Ooty: a travellogue

When I signed into WP yesterday, I accidentally clicked on “Random Post”, and I was led to this post, where I listed a few things I had decided to do something about, to avoid getting back into the rut of a monotonous life.

And I noticed that I had written “Vacations are life’s necessities”, and had sworn to go on one every month 😀 And then I again checked up my blog to see if I had stuck to my decision, and I realised I did it without fail from April – August, and had failed badly from September – November. [September was a month of break from the monthly travels 😀 and November, well, Pumbaa wobbled in].

No, not December, because I’m off on vacation now: from 24 Dec – 1 Jan 2011! 🙂 It’s a B’lore-Kerala-Goa-B’lore road trip, with Dad, Mom, Bro, the husband and Pumbaa! 🙂

Anyway, while checking the blog, I again noticed (!) that there was a trip in October, to Ooty, and I’d completely forgotten to update my blog with photographs and superlatives. Well, it wasn’t mere forgetfulness. It was also the fact that the trip wasn’t all that great and I had no superlatives to remind me of it with. 😦

I had high expectations of Ooty, and they all crumbled down all the way to the valley! I think Wayanad is the culprit—the root cause for this “hmmm…this place is nothing in comparison with Wayanad” attitude!

Anyways, let me not let the trip slip into the little wedges between the neat piles of good memories and travellogues! 😀

So, here it is: the Ooty travellogue.

Uncle, Aunt and the two brats were coming down from Delhi for their first ever Bangalore trip. Their usual agenda is Delhi-Trivandrum-Adoor-Delhi; and it’s been just that ever since my aunt got married way back sometime in the early 90s 😀 Anyway, this time, they broke the spell and decided to get off the train before it touched Kerala 😉

Now, this is an aunt who loves being crazy – and has raised two equally crazy brat-girls. The elder one is the embodiment of the word ‘tomboy’ and the younger, as feminine as any girl can get. And the Uncle, for as long as I’ve known, is as strict as anyone can get and has successfully completed 50 years, in spite of living half of that in a house with three crazy women 😀 So, while I was soo looking forward to have them all home, I was a bit anxious about what might and might not upset him. Turned out, he’s a new man 😀 He was the most fun to have, this time!!!

Yea, so they reached Bangalore on a Friday morning. After loads of hugs and laughs and leg-pulling, I came to work, dreaming of just a trip to Mysore on Saturday. At about 8pm, the husband turns up at office and says, “we’re going to Ooty tomorrow early morning, so come home early. I’m here to pick you.” Ooty!? Yippeeeee! The first and only time I’d been there was in Dec 1999. Over 10 years! I was super excited—and immediately wound up for the day 😀

We had planned a quick Bangalore-Ooty-Mysore-Bangalore trip for the weekend. and set off early Saturday morning. The four of us ‘kids’ in the Punto, and the four oldies in the Alto 😀

As is customary, we had a quick stop at Srirangapatna, to pay respect to Tipu and his ‘tharavaadu’ 😀 Well, with the senior brat around, respect was just NOT a possibility! 😀

The body of TIPU SULTAN was found here

Entry to Colonel Bailey's dungeon

The dungeon's story...

The King's Battery -- now called "Sultan Batheri" -- which hides the dungeon.

A view of the many arches "under" the vault. The stone slabs on the far end of the pic, where prisoners were chained to. the part of a canon, just a decorative piece (per what I overheard a guide say :D)

After a quick tour of Colonel Bailey’s Dungeon, we stopped at Tipu’s favourite mosque, the Masjid-e-Ala built in 1784 (whoa! 200 years before I was born :D).

Twin towers of the Masjid-e-Ala

The open terrace, near the entries to the prayer hall.

After a quick tour of the mosque (it was closed), we drove on towards Ooty. The weather was splendid, and we had a good drive—light drizzles, sunshines, rains, drizzles and more sunshine.

The harbinger of rains...

Rains that splashed all around...the car 😀

View from the shielded side of te windshield 😀

When the rains left, and only the droplets remained 😉

Anyway, on the way, we passed through Bandipur National Park and spotted a few animals (unlike the experience at Muthanga Wildlife Sanctuary.Oh, but nothing “wild”, anyways 😀 😀 😀 😀

The elephants and a little one.

The "dears"...

The monkeys...

The python that crossed the road...

...and the long, winding road.

The brats were thrilled to see the animals, the various other animal safety signboards, the sexy, winding road and the greens on both sides. And of course, that was no python. It was just a piece of log, which did NOT cross the road 😀

And it was then that a trip plan for December was formulated and agreed up on. I was explaining to the brats how this National Park was spread across 3 states—Bandipur in Karnataka, Mudumalai in Tamil Nadu and Muthanga in Kerala—and the name Muthanga just COMPLETELY avoided me! We all kept wondering what the name was: one that starts with M, had a tribal case in Kerala long time back in the name of that place, a tribal female involved, etc. And finally, the husband said some name and was sooooo sure he was right. I was soooo sure he was wrong, knew it was a longer word, though I couldn’t quite get the right name. Finally, he agreed for a Delhi trip end-of-Dec if I could prove him wrong.

The next 15-20 minutes, I was super silent. All I had in mind was a violent and sad tribal police case known by the name of this place, the letter M and this tribal lady’s face and her curly hair :D.  It was almost a half hour later, while in the midst of photographing a group of hyper active monkeys, I dropped the camera, dug my nails into the husband’s shoulder and said “Muthangaaaaaa”!!! For a moment, he was so blank-faced, I felt like apologising! 😀

I won the bet. So, the plan was on for Destination Dilli in December 🙂 “Before that, where to, in November?”, I asked. To which he smiled slyly and said “That might not happen, and you might not even want to”. It was a mystery to me then. But when Pumbaa wobbled in, I knew! 🙂 Of course, Dilli plan changed the day Pumbaa came in—and just a week back, we finalised Goa plans:D

As we began the climb to Ooty, the beauty of the Western Ghats slowly unveiled. It was soothing and a prelude to better things to look forward to.

First sighting of the Ghats...

The mingling rain clouds and the emerging sun gave a captivating image...so we stopped for a few clicks.

This is when, the teenage senior brat got into the ro-ro-romantic mood a love song and a backdrop of cloud capped hills can get one into. And she, in a most dreamy way, said “I think I’ll come to Ooty for my honeymoon…with a horse.” “You marrying a horse!?”, we asked, to which she said “Yea. Free horse ride all over the place.” “Hmmm…and horse power advantage too”, I said. She was shocked, and immediately regretted the horsey honeymoon idea. And we teased her no end about it.

We stopped at a view point a little further up to see these:

From the viewpoint...

We reached Ooty by about 6pm and settled into a decent hotel.

Oh, in between, let me not forget to mention that Amma was feeling nauseous the previous night and feared dysentery—and her fears were met the next day! In spite of which, she was trip-ready! 😀 The poor thing threw up so many times, and was totally exhausted by the time we reached Ooty! 😦   After freshening up, we took Amma to the nearest hospital. Bad news greeted us: Amma was badly dehydrated and had to be put on a double-bottle-drip treatment! Poor thing 😦 We stayed with her at the hospital till about 11, leaving only to have dinner, that too, in shifts! Took her back, and we all had a good night’s sleep.

Amma was all healed and completely rejuvenated the next day morning, and we set out to see Ooty: which wasn’t much. We went to the Honeymoon Boat House, had a good round of boating (throughout which I, highly disappointed in the scenery, kept bragging about the boating we had at Pookkode Lake, Wayanad).

The Honeymoon Boathouse

The lake and more...

The brilliantly blue sky is what made the lake look this good!

They grazed the occasion 😀

And that’s when the senior brat noticed a few horses nearby. “Horse ride next”, said she. In between peals of laughter and more leg-pulling, it was then rounds of horse rides for the two brats and the uncle! And me, the photographer, had to trot, gallop and out-race the horses to get pics from all angles. Phew! Was that tiring!

The boat house was maintained very well, and had some really beautiful flowers that adorned the place. The blue sky and the towering trees added their bit too 😉

We then headed for the toy train which we spotted from the lake and had a joy ride–yelling “chayey…chai”, “vadey vadaa vadey”, “meals meals meals”, etc. We created such a din that the folks in the other “bogies” were either laughing, or cursing us 😀 No one joined us, though. Kill-joys!

Spotted this from the boat, and just HAD to have a ride 😀

As we chugged this way and that...

...and even went squealing through a tunnel!

Then, we headed to Doddabetta, the highest peak in Tamil Nadu (2634 mts above msl) that lies near the meeting point of the Eastern and Western Ghats! The thing I loved the most there were the bisi bisi bhajjis and the cold cold ice creams 😀

The view tower, which promised a telescopic view of the Coimbatore city, was a complete scam. I even told the operator that much. Said “Anna, even without my glasses, I can see the city more clearly than through your silly, unfocused, scam telescope.” He soooo didn’t like it, and almost shooed me off the pedestal, to make way for the next! 😀 But seriously, such a waste of time and effort, I tell you! Why, there was even a long queue to be eligible to view. Bah! I even discouraged quite a few people joining the queue, much to the operator’s chagrin 😀

The scam centre 😀

This is what we COULD NOT see through the telescope! 😛

Way to Dodabetta...and back.

Ooty was done. We bought a couple of bunched from the dry-flower vendors outside the Botanical Garden, and were on our way to Mysore, stopping only for a quick lunch.

Mysore was brilliantly decked up: all lit up and crowded. It was the 10-day Dussehra period. And to add to it, this year it was specially special. It was the 400th Dussehra being celebrated!Thanks to a stupid camera and a milling crowd, all pics taken were blurred!

One of the two royal "chariots" on display

One of the two royal "chariots" on display

But honestly, the palace stands like a real jewel when the surrounding areas are dark! It seemed to lose some of its splendid beauty in all the light! But beautiful it was, nonetheless. The crowd was overwhelming, and we decided not to go into the palace, after the disappointment a couple of months back! I recently got this by mail…a 360 degree view of the Mysore Palace—interiors and exterior. Probably filmed ages back, or maybe as a means of getting people to visit, in spite of all the missing artifacts!

So, after more pics , by about 7.30pm, we decided to head to the Vrindavan Gardens which was slated to be open till 9pm, thanks to the festive season. But well, like last time we tried to reach the Palace from Chamundi Hill to catch it lit up, we went around in circles for almost an hour, with every single of the 12 people we asked directions for, sending us in opposite directions! That all the roads were blocked up at different parts because of the festival, traffic and finding the route became a chaotic nightmare! Finally, by the time we were given the right directions, it was just too late and we’d have no way reached the Garden before closing time 😦 We gave up! And by about 8.45, took the road back to Bangalore. We reached home tired, exhausted and unbelievably sleepy by about 12.45am!


The trip was not just disappointing, it was hectic as well. Our mistake. We should’ve either taken an extra day, or left Mysore for another day. But well, even the time at Ooty wasn’t all that exciting. Sigh.

their first trip to Bangalore…

…was awesome. And they’re coming back again, soon! 🙂

Semi-travellogue, this post is.

Relatives had come from Trivandrum. An uncle, aunt, and 2 girl cousins. What fun it was 🙂 It was their first ever trip to Bangalore. And I was excited to bits. Hehe, in the guise of taking them around, I planned an itinerary that included most of the places I’d either not been to in a long time, or hadn’t been to at all: Cubbon Park, Vidhana Soudha (because if you’ve been to B’lore and not seen Vidhana Soudha, then maybe you hadn’t been to B’lore at all :D), ISKON Temple, the 60-feet-high Shiva Temple behind Kemp Fort, LalBagh, Forum (only for the cousins’ sake), the Scary House at Garuda Mall, and farther, the Mysore Palace, Srirangapatnam (remains of the Tipu’s regime), Vrindavan Gardens, etc.

The girls were excited most about (read as only about) going to Commercial Street here in Bangalore.

The uncle and aunt were excited to be in Bangalore: excited to see a lovely park so close to the house; excited to be in a city with such ‘lovely weather’; excited to see a ‘sparkling city’. 😉

Day 1 was spent at Lal Bagh (most of the day was spent there) and then Forum Mall. We all walked continuously for almost 6.5 hours. Came home, had dinner and crashed 😀

Day 2 was planned for Cubbon Park, Vidhana Soudha and simple lazing about. Only the third happened. By evening a quick plan was put to visit another cousin who stays in Marathahalli, who’d recently had a baby girl (whom I hadn’t seen yet). Lil’ Avanthika turned out to be a real doll! 🙂

Day 3 was supposed to dawn early (by about 4.30) and we’d planned to leave to mysore by 5.30. But well, we managed to do so by 8 😀 After covering Srirangapatnam and finishing off lunch, we reached Mysore Palace. Oh! The beauty of it! I’d seen it once, about 10 years back, when we (Dad, Mom, Bro and I) had come to B’lore and Mysore. It still looks the same!

But we were a little disappointed. For instance, right at the entry, it said “Entry: Rs 20 for Indians; Rs 200 for foreigners”. How shameless, to sell something like that! They could at least write Rs 20 for Indians; $ 20 for foreigners! Anyway, we went in, and a lot of things we’d seen when we came last time were not on display anymore. Like the many clocks which were a sight to behold! Or the many swords of the King…

Anyways, after exiting the palace, we were forced to visit the “Original Palace”, at an extra entry ticket (of Rs 20 for Indians; Rs 200 for foreigners). Daylight thieving, I’d call it. Apparently, what we’d just seen was the Official Palace. My God, if what we were ushered into was the Original Palace of the Mysore King, the dude really must have been a Scrooge himself. It was the most pathetic building, ill-maintained and adorned at corners by bits and pieces borrowed from the Palace belongings. And, to top it all, not even lit up well. It was dingy and dark and oh-so-not-beautiful! And it was here, the swords of the king were displayed in the most uninspiring manner.

We were all royally pissed off by the time we exited. And to make matters worse, even at the exit, even though one need just take the steps to the left, they’d roped it all in such a way that we were forced to take some 5 steps up and 5 steps down to the right, walk along a corridor full of shops with salespeople who constantly yelled, take a u-turn, come back to the exit point, take the same 5 steps up and down again and go where we intended to go up on exiting. Bah! Humbug. I hate such commercialisation.

Post that, we went to Chamundi Hill, spent some time up there and rushed back to see the lit up Palace. They light it up from 7.00 to 7.30pm every Saturday. It was 7 already, when we left Chamundi Hill, and rushing back into town, after sunset, in an alien city is no joke. We lost our way and finally managed to reach the city a minute before 7.30. We saw it lit up, glowing like a piece of gold ornament, from a distance. And then, the lights just shut down. 😦 But it was a sight one shouldn’t miss. I’d go to Mysore time and again just to see the Palace lit up that way.

Day 4, which was also their last day in Bangalore, was the one they looked forward to the most. Because Commercial Street was slotted for this day 😉 The itinerary included the 60-feet Shiva Temple, Garuda Mall, Commercial Street and ISKON. And then, of course, the railways station.

We reached the Kemp Fort SHiva Temple at about 12. The big sign outside said “Haridwar, Rishikesh and two other places in just 2 hours! 😀 And I thought, “I hate commercialising God”. The entry did prove interesting. they’d created a pseudo cave with a thred of a stalagtite and everything. But as we went down some 5-6 steps, we realised we’d entered a shop! 😀 Like one of those plastics + vessels section of Spencers/Smart/Nilgiris or so!!! 😀 😀 😀 And then, we went through a queue, paid for our slippers, paid for our camera, paid for the flowers and a coconut, paid again to get them to accept it, pretended not to hear them offering to take us through the cave at just Rs 160 per head, again pretended not to hear them offer to take us through a smaller cave at just Rs 30, and finally, pretending not to hear them offering to let us go around the idol for just Rs 10. Bah. I hate commercialisation. That too, in a place of worship! Though the idols were dramatic and awesome, we felt like they’d built two majestic idols only to mint money. Go there to see the majestic Shiva, with Ganga flowing off his head and everything. Not to pray.

The 60-feet statue of Lord Shiva, with the Ganga spearheading out of his locks. Apparently, this is made of healing stone! See those tiny heads at his feet? Those are the devotees 😉

Well, we ended up spending a lot of time at the temple, what with the queues and everything. The girls were getting worried their shopping time was being eaten up, and wanted to skip Garuda Mall and head straight to Commercial Street. But, I insisted we go to Garuda Mall, just to see the Scary House and the Scary Maze. Am so glad I did that. It was the most fun we had in those 4 days. How much we laughed! The dark, pitch black walkways, where dead bodies who rise up to scare you; skeletons that make a beeline for you; huge monstrous beings that brush against you; and ghosts who heave their cots at you even while they’re sitting on them… It was constant screams of fear, peals of laughter and bouts of leg-pulling. At times when there was nothing to scare us around the corner, Amma and I’d simply scream, scaring the rest of the group and rewarding ourselves with their screams 😉  Hehe, screaming, laughing, and getting scared out of our wits, we literally fell out of the place with tears streaming down our cheeks. We still laugh like crazy whenever we think of that day. We’re waiting for our next set of preys 😉 Kunjamma, you’re next in line. You’ll have a lot of fun there! 😉

Then we went to Commercial Street. We had about 3 hours to spend there, and had planned to go to Iskon temple from there, and then drop them off at the Yeshwantapura Station. But like Dad rightly put it, “Thunikandappol deivathine marannu” (chose clothes over God :D). So, we ended up shopping from 3 to 8. My younger cousin went crazy! She could be seen flitting about like a butterfly from one shop to the other. Collecting her and her things was tough! 😀

And finally, we were at a stage where we thought we’d miss their train. We reached the station at 8.55 pm to catch the 9 o’clock train. And that too, only bacause an auto driver was kind enough to show us a short cut and block the busses to let our two cars weave through! We have no words left to thank him: he was just too good 🙂 Anyways, it was a mad rush. I remember sending people flying for cover as I rushed into the terminal like a bulldozer and ran through the platform with two huge bags trailing along on both sides 😉 God thing trains have so many bogies and so many doors 😀 😀 😀 They all boarded from different doors, and finally met at their seats about 10 minutes after the train chugged off 😀

Four full days of fun, travelling, shopping, weariness, photo shoots and what not.

Their first ever trip to Bangalore was super! And they’re coming back again in a couple of months! 😀