Saturday, August 20, 2005

Ooty in the rain

July 23rd 2005

It was one of those trips that you go for on the spur of the moment. It all started with a call from Relish on a boring Friday afternoon in office. He called up and told me that he will come and pick me up after office coz we are going on a trip. Where? When? How? These were questions that didn’t hold at that time, for one we just wanted to get out of the city and also we didn’t really have a clue where we r gonna go.

Finally the evening Relish picked me up from my room and we reached his room, there were gonna be 7 of us and we were going to rent a vehicle and go to some place within a 400Km radius of Bangalore. We short listed 2 places Kodachadri or Jog Falls. But as in all trips there were people who backed out at the last moment leaving 5 of us with a budget that wont allow us rent a cab! But we were not about to give up; after all our reputation was at stake here.

At 8:45 Pm Santosh came up with a brilliant idea of taking a train and going to Ooty, considering our budget we thought that that was the best available option. Only problem was Rejin was still in office and was not expected to be back before 10 Pm and the train was at 11:15 Pm. Any way we decided to give it a go. By 9:30 the five of us were in the taxi heading to pick up Rejin.We reached the railway station at 11:15 and for the first time in my life I saw a train that was on time .. and I still don’t have a clue how we got into the train! After ‘Talking’ to the TTE we managed to get berths in one of the compartments and thankfully a good nights sleep.

We reached Coimbatore at 7 in the morning, but we missed the train to Mettupalayam from where we could get on the Nilgiris Mountain Railway. We booked our return tickets to Bangalore from Coimbatore and were on our way to Ooty by bus.

The day was pretty clear to start off with, but as we neared Ooty the skies started getting a bit cloudy. We didn’t mind it that way, after all we didn’t come to Ooty for a Sunbath. We reached Ooty by midday and it was drizzling a bit, as soon as we set foot in Ooty there was a swarm of Tourist guides who were showing us pictures of hotels and rates of guided tours. Trust me .. The pictures of the rooms they show are nowhere near what the actual rooms look like. Finally we decided to look for a room ourselves, there are quite a few hotels in Ooty, and the room rents are also pretty reasonable ( except during the Season), you can also rent out Cottages for Rs350 – Rs600, depending one how far away from the ‘City’ it is and how good you can haggle. Cottages will be a better option if you have a car and if you are with your family, you can cook or they will arrange it for you.

We decided that we didn’t want to be too far from the shops ( especially the Booz shops ;) ) so we took a room in one of the hotels, Rs 1000/- for a room with 2 double beds, TV and Hot water ( haggling is Valid here too ) . The room was real neat and huge. We settled in, freshened up, had our lunch and decided to hit the road. The Botanical garden was our first destination.

The Ooty botanical garden is a beautiful place. It is one of the places where you find at least a couple of South Indian Stars (or North Indian B grade Movie stars ) running around trees singing songs. It is acres of beautiful trees and pure Oxygen. Unfortunately for us as soon as we entered the garden the Rain Gods decided that it was time the water the plants. The five of us got completely drenched; we found refuge under some trees and made a dash for it when the rain let up a little. We made our way back to the city and roamed around window shopping. One thing I noticed about Ooty is EVERY shop sold ‘Home Made Chocolates’ I have no clue where they get all the chocolates from and who buys them. If everyone makes chocolates at home who will buy them except for tourists, and tourists are not around in Ooty throughout the yeah. We got back to the hotel, and decided to warm up with some Smirnoff, after downing a couple of rounds, we decided it wasn’t helping us much in getting warm. So we had our dinner and retired for the day.

Sunday, the train from Ooty was at 3:15 so we had half a day to see the rest of Ooty. We found a guy who said he will take us to see Ooty for Rs600/-. From then on it was a race against time (and the Rain Gods) we went to see the Pine forest, The 9th Mile, the Dam, the Lake we even went boating in the rain! The guy who took us around ( was a malayail Krishneetan :D ) started explaining to us about the services that they provide, and has agreed to take us camping, trekking and to Places you never knew existed in Ooty; if we can come again for a 4 day trip. As a bonus he even promised he will arrange for an overnight stay in the CM’s Guest house. We went to see the CM’s guest house. It was the palace of one of the kings, and Is a beautiful place. From there we had to make a dash to the railway station to catch the train.

The train journey was a good experience, the view is excellent and traveling in a old steam engine train is quite a different experience; It is one of the World Heritage Sites. And I was a bit surprised that there was a ‘Reserved compartment’ on the train. It is a 3 hour ride from Ooty to Mettupalayam. From Mettupalayam we took a bus to Coimbatore, had our dinner and waited for the Bus to Bangalore.
The Bus from Coimbatore to Bangalore in which we had booked the ticket took us all the way back to OOTY – Mysore – Bangalore!! Rejin was lucky enough to escape alive after doing something like this.

In the end it was one ill planned, wacky trip. Going twice to Ooty in as many days, during the Wrong Season, getting drenched for 2 days, and coming back. But it was one Hell of a trip and we had fun!