Mist around conifers, a breathtaking valley view, a toy train… Lovedale explodes with picture-perfect settings
With a name that sounds as if straight out of a classic English romance novel and its picturesque vale, there's no way you won't fall in love with Lovedale. A mere six km from Charring Cross, Udhagamandalam, (Ooty), Lovedale's the place to be, especially at this time of the year.
What strikes you the instant you pull up near the quaint Lovedale station is that it's a world away from the hustle and bustle of Udhagamandalam. The unadulterated air bursts with the fragrance of copiously blossoming roses and that of the vast expanse of eucalyptus trees.
The station is evocative of the British Raj era. The solitary track saunters past the lone platform, and I perch myself on the only bench there to take in the surroundings. The garb of the undulating gorge thick with conifers lies beyond the rail road. But there's something else that catches my attention — a citadel of yore, Lovedale's most prominent landmark, the clock tower of one of India's illustrious educational institutions, The Lawrence School.
Uphill and feeling lighter...
For a plains-bred, my idea of a ‘short walk' doesn't include steep gradients on a narrow path. Nonetheless, I trek uphill, and feel lighter, thanks to the wintry alpine air. The school is a colossal wonder — there's an old-world charm to every building, every house… The path above beckons me — brimming with poplar, cedar and eucalyptus.
In a few minutes, there's another picture-postcard moment — one of the reservoirs that supplies water to the school. A perfect hideout for a weary soul, but one can't linger till it gets dark, for wild boars are regular visitors. So, we head south.
A ten-minute drive later, my jaw drops at the breathtaking valley view. The hills in the distance look ever so ethereal as thick layers of mist engulfs them, till we can see it no more, and pristine white clouds languidly come close to welcome us.
From here I notice that the hill has slopped down a good few hundred feet, and a few boulders line the area we're at. The houses below appear as small as the white and red building blocks we played with as kids. We dig into the lunch we packed, waiting for the toy train to make its appearance below.
Slowly but surely, we hear the whistle echo in the crisp air, and lo and behold, the little bright blue train chugs along meandering its way down the track before disappearing into a tunnel that awaits its entry.
In a hill country, the sun bids an early goodbye. We wait to catch a glimpse of the gorgeous sunset, which is much like looking through a kaleidoscope — the changing contours of the clouds, the murky silhouette of the hills against the changing milieu of frayed tints, ranging from golden yellow to light red to wispy orange, before there is complete darkness.
The valley now looks beautifully lit. I hear nothing but the mild swaying of the firs. The air is already icy, and I feel my toes freeze. As I head back to town, I wonder if I just visited paradise on earth!