Ooty trip was a huge endurance test for my car (Maruti Versa). The Masinagudi route via the Sigur ghat was really hard on it. With 36 hair bends to climb around 1500m in just over 14 kms, this route is deemed as highly avoidable, but then its a beautiful experience for a guy behind the wheel !!!
We started off on a friday evening around 7.00, filled the petrol tank full from M G Road and hit the Mysore (Mysuru) road around 7.30. Four laning is going on for the most part of the Bangalore (Bengaluru) - Mysore highway, resulting in a lot of gutters and road blocks. And night driving was as always scary, though to a lesser extend in a four-wheeler. We reached Mysore around 10.30 and had dinner there and proceeded to Gundulpet, where we had our accomodation booked.
This pic was taken by Rajeev at around 6.30 in the morning, just before we left Gundulpet. Calicut and Wayanad is towards the right of Gundulpet (NH212), while Ooty is straight. Both these roads are through the middle of a huge wild life sanctuary known as Bandipur, Mudumalai and Muthanga respectively in Karnataka, Tamilnadu and Kerala. Gundulpet is the closest town in Karnataka to the Kerala - Karnataka and Tamilnadu - Karnataka borders. Bandipur and Mudumalai wild life sanctuaries and the Karnataka - Tamilnadu border is along the Ooty road.
A journey through this endless stretch of road with trees on both side and a brownish hue everywhere is unforgettable. One can spot flocks of deers, peacocks, elephants and some miscellaneous animals like wild pig and fowl here. The road as such is bad, but being through a wild life sanctuary I found it acceptable. Check out the Kozhikode Trip page for photos along the Kerala - Karnataka border.
Past the border and the sanctuary, we reached a place called Theppakadu (Theppakkadu). From there, two routes are available towards Ooty. The one straight is through Gudalur (Gudallur/Gudalore), which is the normally used Ooty highway and the other one to the left is a shortcut through Masinagudi. The shortcut is actually around 30 kms and almost an hour shorter, but very steep and difficult. For the sheer thrill of driving through a difficult road we picked the route to the left !!!
We stopped at Masinagudi and had breakfast. Also confirmed that the route is not that bad. Though, the road was narrow for some distance, it was still motorable. The pic above is taken by Tiju at the place where the Sigur ghat road begins. From here, the Nilgiri hills and the steep climb gets visible !!!
The ghat road was really steep and the vehicle had trouble going up. With each hair pin bend we were going up by about 100 feets. Around mid way we could feel the chilling breeze. At last we were in the Nilgiris !!!
We settled down in a Hotel near the Lake. It had a big room which can accomodate all 7 of us, along with two bath rooms. After some enquiries with the local people, we picked up couple of places to visit. Doddabetta (Dodabetta), which is the heighest peak in Ooty, Botanical garden, which is always a popular choice, and then the nearby town called Coonoor.
Doddabetta, meaning big mountain, at a height of around 2600 meters, is the tallest in Ooty and the second tallest in South India. It is about 10kms east of the town along the Ooty-Kotagiri road. A nice drive through winding and steep road and a panoramic view of all the surrounding areas (Ooty town, Coimbatore and Mysore) was the best part.
A telescope is also installed here, through which, u can have a close look at the Ooty town.
Botanical garden is one of the most popular picnic spots in Ooty. It has over 2000 species of plants and trees from all over the world. With nurseries, green houses, ponds, walks and terraces informally laid around, it spreads to around 50 acres of land. The lower part of the garden is a sprawling undulating lawn of "Kikiyu" grass. For me, this is the third time I am visiting this garden, in as many times I had been to Ooty.
We strawled around the garden till late evening. Baught some things from the nearby Burmese market, had dinner and hit the bed.
Next morning, some of us had a strawl around the famous Ooty lake. It is located near the main bust stand and the railway station, and stretches to a length of almost 2 kms. Boats can be hired from here, but we didnt wait for that and set off to Coonoor after breakfast.
It was another great drive down the hill to Coonoor through the sinuous ghat roads and breathtaking landscapes. We had a list of places to visit in Coonoor. But the moment we hit Coonoor, it was train time !!!
The railway line running from Mettupalayam (Mettuppalayam) to Ooty, through Coonoor is an amazing engineering feet built in the beginning of 20th century. The gradient is as severe as 1 in 23 and a unique rack system is still used for this line. We just boarded one of these trains leaving for Ooty and soon came back. The landscape on both sides of the railway line is not to be missed. But, by the time we reached back in Coonoor it was around 1.30 !!! So we had to forget the other places in Coonoor, packed our bags and started our return journey.
Up again to Ooty and then via Gudalur to Mysore. There were lots of nice spots on the way, like this steep path down to a lake flanked with Cyprus trees ... or this coffee estate. There were some (movie) shooting spots too. But, due to lack of time, we could not even stop at some of these places.
Gudalur route had only a gradual descent, but the distance was lot more. Around evening we were driving through the wild life sanctuary road (approaching the Tamilnadu - Karnataka border, Gundulpet, Mysore and Bangalore), flanked on both sides with beautiful yellow "Kanikkonna" flowers (Cassia Fistula), which reminded us of the impending "Vishu".