13 May'07 :
Guhan & I left early around 5.30 am by road for Ooty (short for Ootacamund or Udhagamandalam). Got into the Mettupalayam Rd, crossed Tudiyalur, Vellai Kinaru, Perianaickenpalam (or P.N.Palayam where the huge campuses of Ramakrishna Mission Vidyalaya are located)), past a series of factories including the old & established Pricol & LMW units. The mighty Western Ghats suddenly make their appearance looking bluish black in the distant mist . Both sides of the road are lined by full grown Tamarind trees standing tall like sentinels,their dense foliage providing shade & comfort for travellers. We soon reach Karamadai Rly.Station, cross the track and shortly thereafter reach Mettupalayam which is situated at the foothills of the Nilgiris or Blue Mountains. From there we start our sojourn towards Ooty. We go past Black Thunder, a popular entertainment & water sports resort, cross an old bridge erected by Jessops in 1925 & then "Anni Bridge", past the Kallar check post and enter the Nilgiri Forest Range.The climb up the hills begins. The intensity of traffic starts increasing. We see clusters of monkeys on the road & on parapet walls prancing about & begging for food. We are on NH 67 & a sign board shows that Connoor is 24 Kms & Ooty 42 Kms. We we see bamboo groves and trees with bright yellow konni flowers. Suddenly we are in a traffic jam. We are approaching the Barliaru check post & we pay the toll tax. The real steep climb towards Ooty starts now – we begin negotiating steep hair pin bends ; there are 14 hair pins in all. At the 3rd bend we have climbed 800 m above MSL. We enter the reserve forest area and we see more of bamboo & konni. There is plenty of greenery on both sides. The sky is clear, there is bright sun shine and the weather is great. The road is serpentine, keeps twisting & turning as we continue our climb. We see jackfruit & areca, exotic palms and several variety of trees . The progress is slow but steady at 25-35 Kmph. We see a tall rock face its sheer height rising steeply above us like a colossus, Grand Canyon like in appearance. We reach Marappalam where we see a sign board “Deep Valley Ahead”. As we negotiate the 10th Hairpin bend we see several new varieties of trees, plants & flowers – blue bells, yellow dahlias, myriad coloured honeysuckle, deep crimson gulmohars & mauve jacaranda. At 1500 m we enter Katary, drive past the State Horticulture Farms, Law Falls & Glendale Estate (a private tea estate). The tea gardens line the slopes like rich thick green carpets with battalions of silver oak trees standing amidst like soldiers providing solidity, protection & moisture. As we approach Connoor a series of tall fern trees welcome us to the town. We cross a railway signal, see crowded shanties on an approaching hill side, travel besides the railway track of the Nilgiri Mountain Rly, see the Connoor Municipal Bldg with its conspicuous clock tower. We go past the Connoor Rly station (built in 1897) and continue onwards to Ooty accompanied by the sounds of babblers,warblers,bulbuls, grey tits & hill mynas. We see the Boys Bridge leading to Wellington to the right, the Cantonment board office, our Lady of Health Shrine and then the Aravankadu Cordite factory (1904) on our left. We enter an eucalyptus forest containing tall towering trees. We pass Needle Industries, Ketty, Manthada & Valley View before entering Ooty Municipality at Thalayattimund. We are greeted by several nice hotels & inns – to name a few : Green Country Resorts, Moti Manor, Orchid Inn, Ooty Gate & Preeti Classic ( the last named looked majestic & impressive) We drive past Aavin Milk Parlour, ABT , The Garage (belongs to Stanes Motors) & reach the circle where you see Horticulture Information Centre as well as Floriculture Demo Centre, Flower Auction Centre besides a Sales Outlet for flowers. We stop for Breakfast of idli/vada/dosa & coffee and then proceed to the venue of the Dog Show via the Municipal Market, Madras Race Club (Derby Stakes are scheduled for the day), Ooty Rly. Station, Collectorate, Charing Cross Rd, Hill Bunk Rd, and finally into the campus of Woodside School. The show is about to begin and the owners keep the beasts in readiness for the contest. There is bright sunshine and it is even a bit warm. It is ideal weather for photography – I could take some wonderful photographs of some of the most attractive breeds that have congregated there.(My Canon Digital did a great job !). Guhan could meet with many of his friends in the Trade as well as strike up some new associations. After spending a little over an hour there we departed & partially retraced our way back. As we traveled in Ooty we took photographs of the St.Stephens Church, Breeks Memorial Anglo Indian School,Tamizhagam(a palatial government guest house administerd by Tamilnadu Agricultural Dept. Erstwhile summer Palace of Tippu Sultan) & Forest Guest House, Aramby. We see a large contingent of around 100 girl NCC cadets trooping smartly (and a little wearily) up the hill. We reach Ooty lake (Nalapad Residency is located enroute – nice but a little expensive place) which is choc a bloc with huge crowds & no place to park. You breathe in generous quantities of dust & fumes from vehicle exhaust. I could take some good shots of the lake and boats carrying tourists – some rowing,some paddling. We see the Lake View Hotel & Thread Garden. Our next destination is the Ooty Rly Station. The Nilgiri passenger train is just about to leave and passengers are scrambling in to get a window seat . Most seats are unreserved & are on first come first served basis. I took some nice shots of the station & the train. We drive past Karumariamman Kaliamman Koil, Commercial Road before pulling over at Preeti Classic for Thali meals – pretty decent stuff reasonably priced. The we leave Ooty back towards Coonoor. We stop briefly at Wax World which is just beyond Manjoor. At this point there is a fork on the road leading to Lovedale( 3 Kms) & Upper Bhavani Dam. We speed past Valley View, Ketty, Yelanahalli, Bikkaty, Aravankadu ( though prohibited I could take a quick photo of the Cordite factory) and reach Boys Bridge leading to Wellington. The bridge is closed for traffic. It has become weak & is awaiting repairs. We go to another point from where we drive into and through Wellington. We enter through a huge sports complex cum parade ground – a really awesome and impressive stadium. The drive through Wellington is beautiful – it is a thickly forested area and well maintained by the army. As we exit Wellington we find a gorgeous green Golf Course. We continue through Stanes High School into Connoor Town & the Rly.Station. We stop briefly to take some more photographs. We then take a detour through Sims Park , Elk Estate, Kattabettu, Kothagiri, Aravenu, Kizhatuttapalayam, Mammaram Check post, Kunjappannai, Mettupalayam View Point. We cross only four hair pin bends on this route. We finally reach Mettupalayam after a spectacular drive. The road is excellent and we drive through large tracts of tea gardens and breathtaking scenery throughout the journey from Cononoor to Mettupalayam. The camera kept clicking throughout the trip.