A ‘tête–à–tea’ in Udagamundalum
Cold misty mountains with sweet petrichor pervading across the encompassing greenery of Udagamundalum left my friends and me enchanted with its indelible beauty. Our journey unravelled itself, with a bus ride from Bengaluru in the early hours of first day of the New Year 2015, waking up once in a while only to catch glimpses of paddy fields Mysore Palace, common sighting of wild animals like elephants and deer along the way in Bandipur and to snippets of conversations.
Eventually, it gave way to the winding, dizzying path up hill, across the Western Ghats, to our destination. Udagamandalam (Ooty), the “Queen of hill stations” is the capital of Nilgiri district. It is one of the Best tourist resorts and is called as “Blue Mountains”. It is a land of dreams and a picturesque hill station. It is situated at a distance of 105 km away from Coimbatore. The height of the hills in the Nilgiri range varies between 2280 and 2290 meters, the highest peak being Doddabetta at a height of 2623 meters.
This famous hill station is at the junction of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka, three southern states of India. British founded this hill resort which seemed to them as their summer headquarters. Before that time, the area was inhabited by Todas. These tribal people still inhabit the area, but only around 3000 remain. What was once a getaway from the steamy summers of the plains for the British elite of the Madras Presidency is now a hill station that caters to weekend holidaymakers from all over the South India and honeymooners across the country.
Rose garden, Botanical garden, Avalanche lake, Doddabetta peak, Wenlock Downs, Coonoor, Glenmorgan tea estate, Kalhatti falls, Pykara are some of the key tourist attractions here. How many of you know that the game of SNOOKER was created here over a century ago at the Ooty Club? Why don’t we sponsor a world snooker cup with the logo; ‘SNOOKER – BORN IN OOTY’. I’m pretty sure that will bring in the hordes of snooker lovers. It will also bring in tons of money to upgrade the infrastructure of the town and contribute to the upkeep of the gardens.
After settling into our home-stay and a quick lunch, we made our way to Fernhill Palace in the hired taxi. While one of my friends, an architecture student, marvelled at the British Colonial arrangement, my other friend could only gawk at the famous location where Prabhudeva danced in a sequence in the Tamil movie ‘Naam iruvar nammaku iruvar’. Ooty is a very well used filming location for all Indian films like Roja, Sagara Sangamam and Dil se, to name only a few. After taking a tour of the main square of hill station, we had dinner at Nahar Hotel was in order. The food was quite good, and so were the prices. Soon, we made our way to the home stay to get a good night’s rest.
The next day we had a rushed breakfast after which we left for the Tea Factory. Here we were given a thorough idea as to how one of our favourite beverage, the other being coffee, of course, was made. A very informational experience it was! We bought different kinds of tea powders, chocolate and the sweetest baby carrots ever! The varieties of tea here ranged from Chocolate Tea, to Cardamom Tea and Jasmine infusions. There was a pitstop at a tea estate, where we learnt the art of picking tea leaves, on the way to the famous Ooty Toy Train.
Two of my more adventurous friends decided an impromptu trek in the estates which was great fun! Aboard the quaint toy train, I was struck by the mounting disbelief at the ethereal beauty of the journey between Coonoor and Udagamundalum. The houses, as colourful as the ones made of children’s building blocks, are terrace farmed like the tea estate; neatly organised, beautiful cottages. The brumes of the atmosphere, aroma of the freshly washed earth, the glee in the faces of children waving at us, as the train passed by- I wanted to bottle it all up in a jar to keep with me forever. Nahar’s Sidewalk Cafe had delicious red sauce Arabiatta Pasta and Continental Sizzler. The pizzas and soups were very tasty too! Still buzzing on full stomachs and all the glorious sights, we dreamt of going back in time to relive our childhood. The next day was the day when we had to return back to Bengaluru, to relive the ephemeral experience of Udagamundalum, over and over again for many days to come.
About the Author
Hailing from Bangalore and Hyderabad, Jajwalya is a bibliophile and philologist. She loves knowing trivia from films, TV shows and instrumental music. She has been to all pilgrimages in South India, and likes to know historic references in them. Being a foodie, she can’t decide if the petrichor is better than the smell of old books.