Travel

The hills come alive at the Nilgiris

You don’t realise the value of your friends till you fall ill at the top of a packed hill station, and your mommy isn’t there to make you soup and nurse you back to health. A recent visit to the Nilgiris proved disastrous in more ways than one. What made us head to ‘exotic’ Ooty during the hottest weekend of the year? Chennai’s heat leaves you disillusioned — that’s the only explanation.

We decided months ago that the six of us should spend more time together, and take a holiday. The May Day weekend excited everybody, and the only lady besides me in the group took charge of arranging everything. She did a mighty fine job! Before long, we were booked into one of the only available hotels (that should’ve been our first clue), had flights booked to Coimbatore, with an Innova to ferry us back and forth.

Day 1



Everyone’s Happy:

I called shotgun, explaining my travel sickness. If nobody believed me, they would learn to, during the course of the next few days. The drive from Coimbatore to Ooty was filled with debate, gossip, nerdy conversations and Vengaboys on smart phones, much to the annoyance of the driver. Having checked into the hotel and lunched, we headed into town.

The Ooty Lake:

The crowd at the lake stunned us. A boat for six to eight people cost Rs. 480. We queued for more than 40 minutes, fighting off line cutters, along with some four million people who had all decided that it was the best time ever to be there. When our turn finally came, we were urgently ushered into an ominous little boat with gas cylinders in the rear. “Well, at least we’ll all go down together,” said my ever-enthusiastic friend. The ride was pleasant — you can spot a few forlorn birds. But if you’re looking for paddling or rowing boats, there’s a separate area for that, close to the thread garden.

The Thread Garden:

“Come on guys, at 10 rupees, what harm can it do?” I was met with grave expressions, but they all obliged. You have to compromise when you’re in a group. It’s basically a 50-metre walk through a dingy room, with pots of plants made from thread. While you can certainly admire the skill and craftsmanship, it does leave much to be desired. I was denied any further clout.

Virtue Bakes:

Give everything else on your agenda a miss for the chocolate buns at Virtue Bakes, located at Charring Cross Complex. We walked through the bustling road following the rich aroma of freshly baked bread, like hungry puppies. The tiny bakery, which can barely fit in five people at a time, is a treasure trove for lovers of baked goodies.

Day 2

One Goes Down:

Overdosed on chocolate buns, hot chocolate, chocolate pudding and more hot chocolate, my friend woke up with a pounding headache and sat out of the day’s touring plans.

Botanical Gardens:

You can’t walk 30 metres without bumping into leering young lads, scattered screaming toddlers or selfie-obsessed lovebirds. There’s a trick though — keep walking higher and the population density thins significantly.

We found a patch of beautiful grass and spent hours reading and taking in the greenery. Entry costs Rs. 30 and is, without a doubt, worth it.

The Ninth Mile:

This serene viewpoint is a 30-minute winding drive from central town, with rolling green hills as far as the eye can see. A roaring thunderstorm in the distance made for an admirable light-and-sound show.

Day 3

Three More Succumb:

I don’t know if it was the manchow soup or the weather, but more of us fell ill. Light-headed, nauseated, dehydrated, groggy-eyed and barely able to stand, we gladly called off our toy train plans for the day and stayed in for a few hours. Many grandmother remedies later, we had enough strength to shower, pack up and head out. Driving down the windy roads in the backseat wasn’t the best idea. My friends quickly found that out, when they had to execute a coordinated emergency evacuation of the car on a hairpin bend to let me out! Although if you can, drive back down through the scenic villages via Kotagiri. Armed with sickness bags and looking out for one another, we finally made the exhausting ride back home.

Next May Day, we’re playing scrabble at one of our air-conditioned Chennai apartments.

When travelling

with a group:

Pick a place where there’s something to cater to everybody’s interests.

Be cognizant of everyone’s budgets.

Make a list of things everybody wants to do before you go and play the rest by ear.

Allow room for people to do their own things.

Research places to eat before you go, to beat apathy and indecisiveness. You will save plenty of time!

Carry board games to keep everyone entertained.

Travel with a mind-set to compromise.

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Printable version | Sep 29, 2020 8:29:42 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/travel/the-hills-come-alive-at-the-nilgiris/article7210771.ece

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