The second part of our trip starts with the drive through the Bandipur Forest.
Hundreds of deer walking along the roads in their natural habitat was a sight! This actually put the deer park we visited in Hyderabad to shame. Peacocks crossing the roads as if they own them (maybe they do and we were intruding), Gray Langur, Elephants, Monkeys, etc., This drive was the highlight of the day for me!
Once we crossed into Tamil Nadu and actually saw the civilization I was missing the forest. The feeling was short lived however, when we started our ascend to Ooty. Our driver was new to Ooty and was not familiar with the roads. However, he guaranteed us we will reach Ooty in an hour’s time based on Google maps. One hour drive turned into two hours and our driver was also worried at this point that we were in fact lost! The drive in itself was not less of any horror movie. The roads were dark and through most stretches of road we were the only car and to make the drive less ominous we were listening to music on YouTube. At one point in time, the signal became too weak and the songs were breaking up, giving me chills. Probable explanation for chills could be the clouds that were surrounding us and it was drizzling with the effects of thunders!
Of course, I kept all these feelings of creepiness to myself and was trying to put on a brave face – for whom? – I don’t know! And our driver decides to be the tourist guide in the dead of the night pointing off the roads showing the city lights. It must have been a beautiful sight, I am sure. But my fear of heights was kicking in big time and I snapped at him saying I didn’t want to see anything! Not my finest moment, but I could not help it.
I was never so glad to actually see the town of Ooty when we arrived. We called up our resort for directions and they sent a text message with series of places we were supposed to cross to reach the resort. Not the usual Google maps location. We insisted he send us the location. His response was Google maps don’t work up here. We probably should have listened to him. We managed to reach a place in the middle of nowhere using Google Maps and no one to guide us out of that place. Lucky for us two men on bike found us and guided back to our resort – which was 5 mins away from where we were lost.
My first impression of Ooty is – it is perpetually a smelly place. I thought it was smelly because it rained, but no. All through our drive up the hills, resort and everything else was smelly!
It was 9 PM when we finally arrived at the resort and we were absolutely starving. When I called up the restaurant for room service I asked if they were serving mota rice or patla rice. The person on the other side said we don’t serve mota/patla rice, we serve regular rice. Now for me, regular rice is Sona massuri rice and I was glad it was available here and so I ordered Rice for that evening. “Regular rice” turned out to be mota rice! Face Palm!
From our drive in rain, even though our luggage was in the safe confines of the car trunk – our suitcases and our clothes got slightly wet. Despite worst room service, they have managed to provide us with an ancient Iron Box. When asked they even gave us extra blankets without which we could not have survived the night! There were mosquitoes in our room. Well, I thought they were mosquitoes but they looked different. Whatever they were, they left nasty bites on my skin! The resort refused to give two Mosquito repellent machines and the room we were staying in was big and one did not help us.
Next morning, we woke up to bright skies and sunny weather (ignoring the cold temperature altogether – the temperature could not have been more than 12oC). Unlike in Coorg, this resort refused to serve coffee/tea and breakfast in the morning in our rooms. “Refuse” might be a strong word considering they were unable to communicate in any language I know – Hindi/English. Let alone Telugu. They were speaking in Tamil/English. And I was struggling to understand their “English”. They refused to understand my mother has bad knee and cannot climb the stairs to the restaurant on first floor.
Soon after we started our day (leaving behind bad experiences) and ventured out for sightseeing. Our driver first took us to the Ooty Lake for boating. But we saw the holiday rush and decided not stop there. After all, how different can the lake and boating be from the lakes here in Hyderabad? By this time our driver realized I have my own list of places to visit and asked what I wanted to see next – wise decision! I only wanted to see Doddabetta peak, Tea plantation and Needle rock view. That’s all – Even though BookMyTrip promised five places in Ooty. And we started off with Doddabetta peak.
The drive up to the peak was crazy. There was bumper to bumper traffic for kms long! People either coming back from the peak or simply returning back because of bad traffic were telling us and all other car/cab drivers there is no point going now. We will be stuck in traffic for hours! With that, many cabs and private vehicles turned back, giving us way. We reached the check point by 11:10 AM and the police told us the next set of cars will be allowed only at 11:30 AM to control crowd. I was fine with it. I only came to Ooty to visit few places and this was one of them. And I am not going back without seeing it. Lucky for us, we were only waiting for 5 mins, when started to allow us up to the peak.
I haven’t seen anything as beautiful as this peak in my life with clouds moving all around us. The temperature must be in single digits but the view was worth it. We spent half hour up at the peak, taking in the view from all angles. A hot cup of tea or coffee would have been nice but the place was too crowded.
The hills on our way up and down were a sight! And the trees! So tall!! I guess they only grow so tall on hills like these because of constant rainfall. I just loved this spot!
Next stop was tea plantation. Did I already cover the holiday rush part. Well, here is the trivia we got from our driver. Every cab from Bangalore was in Ooty accordingly to his sources, bringing in more tourists. If it is not cabs, private vehicles – i.e., all the people who love to travel from Bangalore and Chennai were in Ooty that weekend. When we reached Tea plantation parking lot, we saw madness of the crew trying to manage crowd. Sadly, had to let go of this place without going inside. I just wanted to take one picture standing in the tea plantation. To say I was sorely disappointed was an understatement. However, later that evening – My dad and I went on a walk through the resort property where we were staying, which also had tea plantation. I got to take pictures with tea plants around me. It was not acres and acres of tea plantation like I imagined, but it will have to do.
Needle Rock View
Our next stop was “supposed” to be Needle Rock view. Our driver was once again relying on his dear old friend – Google maps. We were driving through hills for an hour and realized we were not going to right location. We were lost (as seems to be the theme with us while we were in Ooty) and it was 2:30PM – well past our lunch time. Our driver got a hold of his manager for correct directions for this location. Only problem was it started raining and the streets of Ooty turned to chaos! The traffic was not only horrible but the vehicles were not moving an inch! While there were traffic police guiding the traffic, the rain made it worst. We were just trying to find a place to have lunch and we did find one. Turns out this place’s parking lot were full and the waiting time for a table is 2 hours. The valet rushed to our car, asked us to move along unless we want to wait in rain since the waiting room was also full. And that’s it! I have had it! We asked our driver to drop us off at our resort where we could at least sit in peace and have a cup of coffee for lunch! It was 4:30 PM when he did drop us off and went to have his own lunch. Poor fellow took pity on us and brought biscuits back for us!
The below is video of our drive through Ooty trying to get to Needle Rock view.
All expectations of seeing the Needle Rock view went down the drain of Ooty! Even if were to start back to see this place, they close it for visitors at 5PM and it is good one hour away. With the traffic we have seen, I was doubtful if we’d have reached it in 3 hours. It was a good call to stay-in too – the thunderstorm set in around 6 PM and it was going strong! But we did manage to take a stroll around the property to get some pictures in Tea plantation.
After dinner however, the skies have cleared up and it was full moon that night. The view from our room was picture perfect. Probably because we were on hilltop, the moon looked clearer and bigger. The one or two clouds hanging around the moon gave that extra factor to the scene. And the tree tops in the background and stars – so many of them! The view was poetic really – if I am not able justify with my above description.
Our night ended on that good note, we woke up bright and early at 4AM to check out, start our long drive (3 hours) to Coimbatore airport and our flight was at 11:35AM. Plenty of time for us to get back to airport, even if our driver manages to get us lost. I was not ready to rely on Google maps and our driver, so we started our drive at 6AM that morning.
It was ‘mist’-ical that morning, cloudy and foggy too. We could only see as far as 10 feet from where we were standing. The only regret I have (apart from the flopped Ooty trip) was to take a video of someone talking and capturing the air forming clouds in front of them! And this happened a lot that morning every time we breathed or talked.
The drive down to Coimbatore was picturesque! No foreign mountains in swizz or any other country for the matter could possibly match the view! It reminded me of my favourite childhood show – Heidi of the Alp Mountains. The hills, clouds and the sunrise were the highlight of our tour!
Finally, our driver did manage to drop us off at Coimbatore airport in 3 hours’ time. For which we were glad. Overall, I was happy I went on this family vacation. There were few ups and downs in our trip. But some experiences I had were magical and I will remember them more fondly about this whole trip.
Tips: Check weather in the cities or towns you are going on vacation, one day before for any unexpected rains, etc., and to pack right clothes for your trip. Rest of them like traffic, driver and Google maps is not in our control.