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Queen of the Hills. Again?
South India's premier hill-station Ooty: tea plantations, hills, Nilgiri Mountain Railway and homemade chocolate
Do you remember Mussoorie – the Queen of the Hill-stations? Or Darjeeling – the Queen of the Hill-stations? Welcome to Ooty – the Queen of the Hill-stations.
Every hill-station (towns found by English, high on mountain ridges to escape the heat of Indian low plains) seems to be the Queen of them all. But Mussoorie and Darjeeling at least (on that rare occasion of clear skies) had the views over Himalayas. Ooty is an ugly sprawling town. Sure, the road up there was amazing (36 of 180 degrees turns, as the bus climbed more than 1,5 km up), but the town looked rather like Queen’s toilet than Queen itself. But there were some nice views, and the walk around the town was not that bad after all. It’s atmosphere was OK, even though its looks were disappointing. And yes, it gets chilly here.
At last, we stayed in some in accommodation with bit of soul: an old English brewery turned into YWCA hostel. With Indian staff singing Christian corals at lunchtime and a sign informing us that “Jesus is the unseen guest at every meal and silent listener to every conversation”.
Ooty itself might easily be skipped, but the hills around it are very nice, as we saw next day during a guided hike. Lack of any maps, information or useful hints forced us to opt for a guided hike and so we joined a group of 15 white faces on a walk, somewhere way out of town. It turned out to be beautiful and quite long hike, through pastures, eucalyptus forest (imported from Australia), tea plantations and local villages. Oh, those tea plantations! I could never get enough of their beauty! There was even some local festival in the village and it produced craziest photo photo madness I’ve seen. We had to take photo of every inhabitant of the village. Weirdly, the festival included animal sacrifice – a young goat got her head chopped off with machete. Whoops, it seems that the local don’t take Hindu’s vegetarianism too strictly. Well, maybe they didn’t eat the goat, maybe they just killed it. That would make sense!
Oh, and they also sell here locally produced chocolate. And actually it’s pretty good! You buy it by grams, all sorts of flavors and types. I got like 1 kg of it!
And next day we got a famous Ooty – Mettapaluyam toy train, which takes you down 1,5 km in sharp curves (that’s why the train is so small, normal train couldn’t take such sharp turns, and neither could it climb such steep mountain), through amazing scenery, pulled by a steam locomotive. This Nilgiri Mountain Railway is actually on UNESCO list. By the way, it was the slowest ride of my life. 42 kilometers in 3 hours and 45 minutes!!! That is mostly because of steepness of the railway. The locomotive actually uses funicular technology and that’s why it’s so slow. We were lucky to get the tickets, because taking this train was pretty much the only thing that Irene had on her must-do list in India :-)
Ooty train - check.
|MARCEL STRBAK | www.strbak.com | www.facebook.com/marcel.strbak|