Me & Wife, we love traveling & exploring places together on a regular basis; where I am the project planner - plan trips days ahead to make it the perfect one whereas my wifey takes care of all the end-moment stuff. That's how we complement each other; But for this trip, Ooty & Coonoor, both failed!
With the start of the new financial year comes the avalanche of work that needs to be streamlined both from the personal & professional side. We were both out of time to plan these 'things to do' in Ooty-Conoor although we had booked our travel and hotels. Above all this, my in-laws i.e. Father & mother will also join the trip.
From my limited knowledge of Ooty - short for Udhagamandalam - before we traveled; Ooty sounds to be a highly commercialized place with loads of travelers, hotels & cars. A bit of a cliche destination mostly famed for the 90s Bollywood movie dancing in the lush green forest. I had my doubts as earlier I had a disappointing experience in Darjeeling with tons of buildings popping out almost everywhere, losing the sheen of the mountain's calmness with a canvas of large trees; adding to the never-ending traffic jams. Above it is the Hindi dilemma at a Tamil place. But as per research, it's a good place for a family holiday; less adventurous, safer & standardized.
The nearest railway station to Ooty is in Mettupalayam, less than 50 Km. A further beauty of
it is that you can take Nilgiri Mountain Railway - Toy Train starting from Mettupalayam to Ooty and enjoy the western ghats to the fullest with never-ending forests, tunnels, bridges & tea farms; its extremely soothing to your eyes but beware it's a 4 hours journey. It can be booked online at the IRCTC portal but unfortunately, none was available at my booking date.
The best possible way to reach Ooty from Bengaluru is via Bus, an overnight journey takes less than 10 hours. There are two possible routes; one is via Mysore which goes further down into Bandipur forest reserve, leading to a scenic ride inside a dense & live forest, less than 4 hours of ride. The other is via Coimbatore to Mettupalayam; Mettupalayam is less than 40 km from Coimbatore and this was the route my bus took as there is no point traveling inside a dense forest at night. So now you could have guessed the best possible route via air or long route train is to reach either Coimbatore or Mysore and ride after that.
Reaching conveniently Ooty at our waking time around 8 am, we were welcomed by the cold chilly wind with a temperature around 14 deg C, compared to summer at other places i.e. 44 deg C.
Deboarding the bus; We went straight to A2B to have breakfast with our rumbling tummy but were highly disappointed by the taste of Idlis & vada; such a low standard compared with the delight and the delectable taste of a Tamilian Idli, stated to be the father of Indian Idli (Yup, I know about the Indonesian story).
I planned to first go to the railway station and book tickets for the Toy train ASAP. With the growing crowd, I definitely did not want to miss the beautiful ride of Toy Train; as we missed taking a ride on the Himalayan railway in Darjeeling. I put up my hand for a ride and a random auto abruptly stops near me. Asked where to go, first to the station then to the hotel - The Red House. And we hitch the ride, starting with a bargain to warm conversation to a beautiful journey ahead. The warm-hearted person driving the auto was Mr. Jerry.
Mr. Jerry had a fascinating story both from personal & professional accounts. He used to work in the hospitality industry in different positions at multiple star-rated resorts & hotels, spanning all over India. A few of the iconic brand he worked at was Taj, ITC, Orange County, and more, traversing from North to South. He worked for almost 20 years before planning to give up his job for personal well-being. Hospitality is a very demanding industry where during peak seasons you need to work 24/7 for straight 7 days without a break; Probably 10 days off post 3-5 months of intense work. And needed to stay away from family for a long duration.
A few years back he decided to give up his job and go back to his hometown Ooty to settle down permanently with his family and be master of his own faith. He decided to buy an Auto rickshaw; Now why Auto driving? He has a unique perspective on it, first, he loves to meet different people on a regular basis, and that's why he loved his job at hotels. Secondly, he doesn't want to ride for longer distances i.e. intercity rides; wants to come back to his family at the day's end. This leads to his third reason for being a master of his own and working on his own will to have mental peace.
He reasons it out with a note that how much is enough, no one knows, and you should be at peace with yourself and happy in life.
Simple but thought-provoking insights from a person I met an hour back.
All my generation is struggling with this fact and agrees that being happy in life is the utmost goal but there are few who actually take action & move away from the comfort zone to make it happen. Here is a man who took that step to design a life that he intends to live.
I have an instant connection with him. He told me not to worry he will guide us around Ooty with places & stories to make our trip remembered for life. And I am glad, he was true to his words. He was our ultimate guide!
This part will go on my other blog titled 'An ultimate guide to Ooty for the Unplanned!' as this write-up is getting a bit long for all my dearest readers to digest; not to tire them up.
With all those initial fallacies in mind, the place & experience in Ooty-Coonoor was surreal, it can't be better than this. Cool pleasant weather with giants and dense pine trees shadowing your way closely directed by the magnificent mountains of western ghats & cherry on the top are the warm, kind-hearted people.
Mr. Jerry was extremely punctual with his time while driving was safe it was added with interesting stories & guidance all along the route with no qualms about the waiting time on any spot. Took us to amazing places in a limited time to experience the real Ooty in depth; which probably we could have easily missed. Besides I never rode in an Auto for such a long extent but it was pretty comfortable. I would recommend giving it a chance as in places like Ooty traveling in the open with breathing natural air is self-invigorating.
The place of stay & the eateries were pretty warm & welcoming with the ever-enchanting scenic landscape with what so ever not a single instance of the language barrier. It's mesmerizing. Definitely, it was a fascinating trip & great relationship we built will be cherished for life.
The unplanned trip pan out to be one of the best trip we ever had!
*Image (1): Pyakara waterfall, Ooty; Image (2): Coonoor railway station; Image(4): Me & Jerry; Image(5): Shooting point, Ooty - picture courtesy Raj Khandelwal
**Image (3): Random autorickshaw in the city, picture courtesy Wix Media.