Map Source: Google maps.
Just Google around and you’ll find 1000s of travelogues about Ooty. If you are in the southern part of India, Ooty is considered as one of the ‘must see’ places on the tourist circuit.
Now, is Ooty actually worth visiting? Does it live up to all the hype?? These are questions I would rather not delve into… since the answer depends on your individual perspective, your expectations and your own experiences… and also the time of the year when you land up in Ooty.
Coming back to my Tlog, this was a trip done over last weekend; i.e. 6th, 7th & 8th March 2010. The occasion was our wedding anniversary. Given that we had three days, we considered a couple of other options too, but somehow Ooty it would be this time! Total distance driven was 674kms.
In all these years of traveling around, both of us have been close to, touched or even passed through Ooty, but never actually did a ‘proper’ Ooty trip. Most recently, I passed through Ooty town in December 09, while going towards Mukurthi. (A weekend trek to Mukurthi Peak near Ooty…)
After a little bit of research, we planned our itinerary as follows:
- 6th March – Start from Bangalore as early as possible and drive to Masinagudi. Spend a leisurely day there and stay overnight.
- 7th March – Check out from the resort at around 9.00am and drive towards Ooty. Since it is around a 1.5 hour drive, reach Ooty by around 11ish and visit the main places to see and check into our hotel at the end of the day.
- 8th March – Reach the Ooty railway station by 8.30am to catch the mountain train to Coonoor, reach Coonoor by around 11ish, hire a cab to take us around to the local ‘must see’ places and drop us back to Ooty by late afternoon.
Start driving from Ooty by around 4.00pm, stopping at a couple of places enroute and eventually drive through Mudumalai & Bandipur before dark, so that we could spot some animals.
Booking accommodation and train tickets was quite easy:
- Browsed through Tripadvisor & HolidayIQ to shortlist a couple of accommodation & resort options in Ooty & Masinagudi.
- Checked on Cleartrip and Makemytrip to confirm their rates, availability.
- The resort that we short listed in Masinagudi – ‘Jungle Retreat’ accepts bookings via phone; provided them with my credit card info and confirmed our stay for the night of the 6th.
- Hotel Darshan in Ooty was available for booking via Cleartrip and that was done.
- A little bit of Googling around on how to book the train tickets from Ooty to Coonoor revealed that it could be done via IRCTC. So we used Cleartrip again to confirm the tickets for the morning of the 8th.
Packing luggage, getting the car ready and preparing an itinerary of the places to cover in Ooty did not take too much time, especially with the loads of info available.
A Govt tourist map that is quite useful in understanding the general layout of the Nilgiris district:
By the way, any guesses on what is this ? Spotted this somewhere between Mysore and Nanjangud.
Drive to Masinagudi.
Saturday, the 6th of March 2010, 5.00am.
‘Beep-beep’ ‘beep-beep’…The alarm started to ring incessantly. To prevent myself from hitting snooze every five minutes, I had placed the mobile well beyond my reach. Got out of bed, freshened up and we were ready to drive after a quick cuppa tea. At 5.55am sharp, we were out of the gate.
Went through the Sirsi Circle flyover onto Mysore road and we reached Lokaruchi at 7.00am, just as the buffet breakfast counter was opening up for the day.
At Rs.70 per person, you get to try a variety of breakfast delicacies, with a juice to start and tea/coffee to end.
From there we drove through to Mysore, took the ring-road to bypass the city and drove through past the Chamundi hills…
Stopped to take a pic of these abandoned rail coaches on top of a bridge and spotted something interesting…
It looked like a pair of buses, but on rails? Was this a tram?? Did mysore have a tram service at some point??? Took a pic and thought of looking it up later…
Back in Bangalore, I looked up for info on the strange vehicle and it turns out to be an interesting aspect from our railway history. This is the so called meter-gauge ‘Rail-Bus’. It was running between Shimoga & Talaguppa till a few years ago, but has been taken out of service after the gauge conversion. Looks like it was decorated as part of some Dasara celebrations and low lies abandoned near a bridge between Mysore and Nanjangud.
Here is a pic of the rail-bus while it was in service.
(Pic courtesy Wikipedia)
More info on the Rail-bus: Shimoga-Talaguppa railway is available on Wikipedia.
We found that the road condition is quite good all the way up to Ooty, just a couple of Kms of bad tarmac near Masinagudi and some bad roads in Coonoor, else all other roads were satisfactory.
Nearing Bandipur, were we on the right road to Ooty? Any doubts we may have had were quickly dispelled by this row of boards advertising a shop called ‘Mohans’ in Ooty! and were still a 100 odd kms away
Reached Bandipur and slowed down to less than the official 40kmph speed limit, trying to spot any wildlife alongside the road. Deer are aplenty all through…
The road is a lot more scenic and heavenly after the rains, right now there is a lot of brownery with the onset of summer…
But some parts of the route are very colorful and pleasant!
Crossed Bandipur and entered Tamilnadu…
More jungle roads…
We came across a few Elephants quite close to the road. As a lady in the resort later told us, the Elephant population is growing at a very healthy pace in this area and the number of Elephant-human encounters is also on the rise…
There are a number of birds in and around these areas, truly a bird watcher’s paradise. Note to self : Time to pick up a Salim Ali book to be able to put a name to these birds.
More spotted Deer… this time we spotted a whole herd of them!
Crossed a small river just before the turn-off towards the resort. I guess this must be the ‘Moyar’?
Masinagudi has plenty of resorts available. Just pick a name from the pole and Google up for details and pricing before you head up there…
Turned into the road towards the resorts area, we could see the Nilgiri mountains up ahead of us…
You’ll see splashes of bright colors in several places alongside the road…
Reached the resort at around 11.45am and checked in after a brief ‘orientation’ speech from a lady at the front desk. I had booked the ‘Bamboo cottage’ option, which is the cheapest in the place at Rs.1969 per night. + 3 meals @ Rs.1200 per person + any additional food & beverages extra.
We zeroed in on ‘Jungle Retreat’ since Sangeetha had stayed at the resort a couple of years ago on an office trip.
Our opinion about the resort after our visit: Their location is excellent and will look really great after the rains. Looks like the Bamboo cottages are getting a little too old are not being maintained properly these days since I could find some nails sticking out of the walls + window latches that are coming off etc.
Food was good, but at 1200/- per person, is a little on the expensive side.
If you are visiting during the rainy season or winter, avoid the Bamboo cottage option and choose one of the other options since the ‘super ventilation’ of the cottages means that there will be very little difference between the temperatures outside and inside… and it does get quite cold in these areas during winters.
All other facilities and options are in line with what you would expect from any decent resort in these areas; i.e. organized safaris, a few outdoor games, a good pool, courteous staff etc.
On a scale of 10, I would rate the place a 7.0 for the ‘Bamboo cottage’ option.
Main improvement areas I could see were:
* The bamboo cottages need to be maintained better, else the rusting nails are a tetanus hazard.
* Though the staff were courteous, the lady at the front desk just gave us a brief orientation speech about not wandering around after dark etc. Would have been good if they can also take a couple of minutes to explain what are the activities that are available for visitors.
* Like many other places which are frequented by foreign tourists, there seems to be a tendency to kind of ignore Indian visitors, while going overboard in fawning over foreigners.
(I was also comparing this resort with the last one we stayed in, i.e. the Barefoot Resort on Havelock Island during our Andaman trip. The staff were a lot more efficient and made sure that visitors were not left to figure out things on their own… a person from the front office was assigned to specifically take care of the arrangements and they made sure that our day was packed with activities from dawn to dusk.)
They have a small herd of tame wild-goats (an oxymoron?) on their campus, they are quite gigantic!
The pool at the place is really lovely!
A typical ‘English scene’ with a British lady, in a pink dress, with a proper hat, sitting in the shade and painting a mountain scene…
They also have a dormitory option if you are in a group…
The resort is contagious with the forest corridor and has a wide variety of birds…