The better half and I visited Ooty for the first time in Jan 07. We flew to Coimbatore from Mumbai and were met by our pre arranged taxi driver Jagadeesan who drove us to Coonoor Hotel Vivek. Jan 1 was full up in Ooty so we had booked at Coonoor for 1 night. We had a double room (Rs 600 off season) overlooking misty tea gardens in the morning and diamonds in the sky (stars) at night. We had a tasty dinner that night. That night was the coldest of the season at 0C! - freezing but a nice change from Mumbai.
The next morning after breakfast, we set off on foot for Syms Park botanical gardens and were suitably impressed by the array of flora especially the tree ferns growing wild along the way. On our way back we negotiated a taxi (Rs 600) to take us to Lambs Pt and other local sights before dropping us at Ooty.
We had booked a double suite at the Tamil Nadu Hotel for the princely sum of Rs 600 off season - for a huge room, anteroom, 2 balconies and big bathroom - basic but spacious and clean. The TTDC is well located on top of a hillock overlooking a pretty valley, 5 min away from Charing Cross main bazar but very quiet.
Only drawback, the food there is tasteless, however plenty of yummy eating places abound close by to suit all tastes and budgets - recommended Blue Nile Kerala style food.
The next day we leisurely ambled across to the Botanical gardens (very nice) all the way upto the Todamund (over-rated but nice photo ops). The air is fresh and crisp, so walking is a delight. Bought some spices and aromatic oils in the market, and a sampling of fudge from King Star. This is truly scrumptious and cheap compared to the overpriced, inferior, overrated variety available in Lonavala. We also walked to the Lake and took a pleasant ride in the mini train which takes you around the circumference. An interesting sight was of workers removing huge clumps of water hyacinth which were thick enough at places to support the weight of several men.
Opposite the lake is the Thread Garden, a unique sight - an entire garden of thread flowers and plants. Ambled back through the Upper Bazar, and picked up the most delicious chips on the planet from Bangalore Hot Chips. Dont miss the "puffs" available at the numerous bakeries, they are really scrumptious, as are the other bakery products on offer. Every second shop is a bakery, and everyone including the mechanic, electrician and hardware store, sells home made chocolates - we did not particularly like them, they tasted fine in Ooty but in the much warmer climes of Bombay, the 'ghee' or whatever fat it was, oozed out.
We negotiated a taxi (Rs 900)to take us to Pykara and Mudumalai WLS the next day. The road was in horrendous condition. Wenlock downs 9th mile along the way is truly marvelous, undulating meadows with a clear view of Mukurthi peak and the entire mountain range. Pykara falls was worth visiting - only wish tourists would refrain from littering. Frankly, the original pockets of shola forests along the way was far more fascinating to us than the Pine and Eucalyptus plantations.
In Mudumalai, we had arranged a 3 hour jungle walk with a forest guide. We did not spot elephants but did see many deer, hares and assorted birds in the scrub and thorn forests. The way downhill to Mudumalai rewarded us with a hillside full of Strobilantehs in full bloom (kurinji pooh) and patches of nilgiri blood red rhododendrons (pongal pooh) a sight for sore eyes. The next day, we hired a jeep (Rs 250) to take us to Dodabetta Peak (2800m) and spent quite some time there taking in the panoramic views. Spent the afternoon partaking of various bakery products. We bought our stocks of fudge from King Star along with Niligiri cheddar cheese and jams.
Our taxi driver from Coimbatore had arranged to pick us up early the next day and take us to Avalanche and Upper Bhavani. Permission from the TNEB is required but his brother works at Avalanche so this was easy.
This was probably the trip of a lifetime, the flora was unique, large pockets of sholas, several clean clear lakes, and wildlife galore at every turn of the road between Avalanche and Upper Bhavani (nilgiri macaque, lion tail macaque, nilgiri martens, elephants, nilgiri tahr, several deer varieties, a friendly wolf and other unidentifiables). Not to mention the ferns, wildflowers and orchids - aerides ringens, epidendrum varieties and other unidentifiables.
Avalanche lake is crystal clear and the view from the penstock above the power house is magnificent. Upper Bhavani lake is on the flip side of Silent Valley, we could have stayed the night and gone on but had a flight to catch the next day. We returned reluctantly to Coimbatore via Manjur - in thick mist making visibility almost nil, but not for our friendly Jagadeesan who is from that area.
Stayed at the TTDC hotel in Coimbatore - a grotty cousin of its Ooty counterpart but cheap, safe and well located. Good coffee and tiffin. Bought some beautiful Coimbatore silk cotton saris the next day from Mahavir stores nearby and were picked up by Jagadeesan for a drop to the airport. We are definitely visiting Ooty again.
Tip: Carry warm clothes and good walking shoes.