ByÂ Parvathi Jayakumar:
2 years back, on a hot summer afternoon, me and my little gang of friends decided to beat the heat by visiting the queen of hill stations, Ooty. Ooty also called by the name Udhagamandalam, is the capital of the Nilgiris district located in Tamil Nadu. It stands at 7347 feet above the sea level in the Nilgiri mountain range and is a popular summer getaway for people all over the country and abroad.
Ooty is dotted with picturesque spots, rolling hills covered with dense tea plantations, botanical gardens, smaller hills and plateaus with eucalyptus trees and to top it all, a pleasant temperature of about 15-20 degree Celsius throughout the year except in winters. The hilly region also has small towns like Conoor and Kotagiri with the same beauty and welcoming climate at just a distance of 1 km from the main town.
Tourist Attractions:Â We had hit the town for a 3 day stay and visited tplaces in the order given below:
1. Doddabetta peak: Easily the highest peak in town, it serves as a vantage point to the rest of Ooty. It is located at a height of 2623 m from the sea level and on days when the weather is clear, one can view even far off places as the plains of Coimbatore and the flat highlands of Mysore with absolute clarity. On normal days, the beautiful valley below is a sight to behold and one can see fellow tourists clicking away frantically and saving the moments for posterity. Also to help the tourists fight the biting cold at the pinnacle, lot of small vendors have set up eateries and tea stalls to sell piping hot tea and snacks.
2. Tea factory: The omnipresent tea estates all around us naturally piqued our interest and made us curious about how the tiny little leaves were transformed into aromatic tea. And hence, the tea factory was next on our list. Big clunky machines greeted us at the entrance and were followed by an assembly line of different processes. One could see everything in here- right from when the leaves are brought to the factory for withering, to the rolling, drying and shifting stages, until the tea grains are poured into jute bags for shipment. At the exit, people are provided with free samples of cardamom tea as promotional activity and packets of finished tea are put up for sale.
3. Ooty botanical gardens: Truly a sight to behold! Multitude of roses, jasmines, orchids and other beautifully blossomed out plants will just take your breath away! Spread over 22 acres, the garden was conceived in 1847 and is currently maintained by the Government of Tamil Nadu. The main attraction is a 20 million year old fossilized tree which would make you think of the wonders of nature. Apart from the regular varieties of flowers, there are also exotic specimens of ferns, herbs, shrubs and bonsai plants. A flower show with rare species at display happens every May.
4. Government rose garden: It is the largest rose garden in India with more than 20000 species and has myriad varieties such as hybrid tea, miniature, polyanthus, floribunda et al.
5. Ooty lake: This one’s for people who would love to chill out in the evening after a long day of sight-seeing. Spread over an area of 65 acres, the boat house established there offers boating facilities to the tourists and attracts a lot of visitors for the same reason. The best part is the eucalyptus trees lining one side of the lake which offers a resting spot for tourists tired from all the pedalling.
Special Feature: Ooty Mountain Railway
The journey through rocky terrains in the steam locomotive is a journey to remember forever. The train and the railway system is an engineering marvel! Fondly called the ‘Nilgiris toy train’ it journeys from Ooty to Mettupalayam through twists, bends, tunnels and hills. Along both sides of the track are beautiful tea estates, vegetation and pretty little streams. If you are an enthusiastic shutterbug, this journey is one thing you shouldn’t miss for the scenic beauty is not something to pass up.
Among Other Things:
Every place you visit in Ooty, you will invariably run into home-made chocolates, hot masala-covered cobs, spiced tea and eucalyptus oil. If you are a shopaholic, feel free to splurge your money on all the local handicrafts, gourmet cheese, spices and dried-up flowers used for home dÃ©cor.
So this summer if you are looking to beat the heat and retreat to some cool place, I hope Ooty will be on top of your list. Bon voyage!