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  • Writer's pictureWandererz4life

Ooty (Udagmandalam), Coonoor & Masinagudi - A Fun trip with College Friends

Updated: Jun 1, 2020

Everyone has nostalgic memories of college time and College friends help us live those memories again. We are a group of 4 college friends who are in constant touch with each other but have never been on an outing due to our responsibilities & personal issues (except Alibaug). Even our meetings in Mumbai had been under the shadow of some or the other person dropping out.

In December 2019, during one of our coffee discussions, we (Megha & myself) toyed with the idea of planning a trip to a hill station, sometime in February, 2020. Now the test was to get confirmation from Vijayshree and Swapnali. But to our surprise there were no hiccups & they too immediately confirmed to our plan. We also got another member in our group, Megha’s sister Sujata. I always believed that more people the merrier the group & we enjoy more.

Initially, we thought about Coorg, Kodaikanal and few other hill stations but Ooty was chosen as the final destination. My husband and I are members of Club Mahindra Holidays. Hence, I decided to check with Club Mahindra Derby Green, Ooty resort for availability & to our luck it was available. After booking the resort, we immediately booked flight tickets from Mumbai to Coimbatore & back. Now since we had finalised Ooty, we also planned a tentative daily itinerary for site-seeing in and around Ooty. We also made necessary bookings like the train and car as per requirement.

Day 1 : February 10th, 2020

Finally, the day arrived for which we were eagerly waiting, our departure day. We were thrilled as it was our first trip outside Maharashtra with friends. Our flight touched Coimbatore on schedule. As per the travel arrangements made through “Make my trip”, a chauffeur driven car was waiting for us at Coimbatore Airport. It was lunch time & we requested our driver to take us to an authentic South Indian restaurant for lunch (meals). Our driver took us to Hotel Annapurna, which served us delicious, authentic South Indian meal. In Coimbatore, Hotel Annapura is a chain of Restaurants serving South Indian Meals on a Banana leaf, a practice in South India. The South Indian Thali cost us Rs. 75/- p.p. & it was quite filling. The Payasam had an unforgettable taste which lingered on our tongues. Coimbatore is also famous for South Indian Silk Sarees, as girls, we naturally ventured into Coimbatore market for Saree shopping. After spending an hour in Pothy's Saree Center, we purchased couple of Sarees & then finally proceeded to Ooty.

As Ooty road passes through hills, it would take us at least 2 ½ hours to cover a distance of 90 kms. As our car gained altitude, the temperatures dropped & we began to feel the natural cool hilly breeze. At the outskirts of Ooty, we saw a small coffee shop near a green valley. All the coffee lovers immediately felt an urge for a South Indian Filter coffee. The cup of coffee & the valley view refreshed all of us. We reached our hotel at 6 p.m. & by then it was getting chilly. After a tiring journey from Mumbai to Ooty via Coimbatore, we were exhausted & immediately dozed off after having our dinner.

Day 2 : February 11th, 2020

Nilgiri Hills Toy train :

As per our itinerary, today was Coonoor day. Coonoor is a small peaceful hill station located around 20 kms from Ooty. From Ooty, one can reach Coonoor by train or by road. We had booked train tickets to Coonoor well in advance. We had heard that the train journey from Ooty to Coonoor is one of the most beautiful journeys as the train passes through the dense forests, tea gardens, mystical hills and through natural vegetation. This meter gauge railway is built by British for connecting this hilly terrain. This toy train left Ooty at 9 a.m., this one is different from the other toy trains that we had travelled in earlier, including one in Matheran. The train had huge glass windows on both the sides of the train for us to see the mesmerising views of valley and misty hills all around us. There are around 4-5 stations between Ooty & Coonoor. These stations are small, clean & well kept. The journey by this toy train is truly the most beautiful and fascinating journey. Apart from the hustle-bustle of train, we heard some unusual chirping and whistling of local birds & to add to it the fog & pleasant climate made the journey more charming. We reached Coonoor station at 10.15 a.m. The Coonoor station is small and the hills and tea estates surrounding it add an extra edge to its beauty. As instructed, our car was waiting for us at Coonoor.

Tip: Always book your toy train tickets from Ooty to Coonoor in advance. The train tickets are available on IRCTC website.

Singara Tea Estate :

We had planned to see the Dolphins nose point, however we took a road down the hill and instead of going to Dolphin nose point we reached Singara Tea Estate, a private tea plantation. The hills and meadows surrounding the Tea Estate gave us a feeling that we have travelled to some European country. In the Tea Estate, there is resort named Tea Nest. If you have time you can book a night at this beautiful resort midst the tea plantation and it is a must visit place for bird lovers as you can capture some beautiful birds of various species here. We were in Tea Estate for 1 ½ hours & then proceeded to Dolphins Nose.

Dolphin's Nose Road :

Dolphin's Nose [1,550 Meter (5075 Feet) above MSL] is located 10 km from Coonoor & is a fabulous spot to visit. The tip of the peak resembles a dolphin's nose, hence the name. The tip of the mountain has been fenced by a railing for protection. The view of 180 degrees from this point was soothing for the eyes. It’s a green carpet view all around. Some hills covered with tea gardens & others were with green vegetation running down the hills. The Catherine falls in the centre of the hills, adds to the beauty to the valley.

Tip: The monkeys are too friendly. Keep your belongings away from them.

Doddabetta Peak :

Doddabetta is the highest mountain in the Nilgiri Ranges [2,637 metres (8,652 feet)]. The name derived from two Kannada words, Dodda means Big & Betta means Hill. The reserved forest area around the peak & is a popular tourist attraction with road access to the summit. One can witness Ooty & its surrounding areas from here. We could see zigzag roads of Ooty.

Sim's Park :

Another important tourist spot near Coonoor is Sim's park (Botanical Garden). This garden had good variety of tropical trees and biodiversity. We had a good time in Sim's park. The atmosphere and the climate were conducive to photography & we clicked lot of selfies, group photos and before we realised it was way beyond lunch time.

After finishing the sightseeing around Coonoor, we started to look for a restaurant for a lunch. But as it was way pass 2.30 pm and all the South Indian restaurants were closed. We decided to return to Ooty to a French restaurant - Earl's Secret which we had spotted earlier. This pretty restaurant had glass walls & gardens surrounding it. We ordered Soup, French fries, Chicken kebabs, Pasta & Chicken Biryani. After finishing our delicious lunch, we relished on the desserts while sitting and chatting in the garden outside the restaurant. We had Chocolate mud cake with ice cream & Caramel custard, they were lip smacking.

In the evening, we spent some time window shopping / shopping in the Ooty market. Thereafter we retired to our hotel for dinner and late night chats and a game of cards.

TIP: There are no decent restaurants in Coonoor & advisable to have food in Ooty.

Day 3 : February 12th, 2020

Masinagudi - Madumalai & Bandipur Wildlife Sanctuary :

We woke up early as we were excited to visit Madumalai sanctuary. The Sanctuary is located around one and half hours drive from Ooty. But by the time we reached Madumalai National Park the safari timings (7am - 10 am / 3pm to 6 pm) were over. However, we managed to get a private jeep (Cost - Rs. 3500/-) which drove around the Buffer zone. We were able to see elephants, spotted deer & some local birds. During our excursion in the Buffer zone we saw a route & a forest outpost with a board stating that the road is under Bandipur National Park, Karnataka state government. If you plan to take the safaris at the Madmalai forests you should your stay near the National Park. I would suggest you to stay at Resort named Jungle hut, the place is surrounded by forest and is one of the best places to stay in Madumalai. The Resorts is run by a family named Mathias and the food they serve is super delicious.

Tip: The road from Ooty to Madumalai forest is a hilly area and has lots of twists and turns (36 Hairpin bends to be exact). Hence it is advisable to take a tourist vehicle rather than personally driving down the road.

Pine Forest :

We visited the Pine forest as we had heard that it was one of the most scenic places in Ooty. We clicked lots of pictures in this cool place.

Pykara Lake :

From Pine forest, we moved to Pykara lake. Pykara lake is located around 15-20 kms from Ooty. This lake has a splendid view of hills, forests and pine trees around it. Boating is allowed in this lake & we took a private boat costing Rs. 800/-. The boat ride was around 25 minutes & had some fantastic views of the water body with natural beauty around it.

Our day ended with a game of cards after dinner.

Day 4 : February 13th, 2020

The 4th day plan was to visit the tourists spot in Ooty & to shop for our family and friends. Sticking to our plan we first visited ‘The Benchmark Shopping Mall’ which houses ‘The chocolate factory’, ‘Tea factory’ & ‘Tourism Center’. We visited the Chocolate factory and Tea factory first. In both the places, we were explained the process of making of chocolates and tea respectively. We were given to taste the chocolate in the factory itself. No tasting of chocolate is allowed at the chocolate sales counter.

After understanding the process of tea making, there was a tea tasting session. Masala tea, Ginger tea and Cardamom tea were of good quality.

We now moved to the 3 storied sales building for purchasing of chocolates, tea, spices & oils. The tea packets are sold in ½ kg or 1 kg packets only. Thereafter, we went to the tourism center which has Aquarium, Wax museum, Playing area, 5D show, Photographs counter, Portrait counter and Miniature museum. If you want to enjoy all the services at the Tourism Center, the ticket cost was Rs. 350/- per person. We spent at least 2 to 3 hours at the tourism center and felt we were back in our college days.

We also paid our visit to the Ooty Botanical garden which had varieties of flowers, trees and bio-diversities. Further we went to Tibetan market for Woollen clothes shopping which is near to Botanical garden. Finally we went to main market for some snacks & also purchased famous Chandan & Coconut soaps.

Once the shopping was done we went to our hotel and started packing our bags since we had to check out tomorrow. We lived our life for few days like college girls without any tension or responsibilities except calling our husbands to keep a check on them.😂

Day 5 : February 14th, 2020

The days in Ooty flew away like a wind and we had to finally checked out. We were disheartened as our dream trip with friends was about to end but the memories were irreplaceable. Our flight from Coimbatore was at 2.20 pm. While going to Coimbatore airport our plan was to take a little halt at Singara tea estate & click some last photos with a mesmerising view of our memorable trip & bid our adieu to the hills. We reached at airport by 12.40 p.m. Our flight was also delayed by half an hour and finally reached Mumbai airport by 5 p.m. and our trip ended with lots of beautiful memories.

- Mohini Nabar

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