In the dark coolness of the very early morning when sleepy twittering had just begun and the neighborhood was in silent slumber, we- my mum, dad, sis and I were setting off on our annual vacation.
It took about an hour in a little car with the usual insane Indian driver madly careering with horrifying dexterity through the morning traffic. My mum and I were tightly gripping our seats and I was silently muttering the meager number of shlokas i knew.
It was with a deep sense of relief mingled with joy as we finally made it (alive) at the Central.
Our train,The Duronto Express, wasn’t due for an hour and we were pretty early at the station(thanks to the enthusiastic driver).
But my sister and I weren’t really bored. You see, we’d never been inside a huge Indian station and the myriad sights and sounds was an entertaining and a fantastic experience.
Seeing scores of people sleeping on the floor with hundreds of people nimbly skipping past them, the rickety-old boards and benches, wagons of tattered books and glossy magazines, peddlers, beggars, noise, the throbbing hustle and bustle and the sing-song voice over the speakers kept us very occupied.
But what really made a huge impression on us were the humongous number of flies zooming gleefuly throughout the place.Used to the clean and hygienic atmosphere back in Muscat, we kept staring in horrified fascination at the flying black nightmares.
Thankfully, the train arrived and soon we were trundling on our way to coimbatore.
After seven tiresome hours of sitting in our seats (with several small shocks including disgusting roaches and even worse railway food), we reached coimbatore from where a driver drove us to ooty.
My sister grew super-excited when she spotted monkeys from the car and made it a point to wave at each and every one of them!
The second journey was even more nauseating than the first because of the 21 hairpin bends and many “Danger Zone! You might go over the cliff!” signs, but we finally reached our hill-paradise-Ooty.
The climate in Ooty and in Chennai was as different as chalk from cheese. (I’d never been happier about chalk or cheese!). It was blissfully cold and refreshing after the the sweltering furnace, that was Chennai. But after a while, the blissfully cold turned to freezing cold as we shivered in our idiotically summery clothes!
Talk about a chilly reception!
Our room was nice and comfortable with fluffy pillows and a balcony overlooking a gorgeous view of tall pine trees, green, dewy valleys, lush tea-gardens, pretty flowers. A thick, white mist hovered enchantingly over everything.
We did a quick recce of our surroundings and even spotted a couple of cute monkeys scampering across the garden. I told my little scamp of a sister that she, atleast, wouldn’t be lost for company as she had plenty of catching up to do with her long-lost furry buddies! Funnily, she wasn’t very amused.
The morning dawned misty and cold. It was quite depressing.
After a yummy breakfast of chocolate cake and croissants (and other boring stuff-idlis etc), we were driven off to the first tourist spot- A thickly covered pine forest surrounding a pretty lake. The climb down was slippery and steep and according to me, wasn’t quite worth it. The area was littered with touristy-rubbish. Still, i was glad to stretch my legs after the long sit-in.
The sun came out. Yippee!
Next, we visited The Botanical Garden, Ooty. There’s only one word for it- Magnificent.
Vast, wide-open meadows, stiff and proud pine trees, colorful flowers hanging from fantastic-looking trees, incredibly ancient trees, dark pools of green water, cool breeze and a cloudless sky shone upon everybody and everything.
We trekked and tramped over hidden trails, stumbling upon exotic flowers and unusual trees. Furious winds almost blew us off the trails and the wind whistled and roared through the trees. It was exhilarating!
Our next spot was the highest peak in South India-the Doddabetta. The neat terraces of tea and the inevitable pine trees was simply amazing!
We then visited a tea factory nearby. The entire process of tea-manufacturing from drying, slicing, rolling, separating to finally packaging was absorbing and aromatic!
Naturally, mum bought two packets of the fragrant /stinky tea.
We went on to a boat house where there was a boat-house(duh!) and a couple of motor boats and paddle-boats. We all went on a boat-ride across the lake from where we desperately tried to see 360 degrees around us and capture every bit of the beautiful scenery!
Our first day in ooty ended sweetly with The Rose garden. The garden was blooming with gorgeous roses of a thousand colours and a hundred more in between. Reds, Orange, Bright yellow, Pale-yellow, Buttercup-Yellow, Purple, Violet, Cream, Pinks, White and even an unlikely shade of Pistachio-green!
We stopped at every rose and attempted to capture its unbelievable beauty on our camera and just as obviously, failed!
Needless to say, we slept peacefully dreaming of pine trees, wind and roses.
Day 2 saw us visiting The Pykara Falls. Sadly, due to the absentee monsoon showers, the waterfall had completely dried up. But we weren’t complaining. The light brown rocks, worn beautifully smooth and the shimmering blue-green lake looked unreal, like they’d been painted on the green landscape. I couldn’t stop staring at it.
After that surreal view, we climbed our way onto a Europeanesque landscape reminiscent of the Sound of Music. In fact, the view was so breathtaking that Esh and I ecstatically broke into “The Hills are Alive” because at that moment, the hills were truly alive and kicking!Never in my wildest dreams did i believe that a place like this, so wonderful and sweet , existed in india!
Driving back, the clear and deliciously cool star-studded night sky twinkled merrily down on us while a gorgeous full moon sailed calmly along with us.
Our fantabulous day ended with delicious dosas and our dearly-missed Masterchef Australia.
Very. Satisfying. Day.
Day 3. We made a road-trip to Coonoor where we first made an expedition to another botanical paradise called ‘Sims Park’. Although the same glorious greens, peachy-pinky flowers and old and rare trees greeted us, its simple magnificence continued to enchant us. There were weird tarantula-like trees, papyrus, bamboo, eucalyptus and other cool plants. It was like a mini-rainforest. It was an awesome adventure and we explored to our heart’s fill.
The little town of Coonoor is wildly famous for its exquisite tea-gardens and so, we made a pilgrimage to one such tea-terrace and took lovely pictures!
We also made a trip to ‘The Dolphin’s Nose’, another view point, from where we had a crystal view of the sparkling Catherine Falls.
We bumped our back to Ooty on a ‘Toy Train’! A relic from the British era, it was a different and enjoyable ride!
The third day ended again with Masterchef Australia and a deep contentment.
It was the fourth and our last day. We packed our bags in the morning and headed down to our last breakfast in Ooty.
Esh and I took one last, long look at the green gardens,tea-terraces, mist, pine trees and monkeys around the hotel and bade it all a sad Aufwiedersehn!
After 3 hours and the 21 terrifying hairpin-bends, we made our way back to coimbatore station and boarded our train to Chennai.
I swear I heard the midnight heat of Chennai chuckling evilly and sniggering nastily-“Welcome Back Suckers!”. *sigh* Dear dear Ooty…
All in all, our vacation in Ooty was fantastic!
The funny tea-terraces right out of our geography books, the stark beauty of the pine trees standing like silent sentinels, verdant vistas, lush meadows, colourful cottages, bright flowers dotting the hillside, the wind, the silence, the peace and the vastness fair took our breath away and made this trip to Udhagamandalam unforgettable.