(For people who regularly read my blog – I interrupt my series on Turkey to document my recent trip to Ooty, Coonoor and Coimbatore. I will get back to Turkey after this.)
Monsoons are regarded as the worst season to go on a vacation in India. While that is true for most beaches and national parks, hill stations are at their quietest best in the monsoons. Ooty is no different to this rule. In what is regular tourist season Ooty and Coonoor are swamped with tourists and the beautiful parks and tea gardens get turned into noisy hell holes full of shrieking families and people trying to get a photo. Monsoons are the time when these hill stations become misty quiet places which are dreamily green and almost shorn of the usual crowds.
I had a conference in Coimbatore and I never let go the opportunity to club a short vacation before or after a conference, thus killing two birds with one stone. Ooty is a short car ride away from Coimbatore and thus became the obvious choice for a pre conference vacation with the better half.
We reached Coimbatore late at night thanks to the heavy rains which led to our fight being delayed for over 2 hours. Thankfully I had booked an overnight hotel close to the airport and we promptly dropped off to sleep. Dr Vengetesh, my friend from my Plastic Surgical residency had graciously agreed to lend us his car and even hired a driver to take us to Ooty. The car and driver came bang on time and we set out for Ooty after a heavy breakfast at the hotel.
The drive to Ooty is around 100 km and takes around 3 hrs. The first half along the plains takes hardly an hour and then you startle slow crawl up the Nilgiris to Ooty. The tightly winding road is green and now much smoother than what I remember from my trip 5 years ago.
Soon the trees give way to whole hill sides of tea plantations as we reach Coonoor. Ooty is a further half an hours drive away. We had booked a room at a small boutique hotel called ” Sherlock ” outside the main town of Ooty, as the main stretch of Ooty has become a concrete jungle and not a very good place to be vacationing in. We reached the hotel thanks to Google maps and navigation as there was no signage on the main road.
The hotel is located on top of a hill and overlooks the valley. As we were there in Off season and the hotel was almost empty we got upgraded from a standard room to a enormous cottage room thanks to the manager of the hotel. The cottages are all named after Sherlock Holmes stories and are decorated with photos and quotes from the books and movies. There is a well maintained lawn in front of the cottages and the overall view especially in this misty, rainy weather is very calming.
We dropped off our luggage and started our sightseeing by visiting the famous botanical gardens at Ooty. It is my favourite place in Ooty, huge lawns interspersed with glasshouses showing off a wide variety of plants. Flowerbeds and artistically manicured bushes make this place a delight to visit. As it was drizzling it was almost bereft of tourists to my immense pleasure.
The botanical gardens is arranged in different levels and as we climbed to the higher levels there were even fewer people which made it easy for the birds to venture out and easier for me to photograph them. The red whiskered bulbul is a common bird in the region and one of the first to be captured by my 300mm on this trip.
As changing lenses in the rains is impossible and the birds seemed to be in a good mood, I left the landscape photography to my Moto G3 (thankfully waterproof!!) and left the 300mm on the SLR. I didn’t regret this at all as in spite of the poor light I got some pretty decent bird photos.
I even managed to find what I think is a Blue Thrush feeding on the worms in the freshly wet mud few feet from the Camera which can be both a boon and a curse when you have a prime lens attached.
As I couldn’t take landscape shots I compromised and started shooting the numerous flowers on display and got some pretty decent photos with rain drops glistening on the petals.
Time flies when you are having fun and soon it was lunch time. We had a couple of hot veg puffs each in the small cafe inside the park which was hot and tasty. I changed my lens in the safety of the cafe to take a final shot of the beautiful gardens before moving out.
Ooty has not one but two must visit gardens and we moved on to the next, which was the magnificent Rose gardens at Ooty. Even though it was not peak flowering season there were a great number of varieties of roses with different colours on display. The garden is a multi terraced one and I took a photo of the terraces (featured photo ) and changed lenses as it started drizzling again.
I have so many photos of roses of different colours that it will fill up my entire permitted storage space for this blog. Where there are flowers there are birds and sure enough I got photos of the small shy birds which usually stay out of sight when the garden is packed with people.
It was getting dark now and time to leave the gardens and return to the hotel. It had been a great day for birding unexpectedly and obviously I was pleased as punch. It started pouring when we reached the hotel and we had a great fireside dinner at the restaurant at Sherlock. Post dinner we sat in its common lounge for a while relaxing.
Tomorrow’s plan was a visit to the Ooty lake before visiting Coonoor and returning to Coimbatore visiting the famous Marudamalai temple. But that is topic for another post another day as this one is getting too long for my comfort.