Lush greenery, picturesque surroundings, gushing waterfalls; after all it is not called ‘Queen of the Hills’ for no reason. Ootacamund or Ooty, as it is popularly known, is a hill station located in the Nilgiri Hills. The closest airport to it is the Coimbatore Airport, from where I embarked on a journey to discover the delights of this beautiful place. If this has captured your imagination, then read on!
The four-hour journey to Ooty is mesmerizing. Clouds float by, tea plantations stretch on and as you climb higher you’ll be hit by the intoxicating smell of tall eucalyptus trees. Aromatherapy for you and that too free of cost! And oh, did I mention the legendary steep hair-pin curves? Beware for they can really make your stomach churn.
After a quick stop at a hotel, my family and I headed out to Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary. It is apparently the first wildlife reserve in South India and houses animals like tigers, elephants, leopards and spotted deer among others. The sanctuary provides a “safari” in a rickety bus, but it turned out to be quite a fun ride. We spotted a herd of playful elephants, deer and some unusual species of birds.
On our way back, we landed at the Pykara Falls. It’s actually a river which runs down the plateau and forks into two falls. The Todas, a small pastoral community in the Nilgiris, considers the river sacred and worships it. Its beauty is breath-taking.
The next day a visit to the Botanical Garden proved to be pretty interesting. It spreads over 55 acres and contains rare species of trees like the cork tree, paper bark tree etc. There was a tree called the monkey puzzle tree as apparently the monkeys can’t climb this one! A part of the garden is called the Italian Garden because it was built by Italian prisoners of war during the pre-independence days.
The next stop was Dodabetta Peak. Dodabetta means ‘big mountain’ in the native language. At a height of 2,637 meters above the sea level it’s the highest peak in the Nilgiri Hills. An observatory at the top with two telescopes provides a stunning panoramic view of the hills.
One of my favourite moments in Ooty was visiting the Tea Factory. If you loved the tea plantations you’ll simply find this one fascinating. It walks you through the process of tea production. You’ll see how the fresh green tea leaves end up as a packaged product at the end of the whole process. And that’s not all. They also give you samples of different varieties of tea. I ended up gulping elaichi and cinnamon tea. They even had a chocolate flavoured one. Yes, chocolate! And all this while the tantalizing smell of fresh tea envelopes you.
Be it naturists, enthusiastic trekkers or someone looking for an escape from a busy life, Ooty is a perfect destination for all. Its pristine beauty is unmatched and Ooty deserves the sobriquet bestowed upon it.