What does one do when the mercury soars in Bangalore and rains play hide and seek? Old timers always said that it normally rains after Holi in Bangalore. Rain. It did. In few spots and after that there was not a sign of cloud anywhere. The heat intensified and it was time to escape from it and move to cooler environs. To quiet corners of Ooty!
If you are in Bangalore, the only place you can escape quickly is Ooty and it’s sister towns Coonoor and Kotagiri. Ooty is not new to us having been there many times before. We also hear everyone comment about how crowded Ooty has become. Yes, it has. But quiet corners of Ooty like Avalanche, Red hills, Coonoor and Kotagiri are still nice and beautiful.
Long weekend of Ugadi was god sent as we planned our next outing. This time it had to be Ooty. Since we started planning late, we couldn’t get accommodation in some known places. We also tried in the charming farm stay of Mansoor Khan – the director who directed “Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander” and Amir Khan’s uncle – in Coonoor but we were not lucky.
We had just bought the latest issue of Lonely Planet magazine and there was a special section on Hill stations of Tamil Nadu. As Brinda was browsing through, she stumbled upon Red Hills nature resort in Red hills on the outskirts of Ooty. We had read about it and the reviews had been good. We were again sceptical of availability but nevertheless gave a try.
Poorna called up Vijay Kumar, the amiable host of Red Hills. He said that he has two rooms left and we have to make quick decision and confirm to him by next day by paying an advance amount of Rs 4500. We told him that we will do so and next day morning, the first thing we did was to deposit the money and send the scanned copy of the bank’s receipt.
With accommodation confirmed, we decided to leave Bangalore after Ugadi lunch at home.
We always avoid the regular Bangalore – Mysore highway as it would be chock-a-block with holiday crowd. We went through the time-tested route via Kananakapura – Malavalli – Kollegala – Chamarajanagar – Gundlupet – Masinagudi – Ooty. This is a familiar road having driven on it umpteen times in the last one year. Road condition is good and there is hardly any traffic on the road. We breezed past – the last thirty KMs on Kalhatty ghat with 36 hairpin bends was really adventurous and thanks to Scorpio it was a cake walk – to reach the outskirts of Ooty at 4 PM after a break of 45 minutes in Cafe Coffee day in Gundlupet.
We called up Vijay who gave directions to come to Red Hills from Ooty. Red hills is at a distance of 25 KMs from Ooty railway station. The drive is very picturesque as we go through beautiful valleys of Ooty. Being dry season, the terrain was all brown except for the spots where the carrots were being grown with irrigation. We had earlier traveled on this road after rains in 2009 and it was heavenly.
As we reached Red hills we were dumbstruck at the beauty of the place. Perched on a hill with magnificent views of the lakes and valleys in the front and the hill as the backdrop, this is a fantastic place. The Bungalow itself is more than 150 years old built by British. There was a chill in the air. Fortunately we had packed two shawls. It came to our rescue as temperatures dipped dramatically as evening progressed. It was very cold at night and mercury was around 10 degrees. We freshened up and had a relaxed evening in front of the fire-place.
Please click on the picture to see them in better resolution.
The fire-place kept us warm through the night as we had good sleep only to get up early in the morning. It was still dark as we moved in torch-light to the vantage point in the resort to see spectacular sun rise for which Red Hills is famous.
We were not disappointed as you can see from pictures. It was one of the spectacular sun rise we have ever seen. As the sun came up and became brighter, the mist enveloped the mountains. When the mist finally gave way, we had a beautiful view of the valley.
After watching sunrise and a nice cup of tea, we decided to go for a drive to explore Emerald lake and surroundings. Early morning light is best for photography and Brinda who is the official photographer wanted to experiment. What we saw were spectacular sights of the lake.
Let the pictures tell the story from now on !!!
We returned from the drive to Emerald lake, had a quick breakfast and ready to go on the trek. Vijay insisted that we do the trek as the views from the top are to die for. We were anyway game for it and started off.
This is a small trek and took us around three hours to complete. But climbing was quite tough and we could see many in the team slowing down considerably. Nevertheless every one of us made it to the top of the hill and had views of our life.
Again, let the pictures take over….
The trek was a fantastic experience though tiring. The route for coming down was through real forest and we had to make a single file to make sure that none of us were lost. Our guide Rajendran was telling us the stories of Elephants in the forest and we were keeping our fingers crossed not have any encounter with the big guy.
We definitely needed bath and after freshening up, what else to look for but the chilled one!! Vijay only serves Beer and if anyone wants to have other liquor they have to get themselves. The setting was perfect. Chill in the air, sun on the hill and greenery around!! What else one can ask for.
The staff calls us for lunch and we fill our stomach. The dining table discussion is “What next?”. Nobody was in mood to rest and sleep and we also had to go town to buy famed Ooty Chocolates from King Star. The option was either to go in the afternoon or pick up chocolates on the way back.
The decision was made and we left at 3 PM after taking some rest. On the way we were to visit Avalanche dam, boat ride if there was no rush and then explore Commercial road. A friend Brinda had recommended that “Sidewalk cafe” in Nahar Hotel serves best Pizza and she wanted us to try it as well.
The first stop was Avalanche dam. A small detour off the road – a dirt track of half a KM – takes you to the dam. All dams in the hills are manned by cops. When we went to Emerald dam in the morning, there was a police outpost but there was no one and hence we were not questioned. But now in Avalanche two cops stopped us and asked us in Tamil what we were doing there. Poorna told them that we came to see the dam in his broken Tamil. He does not allow us saying that unless we have a permit from Executive Engineer, we can’t enter. Now Poorna pleads with him saying that he is an ex Captain from Army etc and he says ” Pongo sir, pongo” (Please go sir) !!! Sometimes this army stuff works!!
Avalanche had less water but still picturesque. This place should look great after rains. We did not stay long and left for city. The drive from Avalanche to city must be one of the beautiful drives especially after rains. Now we saw brown patches with some green spots.
We had seen two boat houses when we were coming to Red hills as the road goes next to it. We are always averse to long queues in these boat houses. When it is crowded, it in no fun to be there and many a times, we have skipped. The best time to come for boating in any place is early in the morning.
So, when we decided that we do boating, it came with a caveat – only if it is not crowded and there is no waiting. We parked the car and walked to the booking counter. To our surprise, there was no queue and we took the ticket and went to the jetty. We took ticket for one boat which can accommodate eight persons and cost us Rs 385. We now have an exclusive boat for three of us!
Actually, we were not disappointed. Though the shores of the lake is dirty, it is still a picturesque place. The lake is huge and the pine-covered shores provide a pretty sight. As we moved around we could see the huge crowd in the other boat house. We asked the boat man what is this all about. He said that the boat house where we got in does not get many tourists as they are not aware. Strangely this boat house is named “Honeymoon boat house”. Anyway, we had good time and returned back after half an hour. The boatman asked me if we want an extra round – obviously for a tip – which we were not interested.
Now our next stop was to look for good Ooty chocolates. The best place to explore is Commercial road around Charing cross. We had heard about King Star as the best and went straight to the small shop to buy the chocolates for folks back home.
Brinda was told by her friend that she should try pizzas in Sidewalk cafe in Nahar Hotel. We take a bet and Poorna says that it would not be as good as you get in Bangalore and not worth trying.We land in Side Walk and order for Pizzas. We make no comment but eat. But Brinda lose the bet. To be fair, it was not bad but not the best.
We walked back to place where we had parked the car and started our journey back. It was turning cold as we entered Red hills. The bonfire was already lit in the middle of the small garden. Having experienced cosiness of the fire-place on the previous day, we did not want to move out until the boys called us for dinner.
It was a small break but refreshing one in real sense. These quiet corners of Ooty had mind blowing locales, beautiful vistas of lakes, clear night skies, adequate chill in the atmosphere, the fire-place, the trek and the views, …………all made this a memorable experience. We settle the bill with Vijay, bid good-bye to him and start moving to Bangalore after breakfast.
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