doddabetta Peak. On the drive there, we spotted another large patch of beautiful kurinji flowers. The views from Dodabetta are magnificent, but we were told that they are even better from Kodanad. We were happy to see lots of blood red nilgiri rhododendrons in full bloom as well as exotic light pink passiflora vines all over. The next morning we headed for Avalanche lake and Upper Bhavani. Our enterprising Call Taxi driver from Coimbatore had arranged the permissions through his brother who works at the Electricity Board at Avalanche. The drive upto and beyond Emerald was horrendous - worse than Bombay roads post monsoon, but once we entered the reserve forest area leading to Avalanche, it was divine. Our first present was a troop of black Nilgiri langurs along a densely forested mountain stream accompanied by the roar of an elephant somewhere beyond. This patch of shola was dripping with mosses, ferns and orchids which we had never seen before. Along the way some lion tailed macaques greeted us for a fleeting moment. At Avalanche, a bowl shaped area surrounded by high mountains, we were greeted by our new EB friend and his wife who had made a sumptuous lunch for us. Very welcome. After lunch we walked down to the Lake - pure, clean and pristine surrounded by pine forests. A short while later we proceeded to Upper Bhavani passing dense montane evergreen forests, deep valleys and planted eucalyptus, wattle and pine forests. We loved the evergreen sholas the best with every branch full of epiphytes unique to this region. Upper Bhavani is a very high altitude beautiful reservoir, very near the Silent Valley across the Kerala Border. Our EB friend wanted to take us to Bangi Thappal and Sispara pass but the gate to the road was unmanned and locked so we left it for the next time. On the way back to Avalanche, we encountered the nilgiri tahr, nilgiri martens, several civet cats, weasel like creature, a very friendly wolf, at least a 100 deer, hares and at last, one wild elephant. And one giant Papilio helen butterfly. After dropping our EB friend back at Avalanche we proceeded via forest roads through Manjur, Geddai and back to Coimbatore reaching after 11 pm. Spent the night at the Hotel Tamil Nadu, a pathetic cousin of the Hotel TN, Ooty, but it was just for 1 night. The next morning we bought some beautiful Coimbatore silk cotton sarees and took our flight back to Mumbai. A most satisfying holiday, our best so far.