Coimbatore,Ooty and the Nilgiri Mountain Railway

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Well, after our time in Kumarakom it was time to head further north to Ooty, which is also known as Udagamandalam. It is high up in India’s Western Ghats. It’s location is around 86km north of Coimbatore and 121km from Mysore, which is our next destination. To get to Ooty involved taking a six hour train journey “which should have been five, that’s Indian rail” from Kottayam to Coimbatore. We were in AC2 class, which is slightly better than Sleeper Class, insomuch as its air conditioned, “so much so it was like travelling inside a fridge”. Our train arrived in Coimbatore at 7:30pm. We had booked to stay for one night at the Kiscol Grands hotel, “a rather grand place but only £30 per night” we stayed in Coimbatore as we could not find any suitable accommodation at Mettupalayam where the Mountain Railway leaves from. The mountain train has only one service a day and that leaves at 07:10am. Our taxi picked us up at 05:30am, the journey to the Mettupalayam took around 1 hour. When we arrived the place was bustling with people, as the journey on the blue train which it’s known as, is a very popular tourist attraction. For the train aficionados the Ooty train is a cog railway and is 1,000 mm (3 ft 3’3⁄8 in) gauge. This informations drawn from Wikipedia, just in case my friends who read this think I’ve turned into a train nerd. The railway was built in 1908 and ascends 2203 metres. Journey time takes around 5hrs to travel the 46km. There are various stopping points where you can get off and stretch your legs, get a drink and some food “you need it as the carriages are a little snug”. As you climb high into the western ghats the views are stunning. Peaks, low valleys, tea plantations, tiny villages trickling streams and waterfalls to enthral you along the way.

The town of Ooty itself is really lovely place to visit for a few days, you would not even think you were in India “except for the manic driving and honking of horns”. With its back drop of the ghats all around you, it’s like your in an amphitheater. It’s lush landscape and very tall trees, “I likened it to perhaps somewhere like North America” and it’s own micro climate it’s the perfect place to chill. No wonder the British came here to escape the heat of cities and towns down from the mountains. The architecture, the buildings and the lovely colonial bungalows and heritage homes are really beautiful. One thing to remember is that Ooty is high in the Western Ghats and the temperature is a lot lower then lower down. For example when we were in Varkala it was around 30 degrees now it’s currently 13 degrees dropping to 8 to 9 degrees overnight so bring warm clothing.

Top Tips

Accommodation I can recommend staying at the Wyoming Heritage Home stay a really beautiful home high up on the side of a hill overlooking the town. It’s in an ideal location, away from the hustle and bustle of the town below.

Sights

  • Boat house lake, personally we could have left this one out, it’s a large man made boating lake with lots of tacky souvenir shops and amusements, but it seems a hit with the locals.
  • Thread Garden This one is definitely worth a visit. It’s the tireless work of a guy named Antony Joseph and 50 women who have constructed a floral garden of many plant species and flowers, all made just out of thread and all by hand. It took the team 12 years to complete, amazing. It’s located right opposite the Boat House Lake.
  • Botanical Gardens Now this a must visit, a beautiful oasis on the edge of town. It was built in 1848 by Scottish gardener William Graham McIvor who worked at Kew Gardens in England. Top Tip make sure you walk right up the the very top section where the very tall and large eucalyptus trees are, an amazing sight. Also another attraction that we did not visit is the Rose Garden, the reason being that the roses are not in bloom. Best time to see this we have been told is May and June when everything is in bloom.
  • Doddabetta Peak This is the highest point in Tamil Nadu at 8640 feet above sea level, affording amazing views over the Western Ghats and Ooty, although the day we visited the view was somewhat muted due to low cloud, which was a shame. If your stay in Ooty allows visit on a week day as its a very popular tourist spot. “It was really busy on a weekday so it is quite possibly manic at the weekends.
  • The Tea Factory After visiting Doddabetta peak and on the way down, it’s worth stopping and having a look at the tea factory. The production line is quite small so it’s easy to see the whole process from leaves to the end product easily. An interesting visit.

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